“To Invite an Attack”: Tactical Guards in Canonical Bartitsu Stick Fighting

  • Originally published on the Bartitsu.org site on Saturday, 24th October 2015

It is always most desirable to try to entice your adversary to deliver a certain blow, and so place yourself at a great advantage by being prepared to guard it, and to deliver your counter-blow.

– E.W. Barton-Wright, Self-Defence With a Walking Stick (1901)

The Vigny method of stick fighting is notable for its variety of invitations, or guard positions that close off certain lines of attack while deliberately exposing a particular target so as to provoke an opponent’s attack to that target.  Of the twenty-two set-plays detailed in E.W. Barton-Wright’s stick fighting essays, thirteen make use of the tactic of invitation from a wide range of guards.  The remainder all employ variations of feinting and preemptive striking.

This article highlights the various applications of “baiting” within the canonical Bartitsu stick repertoire and underscores the practical utility of fighting tactically and ambidextrously.

The Double-Handed Guard

Double-Handed guard

The unmodified double-handed guard invites an attack to the body, or it may be adjusted to bait the opponent into attacking the defender’s lead hand or head.

The Front (Right) Guard and variations

Front guard vs. alpenstock (2)

By slightly lifting the front guard so that it doesn’t directly threaten the opponent’s face, the defender invites an attack to the midsection.

Front guard variant 1

This lowered version of the front guard, sometimes mistaken for an orthodox fencing-style guard in tierce or quarte, is intended to bait the opponent into attacking the head or face.


This low rear version of the front guard dramatically reduces the visual threat of the cane and invites an attack to the head.

Front guard variant 2

Widening the front guard also invites an attack to the head.

The Rear (Left) Guard and variants

Rear guard invites hand attack

The defender baits an attack to his left hand, setting the opponent up for a “guard by distance” counter-attack to the head.

Rear guard invites head attack

By widening the rear guard and extending his head forward, the defender baits a head attack, preparing the “guard by distance” as a counter-strike to the attacker’s weapon hand.

Rear guard invites left lead

By dramatically lowering the cane while guarding his torso with his left arm, the defender invites the attacker’s left lead punch to the head.

Guards and invitations in action

Notice the wide range of guard positions and tactical invitations in this Bartitsu stickfighting free-play session from the Alte Kampfkunst school.

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