Lonin’s Victorian martial arts group
BWAHAHAHA meets on Tuesday evenings, with the space available for warmups at 6:30 and actual curriculum beginning at 7:00.
The first hour (7:00 to approximately 8:00) consists of an intensive physical culture routine using sticks, Indian clubs, and body weight exercises. This concludes with medicine ball throwing followed by pugilism and savate (punching and kicking) work on bags and focus pads.
After a short break, the second hour is devoted to focused training in specific weapons or techniques, some of which are listed below.
This group draws inspiration from Victorian physical culture and “antagonistics,” which is what martial arts were called in the English-speaking world until the term “martial arts” (a translation of Japanese bushido) came into use in the 1930s. Organizations such as the Kernoozers Club, the Bartitsu Club, andÂ Lâ€™Ecole dâ€™ Escrime FranÃ§ais were hotspots for period interest in a range of exercise techniques and self-defense techniques. The result was the world’s first mixed martial art. We can’t recapture it in all of its detail but we can study what they studied.
Uniform & Traditions
Gentlemen will be attired in a white shirt, dark trousers, and dark shoes. For practicing savate, hard-soled shoes with a bit of structure are recommended.
Ladies may wear the same attire (for simplicity’s sake) or women’s clothing having an equivalent degree of formality and freedom of movement.
It is customary, but not required, to take some small refreshment after practice.
Watch this space for the announcement of further traditions as they are developed.
Our group places a heavy emphasis on physical conditioning, using techniques popular in the Victorian and Edwardian eras. Far from being obsolete, these are enjoying a revival in today’s fitness clubs, and so we can say in all honesty that we were into them before they were cool.
Practices begin with a vigorous Indian club workout, starting with lighter clubs and easier exercises and advancing to heavier and harder, including the gada or heavy Indian mace. Indian clubs are an excellent way to build strength and flexibility without suffering the boredom of repetitive motions on fitness club machinery.
Another “oldie but goodie” currently enjoying a revival. This simple object can be used to work out a number of muscle groups in a way that is fun and social.
“Antagonistics” in our usage means unarmed martial arts. We explore three of them, all of which were popular in London and Paris at the turn of the 20th Century:
We don’t pretend to be a full-service modern boxing gym, since that market is being well served by others who are more qualified. We practice old-school, bare-knuckle pugilism, largely as a conditioning exercise. I.e. we don’t hit each other–not yet, anyway!
This is the French art of kick-boxing, which flourished in many forms, some more practical than others. We are learning on a relatively practical, bare-bones version advocated by Jean-Joseph Renaud in his treatise Defense dans la Rue.Â It involves mixing pugilistic moves with quick kicks, low to the ground, non-flashy.
This Japanese martial art enjoyed a huge vogue in London around the turn of the Twentieth Century, thanks largely to the prosetylizing efforts of E.W. Barton-Wright. Since it can be taught better by others, and since it really requires a mat (which we don’t have) we are keeping it on our “to do” list without attempting to pursue it in a serious way.
This is a term for the art and science of weapons. Our Victorian forebears favored several:
Proper ladies and gentlemen did not as a rule venture out of doors without carrying a walking stick, a cane, or an umbrella. Various nationalities developed schools of self-defense around these common objects. The best-known of these was La Canne, promulgated by Pierre Vigny. Today La Canne can be taught in various forms, some more recreational, others more practical. We favor the more practical style.
A larger, heavier walking stick generally used with two hands. As explained by Dr. Ken Mondschein in The Art of the Two-Handed Sword, the older martial art of the giant sword called the spadone or montante evolved over time into the 19th Century techniques of the grand bÃ¢ton, and so by practicing this weapon we are preserving a link to the fighting arts of the middle ages.
A much longer (8 or more foot) pole used in military training, and popular among Victorians who saw it as a link to their (somewhat romanticized) past. Again, it’s on our “to do” list.
A wooden implement used as a training stand-in for heavy one-handed weapons such as the cavalry saber.
A short, curved, single-edged sword. When studying this curriculum we mostly use a blunt wooden implement called a dusack, though some pretty good plastic wasters are now becoming available.
A longer, curved, single-edged sword, much heavier than the sabers currently used in sport fencing, and requiring entirely different techniques. An important sidearm for Victorian military men who found themselves on the fringes of empire fighting with locals who didn’t want them around. The subject of treatises by Sir Richard Francis Burton and Captain Alfred Hutton, the latter of whom used it as the basis of a revival of George Silver’s Elizabethan school of backsword fencing.
For years we have been hosting occasional seminars on bullwhip cracking.
How this all relates to practice structure
The above is a highly ambitious list of disciplines and techniques. Anyone with understanding of the martial arts will perceive that this group is designed to be broad, rather than deep. Some of the arts listed we are actively practicing right now, others we are only beginning to explore, and others are on the “to do” list for future study.
In any case, our general approach is to spend about half of each meeting doing pure physical culture work (Indian clubs, etc.) and the other half working on a specific martial art system, where we will spend several consecutive meetings focusing on one system (let us say, La Canne) before moving on to a “unit” on some other system (let us say single stick). The objective is to develop healthy and well-rounded participants.