When most Westerners think of the hopak – a traditional dance featuring squatting men kicking their legs to the side – they probably picture Russian men hundreds of years in the past. However, this unique dance actually originated in Ukraine and is the inspiration behind a new form of martial art: boyovi hopak, or fighting hopak.
Volodymyr Stepanovich Pilat, a former karate master, began working on combat hopak in 1985. The kicks in hopak reminded Pilat of a martial art, so he spent the next two years developing a series of moves based on the traditional Cossack victory dance. Once satisfied, the Lviv-based instructor recruited teachers from across Ukraine to train students in the new sport. Pilat’s hard work paid off.
According to a report in PRI’s The World, fighting hopak is hugely popular in Ukraine, and physical education instructors even teach it in schools. Ukrainian communities abroad also offer lessons in this unique new sport.
Pilat’s original goal was to create a new sport Ukrainians could call their own, but he now has sights on making fighting hopak an Olympic sport.
However, not everyone is a fan of fighting hopak. Critics have accused Pilat of training a band of nationalist warriors, but the hopak master denies the claim.
“I created hopak so that Ukrainians have their own martial art, like Korean Taekwondo, Chinese Kung Fu, and kick-boxing,” Pilat said.
Check out the video below, or visit TheWorld.org for more information and stunning photos of the new martial art known as fighting hopak.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons