Fistfight (Russian - Кулачный бой, Kulachniy Boy) is a Russian ancient combat sport similar to the modern boxing. It existed since the times of ancient Rus, but lost most of it's popularity in the 20th century. The earliest accounts about the sport are from the 13th century.


The sport existed since the times of ancient Rus, with the earliest accounts about the sport being from the 13th century.

In two orders released in 1684 and 1686 fistfight was forbidden, but the sport continued to live.

All regions had their heroes at that sport, but the region with the most famous once historically is Tula.

The sport as mass entertainment

Russian boyars as entertainment brought the best fighters.

The fights most often took place in holiday times and in crowded places. At winter it took place on ice. First the young children fought, then every pare was more grown up then the previous, and the last fighters were the most notable fistfighters.


In 1941 the most important then Soviet specialist in Boxing, K.V. Gradopolov, wrote a book about the right way to fight with fists. In that book, he offered a new exercise, called "group boxing", and he mentioned it was an ancient Russian sport (what he talked about was the "Stenka na Stenku" version).

Rules and types

In every region in Russia existed different rules. Unlike boxing. In some places they fought with bare arms, while in other they stretched the sleeves over the fists. There were cases where participants would cheat by putting iron under their sleeves.

There are three types of Fistfight: the first is the singles type, a one-on-one fight; the second type is a team fight also known as "wall on wall". The third one, "catch drop", was the least practiced. There were several versions of the singles fight. One version was like modern boxing, when one fighter hits the other wherever he wants or can. The other version is when everyone hits at a turn. Escape from punch, answering it not on turn, move asside were not allowed. All could be done was to use the hands to try to protect the more painful areas. Victory could come in few cases: when one of the fighters falls, till first blood, or till one of the fighters gives up.

A famous phrase in Russian, "Do not hit a man when he's down", has roots in that sport.

Fistfight in Russian popular culture

Since for centuries fistfight was so popular and was such a port of the Russian folk life, it was many times met in Russian literature.

In the 19th century Sergei Aksakov watched famous fistfights in the Kuban frozen lake in Kazan, and later wrote about them in his "Story about student life". After many decades at the same lake in a "Wall on Wall" fought the young future world-famous opera singer Feodor Chaliapin, and he later wrote about it: "From one side came we, the Russians of Kazan, from the other side the nice people Tatars. We fought hard without feeling sorry for ourself, but never broke the historic rules of not to hit the one that is already done, not to hit with the legs, and not to put iron under the sleevs". In a more mature age, the yound Feodor Chaliapin was attacked by someone who wanted a female Feodor Chaliapin gained, but thanks to knowing fistfight he won. He wrote: "He jumped to beat me, and even thought I was afraid of the police, learning fistfight at the frozen lakes of Kazan helped me, and he humiliatingly lost".

The Russian poet Sergei Yesenin in his autobiography notes "About myself" told that his grandfather taught him to fistfight.

One of the heroes in the book "Thief" by the Soviet novelist Leonid Leonov said: "In childhood, it happened, only in fistfights I found real friends... And was never wrong! Because only in a fight the whole human nature comes out".


  • There was a claim brought up that the Russian nobility preferred fistfights over duels, but the scholars show that the nobility actually were against fistfights and preferred weapons.



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