Supreme defense against night aggressors

By Dott. Alberto Cougnet

Translation to English by Renato Feo

This English translation is taken from the book ‘Pugilato e Lotta libera per la Difesa Personale'(1922)by Dott. ALBERTO COUGNET and includes comments from both Cougnet and Joseph Renaud on ways to deal with the French Apache street fighter. Renaud explains the dirty tricks used by the Apaches to ‘set up’ there intended victim and ways to counter these attacks either standing or on the ground.

Special thanks to savate Australia student Renato Feo for this English translation.

Supreme defense against night aggressors

Already our old masters of arms, as Fiore of Premariacco, Monicio, Marozzo and so on , were dealing with ways of defense in regards to an unarmed person against an armed one ; but they were thinking in relation to say a man with a dagger against one with a sword, etc.

But here instead I wish to draw your attention to personal defense against mainly night aggressors, often armed with a knife or dagger, approaching you using the obvious excuse of asking for a light , or if you know the time or some such thing.

The best policy is always to avoid being approached by such people, but in cases whereby the assailants should use various means to throw you to the ground or grab you suddenly from behind , circling you with their arms, ( a wrestler in this case could attempt to do a back headlock and throw the opponent to the ground , or the assailant could grab you by the overcoat, there are several ways to help you defend yourselves against these attacks, particularly mentioned in the book by Professor and master of arms Luigi Carmine , in which he also describes ways and means which you will study and practice with your colleagues at the Gyms , under a master’s direction.

Under the title , “ Tricks of the Apaches” ( the apaches referring to the attackers , armed thieves,) my friend and colleague Parisian J. Joseph Renaud- prince of scientific defense theories, published, in 1907 in the newspaper “ Life in the Open Air ” , a series of articles , whereby after Mr. Renaud had a bad encounter with these said Apaches, describes some principle “ tricks” which are used by these attackers on unsuspecting subjects and which are the best methods of defense against them, whether they be by way of the Japanese jiu-jitsu or other already known methods used by Prof. Carmine. Mr Renaud illustrates some of these methods showing himself as the victim and his friend Alfred Bigriver as the assailant; that is – the apache.

These articles and illustration were a great success, and were published in various main newspapers like the “Stampa Sportive” of Turin “ with colleague G. Corvetta, two very good articles on the 23 rd of January and October 1910.

And now here I republish the article:

“In Paris , at Montmartre , at night ……. A man , who could be you or myself, is hurrying along the wide semi- lit footpath of the boulevard, ( I do not know if you are aware, but Paris is very much darker than Turin and Milan),is hurrying towards his own house or going to someone else’s apartment , where two arms are awaiting him in an closed alcove.

“He is wearing – if you like- lightweight overcoat high buttoned, and he wears a small soft hat , what one would wear to go to the office. He walks fast with his hands in his pockets, trying to avoid the knocks from the pickpockets and the gentle contact with the innumerous female strollers of the boulevard.

All of a sudden, in a darker spot , a short , stout man, stiff hat , tight fitting jacket , gray eyes, expressionless , walks directly towards him , touching his top hat .

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“- Excuse me, Sir? – ”

The hurrying passer by stops , a bit confused but not intimidated by the other persons attitude. This other gets close, and stops about a meter away from him. You can see he is wearing a decent dark jacket suit and is holding an unlit cigar between his fingers.

He is polite and insinuating ; and looks far to much the Parisian. Only his pronunciation has a special characteristic. He skips all the syllables he possibly can, the E’s are slurred and he rolls his R’s terribly.

“Would you have a light please?“

Taken in, the hurrying passer by is about to take out a box of matches. He does not have the time to do so, for he feels a hit to his face and then sees black all around him. The stout man has thrown his hard bowler hat fully on his face. Without giving his victim any time gives a direct hit with his head, which is the most popular and most used of tricks by apaches, which consists with violently hitting the adversary with the head to the stomach and trip him up at the same time.

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Quite formidable. You must have realized, that by now the poor passer by is lying on the ground , the assailant already has a knee on his chest and after half strangled him , empties his pockets.

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Having done that, the stranger walks away, clicking away at the lighter or matches he took from the pockets, and probably ends up lighting his cigar , excuse which he had used to stop the unsuspecting passer by.

When everything is over,, a pretty stranger approaches the victim, and with dainty gloved hands,- she’s wearing elbow –length pearl gray gloves, small watch on her wrist-, helps him to his feet , tells him that the scoundrel was an Apache, and hangs onto his sore arm, whispers to him:

“Have you been robbed of everything, you poor thing? Lets see, lets have a little look.. ”

The little gloved hands, delicate and swift, visit all the victim’s pockets (visit No.2) after which she whispers “- There is nothing my dear…-“

And she too leaves him with an enigmatic smile on her beautiful face……

She is right .After the encounter with the Apache, there could be something left in one of the pockets; but after the encounter with the Boulevardie…. you can be sure that nothing will be left behind.

Lets suppose now, that the passerby should react, and irately, with a hoarse voice, he yells:

“By God, I’ll go to the police! “

Big mistake: He will not end up going to the police but to the hospital.

To his declaration, will actually reply a sharp, acute deafening whistle, —-calling the Apaches.

And here come a second individual, similar to the previous one. He heads for the victim directly like a missile, hits him in the face ( with his hat) , like the first one did , the then plants his head underneath the victims chin. Now two things can happen ;- either the victim has a strong neck , and the least that will happen to him , is to remain with his head turned backwards and his neck crooked for the rest of his life; – or- his neck is weak, therefore stay put, but his head rolls about. In both cases, the passerby ends his night – in the better instance- In hospital; in the worst – at the graveyard.

Of this type are the adventures which happen to a visitor to Paris , who ventures to Montmartre at night, with his mind wandering elsewhere, perhaps full of romantic reminiscing, or his attention focused on his rendezvous that night and his wish to remain unnoticed , therefore not paying enough attention to his surroundings “.

There are means to protect oneself against the Apaches; and the means suggested is to do sport, learn boxing tactics and some wrestling moves as well.” When we venture into the world of the Apaches, one must be ready for everything, but especially the infallible “Head Hit “ which is the first tactic that the scoundrels use when they are trying to rob their victim. When one is prepared for defense, the terrible hit doesn’t frighten any more. It suffices to circle the attackers head, very tightly.

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The rest follows by itself…. whilst the Apache falls to the ground. If he does not fall, with the free hand, you punch him in the face, which will in the least disfigure him, besides make him spit out all his yellowed teeth..

Of course, now to be able to employ the method of encircling the opponents head, you must not let yourself be hit in the chest; but that is easy enough to avoid, if one is forewarned; you shift your body all to one side. In as far as all the other hits, you can defend yourselves with the more commonly used moves of elementary wrestling.

We show in our illustrations.

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Even so, being aware and prepared, does not mean that you will always came out winners when you come up against the Apaches. It could be the opposite.

“In that case there is only one remedy: a bullet in the Apaches belly!….”

Under the title; Defense in the extreme- J.J.Renaud continues, in another article issued by the paper “ Life in the Open Air “ of the 5 th January 1907, he goes on to describe various ways to defend oneself from nocturnal aggressions from the Apaches in the streets . The illustrations show us, the various stages of the fight for life. J.J. Renaud is attacked by his friend A.Bignier.

The teacher of wrestling, of boxing, fencing with the stick etc., can demonstrate very useful and successful tactics of defense; but they are not always applicable in today’s modern life.

It can be, in fact, that you cannot always adopt them in cases of sudden extremely dangerous attacks.

“Does this mean that the person being attacked is completely defenceless? “

Not at all . The sports for defense, particularly the jiu-jitsu, offer precious resources, still a little unknown, but that constitute the defense in the extreme.

A French Apache….stated, not without reason, that the only attack without defense, is the knife in the back.

Admitting this statement; we then wish to mention an excellent method with which to respond to an unarmed attack from behind.

“Lets suppose that a night stroller is suddenly grabbed at the waist from behind , circled”. How can you get out of this situation? By quickly throwing yourself forward, either to his knees, or flat to the ground, (extreme ills, extreme remedies!) If this action is carried out swiftly, there are all the probabilities that the assailant will fall forward and hit his head hard on the ground, on top and forward of you, in any case he will be obliged to follow you, to at least find himself onto your back.

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Lets also suppose that the assailant, to his favour, managers to remain standing and still holding you .

In this case the Japanese wrestling suggest that:- In the fall- with the swiftness of the movements of the legs that is taught with the jiu- jitsu , make that the adversary’s legs,- and if not both- at least one- finds itself in between yours, of which a little bent , can be pressed against his ;- the right, in the meantime , with violent horizontal movement , you neutralize the legs of the assailant,- who will then come to fall onto one side, and will find himself overpowered, following one of those moves that renders an expert in Japanese wrestling invincible in a body to body tactic.

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“Due to position that follows because of the last action, the best thing to do next, the easiest hold, in general , is taking under your arm, the opponents left leg , place your own right leg on his stomach to stop him from sitting up, then shift your left foot over his right thigh or between his legs , and press….. on a certain sensitive area. Then, throwing yourself backwards with force, and in doing this slightly lift on the right . No one will resist to the pain caused by this hit!

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“Another, not less effective solution is shown, where , with expertise you would have been able to immobilize the adversary under your thighs, whereas one is nearly on his mouth, and getting hold of his wrists.”

It could also happen that a scoundrel, this time attacks with a knife. He may attack you suddenly, and floors you; it may also be, that even though he may not be able to get you to the floor, still puts you in a very dangerous position; in this case the best thing would be for you to throw yourself to the ground.

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“The most important thing, in a fight on the ground, is to always manage to put your legs between your adversary and yourself, or, better still, to circle the opponents body with your legs and to grab hold of his arms . In this position, not withstanding the appearances, victory will be yours.

“Follow me closely, keeping an eye on Figs 11 and 12*. You can turn yourself onto your right side(hip), roll your opponent and find yourself on top of him, no matter what his weight is; in practice, for him to be able to resist, he should be able to put his left hand, which is held tight by you, on the floor.

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Supreme defense against night aggressors12

“The strength of the legs will force him to make a movement which he will not be able to resist. Once you are on top of him, it will be easy to, not only take the knife away from him, but also to break his arm , and all this without using major strength, because in keeping with Archimedes’s theory : causing leverage.

“As far as the other position, here it is: it is swifter, more useful, but requires a greater amount of training to be successful at it.

Always tightening the arm that holds the knife, push back on his left thigh with your right foot, which will bring the opponent flat on his abdomen; in the mean time , bring his arm( that holds the knife) towards the right, turning onto your right hip and pass your left leg under his throat .

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“A frequent Apaches’ attack consist in grabbing hold of the victims overcoat from under the shoulder, then hitting him whilst he is thus restricted in his movements (. The best way to defend oneself in this case, is again to let yourself fall to the ground, where the opponent will let go to keep his balance or will certainly fall himself. Either way you will be able to then overpower him.

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“You will also be able to , if you are an expert , grab the assailant in a method called the circling hip hit’ combined with the tripping , will get the opponent to the floor, who may even risk cracking his head by falling and hitting on the side. In the midst of his out of focus and balance, take advantage and overcome him.

Very often it is very hard to fend off a knife hit, and to grab the armed hand, buy should this be successful , very few would then know how to disarm the opponent.

Here is a way: get hold of his armed fist , with both your hands , abruptly turn towards right and imprison the opponents arm under your arm pit . You only have to then lift his arm, from down upwards, to break it. “

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NB: All the tactics, methods and exercises are best executed in a gym, under proper guidance of a master, alternating the roles of the aggressor and the victim, it is a good idea to be well trained and be ready, in the case of need, to be able to execute the relative defense techniques, even those in the extreme.