By Craig Gemeiner
Defensive attitudes within the physical framework of Defense dans la Rue can be grouped into three layers. These layers work in conjunction with the passive and en guard training structures along with the footwork skills that accompany them.
The third layer of defense involves the use of parries ,guards and covers to nullify single and compound attacks. These defensive maneuvers are well documented and established within the contact based training conditions of Defense dans la Rue, classical bare knuckle pugilism and the older methods of Savate.
The effectiveness of defensive skills in which boxing gloves are utilized as part of their application will vary significantly when applied with bare fists. In the street your enemy won’t be wearing boxing gloves, nor will he be abiding by the conventions that govern combat sports.
The following classical parries, guards and covers provide some of the most structurally secure positions for the human frame when engaging an adversary in fist fighting. Utilizing the articulated elbow along with the hard surface of the forearm, these defensive structures are designed to generate considerable pain to the enemy’s fist and arm during the act of guarding.
Emile Andre 1899
Against a single straight punch directed at the face ( direct figure) the primary objective of the horizontal parry is to lift the incoming blow overhead. Generally the rear arm is considered the dominant limb from which to execute the horizontal guard as it leaves the front arm ready to riposte. However if your rear arm is not in line, within its training or passive guard structure, then the lead arm parry will come into play.
After successfully guarding the enemy’s punch don’t stand there admiring your handy work, immediately riposte with a barrage of forward driving punches and /or kicks.
Inverted elbow parry
Julien Leclerc 1915
This is an effective parry used primarily against angled blows directed towards your head region. An area from the forearm to the upper arm provides a rigid structure that shields both the side of the face and neck. In addition the inverted elbow can jar the enemy’s fist and forearm upon impact. Because the hand is kept in line with the adversary’s body ,during the entire process of guarding and parrying, follow up strikes are more easily facilitated.
From “Boxing For Beginners” 1918-
” Elbow Guard For Swing, on the opponent’s left swing, raise right elbow as high as temple, completely covering right side of face. Sometimes one may judge the swing accurately enough to catch opponent’s wrist or forearm with the elbow, causing him great inconvenience”.
Against a barrage of bare fist punches, that are too quick to visually track and individually counter , single hand blocks, catches, parries and snap backs will often be impractical. If you want more convincing then go into the controlled environment of a professional boxing gym or Savate salle and see how long you last trying to pick off the combinations by a seasoned fighter. In the environment of the street fight, were there are no referees, no limitations of techniques and certainly no rules to abide by, what will be required is a compact structure that brings both arms into application. These covers will only offer you short-term recovery against an overwhelming flurry of punches.
As a matter of urgency you must launch a counter attack as soon as possible. Against a physically stronger adversary covers and guards cannot be maintained for prolong periods of time as they will be eventually broken down by a sustained attack. The use of these covers must be approached with an offensive mind set. Having gone defensive your already behind in the race, possibly a race for your very life, don’t stand there like a human punching bag getting the snot beaten out of you, aggressively drive forward smashing the articulated elbows into the enemy.
The first defensive structure is termed the safety cover or block. It consists of placing one forearm across the face whilst the other forearm covers the stomach, producing a type of cage.
From the “Spalding Athletic Library of Boxing- Complete Illustrated Instructions in the Art of Self Defense” 1929-
“The safety block is the best guard for the human frame known in boxing. It is not used very frequently, not so often as it should be, in fact, and therefore is unfamiliar to many followers of fistiana. The block in question brings both hands into use and has been found very valuable by men when in awkward positions, say in a corner, or against the ropes and hard pressed by an opponent. It consists in folding the right forearm across the face, the nose and chin fitting snugly into the crook of the elbow, and holding the left close to and directly across the front of the body, the upper arm covering the heart and left ribs, the forearm and hand with the palm opened and turned in, protecting the pit of stomach and right ribs. The block can be made still more of a “safety” by bending the stomach inward as you carry the arms into position”.
“When your opponent gets you into a tight place and you can not force him back by an assault, assume quickly the position as described and you can with impunity advance to any part of the floor or ring, as the case may be. His fists cannot reach a vital part, for by watching him closely and shifting either hand or forearm the merest trifle you can block anything he may choose to deliver”.
Using slight structural variations will allow the safety cover to be applied against a variety of attacks
Defensive Exercises 1840
This is a variation of the safety block in which both arms cross the body and permit you to weather the storm of your adversary’s combination strikes.
The configuration of this particular cover allows high line straight punches to be parried with the forearm, while the articulated elbow protects the face spearing any blow that should run onto it. The triceps in co-operation with the corresponding hunched shoulder covers the side of your head against angled strikes. Body punches can be adsorbed on the opposite arm which lays across the stomach . At close distance adopting a full crouch position, in conjunction with this cover further reduces the assailants target options.
Combatives instructor and historian Ralph Grasso comments on the history and use of this guard-
“This guard was adopted in the early 1900s as a response to boxing it is not considered classical Jiu-Jitsu but was instead utilized by Jiu-Jitsuka’s to counter the boxers punching attacks. The same guard was also used by 9th dan Judoka and police Jiu-Jitsu instructor Yone Yoneska, he used it in mixed competition both in Japan and when he arrived in the USA. Master Yoneska taught this guard ,and its application against boxers, to my instructor Carl Cestari who in turn taught it to me”.
“The point of the elbow and forearm guard the face exposing only the eyes and hard dome of the head. The right arm stays low to defend against boxers body punches and possible upper cuts. Your weight is mainly on the front foot ,with the heel of the rear foot raised ready to push the body forward by way of the ‘drop step’. This inturn promotes full body weight into lead hand blows such as the edge of hand strikes”.
“The point of the elbow can also be used to ‘accept’ fist blows by shifting the waist without moving the arm and opening up your face. Against swings , hooks and over hand punches the elbow point can also dig into the bicep and forearm region”.