Lonin’s Victorian martial arts group
BWAHAHAHA meets on Tuesday and Thursday evenings at 7pm. The space is accessible at any time for warmups and individual practice; participants frequently show up a bit early.
Tuesdays: clubs, swords
The first part of the Tuesday evening practice (7:00 to approximately 7:30) consists of an intensive physical culture routine using light, medium, and heavy Indian clubs, gada, and medicine ball.
The second part of the practice is devoted to swordfighting. We work with blunt steel cutlass simulators as well as with plastic and steel backswords.
The cutlass is a single-edged broadsword wielded in both the thrust and the cut, but emphasizing the latter. It is an affordable and accessible way to learn skills needed for its bigger and more demanding cousin, the backsword.
The style we employ is inspired by Captain Alfred Hutton’s short treatise “Defence against an Uncivilized Enemy,” which advocated the use of George Silver‘s Elizabethan backsword techniques against adversaries who could not be expected to adhere to fencing salle etiquette during deadly combat in places like Afghanistan.
The Tuesday evening practice terminates at 9 p.m.
Thursdays: pugilism, canes, knives
The Thursday evening practice centers on traditional bare knuckle pugilism. Hitting other people, or being hit by them, is optional, especially for beginners. The formal session begins at 7 pm and runs to 8:30. It is preceded by an Indian club workout, similar to the Tuesday evening session, beginning at 6:30.
This style of fighting has been called “fencing with the fists” and its footwork and posture are similar, if not identical, to those used in the stick and sword styles practiced by our group. There is a strong emphasis on correct form, footwork, biomechanics, and core involvement.
Thursday is also the evening when we work with canes (using traditional walking sticks as weapons) and knives.
At 11:00 am on Sundays we frequently hold an additional practice similar to Thursday’s. Scheduling is currently intermittent, so contact us before making plans.
This group draws inspiration from Victorian physical culture and “antagonistics,” which is what martial arts were called in the English-speaking world until the term “martial arts” (a translation of Japanese bushido) came into use in the 1930s. Organizations such as the Kernoozers Club, the Bartitsu Club, and L’Ecole d’Escrime Français were hotspots for period interest in a range of physical culture regimens, self-defense techniques, and weapons styles.
The martial artists of the Victorian world were firmly rooted in older traditions, so even though we call this a 19th Century group it is really an 18th and 19th Century group with a taproot reaching back to 1599, the year that George Silver published BRIEF INSTRUCTIONS UPON MY PARADOXES OF DEFENCE.
A more in-depth explanation of the group’s background and philosophy
Uniform & Traditions
Gentlemen will be attired in a white shirt, dark trousers, and dark shoes.
Ladies may wear whatever they want to.
Participants address one another by title and last name, e.g. “Mr. Jones,” “Ms. Smith,” “Dr. Watson.” Some of these may be fictitious.
Each of the arts tends to have its own etiquette around saluting, etc. which we strive to teach and observe.
It is customary, but not required, to take some small refreshment after practice.
Etiquette basics for modern people
Our group places a heavy emphasis on physical conditioning, using techniques popular in the Victorian and Edwardian eras. Far from being obsolete, these are enjoying a revival in today’s fitness clubs, and so we can say in all honesty that we were into them before they were cool.
Practices begin with a vigorous Indian club workout, starting with lighter clubs and easier exercises and advancing to heavier and harder, including the gada or heavy Indian mace. Indian clubs are an excellent way to build strength and flexibility without suffering the boredom of repetitive motions on fitness club machinery.
- Olympic-style light clubs (1-2 lb.)
- Medium clubs (2-4 lb.)
- Heavy clubs (5-20 lb.)
- Gada (10-30 lb and up)
Another “oldie but goodie” currently enjoying a revival. This simple object can be used to work out a number of muscle groups in a way that is fun and social.
Various styles of pushups, pullups, squats, etc.
“Antagonistics” in our usage means unarmed martial arts. We explore three of them, all of which were popular in London and Paris at the turn of the 20th Century:
We practice old-school, bare-knuckle pugilism. This is a completely different style from modern boxing.
This Japanese martial art enjoyed a huge vogue in London around the turn of the Twentieth Century, thanks largely to the proselytizing efforts of E.W. Barton-Wright. Since it can be taught better by others, and since it really requires a mat (which we don’t have) we make no pretense of studying it seriously. Seattle has several excellent schools that can teach this material better than we can; our favorite is the Seattle Jujutsu and SAMBO Club.
This is a term for the art and science of weapons. Our Victorian forebears favored several:
Proper ladies and gentlemen did not as a rule venture out of doors without carrying a walking stick, a cane, or an umbrella. Various nationalities developed schools of self-defense around these common objects. The best-known of these was La Canne, promulgated by Pierre Vigny. Today La Canne can be taught in various forms, some more recreational, others more practical. We favor the more practical style.
A larger, heavier walking stick generally used with two hands. As explained by Dr. Ken Mondschein in The Art of the Two-Handed Sword, the older martial art of the giant sword called the spadone or montante evolved over time into the 19th Century techniques of the grand bâton, and so by practicing this weapon we are preserving a link to the fighting arts of the middle ages. We work from a translation of a late 19th Century French military fencing manual, graciously provided by Dr. Mondschein, but the art has obvious links to jogo do pau and to southern Italian staff fighting.
A wooden implement used as a training stand-in for heavy one-handed weapons such as the cavalry saber.
A short, curved, single-edged sword with a basket hilt.
This isn’t technically a weapon of the Victorian age but it has much in common with heavy single-edged broadswords such as cavalry sabers. Its relevance to our group comes via Captain Alfred Hutton, who in the 1890s revived George Silver’s Elizabethan school of backsword fencing.
For years we have been hosting occasional seminars on bullwhip cracking.
Some members of the group enjoy related activities such as period cosplay, re-enactment of formal events such as Dining In, historical firearms practice, attendance at local steampunk events, and public demonstrations at conventions, etc. These are completely optional.