Ambidexterity in Bartitsu Stick Fighting

  • Originally published on the site on Sunday, 23rd March 2014
Ambidexterity from double-handed guard

Above: Bartitsu Club stick fighting instructor Pierre Vigny (left) demonstrates ambidexterity via several technical options from the double-handed guard.

The active use of ambidextrous attacks from the double-handed guard is one of the most characteristic features of the Vigny system of self-defence with a walking stick, which was incorporated verbatim into the Bartitsu cross-training curriculum. This tactic was unusual enough circa 1900 that it was frequently commented upon by reviewers:

A striking feature of the training is that in all the exercises the pupil must become ambidextrous; in fact, the rapid transference of the walking-stick from one hand to the other was, to the uninitiated at least, one of the most powerful factors in offence and defence, and one likely to prove most puzzling to the opponent.

– “Guy’s Hospital Gazette: A Student’s Journal of Hospital News, Medicine and Surgery”, Published by Guy’s Hospital, 1900.

Above: Ambidexterity demonstrated in academic stick sparring during the 2012 Bartitsu School of Arms event in Chicago, IL.

Then Miss Sanderson came to the attack, and the demonstration showed her to be as capable with the stick as the sword. She passed it from hand to hand so quickly that the eye could scarcely follow the movements, and all the while her blows fell thick and fast. Down slashes, upper cuts, side swings, jabs and thrusts followed in quick succession (…)

– J. St. A. Jewell, “The Gymnasiums of London: Part X. — Pierre Vigny’s” Health and Strength, May 1904, pages 173-177.

Above: From about 1:28 onwards; more possibilities of deceptive work from the double-handed guard in this video from the Alte Kampfkunst Bartitsu class.

This feature of the Vigny system also impressed Captain Alfred Hutton, who was the Bartitsu Club fencing instructor. In his book The Sword and the Centuries, Hutton noted:

(The Bartitsu stick fighter) can, and does, frisk his cane about from one hand to another, so that his opponent can never precisely tell which hand will deliver the attack, and careful practice of the various lessons will shortly make the student pretty nearly ambidextrous.

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