During November 2006 Paul Wagner from Stoccata. org sponsored savate instructor Craig Gemeiner to give a 6 hour seminar in Sydney. Covering a number of French fighting arts , the event was represented by practitioners of Western martial arts , Filipino stick fighting and mix martial arts .
After greetings and introductions the first module covering Pierre Vigny’s walking stick method of self defence began. A warm up incorporating innovative self defence stick work had students fighting and defending from a number of scenarios. While not commonly found in sparring based weapon curriculum’s, self defence stick work is by no means new. Students were exposed to a training syllabus that has been influenced by a number of instructors. These include Percy Longhurst, H.G.Lang, Charles Yerkow and George .B. Wallace, men who had been directly or indirectly influenced by Pierre Vigny’s teachings.
Many of the scenarios required students to navigate from positions of disadvatage, which at times proved challenging especially with a stick in one hand. Individuals were encouraged to problem solve and work on escape routes based on their ability, experience, body composition and skill level.
After successfully establishing a solid base of support two follow ups were covered. The first consisted of practising verbal boundary skills in conjunction with clearing manoeuvres, the object to maintain a safe fighting perimeter. The second response was to utilize pre-emptive attacks by way of two handed bayonet thrusts.
Next savate footwork which included ‘decalage and ‘debordement’ was covered. These versatile footwork skills proved useful in avoiding linear and angled rushing attacks by single or multiple opponents. The same footwork also provided a means to shed the impact of a charging opponent should total evasion not be possible. Follow ups included the offensive use of two handed stick play based on the movement patterns and principles of Western boxing and bayonet fighting.
After a breakdown of footwork, grip, stance and the high front guard students covered specific long range cuts. Once the vertical and horizontal cuts were acquired then the principles of ‘enchainement ‘ or combinations cuts were explored.
The next skills sets taught were the’ guards by resistance’. Counters to hand and knee cuts were facilitated by linear evasion while high line attacks were met with the head, cross and face guards. To develop confidence under pressure students were placed against a wall and permitted to use only guards by resistance. Gradually intensity and tempo of cuts increased and before long students were coping easily with fast and aggressive attacks.
Having examined the basic cuts and covers from the front guard more sophisticated techniques involving the ‘guard by distance’ were taught.
To end the La canne Vigny module students and instructors engaged in a number of contact stick fencing bouts. This allowed the opportunity for people to test their newly learnt skills in a safe manner and also observe instructor’s ‘walking the talk’ so to speak.
After taking time to dash up to subway to pick up lunch and hydrate ,the second module covering French two handed stick fighting commenced.
Students were introduced to the basic skills of the Joinville le point ‘baton’ method. A simple yet highly effective weapon it was commonly taught in French military academies from the mid 1800s up until the early twentieth century.
Le baton proved a real favourite with many participants who themselves had a background in English or Filipino long stick. After the correct bio mechanics of the moulinets and parries were attained students broke out of there by rote training to engage in several open drills. The session ended with bouts of French long stick utilizing the exact sparring rules from the traditional Joinville curriculum.
Following the baton class savate street kicking skills pertaining to defense dans la rue were covered. Students began with the offensive use of long range boot kicking against single and multiple opponents. Incorporating these effective kicks saw students work a number of themes and variations at both medium and close range. Pressure drills were introduced to help bridge the gap between just practising the skills and applying them under various conditions.
To close the training students were give the opportunity to engage in open sparring . It was a pleasure seeing people stepping outside their comfort zone and participating in bouts of la canne, baton, broadsword, Filipino stick fighting and savate.
As a result of the seminar everyone was left with a better understanding of how these arts actually work.
Seminar attendee Perry Gamsby , a 1994 super heavy weight Filipino stick fighting champion, summed up his appreciation of savate skills-
” Savate, la canne, baton, Defense dans la rue have a fine lineage and history and are the real deal for both sport and self defence, and they keep the two separate. There is a quality to the methodology that is simply the result of thousands of years of martial tradition that we often forget we have as we chase the Oriental and the Eclectic”.
A post seminar get together found the training group at the local RSL engaging in a well deserved meal and drink. At the end of the day weapons had been crossed, bread had been broken and new friendships made.
Most interesting quote of the seminar-
” La coup de pied pointe- trust the French , they even have a beautiful name for a kick to the nuts! “