I wanna learn how to use a bayonet!
For a long time I've really been interested in bayonets. I feel like bayonets have such a heritage and history.
We're talking about real primal origins, going back to the time that someone figured out that a spear is an outstanding weapon that gives a strong initial advantage to the spear-user if he engages an enemy equipped with a shorter weapon while requiring minimal training in order to be effective, and decided to simply equip large groups of people with spears in order to form an army.
Much later, we're talking about the role of pikemen on the battlefield, which remained relevant, if I recall correctly, up through the 1700s.
And certainly we're talking about the emergence of gunpowder weapons, the development of muzzle loaders and muskets and the tactic of massing musket-users into ranks in order to project firepower, and then the integration of the pikeman role into these units with the development and refinement of bayonets, starting with the plug bayonet, and proceeding from there.
I feel like as far as European martial arts go, the bayonet has a long and illustrious history, and probably as we go back into the 1700s and 1800s we are going to see the highest level of sophistication in bayonet techniques, because that was the era when hand to hand combat was more important and more military professionals would have been spending more of their time either working on it or engaging in it, the era when muskets and the like were longer and thus made better spears than today's military pattern rifles, and the era when infantry would have really needed to rely on spear and pike-type skills in order to have a chance of surviving a cavalry charge.
To start out, though, I figured that a World War 1 bayonet manual would be of the era when cavalry still existed and commanders probably anticipated more hand to hand combat, but at the same time would have the benefit of clear photographs and modern English, as opposed to looking at some woodcut in German from the 1700s and trying to puzzle out the meaning.
So, last night I was trying to research World War 1 bayonet training. I found "The McLagen System of Bayonet Fighting" from World War 1, as well as that old Army combatives manual at globalsecurity.org that everyone has seen.
Although the guidelines are similar, I noticed a few key differences between the World War 1 manual and the contemporary one.
*The World War 1 manual assumes you're using a big, long old fashioned bolt action rifle with a really long bayonet on it that almost resembles a small sword. The contemporary one assumes an AR with a camping knife on the barrel. I also note that in the McLagen manual the rifle is canted and gripped differently when it's going to be used for bayonet fighting whereas in the modern manual it's straight.
*The contemporary one has you use a boxing stance as your basis for bayonet combat. The McLagen manual has your feet wider and your lead foot pointing straight ahead and your back foot pointing off to the side; it's more like a karate stance. Be that as it may, however, my personal experience from historical fencing is that old style deep "karate" stances are better than boxing stances for attacking with big, heavy weapons, and will give you more effective reach with said weapons. Also, the McLagen bayonet thrusts are very committed and have maximum reach.
*Finally, the old school manual is slightly more detailed in terms of techniques and counters, including disarms, sweeps, and takedowns. I also noticed there's a picture in the beginning of the McLagen manual showing an infantry unit with bayonet sparring gear, i.e. masks and padded training rifles. So there's some evidence they spent time and took pride in the fact they sparred a lot with bayonets.
While I was looking all this up, I found a very fun set of videos someone put on YouTube called "The Spirit of the Bayonet". The uploader states that the US Army discontinued bayonet training in 2010? Is that true? That seems pretty shocking to me.
Man, those contemporary bayonet courses look like so much fun! Run, scream, grimace, and take out your frustration on some bags of hay and tires. It makes me want to set up some tires in my back yard, fix bayonet on my mosin, and go to town on them for a cardio workout. But, there's no representation in those videos of the modern people working on bayonet vs. bayonet sparring. There's no "aliveness" to the bayonet training, at least not in terms of what is being shown in the above videos.
Now here's the kicker...I found an old Soviet bayonet propaganda piece that shows how Soviet bayonet training from 1939 specifically does have "aliveness", along with a tournament structure, and some "junior lieutenant" who won the bayonet championship that year. So it appears to me that as we go back in time, and the bayonet sparring was more important, you in fact did have "alive" bayonet training: http://youtu.be/ZDzz00OANAk
Well, in December, my historical weapons group is planning to work on historical spear and poleaxe. At the same time I'll be researching historical bayonet fighting.