An Interpretation of Captain Laing’s “4th Practice” of Bartitsu Stick Fighting

Of all of the exercises described in Captain F.C. Laing’s 1902 essay The Bartitsu Method of Self-Defence, the “4th Practice” is the most difficult to follow. It is presented as a training drill but it has most of the characteristics of a self-defence set-play.  Laing’s instructions are also uncharacteristically ambiguous, so what follows is simply one of several plausible interpretations of this exercise.

4TH PRACTICE (CHANGING HANDS).

To “rear guard.”–With a circular motion of right arm from front to rear hit upwards, point of stick just clearing the ground so as to hit opponent’s ankle; as the stick rises to level of shoulder change it into left hand at the place where it was held in the right hand; hit opponent’s face, then point at his body and return to “on guard,” changing stick back to right hand.

Pierre Vigny (right) assumes a high front guard against E.W. Barton-Wright’s lowered front guard.
Vigny strikes low, catching Barton-Wright across the inside of his right ankle.
Vigny’s swing follows through until his cane is poised near his left shoulder. Vigny now grips his cane with his left hand, swinging the weapon around behind his head …
… executing a backhanded strike across the left side of Barton-Wright’s face …
… followed by a double-handed “bayonet” point thrust to the midsection …
… and finishes by re-assuming the right (front) guard, covering himself against any retaliation from Barton-Wright.

An Illustrated Catalogue of Captain Laing’s Bartitsu Stickfighting

For convenience, here follows a compilation of all of the drills and self-defence set-plays recorded in Captain F.C. Laing’s 1902 article, “The Bartitsu Method of Self Defence”.  As Laing did not illustrate these sequences – rather, simply describing them in more-or-less detail via prose – the following illustrated sets are presented as interpretations, employing photographs modified from E.W. Barton-Wright’s own “Self-Defence with a Walking Stick” articles for Pearson’s Magazine.

That said, as Laing was a keen student at the Bartitsu Club who learned directly from Barton-Wright and Pierre Vigny, his drills and set-plays constitute part of the Bartitsu canon and serve as a very useful supplement to Barton-Wright’s own writing on this subject.  In particular, Laing offers a simple progression of basic drills that were not illustrated in Barton-Wright’s essays.

First Practice #1

First Practice #2

First Practice #3 (with additional notes on the Second Practice, etc.)

Third Practice

An interpretation of the Fourth Practice

“Attacked by a man with a stick in his hand”

“A man without a stick rushes at you with his fist”

Captain Laing’s “Third Practice” of Bartitsu Stick Fighting

Here follows an interpretation of Captain Laing’s “3rd Practice” as described in his 1902 article on The Bartitsu Method of Self-Defence.

3RD PRACTICE.

From “rear guard.”–Guard face sideways, then head as already described, retire one pace, right foot leading, draw left foot back to right, making a half-left turn of the body, riposte on opponent’s head and return to “rear guard.”

Pierre Vigny (right) assumes the rear guard against Edward Barton-Wright’s front guard.
Barton-Wright strikes to the right side of Vigny’s face; Vigny guards the strike.
Barton-Wright recovers and strikes to the top of Vigny’s head; Vigny guards the strike.
Vigny retreats one pace with his right foot and slides his left foot back to meet the right, simultaneously making a half-turn to the left with his torso and striking the top of Barton-Wright’s head.
Vigny re-assumes the full rear guard position.

Captain Laing’s “1st Practice” of Bartitsu Stick Fighting (#3), with Additional Notes

Here is the third basic drill from Captain F.C. Laing’s 1902 article The “Bartitsu” Method of Self-Defence, illustrated with photographs adapted from E.W. Barton-Wright’s Self-Defence with a Walking Stick (1901). Follow these links to see the first and second drills of Laing’s “1st Practice” series.

Pierre Vigny (right) adopts a low variation of the front guard vs. Edward Barton-Wright’s front guard.
Vigny executes a backhand strike to the right side of Barton-Wright’s face, referred to by Laing as “hit face (sideways)”; Barton-Wright parries.
Barton-Wright prepares his own backhand strike to the right side of Vigny’s face …
… and Vigny parries …
… before riposting with a strike to the top of Barton-Wright’s head.
Additional Notes on the “1st Practice”

Captain Laing remarked that one should continue the “1st Practice” drill “on through all the hits as described already”. In the context of his article, those additional sequences would include:

* Strike to the left side of the body, parry partner’s return strike to the same area, riposte with strike to the top of the head.

* Strike to the “flank” (right side of the body), parry partner’s return strike to the same area, riposte with strike to the top of the head.

* Strike to outside (left side) of lead leg, evade partner’s return strike to the same area by either 1) drawing the lead foot back to the rear foot, 2) passing the lead foot back about 12 inches behind the rear foot (i.e., switching from the front guard to the rear guard) or 3) simply retreating both feet about 12 inches, then riposting with strike to the top of the head.

* Strike to inside (right side) of lead leg, evade partner’s return strike to the same area by either 1) drawing the lead foot back to the rear foot, 2) passing the lead foot back about 12 inches behind the rear foot (i.e., switching from the front guard to the rear guard) or 3) simply retreating both feet about 12 inches, then riposting with strike to the top of the head.

Note on the “2nd Practice”

Laing’s “2nd Practice” drill is identical to the “1st Practice” series except that it requires the practitioners to maintain a greater measure (fighting distance), so that every attack is made on a lunge and every defence is made on a recovery.

Captain Laing’s “1st Practice” of Bartitsu Stick Fighting (#2)

The second basic drill from Captain F.C. Laing’s 1902 article The “Bartitsu” Method of Self-Defence, illustrated with photographs adapted from E.W. Barton-Wright’s Self-Defence with a Walking Stick (1901). Click here for the first drill of Laing’s “1st Practice” series.

“On guard”: Vigny (right) assumes a front guard versus Barton-Wright’s lowered front guard.
“Hit face”: Vigny strikes to the left side of Barton-Wright’s face, drawing Barton-Wright’s guard.
“Guard face”: Barton-Wright ripostes with a strike to the left side of Vigny’s face, drawing Vigny’s guard.
“Riposte head”: Vigny counters with a strike to the top of Barton-Wright’s head.

Captain Laing’s “1st Practice” of Bartitsu Stick Fighting (#1)

In 1902, Bartitsu Club member Captain F.C. Laing wrote an article titled The ‘Bartitsu’ Method of Self-Defence for the Journal of the United Service Institution.  Captain Laing’s sequence of set-plays such as “Attacked by a man with a stick in his hand” and “A man without a stick rushes at you with his fist” offers a unique canonical supplement to E.W. Barton-Wright’s Self-Defence with a Walking Stick (1901) and also includes some basic technical drills which B-W did not record.  Laing’s article is reproduced in full in the second volume of the Bartitsu Compendium (2008).

Although Captain Laing produced some simple sketch illustrations of basic techniques, most of his sets were only described in a few lines of text.  The following is the first of a series of interpretations of Laing’s “Practices”, illustrated using modified photographs from Barton-Wright’s articles, which will appear on this website over the coming weeks.

“1st Practice” #1 is a foundational drill teaching a high strike, guard and riposte.

“Come on guard”: Pierre Vigny (right) assumes a low variation of the front guard vs. Edward Barton-Wright’s low front guard.
“Strike head”: Vigny strikes high, drawing Barton-Wright’s high guard.
“Guard head”: Barton-Wright ripostes with a high strike, which Vigny guards.
“Strike head”: As Barton-Wright’s stick sheds past Vigny’s guard, Vigny instantly ripostes with a strike to Barton-Wright’s head.