“The Preliminaries of Jiu-Jitsu”: Armand Cherpillod on Atemi-Waza

Armand Cherpillod poses as “the attacker” with a student demonstrating atemi-waza as self-defence.

Hailing from the Alpine village of St. Crois, wrestler Armand Cherpillod was the last full-time instructor to join the staff of the London Bartitsu Club.  According to Cherpillod’s memoirs, E.W. Barton-Wright sent Pierre Vigny to Switzerland with the express intention of bringing a wrestling champion back to London.

It’s likely that Cherpillod was approached because the then-current war of words between Bartitsu founder Edward Barton-Wright and the English wrestling establishment had reached a stalemate.  The wrestlers refused to accept Barton-Wright’s challenge for them to compete with his club’s champions under jiujitsu rules, and Barton-Wright refused to allow Yukio Tani and Sadakazu Uyenishi to compete under other rules.   

Bringing Cherpillod in as a “ringer”, having him train with Tani and Uyenishi and then fight under catch-as-catch-can rules was a clever tactic on behalf of Barton-Wright.  Representing the Bartitsu Club, Cherpillod won his match against the famous wrestler Joe Carroll during a highly-publicised Bartitsu tournament, and then continued into a successful career as a challenge wrestler both in England and on the European Continent.

The following article, translated from the Revue Olympique of January, 1905, highlights Cherpillod’s take on jiujitsu atemi-waza (striking and nerve pressure techniques).  It’s both interesting and unusual in that, although Barton-Wright’s own original articles for Pearson’s Magazine had included a variety of atemi-waza, that class of techniques was not emphasised in the books later produced by Tani and Uyenishi.

Atemi methods were, however, also detailed in some of the books written by second-generation instructors, such as W. Bruce Sutherland.  The British Jujitsu Society – which largely consisted of instructors who had been trained by Tani and Uynenishi – later produced a pamphlet detailing the same branch of skill, titled “The Art of Ju-Jitsu: Nerve Pinches and Fatal Blows”, which is reproduced in The Bartitsu Compendium.

The translated Revue Olympique article follows:

Among the first European followers of jiu-jitsu is the world champion of freestyle wrestling, A. Cherpillod, who arrived in London during the year 1901 as a teacher at the Bartitsu Club, where he met with the Japanese masters Uyenishi and Tani. An exchange of teaching took place between these athletes, as they began to introduce each other to the beauties of their arts.

Returning to Switzerland, Cherpillod taught some colleagues about the principles of jiu-jitsu and, when in charge of a wrestling course at the Royal Naval Officers at Portsmouth, he joined them in performing demonstrations of the Japanese method. He perfected his own skill and acquired some good pupils. Finally last year, Cherpillod, assisted by his friend, the distinguished Professor E. Richème, of Neuchatel, prepared his little practical manual of jiu-jitsu, which enjoyed considerable success.

Mr. Cherpillod considers that jiu-jitsu and European freestyle wrestling have a common origin and that the former is only a particular style of freestyle wrestling, starting from the initial common principle of seeking defeat of the adversary without any regard for convention, every technique being good provided it tends to the desired result. In ancient Greece, writes the author, “freestyle wrestling became the object of public competitions.  The progress of civilisation and certain sporting considerations gradually softened the brutality of these matches. Thus, over the course of centuries, conventions emerged, mainly leading to the recognition of the touch of the shoulders to the ground, or a similar position, as the end of the fight.

It follows from this that freestyle European wrestling would have lost, by becoming civilized or sporting, all that the Japanese style has gained in science and in virtuosity by its independence and freedom. It is this virtuosity which gives jiu-jitsu the appearance of a mysterious art, thanks to the success that those who practice it invariably win over all the athletes constrained by modern (i.e. Western) conventions and incapable of realizing the scope of an art which systematically ignores the outdated rules of which they are imbued.

This judgement is interesting; it seems a little sketchy, perhaps, in disregarding some of the fundamental originality of the Japanese method. The latter recommends itself in two points which do not appear to him to be common with any other kind of free wrestling; the role played by the fingers and the whole hand – and also through the intervention of scientific anatomy.

But, of course, Mr. Cherpillod did not fail to appreciate the importance of these two points when he himself became a jiu-jitsu expert and that is why it is astonishing that he has not emphasized them by giving in his textbook a general overview of the Japanese style; on the other hand, when it comes to what might be called the preliminary preparation in jiu-jitsu, the famous Swiss athlete ascribed to the first rank the exercises of the hand and anatomical study.

The general gymnastic method he indicates does not call for any comment. Certain movements are hardly different from those which are customarily taught to obtain relaxation of the whole body. The author has no preference; he says so overtly. We even take note of this clear theory, so contrary to the excitement of the day, and for which we express our warm sympathy; “All systems are good, provided they are applied consistently.” There is no master of gymnastics who can not apply a rational training program capable of developing the strength of the limbs, the flexibility and resistance of each part of the body. To arrive at a determined result, it is enough to create a system and to practice it every day with perseverance.

That being said, Mr. Cherpillod comes to the preparation of the hands and the indication of the vulnerable points of the human body; these are essential elements of jiu-jitsu. A trained Japanese fighter can, with a single stroke of the edge of the hand against the neck, dislocate cervical vertebrae and bring death. There are not many ways to train in this regard. It is necessary, with the hand well open, the fingers held tightly, to strike or slice at a very hard object as violently as possible, with a percussive blow; you must not only repeat this exercise a very large number of times, but vary it by striking from top to bottom, from bottom to top, from right to left and from left to right.

Vulnerable points in the human body are not all affected by the same techniques, nor in the same way. Some are sensitive to torsion, others to pressure; others again must be assailed by a sharp blow of  the hand. Here is the enumeration furnished by M. Cherpillod:

1. Points sensitive to torsion or reversal ending at the same time by the disarticulation of the grasped member:

  • the fingers – the wrist – the arm at the elbow – the junction between the arm and the shoulder. The foot and knee could still be mentioned, although the blows there are both less effective and more difficult to perform.

2 – Sensitive pressure points:

  • the eyes – the depression of the nose at the base of the forehead – the nose (pushed upwards or the nostrils inside) – the hollow below the ears – the carotid – the inner muscle of the arm immediately above the elbow or pinched ten or fifteen centimeters from the armpit – the wrist at the pulse point – the back of the hand in the interval between the three middle fingers – the first joint of the little finger – the skin of the belly directly below the hollow of the stomach – the ankle.

3 – Points sensitive to strikes with the hand:

  • the temple – the nose from bottom to top – the Adam’s apple – the side of the neck under the jawbone and above the clavicle – the nape of the neck – the clavicle – the back above the shoulder blades – the bottom of the vertebral column at the hollow lumbar – the hollow of the stomach – the flank below the false ribs – the groin – the point between the biceps and triceps muscles as well as the middle of the forearm and the wrist joint – the middle of both sides or the femur – the middle of the front of the tibia in front – the toes.

It will be noticed that, practically, there is a ranking to operate between all these points; many of them, while they might be excellent attack points upon the naked body, are usually protected by clothing.

It will also be noted that they are not all easy to determine, other than in theory. First, there are the individual physiques to be taken into account, the real anatomy of men differing considerably from one to the other; but, even on a normal man, a strike may not invariably land upon its target, especially if it is a quick and sudden movement.

Now, in Jiu-Jitsu, as in every other form of fighting, accuracy in partnership with speed leads most surely to success.  Hence the precision exercises to which the Japanese attribute real importance, but which the Swiss champion seems to leave a little aside. It is said that, in Japan, one sometimes uses the following process: a man draws upon a table a series of small circles in pencil, then he steps away from the table first one pace, then two, then three, and he suddenly lunges and places his finger in one of the circles. We can do the same thing with a piano keyboard, aiming to depress this or that key.

There is, of course, no equivalent exercise that can be performed upon the body of an adversary, and, to tell the truth, we do not believe that, without an adversary, one can acquire even a summary knowledge of jiu-jitsu.

On the other hand, it is always good to study etudes (formal exercises) and any work in physical culture should more or less start with those. The jiu-jitsu etudes are exercises aimed at hardening the slice of the hand, the strength and agility of the fingers, as well as the knowledge of the points of attack and in the way to use this knowledge both quickly and precisely.

Bayonet Thrust

Members of the Aisle O’Var Backswording Club experiment with the “bayonette thrust” of Bartitsu cane fighting during a recent seminar.

As described by E.W. Barton-Wright in Self-Defence with a Walking Stick (1901):

It will be understood that it is quite impossible to swing a stick in a crowd, owing to want of elbow room; and so, in order to get elbow room and free scope to hit, you proceed as follows: —

Hold your stick, more or less in a line with your hips, and proceed, as in the second photograph, to lunge to your left, holding the end of the stick in your right hand, and letting it slide through your left, in order to be able to guide it with certainty.

Lunging at the body of the nearest man on your left, you disable him, and cause him to retreat precipitously. In doing so, he involuntarily forces back those in his immediate neighborhood. You then turn on your heels, and bayonette the nearest man on your right, this time holding the end of your stick in your left hand, and guiding it through your right. Directly you have bayonetted him, and caused him to force back others in his attempt to escape, you make a quarter turn on your heels, and bayonette the man behind you.

After this, seeing another man close to him with his legs slightly apart, you make a dive with your stick between his legs, and upset him. Take one step backwards, and you should now have sufficient room to swing your stick to right and left across people’s faces and heads until they disperse.

Neo-Bartitsu Seminar in California

Instructors Tom Badillo and Fred Kaye will be teaching a neo-Bartitsu seminar at the En Garde Fencing school in Santa Rosa, California on September 22nd:

Chronicled in the annals of Sherlock Holmes, Bartitsu is purported to be the world’s first mixed martial art. This system of self-defense was originally developed and practiced in England in the years 1898-1902.

A blend of Western and Eastern martial arts, Bartitsu synthesized elements of jujitsu, pugilism, wrestling, Savate, and Vigny stick-fighting. Developed to defend the gentry against vicious street gangs, this martial art was pressure tested in the dangerous world of the late 19th century. This comprehensive martial system is as applicable today as it was at the time.

The Seminar will focus on Physical Culture with a primer on the use of Indian clubs as a martial arts training tool, then moving on to the core principles of the use of the cane, savate kicking style, bare-knuckle pugilism and jujitsu. Working through canonical materials and on to Neo-Bartitsu for use in the modern context.

Further details can be found here.

“The Repair Shop” Restores a Portrait of Yukio Tani

A unique oil painting of former Bartitsu Club instructor Yukio Tani has been restored in commemoration of the London Budokwai’s centenary anniversary.

Tani was among the original group of three jiujitsuka who travelled from Japan to London in 1900, at the behest of Bartitsu Club founder Edward Barton-Wright. Although Kaneo Tani and Seizo Yamamoto only remained in England for a few months, Yukio – then aged nineteen – decided to remain in the English capital. There he was joined by Sadakazu Uyenishi, and the two young men served as unarmed combat instructors and challenge wrestlers on behalf of the Bartitsu Club until the Club dissolved in 1902. Thereafter, Tani joined forces with Taro Miyake in operating the Japanese School of Ju-jitsu and continued his successful challenge wrestling career.

In 1918, Tani became the first professional instructor at the newly-established London Budokwai. Founded by Gunji Koizumi, this was the first dojo in Europe to promote Kodokan judo, and Tani was accredited a nidan (second degree) black belt in that style by judo founder Jigoro Kano.

Sometime in the 1930s, Yukio Tani’s portrait was painted in oils by artist and judoka George Lambourne.  Tani would have been about fifty years old at the time.

Although the portrait has hung in a position of honour on the walls of the Budokwai for many decades, time has inevitably taken its toll. It was, therefore, recently taken to be restored via The Repair Shop – a workshop established by the BBC at the Weald and Downland Museum in Singleton, West Sussex, which is used as a location for the television show of the same name.

Budokwai chief instructor Peter Blewett and painting conservationist Lucia Scalisi unwrap the Tani portrait.
A full view of the portrait.
Lucia Scalisi examines Lambourne’s work for the first time.
A detail showing some of the dirt and paint damage accrued over the passage of many decades.
Tani’s black belt.
Peter Blewett leaves Scalisi to her work.
The painstaking task of conservation begins.
Experimental repairs to the flaking oil paint, believed to have been caused by a botched previous attempt at restoration.
A solvent cleaner was required to remove decades worth of grime from the portrait.
A layer of varnish is applied to the newly-cleaned surface.
Upon very close examination, Lucia Scalisi believes that an earlier draft of the portrait had shown Tani wearing round spectacles.
Areas where the original paint was missing are carefully filled in …
… and then retouched using acrylic paint, to ensure an effective colour-match with the original oils.
Finally, after many hours of skilled conservation, the fully restored portrait is returned to its place of honour in the London Budokwai.

The Tani portrait conservation is documented in The Repair Shop (season 3, episode 5), which is currently available here for viewers with access to the BBC iPlayer.

A Letter by Pierre Vigny Sheds New Light on an Old Feud

Charles Charlemont (left) and Pierre Vigny strike pugilistic poses.

A newly-discovered letter written by Pierre Vigny illuminates both the style of savate he taught at the Bartitsu Club and his feud with Parisian savateur Charles Charlemont.  Although Vigny was a prominent professor of antagonistics and was quite widely quoted via articles and interviews, this letter represents one of the very few known instances of his direct commentary.

In early October of 1901, Charlemont wrote a letter objecting to Vigny being promoted as the “champion in French boxing and single-stick” in connection with Bartitsu events.  In this letter, which was published in several English newspapers, Charlemont asserted that Vigny had lost to Charlemont himself, M. Mainguet (then an assistant at Charlemont’s school) and “other boxers in Paris.” Charlemont closed by suggesting that Vigny was a “bluffer” who was trying to make a name for himself as a self defence teacher in London.

E.W. Barton-Wright, who was Pierre Vigny’s employer at the time, replied that Vigny saw Charlemont as being a “fantastic dancer only, without the slightest right to the title he has assumed” and noted that Vigny’s championship claim vis-a-vis stick fighting was specific to his own style.  Barton-Wright then offered to financially back Vigny in two “World Championship” contests with Charlemont, the first being straight French kickboxing and the second in which Charlemont could kick and punch, but Vigny would restrict himself to boxing.

Barton-Wright further noted that if Charlemont did not accept the challenge, he (B-W) would “allow Vigny to go to Paris and publicly horse-whip him”, before closing with a few choice remarks about the infamous Charlemont/Jack Driscoll savate vs. boxing contest (which ended in a very controversial win to Charlemont).

Despite an exceptionally heated exchange of letters to the editor, the various parties couldn’t agree on terms and so the proposed Vigny/Charlemont challenge fight never happened.  Their dispute was, however, illustrative of a wider controversy within the world of French kickboxing.

As we have frequently noted in the past, the academic, touch-contact style promoted by the Charlemonts was coming under increasing criticism at the turn of the 20th century.  On October 13th, 1900, Pierre Vigny’s comments in the following letter to Frank Reichel, then Secretary of the French National Sports Committee, were published in the journal La Constitutionelle.  They confirm our theory that Vigny was a member of the minority camp, arguing for a radical reform of French kickboxing:

(…) As for the way of organizing this World Championship, why do we not agree upon the rules in force in England, namely: a number of completed rounds, for example six bouts of three minutes each, one of which is a minute of rest, during which the jury, taken naturally from among the most competent, would make notes upon the hits and the work by each opponent in each resumption.

If one of the two opponents is not out of the fight before the end of the sixth resumption, the jury will declare the one who has the most points to his credit to be the winner, or if the two champions are found to be “ex-œquo” (“in an equal state”), they will decide a new meeting.

A good reform would be to remove, in this championship, the announcement of touches; if it is necessary to announce that one has been touched on the shin (which is one of the most frequent strikes), we lose, by the slight pauses resulting from those announcements, whole combinations; it prevents those interesting and scientific passes that may follow.

These rules are those of my boxing and savate school which I introduced in London and which is a branch of what Mr. Barton-Wright, the well-known initiator of the new method of personal defense , calls ‘Bartitsu’.

The editor of La Constitutionelle agreed with Vigny, adding that:

We never say anything else: French boxing is full of inertia and nonsense. It is derisory for one to stop on receiving a light stroke, crying “touché!”, when, in reality, one would “reply” thoroughly. By not going beyond these conventions, we have made French boxing a superb exercise in flexibility, but that is all. From the truly combative point of view, it is especially practical on an ignorant opponent, or perhaps a passing drunkard.

A fighter who “replies” bravely removes the effect of the cross-over and turning kicks; cancels all this virtuosity, all this affected elegance.

French boxing lacks strong punches. The punch of the Joinville style does not land heavily upon the body.

The victory over Driscool (sic – Driscoll) is not an affirmation of the French method; it is a proof of the high personal worth of Charlemont, of his fine courage, his temperament and his dash.

What is needed is a rational method, less elegant and more useful.

Some further context may be useful.  In a follow-up letter to the editor in December, Barton-Wright reported that Charlemont had by then refused the challenge because “he says he is not a pugilist, but a Professor of Savate”. Barton-Wright also claimed that it had actually been Pierre Vigny’s brother who had lost the bouts referred to in Charlemont’s original letter, and closed with some very disparaging remarks about Charlemont’s character.

This issue is confused by the facts that Pierre Vigny evidently had at least one brother, named Eugene, and possibly another, named Paul, and that when the newspapers referred to “Professor Vigny of Geneva” they did not always specify which Vigny brother had actually fought.  It is certain that, on March 11, 1897, one of the Vigny brothers lost conclusively in a boxing match against an English boxer named Attfield, and was then defeated in a savate match against Charles Charlemont.  It may also be notable that Pierre Vigny initially travelled to England to improve his boxing, before joining forces with Barton-Wright.

Addressing Vigny’s point re. shin kicks; the reliable efficacy of those techniques had been in serious question since the aforementioned Charlemont/Driscoll debacle a few years earlier.  Many French observers were startled when Charlemont’s low-line kicks didn’t have the presumed devastating effect upon Driscoll, who was able to evade or simply ignore most of them, while dealing considerable damage with his gloved fists.

The rules of that bout, which were very close to those Vigny himself later instituted via the Bartitsu Club, represented a radical departure from the Charlemonts’ favoured style of French kickboxing.  Vigny’s larger point, though, does not advocate a reformation of technique so much as of protocols.

Following the convention of academic fencing, the Charlemonts’ style required the formal courtesy of calling “touché!” at even the lightest touch of the opponent’s fist or foot.  This had the effect of rewarding speed and dexterity, but at the cost of complexity and realism, given that it essentially paused the bout, artificially requiring both fighters to re-set and start again.

One experienced witness to the Charlemont/Driscoll fight noted that Charlemont was handicapped by his long experience of kicking lightly in academic bouts, to the extent that those low kicks that did land lacked stopping power.  Parsing the entire range of eyewitness reports on that fight, from both French and foreign observers, it’s difficult to avoid the conclusions that Charlemont would have lost if not for an accidental but strictly illegal kick to Driscoll’s groin, and that he certainly shouldn’t have been awarded the victory because of it.

The argument over academic touch-contact vs. professional full-contact continued in French kickboxing circles until the outbreak of the First World War, which had a devastating effect on the sport.  Many young fighters naturally served as soldiers during that awful conflict, and many were badly wounded or killed.  Hubert Desruelles, who appears to have at least occasionally taught at the Bartitsu Club as well as at his own schools in France, was severely injured in both arms during the war, putting an end to his athletic career.

During the post-War decades, French kickboxing slowly rebuilt itself to include both the traditional “touch” (assaut) style and a full-contact style influenced by the no-nonsense ethos of British and American boxing.  If only a similar compromise could have been reached circa 1900 …

First Edition Copy of “The Walking Stick Method of Self Defence” for Sale

A rare first-edition copy of H.G. Lang’s classic self-defence manual is currently available for sale via eBay.  The asking price is £300 (US$326).

Quoting the seller’s description:


[LANG (Herbert Gordon, 1887-1864)]

The “Walking Stick” Method of Self-Defence. By an Officer of the Indian Police. 

(London): Athletic Publications Ltd., n.d. [1926]. First edition. xvii, 66 p. Publisher’s burgundy cloth with black lettering to upper cover and spine. Printed dustjacket with black lettering and illustration of Indian police officer using his stick. 8vo (19cm x 12.5cm).

Very Good internal condition, in a Good to Fair only jacket and binding. Tape previously used to strengthen reverse of dust jacket, resulting in some horizontal brown tracks. Jacket also age-toned and somewhat dirty / marked, with chip to top and bottom edges with some loss to spine ends and corners. Rear board damp marked (front less so). Pages a bit age-toned but plates clean and bright. Very occasional light scattered foxing. Binding solid. An acceptable copy in a worn but intact dust jacket. See gallery images.

Thanks to research carried out by The Bartitsu Society in recent years (see their web site), we now know much more about the origins of this quirky martial arts book, which today is quite rare and has a cult following of sorts in the Bartitsu community. 

Bartitsu is an eclectic martial art and self-defence method originally developed in England during the years 1898–1902, combining elements of boxing, jujitsu, cane fighting, and French kickboxing.

We already knew that author H. G. Lang was a senior officer in the Indian Police, but exactly what inspired his method of walking-stick defence remained sketchy. 

Lang grew up in the West Indies, where it’s possible he studied the local stick-fighting method called ‘bois’, also known as ‘kalinda’ in Trinidad. Later, in 1920-21, he learned the ‘Vigny’ stick-fighting style from Percy Rolt at the latter’s Holland Road gym in East Sussex. Indeed, Lang credits Pierre Vigny in his book as an inspiration for his method, which seemingly melds elements of bois, Vigny and kalinda, and once learnt can make “the daintiest lady carrying a walking cane… a match for the burliest hooligan”. 

“Today, H.G. Lang’s book forms part of the foundation of the Bartitsu and Vigny stick fighting revivals.”(The Bartitsu Society, pub. online Dec 2017.)

As an interesting aside, “During the early years of the Second World War, his book was translated into Hebrew and became the basis for the stick fighting training of the Haganah paramilitary organisation in Palestine”. (The Bartitsu Society).

The book contains 60 photographic illustrations showing his self-defence method’s various moves and postures (59 in the book itself and one on the front cover of the jacket).

Bartitsu Stick Fighting in Bavaria, Germany

Some highly skilled Vigny-style cane play in this demonstration bout by Bartitsu instructor Alex Kiermayer (suspenders and flat cap) and his colleague-at-arms Christoph Reinberger.  Kiermayer and Reinberger have also recently collaborated on the instructional video series Bartitsu: Historische Selbstverteidigung mit dem Spazierstock nach Pierre Vigny.

Part 2, Video Walking Stick: Coburg Zeitreise 2018. Alex and me demonstrated 19 th century self defense. Including foil and sabre fencing. Fighting with the walking stick, pugilism and savate. NOTE: Fighting with the walking stick was a short part of it.Showing only the basics with a little free playing!

Geplaatst door Christoph Bear-Knuckle op Woensdag 8 augustus 2018

Note especially the fluid, ambidextrous shifts between attack and defence techniques and between various single and double-handed guard positions, as per numerous eyewitness accounts of the Vigny style in action during the early 20th century.

“The Most Dangerous Kicks of la Savate” (1908)

Henry Bagge’s article from the February, 1908 issue of Fry’s Magazine strongly echoes the sentiments expressed by E.W. Barton-Wright and other critics of then-contemporary, mainstream French kickboxing

The theme of “improving” savate (partly via an infusion of English boxing) is ironic in that, during the course of several decades before this article was written, several such infusions had already been made. One of the more recent attempts had, in fact, been carried out at the London Bartitsu Club. Nevertheless, the dominant approach to teaching and practicing savate in France circa 1908 was the stylised, courteous and extremely light-contact style favoured by Charles and Joseph Charlemont.

The Charlemonts’ favored approach was opposed by a minority counter-culture within French kickboxing circles, who advocated for a harder-hitting and more pragmatic style geared towards both prize-fighting and practical self-defence.

Bagge’s subject, savateur Paul Mainguet, was clearly a proponent of the latter school.  He recommends employing the evasive and coup d’arret (“stop-hit”) techniques of savate against kicking attacks, plus a small selection of direct, well-proven kicks, relying upon boxing otherwise.  Add an emphasis on guards that damage the opponent’s attacking limbs plus the close-quarters grappling of Japanese jiujitsu and you have Bartitsu unarmed combat in a nutshell.

The “kicker” in the accompanying photographs is Georges Dubois, who had, in 1905, famously lost a savate vs. jiuitsu challenge contest against Ernest Regnier, a.k.a. “Re-Nie”.  Dubois went on to pioneer a number of interesting “antagonistics” projects, including revivals of gladiatorial combat and Renaissance-era martial arts and creating his own, notably pragmatic, system of self-defence


La Savate, or French boxing, may be divided into two classes; the first absolutely incorrect, and thoroughly useless as a means of fighting, but distinctly worthy of consideration as a very pretty imitation of the real thing, requiring, as it does, a wonderful display of dexterity, combined with an astounding suppleness of the limbs.

The second, however, is a far more serious business. There is little of the gallery play about it, and as a means of resisting an attack from footpads it is invaluable, and far more deadly in its effects then any blow with the fists.

La Savate, for exhibition purposes, was developed and perfected by Dr. Pengniez, chief surgeon of the Army and hospital, himself a first rate amateur boxer. It was only after a considerable amount of discussion, and repeated consultations with the highest boxing authorities, that the whole thing was reduced to a science, and all the various blows, kicks, and guards consists clearly and concisely tabulated under separate heads.

Undoubtedly the cleverest exponent of la Savate is Professor Mainguet, the world’s middleweight champion of French boxing. In common fairness it should be stated here that M. Bayle, the heavyweight champion, who was to have met Professor Mainguet, and decide once and for all which was the better man, injured his knee so seriously before the match could be pulled off that the question of which of the two is entitled to call himself the world’s all-around champion of la Savate has never yet been decided.

Without wishing in any way to detract from the undoubted skill of M. Bayle, Mainguet’s phenomenal quickness justifies many in the belief that he would have got the decision over his formidable adversary, for it is certain fact that a chassez-bas – a lateral, or “cow” kick on the ankle – will put the strongest man in the world temporarily out of business, and Mainguet can deliver this one kick (among many others, of course) with amazing speed and dexterity.

Mainguet, in addition, is one of the few Frenchmen who are able to differentiate between the English style of boxing and the French, for he has carefully studied the former, and is quite proficient at it. Many French amateur champions have graduated from Mainguet’s school, including Jacques Maingin, heavyweight champion in 1903, and Fry, French lightweight champion of English boxing in the same year. In 1907 he turned out Mazoir, French featherweight champion, both in English and French boxing, carrying off also the 1907 Interschool Challenge Cup for the greatest number of victorious pupils from one school.

It cannot be denied that in real fighting the French method of boxing is absolutely deadly, for no matter how much pluck a man may have, a kick on the ankle, involving, as it does, all the bones and ligaments of the foot, or a stamp on the instep, causes such excruciating pain, and the injured part swells so rapidly, that a man is practically unable to stand on his feet.

It is a curious fact that while the French have so clearly defined what is fair, and unfair, in their fencing schools, and in their duels, they do not seem to have been able to draw a hard and fast line in la Savate; and this is the one great difference between the English and the French styles of boxing.

In the duels with rapiers certain rules are laid down which protect the combatants from all surprises, and the duellist who breaks either of these would be disqualified at once and socially ostracized. But this fairness, which is the basis of the rules which govern dueling, does not appear to regulate the style of fighting used by the lower classes to settle their differences.

Again, in the boxing competitions Frenchmen are absolutely irrational, for, according to the rules which govern la savate, the man who is touched by a slight kick must stop instantly. If, however, the man who is kicked was in the act of rushing, and lands a terrific punch on the jaw after being touched, that punch is declared null and void by the judges.

Eliminating all the spectacular kicks in la savate, there are several which, if carefully studied, would render French boxing so formidable as to be practically invincible, if taken in conjunction with the English style of boxing. It must, however, be clearly understood that the kicks which are described at the end of this article are so dangerous that they are absolutely disallowed in all competitions, and they can only be used very gently when sparring.

Several Frenchmen I have seen box use these kicks only, but they are in the minority, for in France the majority of people go in for English boxing (an imperfect copy of our own), or the classical French boxing, with its puerile conventions.

Some time ago I was discussing with a professor of la Savate the difference between English and French boxing, and I suggested that a judicious blending of the two would make a very formidable mixture, if the man were attacked suddenly in the street. He agreed.

“When I am fighting, “he said, “I strive to forget that I have my feet at all. I only fight with my fists, after the English style as I understand it. I only use the French style to guard the kicks at the instep, and to dodge all the kicks at the lower part of the legs and feet. Then suddenly, while practically in the art of delivering a blow, I land a coup de pied direct (straight jab with the flat of the foot) full in the man’s chest, or un coup de pied de pointe (with the toes of the foot) on the kneecap. If, however, my adversary clinches, I use what is termed a chassez-bas, which smashes one of his ankles, or crushes his toes.

While this may not be very elegant, a man can learn how to do it in one lesson; that is why I teach my pupils English boxing, for I am free to admit that the English method is the only one that is any good. Only a very gifted man can make the great success of the French style of boxing and it is asking a great deal of the ordinary pupil to expect him to have the dexterity of an acrobat.

In my opinion, the best method is the one that the most clumsy man can learn without any trouble, and the beauty of all these easily-learned kicks is that the pupil never forgets them once he has thoroughly mastered them.

The following kicks are considered by the majority of professors of French boxing to be the most dangerous.

Le Chassez-bas

This kick can be delivered with either the left or the right foot, but it is always given as in the chassez-bas with the leg that happens to be foremost at the time. Thus, if a man is boxing in the English fashion; boxing, that is to say, with the left leg and left arm in front, naturally the left leg is the one he uses.

This kick is the only really practical one of the whole lot, and entails no alteration in our usual methods of boxing – of course, always excepting the use of the feet for kicking purposes. The following is the best way of administering this kick –

1. Throw the weight of the body on the right leg.

2. Shorten the left leg, then suddenly shoot it down as if in the act of stamping with the foot crosswise, aiming at the desired spot.

Most vulnerable spots are the following: (1) the toes; (2) the instep; (3) the shinbone; (4) the kneecap.

The man who has been only slightly hurt on any of these spots is very chary of another experience, and wisely keeps at a distance.

The chassez-bas is really very useful, even if only used as a means of defense it makes one’s adversary very uneasy, practically mows down his base, and opens the way to sudden rushes, which, if a man is uneasy, practically take him off his guard.


This kick is delivered in exactly the same way as the preceding one, only the one word croisé (to cross), practically explains the act.

Thus, if a man is out of range of his adversary, naturally, as long as he keeps out of the way, he has nothing to fear. If he wishes to still keep at this distance, and yet to deliver an attack, the only way in which this can be done is with the feet, the leg landing on his opponent’s legs. The first thing is to get a little nearer to your adversary; and to deliver the kick effectively the following method should be employed –

Place the point of the right foot beside the outer anklebone of the left foot, draw up the left leg, and strike as in the chassez-bas. If, instead of placing the point of the right foot on the outside of the left ankle, you place it with a jump very much in advance of it, you get all the closer to your adversary to deliver your kick.

Coup de Pied Direct

Left leg and left arm in advance;

1. Shift the weight of the body forward onto the left leg.

2. Strike a swift jab forward, with the sole of the foot, full in the chest.

The whole weight of the body being behind this kick, the force is tremendous.

Coup de Pied de Pointe

Left leg and arm in front.

1) Carry the weight of the body lightly on the left leg.

2) Kick forward with the point of the right foot either at the knee-cap or in the stomach.

This kick should be given with a quick, sharp stroke, and the foot should at once be replaced behind the left one after delivery.

The best way to use this kick is to aim only at the kneecap, as one, well delivered, will knock out the strongest man with ease and quickness that is amazing.