By Craig Gemeiner
“By following the methods set forth in this book the average man or woman can quickly acquire proficiency. A casual glance through the book will enable the reader to grasp many hither to unknown ways of converting a Walking Stick into a weapon of no mean order should the occasion to employ it arise”.
So wrote Superintendent H.G Lang an English officer of the Indian police force and author of “The Walking Stick Method of Self- Defence”. Lang’s book is an outstanding work on personal defence utilizing the improvised combat use of the walking stick. The manual is divided into 12 chapters which are grouped into self contained modules covering such things as stick exercises, guards, cuts, combinations, ripostes, double handed stick play, group training and much more.
The manual was produced in the 1920s during a period of social unrest in India during which time it was still considered a fashion accessory and socially acceptable for a man to carry a walking stick, stick on stick encounters were not uncommon. Lang considered the commonly carried truncheon too short to hit effectively with and too short to guard with. Due to ongoing violence the Superintendent was forced to search for some form of ‘less than lethal’ equalizer to combat the commonly carried lathi (basically a very heavy club).
While on leave Lang traveled to Europe and made a point of learning the Vigny (pronounced Vigui) method of la canne or French cane fighting. Pierre Vigny, who after receiving an offer from one E. Barton -Wright to take up the position of chief instructor at his Bartitsu school of self -defence, relocated to London in the late 1890s and introduced both la canne and savate into England.
Lang had now found a system of stick fighting for his men that was capable of over coming the heavier lathi while being versatile enough to be used at a variety of ranges against both single and multiple attackers.
Upon his return to India, Lang produced a syllabus, which he documented in this superb book. It is quite obvious that this manual is the work of a seasoned and streetwise police officer and not an academic fencing master. Lang’s method can be considered a simplified version of the Vigny civilian method- something that could be easily taught to large groups of men in a very short time.
The high guard structure, a trademark of the Vigny system, was also the prime guard adopted within Lang’s police riot method. Used for both attack and defence the high guard position proved useful in tightly packed melee. The elevated placement of the stick prepped it ready to initiate offensive maneuvers while offering a sound weapon retention position.
Another advantage of the high guard was the ‘show of strength’ or ‘command presence’ intended to generate a psychological or demoralizing effect on multiple opponents.
Padded training had no place in Lang’s syllabus; he even discourages it by writing-
“Experience has shown that men without any protective coverings acquired speed in guards very much quicker than those with a mask; whereas the man with the protective covering is not so careful, for he relies on his second line of defence, his mask!”
While these comments may seem extreme it must be remembered that Lang and his stickmen were products of ongoing and real world confrontations.
Emphasis was placed on developing a proper combative mind set backed up with physical skills that focused on power training on dummies and sacks with real intent, post board target practice, aggressive drilling in specially designed riot enclosures and fighting from confined areas.
Several educators in India considered the skills presented in Lang’s manual to be of great benefit for the training of children. A method of stick play for developing hand eye co- ordination, physical dexterity and character building was implemented with in the Bombay Provincial Scout Council.
The influence that Lang’s book would come to have on various civilian, police and military training programs worldwide was considerable. During 1943 Charles Yerkow wrote the book “Modern Judo – The complete Ju Jitsu” which came to be included as a supplemental manual for the United States Army hand to hand combat teams. The books chapter on stick work is based on Lang’s walking stick method of self-defence.
In 1941 Lang’s manual was translated into Hebrew and for a period of time was adopted into the Kapap syllabus later to be included as part of the training undertaken by Israeli special units known as Pal’mach. It is estimated that up to 50 000 (and possibly more) Jewish citizens received tuition in the walking stick method. (1)
In the hands of a person well trained in its use the humble walking stick can be transformed into a highly effective weapon for self-defence. The skills presented in this outstanding book are versatile, time tested, and still very workable in our modern society.