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Broad Sword and Single-Stick, Book Review

4:26 PM 12/12/2013

Mini Book Review of Broad-Sword and Single-Stick by R. G. Allanson-Winn and C. Phillipps-Wolley

by: Enrique "Henry" Paz


I found this book on the Project Gutenberg website after a search for the word stick. It was written in England in 1911. At first I dismissed the book thinking I would only find small splashes of FMA relativity and therefore little interest for me but I ended up finding a lot of interesting information in this little 91 page book. First, I found it interesting that there was a stick fighting culture in England at the turn of the last century. I could suppose easily that there was stick fighting and less-than-foofy sword fighting groups in other less urbanized regions of the world like the Phillipines, American Indian cultures, India, Africa and the Pacific Islands but it was hard for me to picture Bert from Mary Poppins being good at laying in some good welts and blocking hard. There are a lot of good ideas relative to my FMA experience to be found in this book. Especially in chapter 4 titled Single-Stick. There are no Doble Baton or empty hands translations. The entire experience of FMA is not related to this one book on English stick fighting. There may be more to be learned out there. I am not really a big fan of bad weather and boiled meat which is what I think of when I think of England but I hold a really different opinion of their martial arts heritage now after reading this book. There are other chapters on improvised weapons like Cudgel, Shillalah, Walking-Stick, Umbrella, etc. Here are some minor observations about the book. I recommend this read to any FMA practicioner who would like to compare their fighting principles to others' which is a sound practice.

Some things I found interesting:

They used Ash wood sticks forty inches long and the thickness of a man's thumb. During class they were stored in a water bucket to keep them pliable so they wouldn't break. The author recommends training with heavier sticks to build strength and speed which is mirror image advice of what was given to me.

They mimicked fencing moves; lunging and parrying more than standing and flowing. The descriptions of the footwork which the author finds foundational is good and seems to heavily rely on fencing lunge geometry. Not like ours but valuable in it's own way. Much like Reterada if you think about it.

Their gear was a lot like what I was taught with and sparred with. Head gear similar to Kendo head gear and leather jacket for them. Sometimes a horse riding pad of some sort on their lead shin. Very sparse gear which the author endorses to learn lessons of defense quickly. Also sounds familiar.

The author recommends the practice of all angles sparring as opposed to the more strict fencing style drills in some other era schools he refers to. I like this thinking. Practice how you play is what I was taught and mostly we were training for the street and not the tournament.

That about wraps up this Mini Book Review. I hope you find this book enriching to your FMA career. The book can be downloaded free from the attached link. I saved it as a PDF document and read it that way. Enjoy and Stay Sticky! Find it here.

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Comment by terry joven on December 13, 2013 at 9:50am

Will Have to check it out!

Comment by Ryan Aggabao on December 21, 2013 at 12:15pm

Back when the Sherlock Holmes films (those starring Robert Downey Jr.) were still in theaters, I remember being terribly fascinated by the mixed/multi-style martial art Bartitsu. Among its many influences are the "local" British fighting modes like fencing, pugilism/boxing and quarterstaff fighting. This book reminds me of the turn-of-the-century fascination with fitness for fitness' sake. I'll certainly add this to my e-book library now. Thanks!

Here are the other formats for this e-book. http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/31214

Comment by Henry Paz on December 24, 2013 at 6:43pm
Dear Guro Ryan,
I haven't seen those movies but I will see them and check out the combative style you spoke about. I have also seen some styles represented online that are from the Canary Islands. Thanks for the post. Merry Christmas!

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