By Emile Andre 1910
Review by Craig Gemeiner
The following article presents a review and simple technical breakdown of Emile Andre’s first manual entitled – ‘L’ art de se defender dans la rue’.
Written by Emile Andre and published in 1910 ‘L’ art de se defender dans la rue’ was, judging by the large number of plagiarized versions, the most popular on the subject of defense dans la rue. Very little is known about Andre except that he was a professor of savate- French boxing, jiu- jitsu, fencing and defense dans la rue and wrote manuals on all four subjects.
Special thanks to Luc Cerruti for contributing several pictures to this article.
The author does not spoon feed readers with liberal use of pictures as is common with contemporary training manuals. Instead a single diagram is often included along with detailed text underlining the rationale of each technique.
Comprising 2 premier sections readers are first introduced to a break down of the skills pertaining to la boxe Anglaise or English boxing. Andre does not cover scientific boxing as such; instead he emphasizes a more simplified method that does not require the wearing of boxing gloves or the conventions of competition to be successful.
Boxing techniques comprise coup de poing directs or straight punches delivered to the head and stomach. The traditional fist configuration common to bar knuckle boxing is preferred along with the extended guard to control the moyenne or medium distance.
Coup de poing de cote or angled punches are delivered with the elbow inverted between or around the enemy’s guard. According to Andre target selection when striking the face should be the lower part of the ear down to the carotid; this he writes is more preferred than the jaw.
The upper cut, in Andres syllabus, is reserved as a counter attack against an enemy who charges in low with a head but or tackle.
The kicking skills presented in the second chapter are adopted from the Lecour savate syllabus. A total of 3 categories of low line kicks are presented these being coup de pied point (point or toe of the boot kick), coup de pied bas (low inside edge of the boot kick) and the chasse (thrusting heel kick). Also included among the foot skills are coup de talon (heel stomps) and coup de genou (knee strikes). While readers may see the inclusion of only 3 primary kicking skills as limiting the actual number of combinations facilitated by mixing and matching each category is considerable.
The high kicks pertaining to the sport or academic methods of savate are not included within Andre’s manual. Because kicks to the chest and head are high maintenance techniques and generally ineffective against an experienced opponent they are not included as part of the defense dans la rue syllabus. All kicks are kept low targeting the groin, knee, shin, ankle and foot.
A large chapter is dedicated to the stand up clinching and grappling skills of la lutte along with “serious strikes” used at ‘corps a corps’ or close quarters. Andre comments that many of the close range strikes and grappling maneuvers complement each other and are based on simple principles making them easy to deliver without learning lots of theory.
Close quarter techniques include coup de tete (head butts) coup de coude (blows with the elbow) coup de fourche (finger jab to the eyes) coup de genou (knee strikes), la main ouverte (open hand strikes using the palm and the edge of the hand) and coup du chapeau on de la casquette (striking with a hat or cap).
Stand up grappling skills comprise simple back heels, trips, and side throws. Counters to these lutte maneuvers are based on reversals and mauling or gouging the face to force a release. Andre explains that the more complex throws and take downs found in wresting and jui-jitsu are kept separate from the simplified methods of defense dans rue. Because they require longer amounts of practice they could not be a part of every ones training.
Torsions’ –consist of joint twisting and locks to either control a person not deemed a real threat or in serious encounters to fracture bones and dislocate articulations. These maneuvers are generally utilized at courte or close distance and comprise torsion des bras (arm twists), torsions des doigts, (finger twists), torsions des jambs (legtwist),and torsions de la tete et du cou, (head and neck twists). Torsions are not limited to the body’s articulations for instance the ears, groin and hair can be grabbed and violently twisted to manipulate the enemy into close quarter striking skills. Andre describes one torsion, called saisissement du nez, pression, torsion, as an “elegant” technique consisting of seizing the enemy’s nose then squeezing and twisting it in an attempt to tear it of.
The finale chapter covering the unarmed skills provides a break down of the specialized attacks favored by the French apache street fighter. Ways to recognize the “set ups” along with actual counters to their physical attacks are covered. Techniques in this section consist of coup le la bascule, (striking the enemy while falling or rolling towards the ground) coup de la petite chaise, (folding the adversary over by placing a knee into the small of the back while pulling back on the shoulders) coup de pante, (locking the adversary’s arms from behind while using a leg vine to secure his lower extremities), and coup du pere Francois, (garroting techniques). Suggestions on countering weapon attacks and multiple adversaries are also briefly touched on.
Part two of “L’art de se defender dans la rue” is dedicated to the use of standard and improvised weaponry. Chapters covering la canne (walking stick), Baton (two handed long stick), Couteau et Poignard (knife and dagger) along with the use of the hat and jacket is explored
The section on la canne presents long range fencing hits both as half developed and fully developed blows. Andre comments that the half developed blows using the wrist and elbow are extremely fast and could be used as a pre- emptive strike. He also mentions that their application is useful when one does have enough room to use fully developed blows for fear of striking innocent people.
The use of the heel or butt of the cane is useful to strike with at close range. Either end of the cane can be used in a threatening manner to maintain distance between you and the enemy.
La canne in conjunction with the bowler hat is utilized to counter knife attacks. The first line of defense at long range consists of coup de manchette and l’enleve which are vertical cane strikes to the weapon bearing limb. Should the enemy breach this first line of defense the hard bowler hat then serves as improvised body armor to deflect or absorb knife thrusts to the stomach.
Andre explains that the striking patterns of the baton or long stick is similar to that of la canne and apart from its length advantage the batons appearance has more of a demoralizing effect against multiple attackers .
The use of couteau and poignard (knife and dagger)for personal combat is grouped into 2 principle divisions. This is done so as to ascertain whether a knife is suitable more for thrusting or both cutting and thrusting.
Andre points out that a larger knife which has a broad enough blade and slender point could be used like a small saber. Smaller pocket knives that are intended for combat should be provided with a ring or other form of locking mechanism to prevent the blade closing on the fingers.
The author recommends that knowledge of savate and boxing used in combination with the knife is very useful as are the skills from epee and saber fencing.
The knife is generally held with the naturally occurring strong side forward. Andre explains that when held at the hip and griped with the point angled higher than the handle it is difficult for someone to seize the wrist from below the knife.
The edge of the couteau can be positioned towards the ground but offers greater effectiveness when griped facing upward .With both the point and edge angled up there is a greater possibility of the adversary impaling or slicing his hand on the blade should he attempt to grab your weapon bearing limb from above.
Andre advises that the non weapon hand must, if possible, be provided with an improvised shield such as a coat or jacket. Such objects are useful to adsorb cuts, hinder or block the adversary’s arms and sometimes to throw at the face.
Retrospectively Andre’s manual offers defense dans la rue enthusiasts an outstanding template which removes assumptions and leaves, in its place, systemization. The real challenge left for the modern practitioner is to source qualified instructors who have produced pragmatic training methodologies based on the efficient skills presented in this manual.
About the author
Craig Gemeiner is an Australian based self defence and savate instructor. He teaches the time tested skills of defense dans la rue using pragmatic training methodologies tailored towards the needs of the modern self defense practitioner.