The Bulava: Warrior Training with the Short Mace

Bulava Short Mace Training

I would like to take you on the journey to the times when we had to rely on their strength, preparedness and ability to adjust to urgent circumstances… a time when you felt the cold wind biting your skin under the nasal of your helmet. When your knuckles and fingers were screaming for help while holding your weapon… times when things you were good at defined you.

Imagine yourself making your way through thick, snowy forest… praying to gods to give you the strength to keep going… the gambeson under your heavy armor permeated with frozen sweat making movement even more difficult…

You look at your hands armored with thick gauntlets holding your hope and your only companion: the Bulava. You smile against all odds… you smile because you know that there are three things that can get you out of this bloody mess: your heart, your skills and your travel companion. Yes… things were simpler back then.

WAKE UP! You’re back in 21st century. You are sitting in front of your computer, sitting on your couch with the magazine, or bending over your smartphone to read this article; do you feel like a warrior now? You are probably warm, just ate a meal and are feeling comfy, and there is nothing wrong with that.

Our civilization provides us with those comforts. In the old times we had to work our bodies to get the reward in the form of food, now you can just take a couple of steps to your fridge and get what you want.

I say, let’s bring back the balance! Let’s dive into our discomfort zone… taste it… embrace it… and when w get comfy there – let’s move our discomfort zone further, and challenge ourselves even more.

I want to introduce you to a new friend as you travel through a forest of discomfort. This is a tool that will change you, open your eyes, challenge and stimulate you… and slowly, slowly become your best friend that you can rely on in hard times…

As you may know, I was active in history reenactment groups in my younger times. My heart is always there. I draw lots of training inspiration from fencing, armored combat and armed combat training.

I remember trainings with heavy hammers that we bought in hardware stores to strengthen our wrists and shoulders. I remember the maces that we made of spade handles and scrap metal…

Paying respect to these times I have decided to look closer at possible fitness applications of the tool. Started to learn clubs in with CST system, understood the strengths and weaknesses of this particular method and took a step in designing my own Bulava set that was produced in my country and is widely used in my gym: Tengu Fitness and the Art of Functional Movement System.

Weights of 5, 7, 10 ,12, 15 and 20kg covers the needs of all of my students; even those with the most demanding requirements. To make the bulava accessible for our kids classes (we call it the Animal Farm), I have designed weighted bars with a length of 65 cm and a weight of 2.5kg which can be used as bulavas but also as barbells.

The History of Bulava (Short Mace) Training

Historically the bulava was an attribute of a Hetman, military leader; he had the highest military rank just after the king in Poland in the 15th century. Images of the bulava were widely used in coats of arms both in the Kingdom of Poland and the Kingdom of Lithuania.

This beautifully simple tool was the fruit of weapons development in the late Paleolithic era from simple club. Just adding sharp spikes of stone or bones was how it started. The popularity of this fearsome weapon was unbelievable throughout the history of mankind and became the weapon of choice for many warriors because of its durability, low production cost, and last but not least its effectiveness against armored opponents.

It is a beautiful history but it would take a book to do it justice, and all I have for you right now is an article.

Your Fitness & The Bulava

How can the bulava contribute to your fitness? Let’s examine. Because of its long handle and weight distribution it demands a great amount of stabilization in your joints. It fires up our core and lats and requires you to stabilize your shoulders, strengthen your grip and YES, challenge your cardiovascular system.

It’s one of the best tools there is for rotational work and definitely one of the most challenging to handle in general. The bulava targets your core, lats, shoulders, triceps and overall grip strength.

Bulava (Short Mace) Exercises


Bulava Short Mace Training

Crush-Grip T-Hold

STEP 1:

Start from the “ready” position with your core and shoulders braced and elbows pinched into your body.

STEP 2:

Slowly and with a controlled motion start sinking the weight to the horizontal position by pushing the elbows towards your center line.

STEP 3:

When you achieve the “horizontal” position Enjoy it for a couple of seconds 😉 slowly start your travel back to the “ready” position, reestablish the position and repeat.


Bulava Short Mace Training

Double Arm Cast to Flag

STEP 1:

Start from the “ready” position with your core and shoulders braced and elbows pinched into your body.

STEP 2:

Start pushing the bulavas up and back, right over the shoulders until you reach the “back” position (elbows pointing out in 45 degrees angle). When in the “back” position focus on bracing your core muscles to avoid swaying your lower back.

STEP 3:

Focus and pull your tools from behind your back using your lats. Pull right over your shoulders and stabilize them in the “extended double flag” position. Core and shoulders should be steel braced, elbows locked, with a natural alignment in the spine. Enjoy the extension for a couple of seconds then retract your elbows back to the ready position. repeat.


Bulava Short Mace History

Alternating Crucifix

STEP 1:

Start from the “back” position.

STEP 2:

Drive your right arm to a side extension, bracing the shoulder, locking the elbow while Simultaneously pulling your other arm down to “side ready” position.

STEP 3:

Reset to the “ready” position . reEstablish “back” position. repeat on opposite side.


Bulava Short Mace Exercise

Full Crucifix

This is a beautiful and challenging technique that demands a lot of focus and conditioning. You can give it a go only when you can perform the alternating crucifix drill flawlessly. In the Full crucifix we are going to be starting from the “back” position and moving to double, full extension using one movement. Do not lift your shouders throughout the movement, and push your scapula down, engaging the lats. Remember that core bracing plays a major role here- do not neglect it.


I hope you found my workout challenging and fun, but before I leave you I have to give you one more tip. Never sacrifice your tech-nique to achieve a higher number of reps per round. Keep all of the key points of the technique to the last second of the round and watch how your body reacts. Last but not least, enjoy the process! Stay Strong.


Pawel Widuto

Pawel Widuto is the CEO of Tengu Fitness and the co-founder of the innovative system Art of Functional Movement; a system that constantly evolves and has been described as a “smarter and healthier alternative to Crossfit.” Pawel’s Tengu Fitness AFMA studio is located in Norway where he works with his students and instructors to make the world better place- starting local- expanding to global. Tengu.no

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