“Match de boxe: professeurs de l’École de Joinville (Leon Beaulieu’s flipbook)” – G. Méliès (c.1897 )

Recently reanimated for the first time in over 120 years, this 10-second clip of a boxe Francaise sparring exhibition between two instructors at the Joinville military school is believed to be all that remains of a lost documentary film by the famous, pioneering French director Georges Méliès. The oddly cartoon-like quality is due to the fact that the original photoseries was preserved in an animated flipbook produced by Leon Beaulieu, and the individual photographs were probably retouched by hand for clarity.

Allowing that this is an exhibition for the camera, the style of sparring shown in this short sequence – light contact, favouring elaborate high kicks, etc. – would probably have been critiqued by Edward Barton-Wright and Pierre Vigny, who developed a harder-contact, more down-to-earth version of the sport for the members of the Bartitsu Club.

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