Canne de combat

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Canne de combat is a French martial arts weapon. It uses a cane or canne (a kind of walking-stick) designed for fighting. Canne de combat was standardized in the 1970s for sporting competition by Maurice Sarry. The canne is very light, made of chestnut wood and slightly tapered. A padded suit and a fencing mask are worn for protection.

The “Canne de Combat” or “Canne d’Arme” is a pure product of French history and culture. It developed in the early 19th century as a self-defence discipline and was particularly used by upper class “bourgeoise” gentlemen in big, unsafe cities such as Paris. Some speak of French martial art although its codification as a sport does not allow this name officially. The history of the discipline is closely linked to the development of the Savate boxing techniques which at the beginning was mainly using kicks and lately under the influence of the British incorporated also punches. Gentlemen trained into the Savate techniques mastered cane as a way of fighting from a certain distance as well as close combat kickboxing. The cane was, in the hands of the city men, what the staff was in the hands of farm men. In fact, cane and staff were closely associated in many countries and cultures.[citation needed]

The techniques of “Savate” and “Canne d’Arme” increased in popularity up to the point that they were used by military and police forces (depicted in the TV series Les Brigades du Tigre, referring to a special police task force of the French Third Republic) until World War I. The millions of lives that were called during the war caused the discipline to nearly disappear. The techniques continued however to be taught in a few “savate boxing” clubs that reopened in between the two wars and managed to survive World War II. Cane fighting techniques of the late 1950s and 1960s were influenced by a few skilled individuals who revived it.

During the late 1970s, the techniques of the “Canne d’Arme” were codified by Maurice Sarry with a view to rehabilitate it as a sport. This led to the discipline which is still today associated with the “Federation de Savate Boxe Francaise” (French Savate Boxing federation). Aside from the sport approach, self-defence techniques are still alive: e.g. “Master Lafond” technique.

Today, the sport “Canne de Combat”, is practiced by a thousand of “cannistes”, just as the French staff, by some hundreds of “bâtonniers” or “bâtonnistes”.[citation needed]

The use of the cane as a weapon, as originally taught in weapons schools, was codified by the Masters of Savate so that the cane was taught as a weapon of self-defence. The French tradition includes techniques of medieval stick fighting (see also bâton français), excepting those techniques considered too dangerous to be used in sport. The medieval stick is too heavy a weapon to be used in competition.

Its use has thus been lost and today Canne de combat itself is disappearing. There is, however, a martial tradition passed down to the Swiss Master, Pierre Vigny in the 19th century which was used for codification of techniques using the Indian cane at the beginning of the 20th century, forming a separate tradition from the more common sporting cane seen in France today. The cane, first used for support and then as a gentleman’s accessory, also provided a useful weapon. A normal walking stick is usually within the boundaries of legal self-defence, but the loaded cane (weighted with lead at one end) may be considered a weapon in some legal systems.

In the modern sporting Canne de combat system found in France, bouts are held inside a ring. The cane is held with one hand but the player can change it from hand to hand during the bout. Strokes are made either horizontally or downward, thrusting or stabbing blows being prohibited. The scoring zones are the calves, the torso and the head.

To count, all strokes must be with the cane, and low blows must have a lunging movement. The bout is won on points, the lightness of the cane and the protective clothing making a knockout impossible. Points are scored for style, according to the correctness of body positions during fighting. Contact with prohibited areas such as the arms are penalized. It is thus possible to win a match without landing a blow on one’s adversary, if he or she accumulates penalties.

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