Forgotten heroes of WMA #3: Captain Alfred Hutton
The modern origins of the HEMA/historical fencing movement are usually traced back to the late '70s and into the '80s, but a small group of London gentlemen were reviving Elizabethan fencing styles as early as the 1880s.
One of the most prominent revivalists was Alfred Hutton (1839-1910) who began fencing at the age of twelve. Enlisting in the Army as a young man, Hutton was stationed in India where he wrote the first of many treatises on fencing. Invalided home to England in the 1870s, he devoted most of the rest of his life to the research of historical fencing styles and to the promotion of swordplay.
At that time, fencing had very little grassroots support in England. Unlike many parts of continental Europe, sword duels had been unfashionable in Hutton's homeland for many decades, and fencing was mostly practiced as a "gentlemanly accomplishment" by a limited number of wealthy aristocrats. Hutton set about reviving the popularity of fencing, presenting numerous colorful displays of historical swordsmanship as charity fund-raisers during the 1880s and '90s. He also became the first president of the Amateur Fencing Association, organizing competitions and seeding new clubs throughout the UK.
Hutton effectively called Bullshido on the military sabre fencing of his day, which was based on the stylized academic/dueling style of Italian swordsmanship. He promoted a simplified and more combat-oriented style, partly inspired by historical sources and including such "ungentlemanly" techniques as pommel hits, disarms, etc. However, his system was never adopted by the Army.
In 1900 Hutton became an instructor at E.W. Barton-Wright's Bartitsu Club, where he taught classes in both contemporary and historical fencing. He also studied jujitsu there, and later presented a seminar in jujitsu-based non-violent self defense for doctors who worked with emotionally disturbed patients.
By the time Hutton died in 1910, he had successfully revived the sport of fencing in England. Unfortunately, his developments of combat-oriented military fencing and his experiments in historical swordplay essentially died with him.
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