“A Medium-Sized Malacca Cane, Mounted with a Thick Metal Ball”

  • Originally published on the Bartitsu.org site on June 3rd, 2017
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Vigny poses with one of his specially designed self-defence canes.

E. W. Barton-Wright’s “Self-Defence With A Walking Stick” articles for Pearson’s Magazine (1901) offer the most detailed impression of the Vigny cane fighting system during the height of the brief Bartitsu Club era.

A basic premise of these articles was to illustrate different self-defence tactics depending on the weapons wielded by the defender and by the aggressor, among other differentials such as physique and available fighting space.  For example, different tactics were advised for when the defender held “a Stick which is too Heavy to Manipulate Quickly with One Hand, when Attacked by a Man Armed with a Light Stick”, as compared to what to do when wielding a “Small Switch in your Hand, and are Threatened by a Man with a Very Strong Stick”.

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Vigny (left) assumes a double-handed guard opposed to Barton-Wright’s high front guard.

Although Vigny’s system was versatile enough to provide protection with light canes, crook-handled canes and umbrellas, it was optimized for the specific type of cane that Vigny himself developed. In The Walking Stick as a Means of Self-Defense (Health and Strength, July 1903), Vigny wrote:

(…) therefore the cane is the most perfect weapon for self-defence; but in order to make it so, it must possess the necessary qualities, which, expressed in one word, is solidity.

It is for this reason that I have had a cane specially made under my directions which embraces all the necessary qualities. It is a medium-sized Malacca cane, mounted with a thick metal ball, and so firmly riveted to the cane that it cannot come off however roughly it may be used. The metal ball handle is of such a thickness that it will not get dented; but in spite of this the cane is a most handsome and elegant one, and has been so much appreciated since it has been brought out that many people may be seen carrying them.

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The centre of balance of a typical Vigny-style fighting cane.

Thus, the Vigny cane is characterised by an asymmetrical balance due to the tapering malacca (rattan) shaft and especially by the addition of a metal ball at the thicker end.  In practice, this means that the cane handles differently from an evenly-weighted stick weapon; the heavy end swings and strikes more like a mace than like an ordinary stick.

Single-handedly swinging a 36″ long stick with a weight at the far end generates significant momentum, and the management of that momentum has a significant impact on the techniques and tactics of Bartitsu stick fighting.  This is apparent even when the metal ball is simulated by a solid rubber ball handle for relatively safe sparring purposes; hence, the Vigny style’s characteristic emphasis on ambidexterity and variety of tactical guards, as shown in Barton-Wright’s articles and in this sparring video:

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