The Rear Guard and the Guard by Distance

  • Originally published on the site on Wednesday, 5th July 2017
Girded for battle, Bartłomiej Mysłek of Poland assumes a variation of the Vigny stick fighting rear guard during a recent Bartitsu sparring match.

The rear guard, also referred to by E.W. Barton-Wright as the “left guard”, is one of the signature defensive stances of the Vigny style of stick fighting. It was well-described by the anonymous author of “L’art de la canne”, an essay first published in the Revue Olympique of May, 1912:

The Vigny guard position is, in essence, a combat guard. The left arm is held in front as if bearing a shield; the right arm is raised at the rear, with the weapon held above the head, in a perpetual “spring hold.”

When you are being attacked, quickly retreat with a swift guard change and bring your cane down powerfully upon the opponent’s arm or hand. In doing this, you can be mathematically certain of reaching and damaging your target.

Immediately afterwards, you step towards him, turning your wrist rapidly and striking the steel tip of your cane into his eyes or under the nose. And here is very surprised man … !

In Barton-Wright’s “Self Defence with a Walking Stick” articles, the rear guard is consistently presented as a position of invitation, “baiting” an attack to an apparently exposed target so as to set up a devastating counter-attack via the “guard by distance” tactic.

To “guard by distance” means to avoid the opponent’s attack via footwork and body movement, as distinct from “guards by resistance” which include all defences in which the opponent’s weapon is blocked or parried by the defender’s weapon.

Vigny (right) assumes a rear guard, inviting Barton-Wright’s attack to his exposed left arm, then counters with the “guard by distance”, withdrawing the target and striking to the top of Barton-Wright’s head.
Vigny (right) assumes a variation of the rear guard inviting Barton-Wright’s attack to his head, then withdraws the target and counters with a strike to B-W’s weapon hand.
The “guard by distance” can also involve stepping towards, rather than away from, the opponent.  Here, Vigny (right) invites Barton-Wright’s attack to the left side of his head then steps inside the strike, trapping B-W’s stick and countering with a back-hand strike to the right side of B-W’s head.
Vigny (right) invites Barton-Wright’s left lead punch and counters with a strike to B-W’s knee or shin, then follows up by beating B-W’s time with a “bayonet” thrust to the midsection.
A defence, trap, counter-attack and takedown from the rear guard applied in sparring.
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