женскихsingle combat



Special women come across in Russian villages!

Lillie Lefort. Wrestlers
Sketch by Lillie Lefort. Background by Vitaly Gubarev

Talk with amateur graphic Lillie Lefort

Русская версия

Women come across in Russian villages
Having remarkable undisturbed faces,
Moving with a graceful power,
Having noble looks and imposing gaits...

Even an equestrian wouldn't overtake her being romping,
She intrepidly would save you in trouble,
She would enter a hut engulfed in flame,
She would capture a runaway horse!

Nikolay Nekrasov. "The Frost, The Red Nose"

There are a few pencil sketches on the site illustrating some our materials (stories "They fought like true guys" and "Fight over", articles - "Motion and fighting in Fine Arts", Part 1 and Part 2, "Folk Combat. Europe" and "Glima wrestling"), which have been made by someone named Lillie (she asked not to mention her name for the time being). Now she is ready to uncover herself and we are delighted to introduce the marvelous Russian woman, amateur graphic, Lillie Lefort and her artworks.

How did you start drawing? Did you study it?

Лилли Лефорт. Автопортрет
Lillie Lefort. Self-portrait

I must declare that I am not an artist, I have never studied art; as a matter of fact, I can't really draw. I just create amateur pencil sketches - I do not know any other artistic methods. Actually, I just dabble at drawing - I draw only for my own pleasure or for my friends and relatives.

Thank you for being ready for demonstrating your artworks to a wider circle of people. What was your first drawing?

Besides childish poor paintings, my first real drawing was made in high school. As a gift for a girl friend, I planned to accomplish her pencil portrait. I resorted to a trick: after classes, I remained in a classroom and projected her photograph on a paper sheet using a photo-projector. I carefully copied all details of her head and shoulders as well as halftones and shadows. Then I told to her that I intended to make her portrait - she was very surprised but agreed to pose. I unnoticed got the semi-finished drawing and began to enhance it trying to reflect every detail of her face, every light and shadow. Unexpectedly, I realized that the portrait turned out to look alike with the original (whereas the original projector copy really was not). The girl friend liked it very much and after that, other people asked me to draw them. Then I didn't use such tricks - I just painted from real models. By the way, I draw only women - for some reason, they come out much better than men.

Why such a peculiar subject as women's combat attracts you?

This is very long and old story. In order to explain why I draw combating women I have to make a digression to my childhood. I was born and grew up in a rural village in the Moscow region. Like in any other Soviet farmland areas, women overwhelmingly predominated there - men were leaving for urban areas (the most of guys left the village just after graduating from junior-high school, so there were mostly girls in high school). Almost all remaining men were bitter drunkards and were not taken seriously - it was the particularly female world. Physically strong, sturdy and immeasurably patient, Russian peasant women constituted the basis of the barely functioning unhealthy Soviet agriculture. Everything in villages was held up by women's shoulders - women hard worked in the fields and farms, in the gardens; they grew children and kept houses. Women with exceptional natural talent (in both moral and physical sense) came across in the country. The Russian poet Nekrasov said about them: "She would enter a hut engulfed in flames, she would capture a runaway horse!" Our neighbor, "tetya Tonya" ("tetya" - the respectful form of address to an older woman - translator's note), just belonged to that category of exceptional women. She was a milkmaid in our collective farm. She had early lost her husband and was growing her two daughters herself. The nature generously awarded her with physical abilities. Having an average height, she was extraordinarily strong and adroit (and at the same time, sharply and beautiful - it's a pity that nobody would be able to appreciate that). When I was ten, I had occasion to watch a scene, which I can't ever forget. It happened in the early clear morning in the late fall season - tetya Tonya was coming back home from the early morning milking. At that time, girls and boys were gathering on the meadow between the village and the small river. All local students above the 4th grade were driven together for loading haystacks. High school girls were romping over the meadow, playing tag and loudly yelling. Despite permanent fatigue, tetya Tonya always kept vigor and good sense of humor - on the run she touched a girl running along and shouted her, "Well then, catch up with me!" The girl cackled and blurted out, "Tetya Tonya, aren't you too old for playing tag?" (Tonya was about 35 that time). Tonya ran toward the girl, catch up with her again and said, "OK, let's wrestle to determine who is a chicken and who is a granny!" The girl cackled again, "Well, tetya Tonya, I don't advise you to mess up with me - I could administer a beating to you" The girl was robust, a pure filly. Everyone around got excited and quiet. Tonya grabbed hold of the flaps of the girl's unbuttoned padded jacket and the girl seized her by the sleeves. While spectators were just getting ready for watching the match looking forward to it, the big filly suddenly found herself lying on her back, helplessly kicking her feet. Here is what happened: Tonya stick out her hip, adroitly pulled the girl by the jacket's flaps over the placed hip slightly twisting her body. So, the girl elegantly flied and landed perfectly on her back (when she was flying, Tony even held her preventing from an injury). That time I didn't know anything about judo or sambo but when I saw the sports after years, I just realized that the Tonya's throw was a judo technique of the first order. (Definitely, Tonya herself had never heard such words - it was just her natural instinct and physical skills.) The villagers already respected Tonya very much but after that incident, she became a real celebrity. Having pinned the girl, Tonya just went home while the remaining ones began vividly discuss the incident. Everyone was impressed and some girls engaged in jocular grappling. Girls and boys made fun of the defeated girl, so she got angry and jumped on a boy teasing her and pinned him down (however, without Tonya's elegance - just put all her heavy weight on him.)

How that incident affected personally you?

Since that day, I became fond of combative activities; I wished to be as strong and deft as Tonya was. That morning I had my first "wrestling match" - my female classmate and I tried to train the technique Tonya had just accomplished - after several attempts, we eventually managed to get it. Then we brought ourselves to a competitive wrestling match. Knowing about that technique, each of us tried to avoid to be caught on it. We wrestled persistently but after all, I managed to win. I fell in love with this activity - that time I didn't feel the physical discomfort that mature girls and women might have - breasts didn't bother me and I tried not to miss any opportunity to engage in grappling; and I always wrestled fervently.

What are your achievements in it?

You might not believe but I have never been defeated in wrestling - neither by guys, nor by girls. However, it was a problem to find a right sparring partner for wrestling - the most of girls are able just for screeching jostling, whereas boys are afraid of being defeated by a girl.

Do you mean even guys were unable to defeat you?

I didn't wrestle against stronger guys and they actually didn't want it either. Nevertheless, even winning over younger boys is a real achievement for a girl.

What is your build?

I am quite tall; I always had a solid and wide boned build. Hardworking in my childhood made me physically strong forever. In fact, the most of the female villagers were solid too but nobody wrestled with such enthusiasm as I did.

Did Tonya wrestle with anyone else?

Perhaps, not -- nobody dared.

Why didn't you practice in Judo, perhaps women's judo should exist in the Soviet Union?

At those times, I didn't know that women practice in any combative sports; actually, there were not such teams around. Besides, I was busy with housework helping my family. One thing to wrestle for fun, another thing to spend a lot of time for training and competitions. After all, for me it's a fun rather than a business.

Do you still wrestle sometimes now?

No, even though my husband and I like jocular jostling but it can not be called wrestling. However, once I had a real wrestling match with my first husband but it was not an interesting match - the strengths were too unequal.

Why? Who defeated whom?

The thing is he was an American; you should know the mentality of Americans. In fact, their women have achieved total equality with men in all areas; they have got even more than I would give them. Moreover, their men are trained in such a way that they don't feel any reverence for ladies. As soon as my husband at that time realized I was not a novice at all in wrestling, he started grappling with me in full might. You can imagine how much he would crush and destroy me - he was quite fit - played tennis and golf; every other day he was in gym. By the way, I just recalled that I bragged about my invincibility in wrestling - but it was a husband after all and I wouldn't ever wrestle against any other adult man. However, I managed to resist decently and to prove that Russian women are not easy to overcome. But on the other hand, we have an advantage over American women - it's a pleasure for us to be defeated too, especially by a lovely strong man.

Let's go back to your sketches. Why combating women attract you all the same?

After the episode with Tonya and my own first try to wrestle, I realized that wrestling was not just a men's activity, that women were able to wrestle for real and to enjoy it. In fact, women's wrestling is beautiful!

Why female wrestlers on your sketches are so old-fashioned?

First of all, I am not interested in contemporary female combative sports or catfighting - too much are made in this area. Female peasants and classic women are my favorite ones. Then... we must come back to tetya Tonya - she told me a story about her great grandmother who was famous for her strength and bravado in her young years. According to Tonya's family legend, her great grandma not only skillfully wrestled and toppled opponents of both sexes but also would come out for fistfight in men's wall-on-wall lines during Maslenitsa festivals (Pancake week - the only purely Russian Holiday that dates back to the pagan times - translator's note). I learned just out of those legends that in old times peasant women not just occasionally wrestled but grabbed each other by clothing - probably because close body contacts in front of people were not allowed by the strict traditions (even for woman-to-woman). Thus, grabs by clothing were used by Russian peasant women long before judo developed in Russia or sambo was invented. I keenly imagined a confusing wrestling match between women dressed in a hundred loose long clothes. That's actually, where my subjects came from. I even created a cycle "Sambo forerunners."

Why then such women's duels have not been reflected by historical documents, literature or art?

I thought about that. Probably this is about a taboo: - women don't fight and don't wrestle. This is like Russian curse - everyone uses it but you don't see such words in the old literature.

Did you happen to see women's brawls?

Unfortunately, yes, a couple of times. Once two hefty milkmaids brawled for real. The mature women wearing winter mittens slapped each other in the face. They got all worked up so hot that it would have ended mournfully if they had not been taken apart.

Have you ever brawled?

No, I just grappled sometimes in my childhood - I just rebuffed young hooligans disgracing them by pinning them. I am a solid woman and no volunteers happened to brawl with me.

Tell us about your most interesting match.

Well, I didn't wrestle for a while, so the details have been forgotten. However, I could recall one episode. When I was around 18, I was forced to wrestle with a feisty woman much older. By the way, you asked if I had brawled. That was just a kind of brawl. In old times, men from neighboring villages often ferociously brawled but at that moment (owing to the lack of men), it was about a fierce women tussle. Defending the "honor" of our village fell to my lot. Once in a hot summer afternoon, girl neighbors and I were going to the pond next to a neighboring village (our small river had dried up). When we approached the pond and got ready for swimming, an aggressive brigade of young local women suddenly approached and began to dispel us. They say that we would muddy the water and scare fish away. Our girls got insolent to them; word-by-word and it was about coming to blows. Then I decided to relieve the situation saying, "Girls, let's settle a matter in a honest way - if any of you have got the guts to measure your strength against me, come out!" The opposite girls got a little disturbed and whispered to each other. Then a short stocky woman (probably the oldest one) started bellicosely approaching to me. I felt confident as a wrestler and looked forward to giving her a good thrashing. However, the woman was going to smack me in the face but I wasn't good in fistfights - I moved my head aside attempting to avoid the punch but she still managed to rub her fist against my cheek. At that moment, her dumpy corpus turned out to be just next to me, so I didn't miss my opportunity. I grabbed her hand and the top of her "sarafan" (open summer dress) abruptly pulling her over my hip - in the way Tonya accomplished several years before. While she was flying, her dress strap was torn, so the cheesecake was no longer in the mood for fighting. However, I didn't release her before giving her some punishing - I clamped her down the ground and shook up her fats, not paying attention to her screaming. As soon as I considered she had gotten enough, I let her rise to her feet. She cursed us and got out of the venue holding in place her strap; her band accompanied her. We quickly dip into the water and ran away being afraid that enemy reinforcements would arrive. It was, perhaps, the only occasion in my practice when I had a motivated fight with a woman. I always preferred to wrestle just for the fun of it.

Did you still get a satisfaction from that victory?

To get satisfaction from clashing with sweaty fat slattern?

Which combative sports do you like better?

Wrestling, especially judo and sambo (for the above mentioned reasons).

Why do you draw women only?

As I said, I am not good in depiction men. As far as combat is specifically concerned, I think, women's combat is much more spectacular than men's combat.

Do you consider female combat as sex appealing?

Yes, but no more than any other activity with women participating.

Besides, combative peasants, are any other combative women depicted on your sketches?

Besides, the cycles "Bold peasants" and "Sambo forerunners", I have the cycles "Bold nudes" and "One-on-one".

Please, say a few words about these cycles.

OK, the first two are about wrestling by Russian female peasants (contemporary and old-time ones). The cycle "Bold nudes" began with my first attempt to use nude figures from classic artworks: Renoir's woman and one of the Rubens' Leucippus' daughters (she is kidnapped along with her sister). I "compelled" these two ladies to engage in a "fistfight". Actually, it is a lampoon, where incompatible things are combines. Then I continued the cycle - nude women from different artworks were taken together for combat; for instance, Rubens' plump ladies. Various female combat episodes are brought into the cycle "One-on-one" containing everything, which did not come to the other cycles.

What was your very first sketch for this subject?

Years after that Tonya's performance, I saw women's judo competitions on TV and I just wanted to depict Tonya as a judoist in Russian traditional clothing. Well, I just forget that in fact, the very first one was the sketch "Renoir's beauty knocks out the Leucippus Daughter".

Besides combative women, what are your other artistic topics?

Women's portraits and sketches of everyday life scenes.

Where do you derive your subject matters?

From my fantasy, from every-day life, from photographs and artworks.

The very last question. How come a Russian woman (from the farmland by birth) has such an exotic name?

Very simple - my given name was Lidia but my parents and everyone around called me Liliya. Then I married an American and left Russia forever. However, my last name is gotten from my second husband. That's all what I'd like to say about myself.

Thank you very much for the meaty discussion.

Certainly, thank you for the attention to my personality.

Lillie has prepared for us two similar materials - "Sambo Forerunners" in the section "Combat History" and "Bold Peasants" in the section "Stories".

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