From the Friday, 27 July 1928 edition of the Motherwell Times:
Instructor Stefan Dieke will be holding a seminar on the Vigny method of stick fighting on December 17th & 18th.
* Vigny’s stick fighting concepts
* representative canonical techniques
* exploring variations
* similarities and differences between a cane and a singlestick and how this affects fighting techniques
* fundamental singlestick exercises and their adoptions for the cane
* abstract exercises building up fundamental skills
Venue: the Alte Kampfkunst historical martial arts school, Paradestr. 57 a
42107 Wuppertal, Germany
Fee: 130 Euro per participant
Details: (sorry, in German only) or contact email@example.com
International guests are welcome! The seminar can be held bilingually in German and English.
Thanks to Israeli martial artist and martial arts historian Noah Gross for this rare footage of veteran Kapap instructor Yehezkel Avneri demonstrating basic stick fighting techniques.
Lang’s method, in turn, was substantially based on the system devised by Pierre Vigny and taught both at the Bartitsu Club and in Vigny’s own academy circa 1900-1914.
From the New York Tribune, August 30, 1903:
ART OF STICK DEFENCE.
A Ready Means of Warding Off Felonious Assaults.
In the crowded city as well as at the lonely crossroads a man never knows when he may be called upon to defend himself. However vigilant may be the police, however strong the windows of his house, one is never absolutely secure from thug or burglar. However regular nay be his habits, however restrained his desires, still there are emergencies which may keep a citizen out until the “owl” hours or call him into unfrequented byways.
Street gangs never seemed bolder than at the present time, and their attacks upon law-abiding citizens are of frequent occurrence. The majority limit their operations to the tenement house districts, but now and then they appear where least expected. Such was the case in the alleged attack upon David Lamar’s coachman in Long Branch by “Monk” Eastman and some other members of his notorious East Side gang.
When a man is called on to face a ruffian, he needs no better weapon than a hickory walking stick. A revolver is likely to harm him more than to help. As soon as a man reaches for his weapon, his adversary has the right to shoot, and the accomplished criminal is almost sure to have his weapon ready first. The stick is the better weapon, because it is quicker. It is in one’s hand already. It is always “loaded.”
In such a crisis the first blow counts. At such a time neither endurance nor strength is as important as quickness. There is only one round, and in most instances there is only one blow. The man who gives it first, and gives it right, is the victor. One does not need to be an experienced boxer or wrestler, for his adversary on such occasions is not likely to observe the Marquis of Queensberry rules or the laws of the Greco-Roman school of wrestling. Foul means are fair at such times.
In the city of London the crime of the highwayman and burglar has increased to such an extent that many schools have sprung up in the great English metropolis where one may learn the art of stick defence. These schools have proved popular, and many of the professional fencing and boxing masters have included courses in which the pupil is taught to handle the stick. The instruction is simple, and contrasts in a striking degree with the complicated science of fencing. Neither is it anything like the old art of handling the singlestick, where two men armed with sticks parry with each other for an opening to administer a blow.
Stick defence differs from all these manly exercises in this essential — it is not a pastime between sportsmen; it is a quick and safe method of knocking out a thug.
Many a busy New Yorker, however, would never learn the art of stick defence, even though he believed it would some day save his life, if he had to go to a gymnasium or a fencing school to learn it. “I simply haven’t the time,” such a man would say.
For the same reason he has long wished to be a boxer, and secretly envied the splendid muscles of the athletes he sees at the beach when be goes down there for a Sunday swim. Neither does he know anything about wrestling or many another manly sport which would not only befriend him in an hour of need, but, best of all, build up his physique and enable him to work harder and longer, and yet feel far less weary when he leaves his office at night.
Stick defence, however, can be learned at home more easily, perhaps, than any other art of self-defence, and after a few general rules are mastered the beginner may learn how to apply them in many effective ways. He must first of all have a roommate or some other good friend who is willing to play the “thug” and to be “knocked out” some half hundred times. In imagination the “thug’s” arms will be broken, his wrists and ankles dislocated and his neck twisted.
The thug who is of Anglo-Saxon origin generally makes his assault with his fists. If he doesn’t he pulls a pistol. His most common first attack is to strike his purposed victim in the face with his left hand, and to hold back his right ready for a blow in the stomach. Nine times out of ten such a ruffian overwhelms his man and even an experienced boxer may fail to thwart such an assault. But the man with a stick, should he handle himself right, ought not only to withstand his enemy, but break his arm.
As soon as the stick man sees what his assailant is up to he clutches his enemy’s left hand with his own, and with his right, holding his stick and guarding his stomach at the same time, he cracks the thug’s arm in the crazy bone, at the elbow. At the same time he strikes he twists the arm inward, so as to make the pain of the blow still more acute. If the stick man wants to strike hard enough he can break a thug’s arm in this way.
Should one find it impossible to use this device in withstanding a left-handed attack, there is another way which proves almost as effective.
As the thug rushes for his man the stick man grasps his cane at the small end with his left hand, and with his right he clutches it near the handle. His hands are near enough together, however, so that his right elbow is at an angle of 90 degrees, and with this protruding elbow he wards off the swing of the thug’s left arm. At the same time he thrusts the handle of his cane under the chin of his foe and topples him over on his back. In case of a right-handed attack, the man with a stick meets it in the same fashion, but with opposite hands.
Unless the sight of a pistol’s muzzle unnerves him, the man with a cane is able to dispose of the thug who pulls a gun easier than if he used only his fists. If the pistol puller is left handed, an upward blow of the cane is best, for it knocks the weapon high into the air, and does not swerve the barrel sidewise, (in which case) the bullet is likely to reach the heart of the intended victim.
But in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred the gun is in the right hand, and the stick man need only drop to his knees and at the same time strike his would-be murderer a sharp sidewise crack on the knuckles to disarm him.
As the Anglo-Saxon uses his lists, so the Italian and Spaniard have recourse to the knife. Unless such a thug is left-handed, he strikes with his right hand, and he is met by the stick man in much the same way as a left-handed fist blow is averted by the thrust of the cane’s handle under the chin. The stick man, however, holds his arms differently. He now bends his left elbow to avert the stab and shield his vitals.
As a general thing the thrust of a cane under the chin partially strangles a thug and so disconcerts him that he drops the blade from his hand. Should the ruffian use his left hand, the man with a stick grasps his weapon with his right hand around its small end and his left about its centre, and with his right elbow shielding his breast he gives the strangling thrust into his enemy’s neck.
The German also has his way of holding up a pedestrian. In the gymnasium or the army he has been trained in the use of the broadsword, or even as a peasant boy he has had his “schlagen” matches with his playmates. So when a Teuton who has settled in the New World descends to deeds of violence, he generally uses a stick. His fate, however, at the hands of the master of stick defence is likely to be as instantaneous as that of the Anglo-Saxon or Italian.
In meeting this kind of enemy an umbrella or cane with a hooked handle is the best weapon. The stick man catches the cane of his foe, hooks his assailant around the neck and then jerks his head forward. At the same time he raises his knee so that the face of the thus strikes against it with great force. This treatment makes a man see so many stars that he invariably drops his cane and thus surrenders himself to the mercy of his victor.
Some thugs have a way of coming up on victims from behind and disconcerting them with a kick. The stick man who knows the tactics of thugs is prepared for this kind of assault. As soon as he suspects what is to occur he wheels on his heel and hooks the thug by the foot with the handle of his cane or umbrella. This is sure to send the ruffian over backward on to his back.
Another way is to dodge the kick, and crack the upraised leg with a stick over the knee. Such a blow will break a man’s leg if it be administered hard enough.
Tactics which might supplement those of the London stick men have been Introduced into the United States Navy. They are trick catches which are for the most part based on the Japanese system of wrestling. A sailor renders an assailant powerless simply by twisting his muscles the wrong way. It is called the leverage system, for the reason that it tends to pry a victim’s joints apart by using the bones as levers one against another. Should a New Yorker combine both the tactics of the London stick man and the United States naval wrestler, it is safe to say that the police of this city would have far fewer holdups and burglaries to record than at the present time.
The dangers unprotected ladies incur when they travel alone was not long ago strikingly illustrated by a terrible assault perpetrated in a railway train.
It is all very well to tender advice, which in everyday life is almost impossible to act upon, recommending ladies never to travel alone, nor walk down lonely lanes or rough neighbourhoods unattended by a male escort. Modern conditions make advice of this nature impracticable, even if the independence of the modern maid did not rebel against the restrictions which were de rigueur in the days of her grandmother, and the lesson for the lady of to-day to learn is self reliance, in self-defence, even as in other things.
Unknown to herself almost every woman carries with her a perfect means of protection from either lunatic or hooligan when she walks abroad or travels, in the shape of that inseparable companion of womanhood—an umbrella or parasol!
Match for any Ruffian
All that is necessary is a little practice in the use of the umbrella, and the self-confidence which knowledge of its potency as a weapon of self-defence will give, for the most delicately-nurtured lady to feel herself more than a match for any cowardly ruffian of the streets.
Madame Vigny, the wife of the well-known maitre d’armes, has elaborated a perfect system of self-defence with an umbrella or parasol by combining some of the “wards and thrusts” used in fencing with passes suitable to the make of the umbrella, along with certain throws, similar to those used in Ju-Jit-Su or Japanese wrestling, recently described and illustrated in the Daily Mirror.
The Purse Snatcher
Suppose, for instance, a lady is walking along a lonely street carrying a purse in her hand, with her umbrella swinging on her arm. A lurking ruffian suddenly approaches her and snatches her purse from her hand. The correct thing for her to do is to relinquish her hold of the purse, grasp her umbrella about two-thirds of its length from the point, and swing it rapidly towards the fellow’s head. Instinctively he will throw up his arm to ward off the blow, and if he understands boxing will probably strike out with his fist. The lady draws back on her left foot and suddenly, with a dexterous twist of the wrist, lunges forth, as with a rapier, and strikes her assailant with the point of her weapon behind the ear.
Brought to the Ground
Should he be as strong as Sandow, the concussion will bring him to the ground, and the lady can then pick up her purse and call for the police, meanwhile mounting guard over her prostrate foe, with her umbrella firmly grasped ready to strike again should the occasion require it.
Suppose, on the other hand, that the purse is so rapidly snatched that the fellow is making off with his booty before the lady has time to perform the evolutions described above. Nothing is simpler than to “hook” him by the ankle as he is running off, and bring him to the ground in confusion.
Should he prove to be a really desperate fellow, he will probably have recourse to that dangerous weapon of the hooligan, a studded belt. Even if he does this there is no reason for the mistress of umbrella self-defence to feel alarmed. Let her regard him steadily, and place her left arm at an angle, and advance it to meet the descending belt. If she thus meets the blow the belt will coil round her arm without hurting her in the slightest, and then, while she clutches the wrist of her assailant, she thrusts the umbrella with all her force into his neck. The rough is not living who can survive a second experience of this nature, and with experience a lady can hold at bay not one but two or three assailants.
Imparts Grace and Suppleness
This exercise imparts to its votaries great suppleness and gives to the figure that erectness and grace which only fencers can hope to obtain. It was mainly for the gracefulness of contour which fencing gives that popularised the foils amongst ladies and caused such noted exponents of the art as Miss Annie Lowther and Miss Esme Beringer to be the envied of all observers.
Beyond this, fencing has no practical use, but, when the principles of swordsmanship are applied to the umbrella, the woman who has become mistress of the art will feel a sense of security when travelling or alone that hitherto even the bravest of the fair sex have been strangers to.