The principles of ” Closing and Opening the body” and its practical application in Vigny La Canne

Craig Gemeiner – Copyright 2008


When we take the time to investigate, and properly train, our historical western combat arts, and do not dismiss then as antiquated, we can start to appreciate there governing principles.

The Vigny method of stick fighting is based on what I call the principles of “closing and opening” the body in attack and defence. We can observe this clearly in other western combat art such as boxing, savate and their related weapon disciplines.

In the Vigny system of La Canne, long range attacks are initially launched from relatively compact or “closed” en guard structures I.E. the front or rear guards. H.G Lang refers to the analogy of the body being a “spring  trap” ready to explode into attack. When initiating long range attacks from these guards the body ‘opens up’ from ‘closed’ position by utilizing angular forms of motion (movement around the body’s axis of rotation) particularly during horizontal and diagonal cuts. Just as importantly the non-weapon arm is literally thrown back, behind the body, during this rotation. While many people dismiss the arm extension as nothing more than aesthetic or antiquated, further investigation, and more importantly training, proves the opposite. In regards to the opening principles being discussed in this article, arm extensions contribute to a summation of body parts in which a coordinated sequence of movements will hopefully produce the optimal velocity at the point of impact.

The principles of “opening the body” apply equally to defensive tactics such as “guards by resistance ” and “guard by distance” along with their follow up strikes or ripostes. Upon guarding a cut at your body, your high guard structure slightly compresses or closes inward reducing your target area. Your riposte can effectively bring into play the principles of motion as explained above. Pictures 1 & 2









These same principles provide large amounts of force to wrist based cuts, such as the glancing blow, without having to resort to a swinging, and  not to mention telegraphic, type action of the arm. Pictures 3 & 4 



 Flip and flick strikes are another wrist based cut that actually generates its power from a summation of body parts,  based on the ‘closing and opening’ principle.

The application of the ‘flick’ begins from the front guard; hand raised above the head. Extended the arm directly into the opponent as if delivering a thrust; your body weight is violently propelled forward by way of a lunge. This is followed by a trunk rotation, the back hollows and chest expands. During the delivery phase of the flick your rear arm extends back behind the body. Lang wrote in his manual that when  applied properly the flick could splinter a quarter inch board- ” the effect on an opponent can be imagined.”  Pictures 5 ,6 &7




To gain a true understanding of these principles requires time and training. So get up from behind the computer, pick up a cane and start practising, only then will an appreciation of Pierre Vigny’s true brilliance become apparent.

“What we must learn, we learn by doing” – Aristotle

Published on August 9, 2008 at 11:18 am  Comments Off on The principles of ” Closing and Opening the body” and its practical application in Vigny La Canne  
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