The new documentary No Bois Man No Fraid explores the stick fighting art of kalinda as a vibrant modern martial art with roots embedded deeply in Trinidadian and African cultures. Kalinda also has an intriguing connection with Herbert Gordon Lang’s Walking Stick Method of Self Defence, as put forth in his book of that title, which was published in 1923.
At that time, Lang was a senior officer in the Indian police force and he hoped to institute his system of stick fighting as a key aspect of police training, while also noting its potential as a method of civilian self defence.
In his Introduction, Lang noted that:
The System has been carefully built up after several years’ thought and demonstration, and combines a method devised by a Frenchman, Vigui (sic), of which, little is now heard, together with the stick play of tribes of negroes on certain of the West India Islands, called “Bois.”
Additions and ameliorations have been made as the result of experience and close practice under varying circumstances.
Between 1920-21, H.G. Lang learned the Vigny stick fighting style from Percy Rolt, a former student of Pierre Vigny’s. Lang’s book represents the most detailed exposition of Vigny’s unusual method of stick fighting, which had earlier been incorporated into the curriculum of Bartitsu.
Lang was born in Grenada, West Indies, on December 3, 1887. It’s possible that he studied bois there as a teenager and later melded that style with what he learned of the Vigny system.
The Creole term “bois” (“wood”, or “stick”, also “bois-bataille”, etc.) was historically applied to stickfighting in both Grenada and Trinidad. While actual stick combat was successfully banned in Grenada, “bois” is still practiced there as a folk dance. However, as shown in No Bois Man No Fraid, the combat system has been perpetuated in Trinidad via the carnival traditions.
Thus, it’s likely that Trinidadian kalinda (a.k.a. bois, kalenda, calinda, etc.) is very close to what Lang might have added to the Vigny method. Those additions may well have included the practice of double-handed blocking, which is characteristic of both kalinda and Lang’s Walking Stick Method but which does not appear in any of the earlier Vigny sources.