As a Russian strongman on a horse from the battlefield took out and people from the cannon caught
About 100 years ago, the whole world admired the “Iron” and “Amazing” Samson. This man really expanded the boundaries of human capabilities, because with a modest height and weight, he managed tricks that could not be repeated by the giants-athletes of those times. The famous strongman and circus artist Alexander Zass remained in the memory of descendants also thanks to the system of exercises that is still popular.A real Russian hero was born in 1888 on a small farm in the Vilna province. There were only five children in the Zass family, and their father, who worked as a clerk, did not spoil them. Alexander Ivanovich wrote in his memoirs: “My childhood was spent in the fields, because our family was essentially a peasant. There was plenty to eat and drink, and yet we had to work hard for everything we had.”Most of his childhood was spent in Saransk, and it was there that the boy saw an incredible miracle that won him over for the rest of his life – traveling circuses that often visited the city. He was especially won over by the strong men who, as if by magic, lifted huge weights and broke iron chains. Little Sasha began to secretly dream of such a future, but, of course, he could not share these thoughts with his parents – the flogging would have been provided, because his father wanted to see his son as a locomotive driver.
However, the dream called, and one night the boy ran away from home to watch the evening performance again. When he returned, a shepherd’s whip was waiting for him, after which he had to leave for several days. And then a strict parent was sent a foolish child away from the temptations of the city in the far South of the village herdsman. However, fate already seemed to be leading the future world star, and such a strict decision only helped the boy. Under the scorching sun, he had hardened, learned to ride and shoot well, and, to the surprise of all around, he had managed to find common ground with six huge and ferocious guard dogs. He began to understand the heat and even taught horses tricks that he saw at performances. So we can say that the first lessons for working in the circus he received, driving a herd of several hundred cows, camels and horses.
Returning home to Saransk, away from the strict parental eyes, he began independent training. At the same time, the tenacity and ingenuity shown by the young strongman would have done credit to any real athlete. Surreptitiously read magazines with recipes for “improving the figure and developing strength”, independently invented and made of stones and sticks, shells, gymnastics and Jogging – so gradually the young man turned his body into a working tool. It must be said that nature did not give him much. All his life, even after becoming famous, he had to face problems because of his small height and weight. Even in the best years, he weighed only 75 kg with a height of 168 cm. this is despite the fact that strongmen of those times were usually giants of 140 or more kg.
In difficulties, as you know, character hardens. And Alexander Ivanovich also showed considerable ingenuity. Independent youth training helped him create his own system, which, by the way, is still used by athletes around the world. Zass isometric exercises are aimed at strengthening tendons, and do not include traditional muscle contraction under load. Surprisingly, without trainers and special equipment, the young man managed to achieve very impressive results – at a weight of 66 kg.he twisted 80 kilograms with his right hand and juggled 30-kilogram weights. And all this is a secret from the family.
In 1908, his father began to realize his dream – he sent his son to study in Orenburg in the local locomotive depot, but the young man, as expected, went for his star-got a job in a circus that arrived, however, only as a handyman. Thus began his circus career is not easy. For many years to come, he would then deceive his father by telling him about nonexistent firms where he was supposedly invited to work, while he gradually gained experience in what really attracted him. The young man went through all the stages and stages of working in the circus – from a cage cleaner to a real artist, becoming what he really wanted – an athlete, strongman and wrestler.
The first world war found him already a real professional in his field, who worked in several famous circuses of that time. Alexander Ivanovich was enlisted in the regimental intelligence service and, despite his very peaceful nature, became, oddly enough, a real dashing soldier. There is a legend about how he pulled his wounded stallion from the enemy’s territory on his shoulders. This circus act, by the way, then became his real “business card”. However, he did not have to fight for a long time – wounded in both legs, he was captured and treated for a long time in an Austrian hospital. By a miracle, he did not lose his limbs, and when he finally recovered, he ended up in a prison camp.
Three times he escaped, after which he was even shackled and kept in a damp, dark basement. Russian hero, however, and then showed the Germans what real strength of spirit. Using confined space and limited movement as part of the system, he began training. Goose steps, bends, squats, tension and relaxation of the muscles-it turned out that you can work on yourself everywhere and always, the good thing that there was enough time. The impressed jailers were deceived by his exemplary behavior, relaxed their strictness and entrusted the former circus performer with training guard dogs, freeing Zass’s hands. This was enough for the strong man to escape again after a while. Now, finally, successfully.
During that time, while he was running from the Germans, too much had changed in Russia, and Alexander Ivanovich did not want to return to the Soviet Republic – he believed that the former soldier of the tsarist army was forbidden to go there. So, until the end of his life, the Russian hero did not return to his homeland. Moreover, his career abroad progressed very successfully: Budapest, Paris, then London. He took a stage name – Samson, and began touring around the world. His fame grew, and his performances aroused fantastic interest. Alexander Zass invented each of his numbers as a real theatrical performance. Original and unique performances seemed to people like real miracles. He built special devices and invented new tricks. Two attractions were particularly successful: a cannon that fired people, which he then caught, and a tower with which the strongman on the platform lifted thirteen people (in the photo below, the far right of his assistants is Winston Churchill).
The strongman jokingly bent iron rods into twisted patterns, hammered huge nails with his hand and broke concrete slabs (many decades before the era of karate!), flew under the dome of the circus with a 220-kilogram beam in his teeth and carried a horse on his shoulders. Family life did not work out for him – the beloved woman, having tried to create a family with him, gave up after a few years, unable to withstand his excessive popularity with the female sex and married her best friend. Of course, both the beloved and the friend were also circus performers. This love triangle all the remaining years demonstrated an example of truly friendly “high relations”. In 1951, they even rented a house for three of them, near London, to meet their old age together. By this time, the famous strongman did not perform so often with power numbers, switching to what he also loved – animal training.
In the summer of 1962, a fire broke out in Zass’s caravan. The elderly artist was already in his seventies, but he rushed to put out the fire and was severely injured. Unfortunately, he did not live long after this incident. The famous Russian strongman was buried, according to his wishes, “in the morning, when the sun begins to Shine” – this is the time when circus performers used to leave their places and go on the road.
In 2008, on the centenary of the first performance of the artist with power numbers, a monument to the famous Russian Samson was opened near the circus building in Orenburg.