By Craig Gemeiner© 2010
The following articles will touch on the use of La Canne as taught by ‘Defense dans la Rue’ professor Emile Andre and his instructor Julien Leclerc.
Stance, grip and guard
For practising in the salle (training room), Andre recommends the right or strong side be placed forward with only three-quarters of the upper body presented toward the opponent. The legs are comfortably flexed and the feet spaced one and a half shoe lengths apart. Gripping the cane consists of positioning the hand two centimetres up from the butt or proximal end. The thumb rests along the length of the cane while the fingers are joined in order to hold and secure the weapon. Generally held forward and slightly to the side of the body line, the forearm is perpendicular with the ground. The cane is positioned along an oblique line with the distal end sighted at the adversary’s face. During training the left hand is placed behind the back in order not to be struck by the movements of ones own cane. Andre tells us this guard is equivalent to tierce or the third position in Sabre. He adds however, in the real world of fighting, the leading hand may need to be placed closer to the body in order to protect it. An interesting characteristic of this holding position is its commonality to both the couteau\(knife) and unarmed waist guard structures. This particular guard should be approached only as a platform in which to train both the coups (strikes) and assaut (sparring )in the salle ( training room) environment. For personal protection in the street, which is the primary focus of Defense dans la Rue, alternative guards will often be required.
Guards for the street
For use in the street Andre mentions one will not always have the time to adopt the guard in tierce, nor may it be necessary to do so. In such a case he suggests a less assertive posture in which the Defense dans la Rue practitioner stands more upright with the left arm partially bent and rested in front of the stomach. The cane is only slightly raised and held across the opposite side of the body in such a manner so as to prepare it for the rapid deployment of blows targeting the hand, wrist and forearm. Andre’s diagram below depicts the use of both the cane and the hard bowler hat working in concert from this guard.
First and foremost, instructors of Defense dans la Rue emphasized weapon improvisation – the principle that you are never unarmed was and is still today well entrenched in the minds of its practitioners. The use of the hat and cane in combination provides layers of both offensive and defensive options covering a number of distances. The first layer, or line of attack, is that of longue or long distance. In this particular distance the cane will be bought into play for the deployment of strikes such as the coup de manchette (short descending strike) and mouvement l’enleve (a type of raising under cut). Both strikes are directed at the weapon-bearing limb in order to disarm the attacker.
In the event your enemy breaches the first line of attack and enters into the moyenne (mid distance), the long-range use of La Canne is abandoned. Instead, the close quarter techniques of the cane along with the hard bowler hat will act as the second line of retaliation. Utilized as a type of buckler, this hard hat could be slammed into the adversary’s face or snapped out to parry knife attacks. Andre’s diagram depicts the bowler hat being positioned against the abdomen acting as improvised body armour in order to deflect knife slashes at the gut region and absorb thrusts from smaller knives. If the attacker breaks through into the courte (close distance) then unarmed skills would need to be quickly adopted.
A more assertive guard illustrated in Andre’s manual involves holding the weapon in a single-handed hammer grip above the shoulder. Depending on the height and distance of the enemy, short thrusts with the butt of the cane may be delivered along a linear or descending path. Blows to hard targets such as clavicle, check and jaw have the potential to fracture bones, while impacting soft tissues areas of the body will cause numbness and possible paralysis to the surrounding muscle. The force of such strikes could be enhanced if a metal knob is fitted at the end. From this high reference position, blows with the tapered end of the cane can be directed at the enemy’s collarbone or angled to impact the neck or face. This guard offers sound weapon retention, particularly when the left side is positioned forward and the non-weapon hand is held up ready to attack and counter.
At close quarters, in a real fight Andre recommends taking hold of the cane in the middle, with the left hand in front of the right. This two-handed grip resembles holding a bayonet, a cane thrust with the end can be delivered with great force.
Andre, Emile. L’art De Se Defendre Dans La Rue
Paris : Enerst Flammarion, Editeur 1899
Andre, Emile. Manual de Boxe et de Canne
Paris : Ernest Flammarion, Editeur 1904
Almanach Hachette, ON VOUS ATTAQUE, DEFENDEZ -VOUS ! Paris 1902