British Stick-Fighting

Discussion in 'Western Martial Arts' started by Louie, May 15, 2005.

  1. Cudgel

    Cudgel The name says it all

    OH NO NOT MEN WITH KNIVES!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. Louie

    Louie STUNT DAD Supporter


    Another variation of British stick-fighting which was also popular in the USA, used the left-elbow as a guard against blows to the head (see illustration)
    A scarf wrapped around the thigh was held in the left hand with the point of the elbow held high at the left side of the head.

    A description of this type of stick-fight can be found in the book...

    'Tom Brown's Schooldays'​

    This is a capital show of gamesters, considering the amount of the prize; so, while they are picking their sticks and drawing their lots, I think I must tell you, as shortly as I can, how the noble old game of back- sword is played; for it is sadly gone out of late, even in the Vale, and maybe you have never seen it.
    The weapon is a good stout ash stick with a large basket handle, heavier and somewhat shorter than a common single-stick. The players are called "old gamesters" - why, I can't tell you - and their object is simply to break one another's heads; for the moment that blood runs an inch anywhere above the eyebrow, the old gamester to whom it belongs is beaten, and has to stop. A very slight blow with the sticks will fetch blood, so that it is by no means a punishing pastime, if the men don't play on purpose and savagely at the body and arms of their adversaries. The old gamester going into action only takes off his hat and coat, and arms himself with a stick; he then loops the fingers of his left hand in a handkerchief or strap, which he fastens round his left leg, measuring the length, so that when he draws it tight with his left elbow in the air, that elbow shall just reach as high as his crown. Thus you see, so long as he chooses to keep his left elbow up, regardless of cuts, he has a perfect guard for the left side of his head. Then he advances his right hand above and in front of his head, holding his stick across, so that its point projects an inch or two over his left elbow; and thus his whole head is completely guarded, and he faces his man armed in like manner; and they stand some three feet apart, often nearer, and feint, and strike, and return at one another's heads, until one cries "hold," or blood flows. In the first case they are allowed a minute's time; and go on again; in the latter another pair of gamesters are called on. If good men are playing, the quickness of the returns is marvellous: you hear the rattle like that a boy makes drawing his stick along palings, only heavier; and the closeness of the men in action to one another gives it a strange interest, and makes a spell at back-swording a very noble sight.
    They are all suited now with sticks, and Joe Willis and the gipsy man have drawn the first lot. So the rest lean against the rails of the stage, and Joe and the dark man meet in the middle, the boards having been strewed with sawdust, Joe's white shirt and spotless drab breeches and boots contrasting with the gipsy's coarse blue shirt and dirty green velveteen breeches and leather gaiters. Joe is evidently turning up his nose at the other, and half insulted at having to break his head.
    The gipsy is a tough, active fellow, but not very skilful with his weapon, so that Joe's weight and strength tell in a minute; he is too heavy metal for him. Whack, whack, whack, come his blows, breaking down the gipsy's guard, and threatening to reach his head every moment. There it is at last. "Blood, blood!" shout the spectators, as a thin stream oozes out slowly from the roots of his hair, and the umpire calls to them to stop. The gipsy scowls at Joe under his brows in no pleasant manner, while Master Joe swaggers about, and makes attitudes, and thinks himself, and shows that he thinks himself, the greatest man in the field.
    Then follow several stout sets-to between the other candidates for the new hat, and at last come the shepherd and Willum Smith. This is the crack set-to of the day. They are both in famous wind, and there is no crying "hold." The shepherd is an old hand, and up to all the dodges. He tries them one after another, and very nearly gets at Willum's head by coming in near, and playing over his guard at the half-stick; but somehow Willum blunders through, catching the stick on his shoulders, neck, sides, every now and then, anywhere but on his head, and his returns are heavy and straight, and he is the youngest gamester and a favourite in the parish, and his gallant stand brings down shouts and cheers, and the knowing ones think he'll win if he keeps steady; and Tom, on the groom's shoulder, holds his hands together, and can hardly breathe for excitement.

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  3. kenpfrenger

    kenpfrenger sportin' a Broughton

    Hey Louie...I am definitely working on both irish axe and stickplay as of yet I cannot link them together but I do have my pet theories that they might be related in some to the first pic you posted. Am I seeing wrong or is the guy hold his stick twohanded actually holding a flail and not a stick at all? Upon inspecting a larger image, this is what I think I see....and to me if this is so then it is an even more interesting picture than before.
  4. Louie

    Louie STUNT DAD Supporter

    Flail- British Nunchuks

    Well spotted Ken........ :rolleyes:

    Yes... he is about to hit a one-legged man with a flail....
    and during an election too!

    Last edited: May 31, 2005
  5. lklawson

    lklawson Valued Member

    Dude! That *does* look like a flail. At first I thought that the flail end was an instrument held by one of the background people. But it's in the wrong position to be held by someone else.

    Peace favor your sword,
  6. Cudgel

    Cudgel The name says it all

    lol I so totally did not see that it was a flail. Awesome.
    Or amybe we shold called two handed nunchaku :D
  7. ocianain

    ocianain Valued Member

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