The Sporting Revival of a Forgotten Culture
Copyright Frederic Morin © 2004 all rights
The canne and the staff had, for a long time,
a particular place in human life. This is true in many countries, but
also, and maybe especially, in France.
The canne is an instrument of support, defense or parade, without even
mentionning the vestimentary object of ornament when it is
manufactured. The staff does not have the same social virtue and seems
more like a useful instrument (to direct a herd with the crook of the
shepherd, to walk with the walking stick of the pilgrim, to support).
According to the times, the geographical area and the type of
vegetation, one will find similarities between the staff's styles, the
main purpose being based on experiment and orally transmitted by a
family, a clan or a corporation. Thus one will choose the blood dogwood
(knotty dense wood, very resistant and used to make handles for tools),
ash (clear of knots, flexible and hard, used for the handles of
pickaxes), the holly wood (whitish, heavy and very hard), the hazel
tree (flexible and rather resistant), and chestnut (dent resistant,
flexible, light, absorbs shocks well).
In terms of combat with canne and staff (or club), few technical
sources exist before the 14th century. The first treatise' date
from the end of the Dark Ages. At this time the staff was often
associated with the handling of the sword (with two hands).
The German, and thereafter the Italian and Spanish schools of fencing
in particular, were the basis of the armed combat for very a long time.
The canne had little place in feudal life. With the renaissance on the
other hand, the canne, the canne with system or the blowpipe (imported
from the Americas to send tickets and dragees to the ladies) remained
in the hands of nobles, courtiers and kings, while the staff
accompanied churls, louts and travellers. The various Edicts of
prohibition of duels with the sword allowed certainly the palliative
use of the cannes to regulate the conflicts.
At the 19th century, the presence of the canne (as a weapon and a
vestimentary complement) becomes more and more common.
Various materials were now used (ivory, horn of Rhinoceros, snap ring,
rotang, bamboo, wood of iron).
Paris at that time included many Academies of Boxing, in which the
professors taught French boxing (slipper), but also the canne (a 96 cm
length, 3 cm diameter and a weight of 530g for certain cannes in
dogwood). It is clear that under these conditions, the least mistakes
in practice became particularly devastating. Not far from
the Boulevard of Crime one found the sporting prowess professional
combatants who controlled the fight using slipper and canne, according
to the combat range. Some of these specialists were able to give 80
blows in less than 15 seconds!
For the staff, the engagements between rival Companions Societies,
reported since the end of the 18th century, also tend to prove a
certain coding of the techniques (ranks of Provost and Master existed).
The staff (1,4 m length, diameter from 1,5 to 2,5 cm and weight of
approximately 450 G) was taught in the French Army at the dawn of the
20th century (as had the bayonet). The police force also
had on its part a slipper-canne practice (with the famous "Brigades du
Tigre de Clémenceau"). After the two world wars, the
practice of the canne or staff in combat practically disappeared, in
spite of a return of the exotic wood canne (Ebony, "macassar",
"amourette"...) in the Art Déco period .
Today the canne of combat or fighting canne as well as the staff, has
reappeared as a combat sport. This very codified practice has found a
place in a society which has evolved. Respect of the
adversary, of his physical integrity, controlled blows, making safe
parades, control of the weapon in space are all emphasized. It is
certainly the sporting aspect which will make it possible to reach a
large audience in search of emotion, play and also esthetism.
The canne of combat in competition as the staff are, in general,
disciplines associated with French Boxing but can be also taught in
certain specialized clubs. ASCA Paris is one of those.
Frederic Morin - President ASCA PARIS 11 (Sports Association of French