Saturday, September 27, 2014

The Victorian Fencing Outfit

The true fencing outfit, including mask, fencing jacket and glove came in to common use during the mid-nineteenth century, and was not regulated until after the inaugural Olympics of 1896, where international competitions began to demand uniformity in both costume and rules (rules continued to be disputed among the fencing countries, instigating the formation of the FIE, the International Fencing Federation, in 1913). Throughout the century various colors and styles were allowed, particularly for the women who at that time did not participate in competitions. The outfit changed along with the fashions of the times as well.

Paraphernalia of Fencing from 1911 Encyclopedia of Sport and Games
At the beginning of the 19th century there was not much of a fencing uniform. Even the mask, conceived by the fencing master La Boessiere in 1780, was not commonly worn, still considered ungentlemanly and showing a lack of skill. Certain customs were adopted to protect the face, such as the point of the foil being kept low and withholding the riposte after a parry until the opponent had time to recover. Images from manuals probably accurately portrayed the outfits worn, everyday clothes and a cravat or “gros mouchoir” to protect the neck.

Watercolor of Henry Angelo's Fencing Academy, by Rowlandson, 1787
from the 1829 London Encyclopedia
The early masks were solid metal with openings for the eyes and tied around the head.

Early fencing Equipment from the Diderot Encyclopedia
By 1822 the fencing outfit has become a bit more standardized. The artists George and Robert Cruickshank depict a fencing match at the rooms in St. James Street. The fencers wear a wire mesh mask that covers the face and short high collared white jackets that button up on the side. The masks do not have any bib. The fencers wear slippers or sandals on their feet. Some of the jackets in the background have color to them. It is difficult to tell if they wear gloves, but DeBast in 1836 recommends a padded glove that also protects the wrist but does not restrict it, and that the inside of the glove must very flexible.

Cruikshank's picture of fencing on St. James Street in 1822
In Maclaren’s System of Fencing published in 1864 he recommends that
“All exposed parts of the body be thoroughly protected. The head and the face by a strong, hand-wrought wire mask. The neck and the breast by a stout leather jacket reaching from the chin to a few inches below the waist, with a well-fitting collar buttoning (behind) around the neck. The lower part of the body by a leather flap or apron, either attached to the jacket or buckled round the waist. The right hand by a soft and pliable leather glove or gauntlet, well padded on the back.”
 The apron is not seen very often, probably used more often with sabre or broadsword. 
Keep in mind most of the outfit was probably custom made. Sporting equipment sellers of the later 19th century show masks, foils and gloves for sale, as well as a plastrons.

The jacket, often of canvas or some stiff material, would button on the side opposite the sword arm and was trim and waist-length. Jackets might be of leather for the practice or singlestick or sabre. Pictures of fencers often display a wide belt to denote the limit of the target area.

From an article in Frank Leslies Monthly called "Fencers and the Art of Fencing" 1893
The Fencing Mask

The fencing mask evolved from a solid piece of iron covering the face to a mesh of strong wire. Ear protectors were later added, as well as a simple bib. By the late 19th century a full bib completed the mask.

From H. A. Colmore Dunn’s book Fencing from 1889
“This should be made of good stout wire, and should always be carefully inspected before use, to see that none of the links are loose or failing, as the point of a foil has been known to find its way through the space occupied by a single link. See that the flaps are large enough to cover the ears properly, and also that the top bar across the front of the mask does not interfere with the sight.”


The Fencing Jacket
These were generally made of a stout canvas or leather, or a combination of the two. It would button up on the side of the jacket away from the sword arm (hence right and left handed jackets would be different).
Dunn recommends that
“It is best to have the jacket made of a material which, without being too heavy, is sufficiently stiff to offer some resistance in the event of a foil breaking. Some kind of canvas seems to combine these advantages as well as anything, and, for the purposes of foil-play, is to be preferred to leather, which does better to deaden the force of a cut in stick-play than to keep out a sharp point. Take particular care that the jacket is made high in the collar, so as to protect the throat by leaving no space uncovered between it and the mask. The neglect of this precaution may lead to serious accidents, and also tends to spoil the attitude, as, if the bare throat is exposed to attack, the head is involuntarily thrust forward to protect the gap, and the result is that a cramped position is acquired, which is exceedingly difficult to cure."

George Chapman”s Foil Practice published in 1861 adds that the fencing-master should also wear a well-padded plastron or leather cuirass [chest protector], upon which the pupil during his lesson directs his foil.

The Fencing Master by Julius Gari Melchers C. 1900 wearing a plastron with a heart
The required white uniform of today was by no means a rule in the nineteenth century. White was common, because it was easiest for the judges to see hits with the point of the foil, but there are many examples of various colored jackets. Black was not the sole property of the fencing master, and there did not seem to be any conventions concerning this. Black uniforms were used in epee contests when the chalk marks were used as a scoring device.
The black uniform went in and out of favor as this attempt at scoring was debated. Breck’s article in the Outing Magazine of 1895 congratulates an improvement in the AFLA rules that eliminates the use of chalk as a marker for scoring.
“The new laws are a vast improvement over those of last year. In the first place, the use of chalked foil-points has been abolished. To enable the four judges to see touches more easily, white jackets are required to be worn instead of the hitherto customary suits of solemn black.”

Breck still laments some of the rules and the uniform requirements that were unique to America. In the United States the target area was limited to the upper inside quarter of the jacket. Often jackets would have a line or extra patch of material to designate the target.
“It is a matter for regret that the median line rule has been retained. In France and Italy a touch counts, as it obviously should, on either side of the body. The collegians compromised by counting all touches on the right of a line drawn down the middle of the left breast, which is certainly better than the A. F. L. A. rule, the object of which is presumably to encourage accuracy. Some such provision was necessary ten years ago, but fencing in America is no longer in its swaddling clothes. There are many fencers in Paris who make a practice of placing their points on their opponents' left sides.”

Note V. Z. Post's split color jacket denoting the foil target area

Finally, in 1892 Rondelle’s Foil and Sabre: A Grammar of Fencing merely indicates that “The two costumes should be of the same color and of a strong material to avoid accidents.”

The heart on the breast of the fencing jacket was an affectation occasionally used, sometimes by the instructor, less frequently on the fencer, though Thomas Stephens mentions it in his New System of Broad and Small Sword Exercise from 1843. “An easy dress should be worn, and it is usual, in academies, to have a spot or heart on the left side of the breast of the waistcoat.”

Fencing Pants & Knickers

Trousers or pantaloons were worn by men, the color of jacket and pants generally being white or black, though this was not a rule. Pants worn followed the fashion of the time. Knee Breeches or knickers were commonly worn by men in the 18th century. Full length trousers came in to fashion in the early 19th century as part of everyday wardrobe for men, and this is often part of the fencing costume of the period Knee breeches remained associated with sporting activities such as horseback riding, golf and fencing.

Egerton Castle wearing black fencing knee breeches or knickers

Though not commonly seen, Castellote’s Handbook of Fencing in 1882 adds:
“That a leather thigh-pad is also a necessary precaution, especially when your opponent’s play is unknown to you, and you have to run the risk of its being violent or irregular.”
Many period images show a wide belt being worn. According to the Squires 1890 Catalogue of Sportsman Supplies out of New York, the fencing belt was made of red leather, three inches wide, fancy-stitched, and kid-lined. The catalogue also notes that the belt “gives strength and staying power”.
The fencing rules of the amateur Athletic Union of the United States published in the Spalding Athletic Guide of 1891 that in foil contests a fencing belt not exceeding four inches in width should be worn. The belt delineates the lower part of the target area in many rules.

Example of the Fencing Belt - Painting by Tancrede Bastet 1890

Fencing Gloves
Gloves did not seem to be used until fencing became more of a sport or exercise. A glove with a gauntlet would be worn on the hand handling the foil. There are pictures of two types. One appears to be more of a training glove, thickly padded with a leather gauntlet. The other was usually of a softer leather that enabled better manipulation for the fingers. Dunn explains the necessity of the touch of the fingers in fencing

“The selection of a glove is by no means a matter of indifference, and it is difficult to get a good one in this country. It should be just sufliciently padded to save the hand, but subject to that it should be light and flexible, so as to interfere as little as possible with the play of wrist and fingers. Most English-made gloves are exceedingly faulty in this respect, being cumbrous and shapeless, with no distinction in the length of the fingers. The padding should be properly distributed, so as to protect the parts most exposed, and particularly the tip of the thumb, which otherwise is apt to be jarred, the grasp of the foil being thereby impaired. The fingers of the glove should be well-shaped, following the configuration of the hand, so as to allow easy and independent movement. To secure ample space for the wrist, it is well to have a certain fullness at the point where the hand joins the gauntlet. To this end it is better, as in the illustration, not to cut the gauntlet straight, but to scollop a piece out of it, to be filled by the softer material of the glove, so as to give scope for the bend of the wrist. The palm should be roomy, so as to avoid cramping the thumb. If the hand is boxed up tightly in a stiff case, there is no chance of fencing neatly and lightly, as you must be sensitive to the slightest variations in the amount of pressure offered by your opponent to your blade, if you are to detect and anticipate any change in his tactics to which this pressure may be the prelude. This power of judging by the touch, which may be compared to the faculty of “hands” in horsemanship, is one of the most valuable qualities in fencing; but there is this point in the analogy in favour of the latter—that in fencing, this quality, called by the French masters “le sentiment du fer,” can, in a measure, be acquired by practice, whilst -in the case of the former it appears to be more in the nature of a fairy gift.”

Leather Fencing Glove
Padded Fencing Glove
Fencing Gauntlet

Fencing Shoes
One of the more curious parts of the outfit was the fencing shoe. An inquiry on this subject to Malcolm Fare of the National Fencing Museum in London revealed the unique nature and evolution of this apparel. He reports that:

“These days the thought of wearing a fencing shoe with a flap at the end does seem very strange, yet they were used for some 250 years. The open-toed fencing sandal for the leading foot was first depicted by De La Touche in Les vrays principes de l’espée seule, 1670. Believed to provide greater freedom of movement than an enclosed shoe, it had a sole projecting 2-3 inches beyond the toes. By the 18th century both sandals and shoes were available with a projecting flap, which was used to make a resonant sound, the appel*, during the salute.De Bast's Manuel D’Escrime, 1836, described fencing sandals as a kind of slipper, the right one being open at the end so as to give the toes freedom of movement, with the sole, which had an added layer of felt, extending some way.George Chapman in The Art of Fencing, 1864, says “The shoes should be of leather for the ‘uppers’ and of stout buff for the soles. The sole of the right shoe is frequently made with a padded flap to protect the toes from inconvenience in the fall of the foot; this addition to the shoe is not, however, of necessity.” 
 *According to Viguier’s Vocabulaire D’Escrime, 1910, appels were also used in a lesson to ensure that a pupil had good balance. During a bout they served to accentuate feints and false attacks as well as distracting the opponent. They were used to intimidate and undermine, making it possible to gain distance and execute compound hits.
 That was the theory. In practice, the flap gradually shortened during the 19th century so that by the turn of the 20th century it barely projected more than a quarter of an inch, yet was recognisably different from the shoe worn on the other foot.”

Castellote added in 1882 that if practicing outdoors you should wear light shoes with spikes, but on boarded floors the shoes should be made of soft leather for the top part and a stout buff for the soles.

The Consolidate Library Volume of 1907 adds that “Ordinary, rubber-soled tennis shoes are often worn by amateur fencers, but the regulation French fencing shoes, which have broad, leather soles are the best. The principal requirement is that the shoes shall not slip.” 

Women’s Fencing Outfit

"L'escrimeuse" by French Impressionist painter Jean Beraud

Women’s fencing outfits were not as strictly regulated since they practiced solely for exercise, not having formal competitions until 1912.

In a 1902 article in Lady’s Realm magazine the women’s outfit at the London Ladies Fencing Club is described.
“The club uniform consists of a short silk lined black alpaca skirt with the regulation brass-buttoned white linen fencing coat. The skirts are cut somewhat after the fashion of the cycling skirt, and most of the members wear black or white shoes. The stockings are either of silk or wool: the silken hose is distinctly to be recommended for daintiness and finish. A white glove with a black or scarlet gauntlet is drawn over the right hand.One very skilful and graceful woman fencer deprecates—as does Lady Colin Campbell—the wearing of a skirt. She is assured by long practice that full knickerbockers of black satin or vicuna allow unfettered and more graceful play for the limbs.”

From the Badminton Magazine article "the Art of Modern Fencing" 1907

Manriques Foil Fencing Manual of 1920 gives the additional advice that
“from a medical standpoint, it is best to protect the chest by wrapping strips of cloth across it and under the arms to form a bandage to guard against any possible bruise from being struck there with the foil button; about three yards of cheese cloth or similar material crossed and recrossed until a firm solid bandage is made as suggested.”

Fashion influenced the New York upper class ladies who fenced. They would dress in lavish elegant outfits of silk blouses designed by select tailors to cause interest among the society newspapers, who might publish sketches of the outfits. The colors and styles would be of a wide variety.

An article from Harper’s Bazaar in 1900 informs us that “Much latitude is observed in the costumes of the women who fence. While the majority wear padded linen jackets, many wear shirt-waists of any color or material to suit their taste. “Fussy” waists, however, are tabooed, and any sensible woman will recognize at once the objection – the trial to the spirit of the fencing teacher, who must be continually dodging about with his foil to avoid catching it in flowing lace or ruffles or bows.”

Examples of more fanciful ladies outfits, paintings by Joseph Arnad Koppay 

The Fencing Sword, or Foil

The fencing Foil, was made of steel, four sided and tapering to a point that was flattened out in to a small round disc called the button. The button was “usually covered with parchment or some other material to prevents damage to the opponent’s jacket and ribs” according to the instructions of Every Boy’s Book of Sport and Pastime edited by Professor Hoffman in 1897

From "Fencing" by Breck in 1915

Dunn describes the blade, as quadrangular, and about thirty-three or thirty-four inches long,
“The remaining part of the foil, tapering down from the hilt to the end, which is clenched by the “pummel,” made of steel or the like, is covered by a wooden frame called the “grip.” It is of the utmost importance that the grip should be of a good shape, following the formation of the hand when rightly placed. A straight grip, such as is occasionally met with, does not afford nearly such a comfortable, firm hold as one that is fairly arched, and fits in naturally with the curve of the thumb. It should also be of a good length, say five inches, so as to allow ample space for the hand, as, if too short, it is sure to contract and tire the muscles. Another advantage of a long grip is that, on occasion, it enables you, by slightly shifting the hand down towards the pummel, to deceive your opponent in his calculation of the extent of your reach. A fair sized pummel, say an inch and a half to two inches long, serves to balance the foil and make it come up well in the hand.”

Chapman in 1861 says
“The best foil blades are manufactured at Solingen, and those numbered 5 are mostly made use of. Open guards of iron, slightly bent upwards, or towards the point, for the better protection of the thumb, are generally used in fencing, and are more convenient than close ones. Twisted twine is the best covering for the handles, which are made of different sizes, slightly curved and more or less squared or flattened. The handle should in no case be rounded, nor should it be too much tapered towards the pummel; it should be of nearly uniform size throughout. Lastly, the pummel should not be over large, and only sufficiently weighty to balance the blade when placed on the forefinger, between two and three inches from the guard."

Both Chapman and Castellote tell us that a piece of gutta percha tied neatly over the blunted end or button of the foil will answer to prevent accidents in lunging. A hard and durable rubber or latex, gutta-percha was also used to make jewelry, grips for pistols, furniture and golf balls until other cheaper materials became easily available.

And the Consolidated Library of 1907 says that in selecting foils
choose a pair that seem to be of the right weight for your strength; it will be best for the beginner to learn with very light weapons. See that each balances, when held with the blade supported by the finger an inch from the hilt. If not provided with good-sized metal buttons, the point of the foil should be wound with good, strong, waxed cord, so as to form a button nearly half an inch in diameter; this is a desirable precaution even when metal buttons are provided. The handle should be curved, and bound with twine.”

Parts of the Foil from the 

Manuel pour l'étude des règles de l'Escrime au Fleuret et à l'Espadon published in 1860

Some fencing catalogues: Henry C. Squires from 1890 and John Piggott, Ltd. from 1905

Finally, here are some examples of fencing outfits from the1899 publication Escrimeurs Contemporains by Henry de Gourdourville. The book features photographs and information on contemporary fencers.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Singlestick Part 2 – Saber, Roosevelt and Canes

A Substitute for the Light Fencing Sabre
By the late 19th Century singlestick in England was used more as a substitute for saber training. Alfred Hutton, in an entry on singlestick in the 1911 Encyclopedia of Sport and Games, talks about the disappearing practice of singlestick.
“This weapon, as we know it nowadays, is nothing more than a somewhat poor substitute for the light fencing sabre, and there are some among us who are inclined to clamour for its entire abolition; they are not, however, likely to be gratified, as its very cheapness serves as its recommendation to members of many minor schools of arms. Singlestick, or cudgel-play, is, moreover, an honest, manly old English sport, which should rather be encouraged than allowed to sink in to oblivion.”
 First published in 1890, Broad-Sword and Single-Stick by R.G. Allanson-Winn and C. Phillipps-Wolley covered a variety of methods for self-defense. Phillipps-Wolley contributed to the section on singlestick. He encourages the idea that “single-stick is to the sabre what the foil is to the rapier” and considers singlestick to combine styles of both foil and sabre because “the player is taught to use the point whenever he can do so most effectively; but he is also reminded that his sword has an edge, which may on occasion do him good service…It seems to me, then, that single-stick is the most thoroughly practical form of sword-play for use in those ‘tight places’ where men care nothing for rules.”

from Broadsword and Singlestick – Cut and Guard

Phillipps-Wolley also asserts that singlestick is an Englishman’s sport.
 “What the ordinary Englishman wants is…a game in which he may exercise those muscles with which good mother Nature meant him to earn his living, but which custom has condemned to rust, while the brain wears out; a game in which he may hurt someone else, is extremely likely to be hurt himself, and is certain to earn an appetite for dinner…I accept the charge of brutality, merely remarking that it was the national love of hard knocks which made this little island famous, and I for one do not want to be thought any better than the old folk of England’s fighting days.”
He quotes the English/Australian poet Lindsay Gordon:
“No game was ever yet worth a rap,For a rational man to play,Into which no accident, no mishap,Could possibly find its way.”
While brutal, he does emphasize that you are using the weapons of a gentleman and should show courtesy to a “foeman worthy of your steel”.

The Equipment for Singlestick
Phillips-Wolley describes the outfit worn for singlestick players. The helmet is constructed more solidly than that used for foil play, the mesh being wider than that of a fencing mask. The best will have a top of buffalo hide completely covering the head with padded ear pieces.
The jacket is made like a pea jacket, of stout leather with two sleeves.
A leather apron is also worn from the waist to the knee covering both thighs.
He notes that some men wear a cricket pad on the right leg, but he feels this can slow down a person.
The sticks should be ash-plants, about 40 inches in length and as thick as a man’s thumb, without knots and unpeeled. He suggests that you soak them in a trough of water when not being used to keep them supple and from breaking.
The hilt is of wicker or of buffalo hide.
He also recommends a stout elastic ring around the wrist or a good long gauntlet. He prefers the elastic ring as it interferes less with the freedom of the hand and more effectively protects the wrist.

from Broadsword and Singlestick: the Singlestick Outfit
Method of Play
Two guards are used, the hanging guard and the upright guard. He also suggests keeping the left hand through the belt at the back of the waist. The upright guard, or high tierce, has “the right elbow close in to the side, the forearm at right angles to the body, wrist bent, so as to turn the knuckles outward, and the stick pointing upwards.”
In the hanging guard the “point of the stick should be inclined slightly downwards, the knuckles turned upwards, the forearm should be kept slightly bent, the hilt a little outside the right knee, the point of the stick a little low and in the direction of the left front.
The four principal hits according to Phillipps-Wolley are cuts at the left and right cheek, left and right ribs. Cuts 5 & 6 are repetitions of 3 and 4 at a lower level. In addition to the cuts there is the point. Cuts should be executed on the lunge, keeping out of range unless you lunge.
He concludes on the courtesy of sword-play. “Don’t make any remarks either in a competition (this, of course, worst of all) or in an ordinary bout. Don’t argue, except with the sticks. Remember that the beau-ideal swordsman is one who fights hard, with “silent lips and striking hand.””

Bouts are played in a fourteen foot ring. Phillipps-Wolley says that at the Military tournaments the matches are played for the best of three hits. At the German Gymnasium it is the competitor who first scores five hits. Sticks are chalked to ensure a mark on the jacket for each hit, although he cautions athat a pliant stick can whip over and leave a mark that should not be scored. Judges should watch out for this.
The competitors enter the ring and face each other in the hanging guard. The sticks must be fairly crossed and the judge gives the command to begin.

from Broadsword and Singlestick: the Hanging Guard
Hutton and Singlestick
Alfred Hutton in the Cavalry Swordsman from 1867 suggests that the swordsman first learn foil then advance his training with the singlestick.
"We will now suppose that we have taught our pupil all we can, according to our lights, of the use of the foil; so we must advance a step further in the training which is to make him a "sabreur." We place in his hand the singlestick; this weapon represents the sword fairly in most points, excepting in weight and shape. Its cuts, guards, points and feints are precisely the same, and the stick, being a light weapon, is not likely to tire or disgust a beginner, and is from its lightness well adapted to the pupil who has but just passed through his course of fencing-drill. When our pupil has received sufficient lessons and independent practice with the stick, we ought to arm him with the practice-sword; this weapon he should then be encouraged to use as much as possible; fortunately men who are really fond if the fencing-room require but little encouragement to keep to this weapon, for I have generally noticed, that after once or twice playing with it, they never seem to care for the singlestick again."

Hutton describes the cuts as “six in number—two diagonally downwards at the head or shoulders, two diagonally upwards at the legs, and two horizontals at the belly and ribs; but in all well-regulated schools of arms the blow at the inside of the leg is strictly forbidden, on account of its serious consequences; the thrusts are usually delivered with the hand in "pronation."

Captain Alfred Hutton, one of the premiere fencers and historians of fencing in the Victorian Age, wrote about other stick fighting methods in his treatise on Saber called Cold Steel that included articles on the Great Stick and Officer’s Truncheon. The Great Stick is distinguished from the singlestick because it is wielded with two hands instead of one. It is analogous to the English quarter-staff, though he prefers the Italian style that resembles the methods used for the two-handed sword as taught by Achille Marozzo in 1536.

Hutton demonstrating the Great Stick
Singlestick from the Badminton Library
The 1890 Badminton Library volume on fencing by Pollock, Grove and Prevost also has a short chapter on singlestick. They disagree that the singlestick should be a practice weapon for the saber.
“There is, however, a curious fallacy which must now be pointed out. It has been thought not unnaturally that the singlestick may be considered the foil of the sabre, just as the foil may be considered the small sword of practice, and it is very commonly believed that work with the stick enables a man to use the sabre; but unfortunately the analogy is far, very far, from perfect, for, though the fencer who has never handled the practice epee may at first find some difficulty when he exchanges the foil for it, this will be nothing like the difficulty experienced by the singlestick player who first uses a practice saber.”
They explain that the singlestick player cannot distinguish between blows with the flat and the edge of the blade, and that because of this his opponent would “carve him about as he pleased.” For they point out “Nothing more excites the derisive condemnation of a real French swordsman that blows with the flat of the blade by a combatant too clumsy to give the edge.”
Finally, they conclude “with a hint to fencers who may oppose epee to sabre, of foil to stick. And this hint is very brief. Take, if you know it well, the guard, recommended by Captain Hutton, draw, whenever you think you can parry and riposte, your adversary's dropping cut on the forearm ; and never forget that, to extend Captain Godfrey's dictum, it is more easy to make sure of a cut than it is of a thrust in the heat of an encounter. In other words, beware of failing to credit your adversary with this advantage over and above his individual skill.”

A Self Defense Manual
Lt. Col. Baron de Berenger’s 1835 book Helps and Hints How to Protect Life and Property was published in London and treats the stick as a weapon of self-defense. He considers the stick an excellent weapon in the hands of a good spadroon swordsman. He describes the spadroon as a cut and thrust straight sword, lighter than the Highland broadsword. “the mode of fencing with a spadroon is a combination of Highland broadsword practice with that of the small sword, so its application to the defence with the stick is particularly suitable.” He also recommends the stick for the inexperienced broad-swordsman, since the person does not have to rely on making sure the cutting edge makes contact. Berenger does recommend that the cut of a stick should be made similarly to that of a sword as if it had an edge, and suggests, like Phillipps-Wolley, that the stick be chalked with a narrow line in place of the edge of a sword.
"Nevertheless, the cut of a stick should be made similarly to that of a sword; that is, as if it had an edge, wherefore the line of cut or imaginary edge, should always be as if in continuation of the line of the middle joints of your fingers: by using your stick thus, you will hit rather harder, preserve your sword-play free from foul cuts, and you will also promote the action or suppleness of your wrist." 
And echoing Pollock’s criticism of singlestick, he says “but likewise the superiority of this stick practice over the more vulgar practice of single-stick play, and which latter decides in favor of him who gives the greatest number of " broken heads," although inflicted less skilfully, because with any part of the stick.”
Berenger recommends that the best sticks are oak, ash, and hazel saplings, blackthorns and sound ratans. He favors the blackthorn because the many knobs save the knuckles more than a smooth stick. He adds a leather thong to the stick so that it is better secured to the hand.

De Berenger Defense with a Stick
Naval Practice
Pollock says that there are currently several schools of singlestick, the English navy having a school of its own. The singlestick was a popular substitute for the naval cutlass in seaman drills.

Naval Cutlass Drill with Singlesticks
In the Ordnance Instructions of the United States Navy of 1860 article 265 states that the men, and especially the Baorders and Pikemen, should be exercised and encouraged to practice with the single stick and sword as far as circumstances will allow.

In the early career of Admiral David Farragut he served aboard the USS Essex in the War of 1812. He said of the crew
"Every day the crew were exercised at the great guns, small-arms, and single-stick. And I may here mention the fact that I found them to be the best swordsmen on board. They had been so thoroughly trained as boarders that every man was prepared for such an emergency, with his cutlass as sharp as a razor, a dirk made by the ship's armorer out of a file, and a pistol." 
This photo from 1898 depicts sword practice on the USS Maine. The caption reads:
SINGLE-STICK EXERCISE ON THE MAINE-One of the most unexpected happenings in modern naval warfare would be a hand to hand encounter. Battleships are not now captured by boarding as in days gone by, and it is not even found necessary to arm the up-to-date sailor with cutlasses and other small arms. Nevertheless, the healthy and skillful exercise to be gotten out of calisthenics of the above character are not only fostered by the authorities, but thoroughly enjoyed by the ships' crew.

And another picture from the royal Naval Exhibition shows the room of a Naval Lieutenant’s aboard ship complete with tennis-bats, cricket-bats, dumb-bells, boxing gloves, fencing foils and singlesticks.

Other Notes:

Singlestick was featured in public Assault at Arms at the Royal Military Tournament at Islington. Begun in the early 1880’s to display soldierly skill, the events included sword, lance, bayonet, foil and mounted and dismounted singlestick. Baily’s Monthly Magazine of Sports and Pastimes described the tournament in 1887 as “a formidable rival to Buffalo Bill’s exhibition at Earl’s Court.” It was complete with a popular display of cavalry skill called the “Musical Ride”.

In 1904 Albertson Van Zo Post, against two other American competitors (Van Zo Post is often incorrectly identified as Cuban), won the gold medal for singlestick at the Olympic Games held in St. Louis, MO. The style of singlestick, as we’ll discuss further in the article, was probably more akin to the French la canne than the english singlestick.

Dr. Watson notes that Sherlock Holmes is an expert singlestick player, boxer and swordsman in “A Study in Scarlet” their first adventure by Arthur Conan Doyle published in 1887.

One of the original 14 "Badges of Merit" for the Boy Scouts in 1910 was a Master-at-Arms badge that included singlestick, along with boxing, fencing, quarterstaff, ju jitsu and wrestling. It was discontinued in 1911.

And Some Rules for Singlestick Matches:

Spalding's Handbook of Sporting Rules and Training 1886 Stick Fencing
1. The stick shall be made of ash or hickory, five-eigths of an inch at the grip, and tapering at the end, 36 inches long
2. Blows only count on the mask and arms
3. A successful blow must be followed by a pause.
4. If both contestants are hit simultaneously, the count belongs to the competitor who is extended; if both are extended, neither count.
5. A disarm counts one point. If the stick is lost while making an attack and hitting the opponent, the count is not lost.
6. Neither of the competitors must, in any case, allow his hands to come in violent contact with his opponent's body.
7. If a competitor seize his opponent's stick with his hand (his own weapon being free), it shall count one point against him.
8. The number of points shall not be less than five nor more than ten, to be decided by the judges or referee, the competitor first making the full number of points to be declared the winner.

Bayonet-Fencing and Sword Practice by Alfred Hutton Rules for Independent Practice with Sabre or Stick 1882
1. No one to play, on any pretence whatever, without wearing a helmet.
2. Cuts and thrusts are not to be given too strongly: should men appear to be losing their temper, their play is to be stopped at once.
3. No two cuts or thrusts are to be made on the same lunge.
4. The opponents should not both strike at once; should this happen the cut or thrust given in the third position to be considered effective. But should both parties lunge, the hit to count to neither.
5. The act of crossing (and touching) the blades is a guarantee that both parties are ready. Any hit given before this is done, is not to be considered effective. The opponents should always engage out of distance.
6. A disarm to count as a hit to the party effecting it.
7. A hit is only considered effective when given with that part of the stick which represents the edge, or with the point.
8. In stick-play, no hit is to be made at the inside of the leg unless the players wear leg padding, a blow in that part being highly dangerous.
9. When playing with the practice-sword it is necessary to wear full padding, that is, helmet, double-jacket, gauntlet, body-pad, and leg-pad.
10. Players are strongly recommended to fence for a fixed number of hits, say 3,5, or 7, this increases the interest in play, and tends to make men more careful in their fencing.

Teddy Roosevelt & Singlesticks

Roosevelt in the White House

Roosevelt was an avid sportsman, practicing boxing, horseback riding and other athletics while in the White House. Several letters and newspaper articles have accounts of Roosevelt bruised and bloodied from practicing singlesticks in the White House.
One article headline read “Whacked the President with a Singlestick. General Wood raised a lump on Mr. Roosevelt’s forehead” New York Times December 30, 1902

And from the Pittsburgh Press Jan 24, 1903:
“Roosevelt’s Hand Healing Received Hard Thump from General Leonard Wood’s Single-Stick”
Washington, Jan 24 – President Roosevelt’s right wrist is slowly mending from the thump given it by General Leonard Wood’s singlestick. If nothing happens to aggravate the injury, Dr. Lung, who is the attending physician, believes it will get well without any operations. If the inflammation should grow worse, however, it will be necessary to lance through the flesh to the bone.
 “We had broken our lighter sticks,” said the President in describing the accident, “and General Wood called for some heavier ones. He got them, and I got this.”
The President is still able to use his right hand with due caution, shaking hands gingerly with a few of his daily visitors. He can also use his pen.

From the 1904 Reader Magazine is an article called The Human Side: An Estimate of Theodore Roosevelt by George Horton. The article talks about how Roosevelt overcame the infirmities of his youth.
"His love for outdoor sports and rude exercise is but a continuance of habits formed in boyhood. If he is sturdy enough now, he owes that fact to horseback riding, singlesticks, ranching, and bouts with the gloves."
It continues to describe his fencing exercise at the White House.
"A Frenchman, who has taught him fencing, tells me that the President is a poor though enthusiastic fencer. I will not say who it was that added, "His natural weapon is a club." He seemingly takes as much joy in receiving blows as in giving them. When he used to play at singlesticks with General Wood, the latter, remembering that his opponent was President, refrained from hitting him at first, but at last, warming up to the work, would crack him without mercy, for Wood is the President's superior in this exercise. As soon as the blows began to rain upon his body, Mr. Roosevelt would leap about, I am credibly informed, "fairly shrieking with delight...A good crack with a singlestick hurts, but it is probable that the President gets so much sheer physical joy out of a contest of this kind that he is unconscious of the pain."
The Frenchman in question is undoubtedly Maitre Francois Darrieult, who continued his career after instructing President Roosevelt as coach of the United States Olympic Team in 1920 and 1924, and coach at the Naval Academy as well as several schools. Maitre Darrieult was a graduate of the French military academy. It has been argued that Roosevelt probably studied French cane fencing rather than English singlestick, a common confusion in the nineteenth century, where singlestick was a term used for any use of the stick a s a weapon. We'll take a short look at French stick fighting in the next segment.

French Stick Fighting - La Canne de Combat

A well-conceived article by Maxime Chouinard (I Don’t Do Longsword – a Blog for HEMA misfits) called “Single-stick, or is it?” talks about the various forms singlestick took in this period. The blogger and martial artist makes a good case for the confusion of singlestick styles and methods, probably evolving out of two different styles – one based off the English backsword and saber, the other from the French la canne. As is pointed out, English and Americans tended to refer to any martial art using a stick as singlestick, from la canne to Japanese kendo. He also notes that many of the fencing masters in America were French, and they would have studied canne de combat rather than English singlestick. He asserts that this was likely the style of singlestick that Teddy Roosevelt fenced in the White House and that was fenced at the 1904 Olympics in St. Louis.

An article from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica describes Cane Fencing.
Cane Fencing (the Fr. canne) is the art of defending oneself with a walking stick. It may be considered single-stick fencing without a guard for the hand., with the important difference that in cane fencing the thrust is as important as the cut, and thus canne approaches nearer to sabre-play. The cuts are practically identical with those of the single-stick (q.v.), but they are generally given after one or more rapid preliminary flourishes (moulinets, circles) which the lightness of the stick facilitates, and which serve to perplex and disconcert an assailant. The thrusts are similar to those in foil-play, but are often carried out with both hands grasping the stick., giving greater force and enabling it to be used at very close quarters. The canes used in French fencing schools are made of several kinds of tough wood and are about 3 ft. long, tapering towards the point. As very severe blows are exchanged, masks, gloves, padded vests and shin-guards, similar to those used in football, are worn.

Two other methods of stick fighting taught by the French were the Grand Baton, which was a three quarter staff, and the Petite Baton, originally the belaying pins of a sailing ship.

During the eighteenth and nineteenth century la canne and the baton were usually coupled with the French martial art of savate. By the middle of the nineteenth century savate began to get a bad reputation, being associated with the street fighters in the seedy side of Paris. It regained some stature by 1871 as an exercise for soldiers at the fencing academy at the French Military School of Joinville le Pont. A treatise was published by the French Naval Minister in 1875 called the Manuel pour l'enseignement de la gymnastique et de l'escrime. The lessons are for the grand baton, but the chapter finishes by observing that the same lessons are applicable to la canne except that you would use only one hand, the left hand being free and placed behind the back, and switching hands to change the pace.

Baton from Manuel pour l’enseignement de la gymnastique et de l’escrime

Pierre Vigny, a French Master of Arms, adapted stick fighting to his method of self-defense for use with canes and umbrellas. He taught in England at the turn of the nineteenth century. A 1901 article in Sketch Magazine features him as part of Edward Barton-Wright's Bartitsu club in London, teaching stick and savate alongside Japanese champions in jujitsu. He later opened his own school and trained recruits at the Aldershot Military School.
Pierre Vigny

Singlestick of the Victorian Era took many forms and evolved from different sources and for different purposes. As a substitute for fencing swords or a weapon of self-defense, it remained part of the nineteenth century culture of fencing.