Alex Mashtakov is 34 years old, he’s married with a beautiful and talented photographer named Sasha, has two children, runs his own small business, and lives in Glázov, a picturesque Russian city with a population that stands around 100.000. But even when his lifestyle may be enviable, there is something else about his life we can only dream about: he’s a fighter at Bern club.

Bern, besides their outstanding victories, is well known for their study of the culture and combat arts of Middle Age Switzerland. They are divided in different factions inspired in the Swiss administrative units of that era (in Russian: фанлейн), according the city or the region in which they are based: Nizhni Nóvgorod, Moscow, St. Petersburg, Ural. The team where Mashtakov fights belongs to this last region, while other of the most famous Bern’s teams belong to anothers: Partizan to Moscow, and Bear Paw to Nizhni Nóvgorod.

Despite the city where Alex lives isn’t really big, the sport is broadly developed. Besides Bern, it has another HMB club, Ratobor (Medieval Russia). Furthermore, Mashtakov’s team already have eight armored fighters and another four with their equipment in progress. Unlike countries like our, where the sport is just beginning to blossom, they have fighters with more than ten years of experience in bohurt, and some of them having started training at the early age of fourteen or fifteen years.

Alex Mashtakov (Right) sitting next to Sergei Kuritsyn (Left), member of Bear Paw.

Knowing the compromise they put on being the best, we asked about the routine of a Bern’s fighter: “We have three days of fight and sword training and other three at the gym; we also fight on the list. In every training we have a minimum of eight fighters and a maximum of 10-14. Our trainings are focused on striking tires with different combinations of sword and shield, wrestling techniques and CrossFit.”

With that kind of requirements to belong to the club, we thought it wouldn’t be easy to earn the right to wear their colors. We decided to ask him and dispel all our doubts about it: “In every city there is a Commander Bern. He assembles the fighters of his unit and trains them. To get the right to wear the club’s surcoat, you need to fight against four champions of the world, for a minute with each one, without a break. Those who did not pass the certification are beaten in white cloaks.“

Fighters from Bern using their team’s surcoat, together with others dressing white surcoats.

But, as giving up is not in the vocabulary of a Bern’s fighter, if they fail, there’s always another opportunity: “Certification happens every year. You can always try next year. In the meantime, they can fight with us with white surcoats“.

In addition to their unique certification method, another of their characteristics is that the rules of the club prohibit Bern’s fighters to fight against each other. That’s why in big tournaments if two Bern’s teams get to the finals, they don’t fight between themselves. Either they share the first and second place, or one gives away the first place to the other.

We also asked him if they feel under the shadow of the best Bern’s teams like Partizan or Bear Paw but, far away from that, he answered: “We are inspired by them; they come and train us, and fight with us at big tournaments”. Can a Bern fighter pursue the dream of becoming part of them? Yes. In Alex’s words: “Any of us can get into their team if we show outstanding results in the Dynamo Cup or in Prodar”.

Speaking about the sport’s organization in Russia, Mashtakov explained to us that teams are divided in three categories. In decreasing order of importance: Higher League, First League and Middle League. The pursuit of excellence that distinguish Bern club, is proven in the fact that all of their teams are in Higher and First League. In Higher League are the champions, those who won at least one Battle of the Nations. like Bern’s teams “Partizan”, “Bear Paw”, and “PLK”.

Members of Bern in the middle of a buhurt fight.

“This is done like that, so the weak teams are not afraid to go to tournaments”, he said. Accordingly, they have certain events where only the First and Middle League teams are able to participate, as the “Victory Cup” that is held every year in December: “The teams of the higher league cannot participate here, so they don’t injure the weaker and less experienced fighters”. On the other hand, he mentioned that any team can go from Middle to First League if they get first or second place at big tournaments.

Success is not achieved instantly; it requires effort, perseverance, and many sacrifices. The path is not easy, but Mashtakov and his companions have been walking through it as much time as needed to clearly know the key of their triumphs:

“In general the whole secret of Russian victories is that we choose the most aggressive fighters in our teams. Aggression and the desire to win represents 90% of the success in battle, as well as the inability to fail his combat brothers. It’s in the blood of Russians.”

Some fighters from Bern, posing with their well-deserved acknowledgements after the fights.

As a side note, he added: “The law prohibits fighting in the streets, so people come to HMB to be able to fight plenty. That’s a logic fact. We like to fight, and HMB is the ideal legal way to fight. And yet, this is what teaches you to make armor, sew clothes, and make our own shoes”.

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