– The Art of La Canne / “L’art de canne”

‘ la Revue Olympique 1912’  It is very good to learn how to use “noble” but unusual weapons such as the sabre, the swordor the rifle. It is even better to superimpose this knowledge upon the manipulation of a weapon that we hold frequently in our hands : and yet, it must be confessed, a weapon that most of us do not know how to use efficiently. There exists yet an art of la canne, but this cane is reminiscent of the wooden “horse”used in gymnastic training, in that no simulation can ever be as realistic as the object being simulated. The assaut cane is a small chopstick or a crop ahybrid weapon that you will never have the occasion to use in earnest. Even if you know how to use the assaut cane, a walking stick is rigid, stronger, heavier and of a different length ,the light bouting version will never fully prepare you for skilled defence with the real thing. That’s how the opinion is about the walking stick and its use as a valuable weapon. Professor Pierre Vigny, who was formerly a teacher at the London Boxing Club and the Aldershot military school, now manages an “Academy of Sports and Defence”in Geneva. He has succeeded in demonstrating that while  traditional canne techniques are not so effective, his own system serves both as an excellent gymnastic exercise and also as a very practical method of self-defence. Unfortunately it is very difficult to convey this system except by direct teaching. A picture book could serve but this short description cannnot pretend to do it justice. I will simply attempt to provide the main lines of this method, upon which I wish I could expand. One similarity between Vigny’s  new fencing and the canne method is as it is taught elsewhere is the use of a supple wrist. The guard position and blows, however, are very different. The Vigny guard position is essentially a combat guard. The left arm is in front as if holding a shield, the right arm is raised at the rear, with the weapon held above the head, in 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 this you can be mathematically certain of reaching and damaging your target. Immediately afterwards, you step towards him, turning you wrist rapidly and striking the steel end of your stick into his eyes or under the nose. And here is very surprised man…. ! The other blows are usually whipped blows –  though M. Vigny calls some of them “whipped” and others “folded” to make a distinction, you must always obtain the whistling noise of the whip. The little canne crop will whistle when swung with but a little effort. The rigid cane will do it only if manipulated with great energy. Where can you get this energy? From the shoulders and the back. You must obtain mobility from the back and an ample movement with the arm, which is powered by the shoulder. Naturally, training is given on both the left and right side. The left will not be as good as the right but on occasion you must be able to use it with power should the opportunity arise. There exist also some bludgeoning blows requiring a particular preparation. There is nothing like this in other types of fencing and at the beginning the muscles are too weak to accomplish it. They contract incorrectly and the force is lost en route, the blow arriving without sufficient strength.  There must not be a break between the extension of the arm and the stick. Not being stiff but with an elastic strength, the wrist must become like a knot in the wood – for this reason we must hold the  stick with a full hand- grip, the thumb being folded across the other fingers and not along the stick. It is a habit that is difficult and painful  to acquire. The palm crumples, blisters form and muscles are subjected  to tension and pain, but this is the price of efficency. The Vigny method requires not only a constantly well balanced body but also a constantly moving balanced body. In this way it looks a bit like Jui-jitsu. There is also an inconvenience, which is that assault is not to be permitted between average amateurs. Making a real assault in such a sport would expose yourself and your  partner to heavy damage. We must follow the class or perform simulated combat with the master. But isn’t such an inconvenience the best praise for an exercise of defence ?

Published on December 15, 2006 at 5:03 am  Comments Off on – The Art of La Canne / “L’art de canne”  
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