Stick-fighting, a form of martial arts, employs long, slender wooden sticks like gun staffs, bō, and walking sticks for combat. Techniques can extend to using sturdy umbrellas, swords, or daggers within their scabbards. It excludes heavier, less precise weapons like clubs or maces. Stick-fighting systems, from defensive to sport-oriented styles like kendo and arnis, cater to various purposes. This practice extends into certain martial traditions, such as Tamil silambam or Kerala’s kalaripayattu. Stick-fighting rituals, ranging from tribal duels to cultural displays like Ethiopia’s donga stick-fighting, have held significance in diverse societies.

Canne de combat, originating in 19th-century France, was a self-defense discipline popular among the urban upper class. It’s associated with the development of savate boxing techniques, combining kicks and punches. It was often practiced by gentlemen who mastered both cane fighting for distance and close combat kickboxing. In urban areas, canne was prevalent, while rural regions favored staff fighting, with tactics interchangeable between the two.

The Vigny Method of Stick Fighting

The Vigny method of stick fighting, as pioneered by Pierre Vigny, is best remembered for its unique employment of walking sticks and umbrellas as implements of self-defense.
E.W. Barton-Wright recorded elements of this method in a series of articles titled “Self Defence with a Walking Stick,” featured in Pearson’s Magazine in 1901, it is also the prominent style of stick fighting utilised in Bartitsu.

In 1923, Superintendent H.G. Lang, an officer in the Indian Police, authored “The Walking Stick Method of Self Defence.” This work heavily drew from Vigny’s system through Lang’s training with Vigny’s student Percy Rolt. During the 1940s, Lang’s book served as the foundational text for self-defense training, benefiting many Jewish residents in Palestine.

Pierre Vigny

Pierre Vigny, a French Master-at-arms born in Taninges, Haute-Savoie in 1866, was a prominent figure during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He excelled in French savate and the art of stick fighting, canne de combat, which he adapted to align with his self-defense theories.

In 1886, Vigny joined the Second Regiment of French Artillery at Grenoble. After leaving the army in 1898, he founded a school of arms and self-defense in Geneva before relocating to London. There, he assumed the role of chief instructor at the Bartitsu Club, under Edward William Barton-Wright. Vigny also initiated a tradition of annual combat sports and self-defense exhibitions.

By 1903, Vigny had established his self-defense academy in London at #18 Berner Street. He married Miss Sanderson, his assistant instructor, and continued his work as a hand-to-hand combat trainer, including instructing recruits at Aldershot Military School. A few years later, his wife Marguerite developed a self-defense technique using an umbrella.

In 1912, Vigny returned to Geneva, founding another self-defense school there.