By Craig Gemeiner
Historically an ambidextrous approach has always been emphasized in the training of the Vigny method of stick fighting.
Stick shifting is an offensive maneuver which involves passing the cane from one hand to another. Documented as being utilized by Pierre Vigny, Alfred Hutton mentions its use in his book “The Sword and the Centuries” –
“A fact which of lends variety to the play, for the man can, and does, flisk his cane about from one hand to the other, so that the opponent can never precisely tell which hand will deliver the attack , and careful practise of the various lessons will shortly make the student pretty nearly ambidextrous”.
While all offensive and counter skills are initially taught from ones strong side , training of the body’s less coordinated side should also be considered. The left arm, while not as coordinated as the right, must be able to deliver powerful cuts. This is vitally important from a self defence environment especially in the case of the primary arm being injured or incapacitated.
Percy Longhurst also mentions Vigny’s ambidextrous approach in his manual “Simple Tricks of Self Defence”-
“The side of the head, elbow, throat and the knee are the usual points of attack, though perhaps his (Vigny’s) most effective stroke is a terrible upward slash at the inside of the legs. Extra ordinary quickness, the continual changing of the weapon from one hand to another, and constant attack , are the chief points of this system of stick defence”.
While counter cutting is a primary tactic from the rear (high) guard the use of stick shifting lends itself equally well from the same position. With the cane elevated and the lead arm propped forward passing the stick into the off-hand is executed in one continues movement. Shifting of the cane at either the distal or proximal end will depend on the range between you and your opponent.
One of the advantages of stick shifting is the extra distance that the cane can cover at the end of the transference. When one stands outside the fencing measure, an opponent can be lulled into a false sense of security. It is during this period that long range techniques, such as stick shifting, have a much higher success rate.
Recover from shifting attacks consist of returning the cane along the same trajectory into a high guard . Should your initial cut fall short of its target then renewed attacks, with the same hand, may be necessary prior to returning to the guard position.
Stick shifting is considered an advance technique and should only be introduced by an instructor once the student develops a clear understanding of the basic cuts.
Variations of stick shifting can be explored through contact sparring with a variety of individuals. Bridging the gap between – just practising shifting techniques- and actually applying them during the physical and psychological pressures of sparring is a vital part of a students development.
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