“A man without a stick rushes at you with his fist”: an Interpretation of Captain Laing’s Second Bartitsu Set-Play

  • Originally published on the Bartitsu.org site on Tuesday, 18th October 2016

Captain F.C. Laing of the 12th Bengal Infantry (Kelat-I-Ghilzai Regiment) spent several months doing intensive training at the London Bartitsu Club.  He then produced a uniquely useful article, The “Bartitsu” Method of Self Defence, which was originally published in the Journal of the United Service Institution of India (1903) and which was reproduced in the second volume of the Bartitsu Compendium (2008).

Like most members of the Bartitsu Club, Laing was a keen fencer and physical culturist who took an interest in unusual antagonistics systems.  He would later prototype the “sword-lance” for the British Army in India, incorporating a radically novel sword design equipped with a spiked pommel; Laing recommended the Bartitsu stick system for its use.

Captain Laing’s brief gloss of canonical Bartitsu stick fighting is significant in that it offers a system of “basics”, including some progressive drills, which were not covered in E.W. Barton-Wright’s articles for Pearson’s Magazine. Although Laing’s essay included some simple sketches of basic cane attacks and defences, however, he did not illustrate the more elaborate defence sequences or “set-plays” that he had learned at the Club.

He did, fortunately, offer brief written “examples” detailing several of these set-plays for his presumed readership of soldiers interested in the “New Art of Self Defence”.  These set-plays are clearly similar to those that were featured in Barton-Wright’s own articles for Pearson’s, but they also include several details that Barton-Wright had omitted, notably including the use of the point (thrust or jab) with the butt or “short” end of the cane at close-quarters.

This feature of the Vigny system was frequently remarked upon by Barton-Wright himself and by observers of the system in action, with several commentators likening it to the use of a dagger.  Laing reported that “Points are made with the butt end of the stick at any part of the body, the most favourable places being at the throat and ribs”.

Here is an interpretation of Laing’s second example, in which the Bartitsu-trained defender is armed with a walking stick and opposed by a man who punches at him.

Second.—A man without a stick rushes at you with his fist.  He will probably strike out at your face or body with his left hand; if so, take up the ” rear guard” position and as he strikes guard with left arm, seize his left wrist, and hit his left elbow with your stick, advance right leg and point with butt end of your stick at his throat, then follow this up by thrusting your stick between his legs and so levering him over.

The defender (right) assumes the rear guard, inviting the attacker’s left lead-off punch.
The defender parries and catches the attacker’s left-lead punch and simultaneously strikes with his cane into the attacker’s extended left elbow. Right – the same technique from a 1904 article on the Vigny system.
Stepping forward with his right leg, the defender draws the attacker’s injured arm down and prepares a backhanded strike.
The defender jabs the point (butt) end of his cane into the attacker’s throat.
Still controlling the attacker’s left wrist, the defender thrusts his cane between the attacker’s legs, pressing against the upper inside of his left (lead) thigh and the upper rear of his right thigh.
Dropping his weight through his straight arm so that the cane scissors powerfully downwards against the attacker’s left thigh, the defender exerts a leverage takedown, causing the attacker to fall backwards.
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