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Arturo Bonafont and the local method of Self-defense with walking cane.
The stick, or just a stick, was the first weapon of the man. Thus, remember that the weapon is the hand that holds it, and the so-called “weapon” is just the tool.
The cane as an instrument of self-defense existed in many cultures, the Basques, for instance, used the makila, a cane that they learned to handle with precision, and due to that, Napoleon Bonaparte, created a platoon of Basques with makilas. In Argentina, the Basques acted as security guards in some pulperías (which were small groceries or stores in the Argentinean countryside) to calm down the troublemakers.
In Europe, the father of the cane combat was the Frenchman Pierre Vignny, who also taught the techniques to Edward William Barton-Wright, the creator of Bartitsu, known as “the fighting arts of Sherlock Holmes.”
The Irish also developed a cane fighting method called batareaicht, fought it with the shillelagh, a very hard cane, a baton, and combined it with a fighting style called Gleacaíocht, where fists, sticks and legs were combined.
As we see, fighting with clubs is a worldwide art, thus…, in South America we also had our own, a totally native discipline of fencing, and this story begun around 1900, in Buenos Aires City and its surroundings.
The tango was a music that was heard in the bars and bordellos of the slums, a music of the lower and working class, who spent their daily wage, after work, with women and so on, as time went by, tango became their chosen rhythm, while “the upper class young man”, he also wanted to go to know it in those cafés, tango was becoming fashionable…
What do you think would happen if … in such a place? in a bordello, for instance, in the slums, it could have been in Isla Maciel, Dock Sud, or Boedo; where could be found dock workers, slaughter house workers, laborers, and others, who spent their time there before coming home, to find some warm company there … and what could have happened, if they saw an upper class young man coming in there, in his expensive suit, putties and bow tie?…, well, nothing could have ended up well for him, let’s remember that it was the time of tough guys, bullies and braggarts, who always carried a knife, and if you did not have one, there will always be someone willing to give you one.
I addition, at that time, lunfardo, (the Argentinian slang, which developed with terms from everywhere, brought by the European immigrants), was consolidated , and the term “patota (gang)” was created by the upper-class young people who went to the brothels located in marginal places, where they could not individually survive a fight with men from the slums ( experienced knife fighters), because of that they attended these clubs in a group, that is, in a gang (patota). In addition to cane fighting, fencing and boxing, the French Savate also entered, but the latter discipline was unsuccessful and ceased to be practiced among high society groups.
Finally, these young men acceded to pistols and revolvers of American and European origin that they carried and used indiscriminately.
Among the Buenos Aires elite, the young Jorge Newbery, an exceptional athlete, by the way, along with Delcasse, a fencer, and Arturo Bonafont, who we will speak about later, were the pioneers in the development of self-defense classes for the inhabitants of Buenos Aires, and it is from there on when the spreading of teaching boxing starts, and that is when Arturo Bonafont, on his behalf, starts to teach fencing stick in an important institution called GEBA (Club Gimnasia y Esgrima de Buenos Aires/Buenos Aires Gymnastics and Fencing Club), looking for a synchronism, let’s say that this is like today’s boom of self-defense, why? We all know why.
Now talking about the cane system of Arthur Bonafont, it was born as a need of the gentlemen to defend themselves. The cane, the weapon and symbol of the gentleman, and even the oldest one, is the one chosen for fighting. This system developed by him is totally local, at the same time in Europe, the father of the cane fighting, the Frenchman Pierre Vignny, teaches its use to Edward William Barton-Wright, his system, la Canne Vigny, shows us, that everywhere in each continent happened the same, from different origins, the cane was born as the gentleman’s weapon.
On its side, Bonafont system is wonderful for self-defense, true, fast, simple, powerful, it’s not stick-fighting, that is one of the wonders that Bonafont noticed, you do not have to be involved in a fight, you have to finish it, among its peculiar characteristics, for example, the grip is inverted, which reduces the distance, but it makes it faster, unpredictable and strong, the positions are simple, and natural, the displacements, reduced, with a technique in which you could face one or more opponents, in open and closed spaces.
It was during the 1930’s when he left his fighting system documented, his discipline embodied in a combat treaty, in a book titled “Method of Defending oneself with a cane in the Street”, by vicissitudes of life, it was impossible for him to write a second part.
Arturo, a man skilled in combat, said about this system, “A solid cane of those that are simply adopted to serve as support, to the most peaceful man, is a tool that handled by a skilled person in that art, can easily become a highly effective weapon for self-defense. “What a clear vision he had”.
With these words he defined the arrival of a combat “When the time to defend ourselves undoubtedly has come. We must observe instantly the position, attitude, gesture or aggressive movement of the adversary, to apply our attack, arresting or counterattacking his own in the act of its very initiation. Seeing and executing everything with the speed of a lightning bolt has to be all at once “without any doubt he was a spectacular fighter.
Currently the Bonafont system of fencing cane is still alive, you only have to find who teaches you.
Those of us who have fought with a stick, stick-fighting, or any system with a stick, we know that the premise is not to lose the weapon, well, that is basic, and Don Arturo, said this “the blow with the cane has to cross over, has to be given with attitude, to avoid the grasp by your opponent “this only can be said by that who had fought, a real master of fighting…
Currently this system is being disseminated by Maestro Eduardo Festorazzi and Maestro Jorge Prina, of the Argentinian Fencing Association, with extensive research and training, confirming that the legacy of Arturo Bonafont is still alive.