The first decades of the 20th century saw a marked shift in approaches to the use of the walking stick as a weapon of self-defence. Whereas cane manuals had appeared intermittently during the preceding era, they tended to be closely based on sabre fencing and, indeed, to treat the stick as a substitute sabre. Innovators, notably including Bartitsu Club stick fighting instructor Pierre Vigny, observed the flaws in that approach and developed more diverse and sophisticated methods of their own, geared less towards the conditions of gentlemanly stick play in the salle d’armes and more towards the unpredictable, high-stakes circumstances of street fighting.
Vigny’s method was promulgated beyond his personal reach via E.W. Barton-Wright’s famous 1901 article series for Pearson’s Magazine and then by Police Superintendant H.G. Lang’s 1923 book The Walking Stick Method of Self-Defence. During the intervening period, several other authors produced their own works on the subject, including Andrew Chase Cunningham, whose 1912 book The Cane as a Weapon was a uniquely American entry into the canon of early 20th century stick fighting manuals.
Possibly the last, but by no means the least interesting nor valuable, was Nuevos Modos de Defenderse en la Calle con un Baston (New Methods of Street Self Defence with a Cane), which was published in Buenos Aires, Argentina during the year 1930. Author Arturo Bonafont was clearly an experienced instructor and, like Vigny and Cunningham before him, his idiosyncratic method represented a departure from the orthodoxy of sabre-based stick fighting. Reading between the lines a little, it seems that his intended audience may have been young “swells” on slumming excursions in and around the brothels of the Argentinian capital.
The Bonafont method relies on a simple and flexible strategy based on two primary grips of the cane. One, for use at closer quarters, is the double-handed grip familiar to Bartitsu enthusiasts as the “bayonette”, while the other is a single-handed “inverted” grip; a position almost unique to Bonafont’s system. From these two primary grips, the system encompasses a comprehensive arsenal of jabs with both the steel ball “pommel” and the ferrule as well as slashing strikes delivered to the opponent’s most vulnerable targets.
Original copies of the Bonafont manual are extremely rare and its international appeal has been limited by the fact that it was written in Spanish. Now, however, an excellent English translation has been made available by Darrin Cook of the BigStickCombat.com website.
The new translated ebook edition covers the entire system in exacting detail and is available for only US$3.00 from Amazon.com.
The only criticism that might be made is that, while the new edition faithfully preserves the picture/text placement of the original book, that inevitably means that it’s often necessary to flip back and forth between pages to check Bonafont’s instructional photographs against his text.
That very minor quibble aside, Mr. Cook’s translation will, hopefully, help lead to an international revival of the Bonafont cane system comparable to that of the Vigny method, Irish bataireacht and other styles.