Les Sports de Defense
by Emile Maitrot.
Review by Craig Gemeiner
Printed in France during the early 1900s , this small manual provides its readers with insights into the practical use of several combat disciplines that traditionally made up Defense dans la Rue: These being classical English boxing, French Savate , Japanese Jiu-Jitsu, la canne , dirty tricks of the Apache, along with defensive strategies for females.
Beginning with the ‘premiere’ or weapon range of Defense dans la Rue, the author expresses his mixed feelings regarding the use of the revolver by civilians. While Maitrot states that it is necessary to defend against all manner of adversaries be they “grumpy”, “brutal” or “apaches”, he goes on to say that certain people produce too prompt a reaction which could result in such serious consequences that would carry remorse and responsibilities for the rest of their lives. He then proceeds to cover a number of shooting exercises. These involve closing ones eyes while an assistant places a series of wooden silhouettes, as used by the French army, in close proximity and then on command opening your eyes and firing as quickly as possible at the targets.
Maitrot favoured the truncheon or cosh and prefers those with the rubber blades similar to the ones issued to American policemen of the time. This weapon, he explains, is clean, light, easy to disguise and terribly dangerous. When used with the wrist strap one can ,when considered appropriate, open the hand to seize the enemy. This lets the weapon hang on the arm, which may be griped once again with a quick movement of the wrist. Maitrot goes on to say that against multiple opponents there is near certainty that the cosh will strike a target with every blow thrown.
The sword cane is not one of Maitrot’s favourite weapons. He states you need time to draw it from the sleeve / cane and, if under pressure, this could take several seconds. As with the revolver, strikes to vital targets with the sword may produce debilitating wounds which may not have been necessary. Maitrot goes on to say that holding the sword immobilizes entirely the hand and one cannot regain freedom of it unless giving up the weapon, which in turn may result in other combatants using it against you.
Regarding la Canne ( the walking stick) ,Maitrot writes that it is more effective if the cane is heavy or leaded but this ,he says, can make the weapon cumbersome and difficult to manipulate.
Moving onto the unarmed hitting skills, the author writes that when striking the face in a street battle and to avoid breaking the phalanges, the blows of English boxing are given with the hands open and it is the palm that must strike targets. He further states that striking with the open hand provides other advantages; – “it has the appearance of slapping an opponent which does not produce an annoying impression on spectators. And the court will pardon a slap while it will prevail concerning a blow of the fist”.
Maitrot recommends that slaps are not only given by the action of the muscles of the arm. It is necessary, he adds, to use the muscular effort like the blows used in boxing. A rapid rotation of the trunk, while at the same time the shoulders must be thrown towards the target in a circular motion. Bare fist blows are directed only at the chest and stomach of the opponent. However, the author points out that the knuckles and not the fingers must be used for striking.
The auther goes on to write that to deliver the slap in the correct manner and to acquire the “essential breath” (fitness) in a street battle, which he says can last several minutes, it is advisable to be devoted to boxing. One learns to place his blows at suitable targets and to dodge those which the adversary delivers. He further adds that the various ( unarmed) methods of ‘Defense dans la Rue’ consist of boxing, which comprise classical English and French systems supplemented with certain catches from Lutte ( wrestling) and also some blows of Jiu-Jitsu. The author touches on the effects of blows to the base of the chin which he writes-” causes a vibration of the brain and loss of consciousness. Blows should be dry and precise and not delivered randomly”.
While Maitrot praises the English method he writes that the French system also provides a good means of defense: the ‘coup de pied bas’ ( low kick using the inside edge of the boot) and ‘coup de pied pointe’ ( point of boot kick) ,when one has the time and distance are extremely effective kicks. He writes- “of the ‘coup de pied bas’ one can undoubtedly break a tibia; in any case one causes a pain such as the adversary is immediately in a state of inferiority. If it is quickly placed one is not at all likely to unbalance oneself or at least one keeps the possibility of being restored instantaneously. The ‘coup de pied pointe’ is more difficult to place and must not strike too high so as to avoid shifting ones centre of gravity”.
The ‘coup de tete’ or head butt is , according to the author, a sure and easy blow to deliver without danger to oneself. He states that it acquires a great force on its delivery and at times can be more effective than a blow with the fist.
Elbow strikes are covered at ‘ corps a corps’ or close quarters which can then be followed with palm strikes.
The author mentions that some blows of Jiu- Jitsu are advisable but that many cannot be learnt from a book.
Advice on setting up attacks by means of Apache like tricks is also covered. Such ruses includes tipping ones hat as a gesture of greeting, at the same time affirming ones desire not to have a dispute, or the fear to take part in one. This is followed by driving forward with hand, foot or head butt attacks at various levels.
Maitrot says that a man who attends the boxing ( English of French) salleswill understand the effectiveness of certain blows along with their weaknesses. Such training, he writes, will provide him with a confidence and a means of success. He further states that if one is not too afraid, that is to have the ability to control ones nerves this, the author writes, will be the first element that victory constitutes.