“A striking exhibition” (Grantham Journal, Nov. 1, 1902)

On Tuesday night, in London, Professor Vigny gave a striking exhibition the possibilities of self-defence afforded by simple walking-stick. Holding his malacca cane by one hand at each end, the Professor calmly awaited the onslaught of a skilled opponent armed with a similar stick. The spectators never knew which hand was to deal the blow, the released end moving with lightning speed.

Then came an exhibition of stick swinging by which every part the body was protected on all sides. With perpetual loud hum the cane made circles, front and behind, that no one could reach within the guard without instantly receiving blew that would splinter any bone to pieces.

And then, with the amateur heavy-weight champion, he showed his skill in boxing, and the French system of hosing with both hands and feet, “la savate.”

With a sprinkling of people about who had learned Vigny’s system, remarks our correspondent, the Hooligan would find his occupation gone.

“Carry a large stick” (1901)

To the Editor of the Evening Telegraph
Dublin, February 10, 1901

Dear Mr. Editor – I see by your issue of Saturday an extract from the February number of “Pearson’s” bearing on Mr. E.W. Barton-Wright’s papers on “Self Defence with a Walking Stick”. In the main I am with him, as I have used the same mode of ingress, egress and regress in a dense crown in various parts of the world. I always since I left the Army carry a large stick, and, like Mr. Barton-Wright, find it useful.

In the first place I manage to get the point on the heel of the man in front, should he not stir. I reverse it and bring it to bear on the man in my rere (sic). By doing this in regimental fashion, you soon cause a “stampede”, and no-one can say you are wrong as the swaying of the crowd accounts for the swaying of the stick. Your immediate vicinity is then vacant and you (in nine cases out of ten) get elbow-room.

Now for the bayonet exercise. This you cannot do unless given clear space, and the quarter-turn that Mr. Barton-Wright alludes to is simply the change from left point to right (you must change hands). I am now only speaking of a dense crowd in which the stick might play an important part.

As regards self defence, pure and simple, if out-numbered I hold again to the bayonet exercise. Hardly a man, no matter how big a bully he is, can withstand a well-directed thrust with a strong stick handled by one who knows how to handle a bayonet; but still, if you can get in a cut, why (not?) do it.

Yours Faithfully,


Revivals of gladiatorial combat in Belle Époque France

Georges Dubois was something of a Renaissance man; a professional sculptor, Olympic athlete, theatrical fight director and fencing teacher who famously challenged Ernest Regnier (a.k.a. “Re-Nie”) to a savate vs. jiujitsu contest in 1905.

Dubois was also a pioneering French revivalist of historical combat systems, including Renaissance-era rapier and dagger fencing as well as the “ancient combats” of the gladiatorial arena. See this new article by Phil Crawley on Dubois’ reconstructions of the fighting styles of the Murmillo and Retiarius.

James Marwood on the gentlemanly arts of self defence and sartorialism

Bartitsu instructor James Marwood is interviewed for The Perfect Gentleman, a UK-based initiative to “make the world a more respectful, stylish and gentlemanly place, one man at a time.”

Topics of conversation include James’s career as a business change consultant, his early experiences as a doorman (bouncer), the history and revival of Bartitsu with an aside into the Sherlock Holmes connection, teaching self defence classes tailored to young men and gentlemanly choices of attire, finishing with “The Perfect Gentleman’s Ten Questions”.

The Bartitsu and self defence section of the interview runs from about 13:48-35:25.

Why CLANG will be awesome

On September 19, the developers of CLANG – the motion controlled swordfighting simulator game that was the subject of a successful Kickstarter campaign in 2012 – released a statement explaining that the game development had been “paused” while the developers seek further funding.

This statement was very rapidly followed by a virulently negative opinion piece by Wired‘s Chris Kohler, which generated a flurry of similar posts on other websites and blogs.

The major point that keeps getting missed in the current furore is that the Kickstarter project was explicitly to fund a playable prototype game (which is what actually happened – see below). That prototype would then be used to attract backing for the full game.

This is explained both in the pitch text on the Kickstarter site:

The next step is to build a functional proof of concept in the form of an exciting prototype we can share with you and use to achieve our next level of funding

and at 2:26 in the original pitch video:

“Our goal is to produce a game prototype and toolkit that others can use to make UGC fighting content of their own.”

The alpha playable prototype game was, in fact, completed and released, about two months after the originally estimated release date. Here’s how it plays:

It isn’t flashy, but it absolutely is what was promised; a motion controlled swordfighting simulator game, using an original game mechanic rather than just modifying existing tech, that allows players to fight with historically and martially accurate techniques. For comparison, here’s some two-handed sword sparring performed by skilled combat athletes:

The less-then-scandalous “news”, which was explained in great detail in Stephenson’s “State of Clang” update and has now been reinforced in his interview with Kotaku, is that the developers have not yet been able to attract the next phase of funding, which will have to come from corporate backers as it will reach into the multi-millions. If that next phase doesn’t transpire, the plan is to open-source the prototype for further development by the gaming community.

In the short term, the CLANG developers are urging people to support the cutting-edge STEM motion tracking system, which will accelerate the entire process:

Just to reinforce this point; the ultimate aim of CLANG is to create a toolkit that can be used to create truly realistic martial arts combat games using motion sensing technology. The additional UGC content could potentially include Bartitsu stickfighting, kenjutsu, rapier and dagger fencing, escrima, Chinese broadsword fighting, etc.

Imagine playing a game as Edward Barton-Wright (or Sherlock Holmes) taking on a ruffian in the back-alleys of Soho circa 1900, using historically accurate Bartitsu combat techniques. Picture yourself rapier fighting as Mercutio against Tybalt in a Veronese plaza, with techniques taken verbatim from Marozzo or Fabris. The sky’s the limit once the tech is in place.

CLANG will be awesome …