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Lyle Zapato

Self-Defence With A Walking-Stick

Lyle Zapato | 2009-05-20.5540 LMT | Defensive Techniques | Retro

Here is a selection of illustrated defensive techniques employing a walking-stick, taken from the article "Self-defence With A Walking-stick: The Different Methods of Defending Oneself with a Walking-stick or Umbrella when Attacked under Unequal Conditions" by E. W. Barton-Wright, published in the Jan., 1901 issue of Pearson's Magazine:

No. 1.—The Guard by Distance—How to Avoid any Risk of being Hit on the Fingers, Arm, or Body by Retiring out of the Hitting Range of your Adversary, but at the same time Keeping Him within the Hitting Range of your Own Stick.

No. 1.

Your opponent, encouraged by the apparently exposed position of your left arm, naturally strikes at it, but you, anticipating the attack, withdraw it very quickly, and swing it upwards behind you. This upward sweep of the arm automatically causes you to swing your left foot well behind your right, and to draw in the lower part of your body out of your opponent's reach: at the same time it imparts the initial momentum to your right arm, and assists in bringing your stick down very quickly and heavily upon your adversary's head before he has time to recover his balance after over-reaching himself in trying to hit you.

No. 3.—Double-handed Stick-play—Showing the Best Way to Handle with Two Hands a Stick which is too Heavy to Manipulate Quickly with One Hand, when Attacked by a Man Armed with a Light Stick.

No. 3.

In mastering the art of self-defence with a stick it is important to learn how you may best wield your weapon with two hands, otherwise you might be at a serious disadvantage when carrying a heavy stick which you could not use freely with one hand, if attacked by a man carrying a lighter cane with which he could make quick, one-handed play. Your assailant's movements in this case would be so much quicker than yours that you would be at a very serious disadvantage with your heavier weapon.

The preparatory position for delivering a double-handed blow at your adversary's head is a position of guard, in which you hold the stick with both hands horizontally above your head, with thumbs away from your face, and hands at the ends of the stick. The beauty of this position lies in the fact that your opponent does not know which end of the stick you intend to use to hit him with. We will suppose that you are holding the stick with the heaviest end in your right hand, and that you propose to hit him with this end.

The blow is delivered thus—you slide your right hand quietly off the right-hand end of the stick, and bring it back again, holding the stick with the thumb on the side nearest your face. Then, using your left hand as a pivot, you slide your right hand up to your left with a circular motion, thus delivering a strong side blow at your adversary's face.

Should you wish to strike your opponent with the opposite end of the stick—the lighter end—you would slip your left hand off the left end of the stick, bring it back with the thumb on the side nearest your face, and then slide your left hand towards your right, to impart a circular motion to the stick as before. A person requires to be very supple in the shoulders to work a stick gracefully and well with two hands.

No. 4.—How to Defend Yourself, without Running any Risk of being Hurt, if you are Carrying only a Small Switch in your Hand, and are Threatened by a Man with a very Strong Stick.

No. 4.

Imagine that you are walking in a lonely part of the country, carrying a light switch or an umbrella, when suddenly a foot-pad bars your way, carrying a stout stick, with which he threatens you.

It is obvious that under these conditions if you gave your assailant time to assume the offensive, he would have no difficulty in breakingdown any slight guard you might offer, and in felling you to the ground. Knowing this disadvantage, and without giving him time to realise it, you must at once attack.

You should aim a vicious blow at your assailant's head, holding your hand very high in order to lorce him to guard high. Simultaneously, you should jump forward from the attacking position, shown in the second photograph, to the position shown in the third photograph, and strike him with the open hand high up on the chest, pulling his foot away from beneath him at the same time—in order to disturb his balance, and destroy his power to hit you. You could now strike your adversary such a blow with your fist on the face as to render him unconscious, or, of course, you could belabor him with your stick if it were suitable for the purpose.

No. 6.—A very Safe Way to Disable a Boxer who Attempts to Rush You when You are Armed with a Stick.

No. 6.

Imagine the case of a man armed with a serviceable stick being attacked by a skilled boxer. One of the safest and most reliable methods of defence against a boxer's fists is as follows:—

The man with the stick faces the boxer in the back-guard position—that is to say, with his_left foot and arm extended, and his right arm guarding his head. His left arm is thus free to guard his face or body, if, by any chance, he should fail to evade the blow. As soon as the boxer opens his attack with a direct blow upon the man with the stick, the latter jumps with one movement to the former's left, bending well forward in a crouched position, so as to avoid any possibility of being hit. Then, turning half round on his left toe, and drawing his right foot in a line with his left, he makes a low, back-handed sweep with his stick, and strikes the boxer across the knee, disabling him, and bringing him to the ground.

But for the sake of argument, we will suppose that in the excitement of the engagement the blow missed the boxer's knee, and struck him on his shin, in which case he might still be able to show light. Quickly recovering his balance, the boxer turns on his left toe by stepping to the right with his right foot, faces his opponent, and puts in another blow. But here, again, the man with the stick anticipates the move, and bayonettes the boxer in the heart before the blow can fall. As his stick gives him a longer reach than the boxer's, he runs no danger, and the strong, upward thrust with the stick should completely incapacitate his adversary.

I should like the reader to thoroughly understand that in every form of self-defence the first and most essential thing is to have a well-trained eye. This trick is entirely dependent upon the quickness of the eye in judging the right moment to jump on one side, so that the boxer does not become aware of the fact until he has struck at you and overreached himself, when il is too late for him to make good his disadvantage.

No. 8.—One of the Safest Plans of Defence for a Tall Man to Adopt, who has not much Confidence in his own Quickness and Knowledge of Stick-play, when Opposed to a Shorter and more Competent Opponent.

No. 8.

A tall, slow-moving man. attacked by a quick, short opponent, is at an immense disadvantage, as the short man delivers his attacks at lightning speed in unexpected quarters, and so reduces any possible advantage the other may hold in size and reach. Under the circumstances it would be advisable for the tall man to try to induce his opponent to deliver a blow for which he will be fully prepared.

This he will best do by taking up the rear-guard position, standing with his left foot forward, left arm extended, and right arm above the head, as previously described. He then throws his left arm forward as a bait. In ninety-nine cases out of a hundred the bait will prove irresistible. No sooner, however, does the short man begin to move his stick, with the intention of bringing it across the tall man's arm, than the latter must jump within the former's guard, in order to break the force of his blow as it falls, then, seizing the other's stick, the tall man can belabor his opponent's head.

Of course, it is understood that if the tall man has only got a weak stick or umbrella in his hand, which would only be of use in making the necessary feint to get an opening, directly he obtained the advantage shown in photo No. 2, he would use his fist to strike his opponent in the face or over the heart in order to disable him.

No. 9.—How to Defend Yourself with a Stick against the most Dangerous Kick of an Expert Kicker.

No. 9.

The student of the art of self-defence with a walking-stick might think it hardly worth while to study any particular method of defending himself which might insure him against an attack by a savater, or foot-boxer. You might suppose that there would be no great difficulty in guarding a high kick, provided you carried a stout stick in your hand. Those who have seen savaters at work, however, and realise the extraordinary swiftness of the kicks which they plant on their opponents' bodies, will understand that scientific kicking can only be guarded with certainty by a scientific method of defence.

Taking up a position of rear-guard, with left arm extended to ward off a possible kick at the small of the back, hip, or left side, you describe circular cuts in a left to right downward direction with your stick. Your opponent, standing well out of reach, prepares to do what in French boxing, or la savate, is called a "chassé"—that is, from his original position, with left foot and left arm extended, he places his right foot behind his left so as to enable him to approach within kicking distance if the opportunity presents itself, and, at the same time, to keep his body and head well out of danger. Then, seeing an opening, he places his right heel firmly on the ground and aims a kick with his foot at your heart.

Anticipating the danger, you transfer the whole weight of your body from your left to your right leg, which enables you at the critical moment to withdraw your foot very quickly—to avoid a kick on the shin in case of a diversion in the attack—and at the same time assists you to draw your body out of danger. You then bring your stick so heavily down on your adversary's ankle as to break it.

If you wish to defend yourself against kicks lower down on the body, you employ exactly the same means of defence, but as it is not necessary to hold the arm so high in describing the circular cuts, it is very much easier to defend yourself. The object of describing circular cuts, by the way, as opposed to a direct cut, is that you are very apt, in the latter case, to miss the kicker's leg, whereas in the former case you cannot fail, not only to deliver your blow, but also to ward off and divert the kick.

E. W. Barton-Wright

E. W. Barton-Wright was the creator of the British martial-art bartitsu, which includes the above walking-stick-fighting techniques along with wrestling and boxing. As you can see, walking-sticks are more than suitable for the disabling of kicky Frenchmen or the foot-pads that plague the English countryside. In his introduction to the article, Barton-Wright justifies the inclusion into bartitsu of these specialized techniques:

It must be understood that the new art of self-defence with a walking-stick, herewith introduced for the first time, differs essentially from single-stick or sword-play; for a man may be a champion in the use of sword or single-stick, and yet be quite unable to put a walking-stick to any effective use as a weapon of defence. The simple and sufficient reason to account for this is that both in single-stick and sword-play a cut is always taken up by the hilt of the weapon, whereas if you attempted to guard a blow with a walking-stick—which has no hilt—in the same way as you would with a sword, the blow would slide down your stick on to your hand and disable you. Therefore, in order to make a stick a real means of self-defence, it has been necessary to devise a system by which one can guard a blow in such a way as to cause it to slide away from the hand instead of toward it, and thus obviate the risk of being disarmed by being hit upon the fingers.

After some fifteen years of hard work, such a system has been devised by a Swiss professor of arms, M. Vigny. It has recently been assimilated by me into my system of self-defence called "Bartitsu."

In the art of self-defence with a walking-stick, the stick is held in the hand with the thumb overlapping the fingers, and not, as in single-stick or sword-play, with the thumb resting on the blade. The stick is therefore manipulated with the wrist—and not with the fingers as in sword-play—and the blows are given by swinging the body on the hips,— and not merely by flips from the elbow. In this way blows can be made so formidable that with an ordinary malacca cane it is possible to sever a man's jugular vein through the collar of his overcoat.

A notable, if fictitious, devotee of bartitsu (or "baritsu", as he mistakenly called it) was Sherlock Holmes, who used it to cheat death and vanquish his archnemesis, Professor Moriarty. An upcoming Holmes movie starring Robert Downey Jr. reimagines the detective as a more action-hero-type character than previously depicted, who uses bartitsu (or something vaguely like it) to subdue criminals and compete in underground fight clubs. Hopefully they'll stay true to the techniques of Barton-Wright and not try to sex it up too much with bullet-time effects -- or in this case, walking-stick-time effects.

End of post.