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  1. DdlR is offline
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    Posted On:
    7/13/2009 2:15am

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    "A Grand Assault-at-Arms"



    During the 19th century, the "assault-at-arms" was a popular attraction in many countries. These events combined competition and/or displays in a range of martial skills including boxing, different styles of wrestling, fencing, bayonet and quarterstaff fighting, etc. with crowd-pleasing demonstrations of skill at gymnastics, weight lifting, Indian club swinging, trick sword cuts and similar feats.

    Here's a review of a typical assault-at-arms put on by members of the Inns of Court School of Arms in 1886. Note that the Inns of Court was actually the top legal training academy in England and that most of the fighters and athletes who performed at this event were lawyers, law students and judges.

    See also http://ejmas.com/jmanly/articles/200...wolf2_0801.htm for a look at the history and variety of the assault-at-arms tradition in England.

    I.C.R.V. ASSAULT-AT-ARMS.

    On Saturday, May 5, at three o'clock, a large but good- humoured and well-dressed crowd, fortified, it is to be hoped, by a substantial lunch, assembled round the lists, in the I.C.R.V. School of Arms, in Lincoln's-Inn, to exhibit their powers of endurance, in sitting out (as, in the event, they did) a very interesting programme, which lasted, with one interval, from three o'clock till six. This was the fourth assault-at-arms given by the school, and the whole of the entertainment was provided by its members. A display, including a first-rate exhibition of sword feats and gymnastics was given by a company of gentlemen of the long robe, barristers and students, a* large proportion of whom are in actual practice, and the rest of whom are no doubt making vigorous efforts to place themselves in the same category.

    As to the utility of the school, there is probably no better remedy for the shyness that may paralyse a young man's efforts over his early briefs than the discipline of battle, which will strengthen his fibre, as he stands foil or stick in hand, before some ready master of fence and strives to find an opening for his point, while he is making an opening at the bar. The nice conduct of a small sword is no bad preparation for success, in the fence of tongue, at the bar; and apart from this, fencing, like whist, stands by a man in old age, and its attainment in youth by a town-dweller, will do much to secure him a happy physical old age.

    It would be fastidious for us to give a technical account of the exhibition, for, of course, the events in the programme were displays and not competitions, and it would be invidious to compare the merits of various performers, where each of whom did his best rather to interest the spectators than to conquer an opponent; the only thing, under such circumstances, that can be pronounced upon, is form, and that was thoughout excellent.

    The performance commenced with an "excellent display on the parallel bars by Messrs. Jenkin, A. Glen, W. J. Lee, and Mr. T. Gray, Instructor to the School. This was followed by an animated set-to with sticks, between Messrs. J. Reade and C. Phillipps-Wolley; after which, a squad of the I. C. R. V. went through the bayonet-exercise. Boxing, sternest of the arts, was the next attraction, and Mr. R. G. Allanson Winn and Prof. G. Roberts, Instructor to the S. A., made a fine scientific display : after which, an admirable bout of fencing between Messrs. H. G. Willink and H. A. C. Dunn gave a satisfactory idea of the excellence, in this difficult mystery, of the members of the School. Both fenced in correct form, and with evident intelligence. Now came a great feature: Mr. Hugh Pollock's sword feats.

    As a rule, at an assault-at-arms, the sword feats have to be left out, or rare professional talent has to be imported. Mr. Pollock's performance included cutting the feather, which we do not remember ever seeing attempted by anyone, in the face of the people, but in which the swordsman was successful at his first attempt; and the very unusual variation of cutting lead, with the left as well as the right—a feat which Richard the lion-hearted might have shrunk from attempting; and the cut through the threaded potato, which would very likely have taken up a great deal of Saladin's valuable time in the learning. Interesting boxing ensued, between Mr. F. E. Speed and Corporal Major Storror, Instructor to the S. A. The play at Quarter Staff, between Messrs. P. Payne and J. Reade, was very popular, and evoked something of the unforced merriment to be met with among the juvenile element at a Punch and Judy show, when the Hero of that great drama goes into action with one of his numerous antagonists.

    The remaining numbers of this part of the programme consisted of Bayonet v. Bayonet, between Messrs. W. Brinton and Allanson Winn, and the lance exercise, by Messrs. H. Pollock, Reade, T. F. Hobson and R. F. Norton. After an interval, during which a general melee took place among the gentlemen in order to obtain tea and coffee for the ladies, the horizontal bar was placed in position; the same gymnastic team as before delighted the audience with a first-class display; then came some capital boxing between Mr. R. C. Lehtnann and Professor G. Roberts. A graceful display of Indian clubs was then given by a team consisting of Messrs. Brinton, Reade, Lee, and A. Cane, under the leadership of Mr. Jenkin, at the conclusion of which Mr. Jenkin gave a still more intricate exhibition of clubs, which was much admired. Next the audience welcomed Mr. F. Pollock and Instructor Blackburn, in a battle with the foils ; Mr. F. Pollock, bearing himself with great spirit against the master who was opposed to him. This was a fine display. Upon this followed a rattling encounter with sticks between Messrs. R. H. Simonds and Payne.

    The spectators were next entertained with three good substantial rounds of boxing, between Mr. Wolley and Corporal- Major Storror, and then the vaulting horse, with a terrifying game of leap-frog in mid-air, on the high horse, by the same gymnastic team, with the addition of Mr. H. Brush- field. The other items of the programme, consisting in a sword v. bayonet tussle between Messrs. Simonds and Biinton, and the cavalry sword exercise, which was brilliantly performed by a team composed of Messrs. H. Pollock, Reade, Hobson, and Brushfield. Captain G. Drinkwater was master of the lists.

    As to the general interest of the show, we will only say this: that we have never had a better ten-shillings-worth for a shilling before, and do not expect to again—until next year.
  2. jeff5 is offline

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    Posted On:
    7/13/2009 9:26am


     Style: KunTao & Kettlebells

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    Cool stuff. Is the guy at the very bottom right lifting a kettlebell? Or a sandbag or something maybe? Looks like he's doing a one arm press, but it's kind of hard to tell.
  3. Chili Pepper is online now
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    Posted On:
    7/13/2009 9:37am


     Style: Siling Labuyo Arnis

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    and the cut through the threaded potato, which would very likely have taken up a great deal of Saladin's valuable time in the learning.
    Just what the heck would that be? I'm envisioning the swordsman cutting through a raw potato suspended on a string.
  4. DdlR is offline
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    Posted On:
    7/13/2009 9:46am

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    Quote Originally Posted by jeff5 View Post
    Cool stuff. Is the guy at the very bottom right lifting a kettlebell? Or a sandbag or something maybe? Looks like he's doing a one arm press, but it's kind of hard to tell.
    Not a kettlebell, although they were used during this period. He's actually lifting a very large Indian club - you can just see a row of them lined up behind him. Indian clubs were introduced into English (and then international) physical culture training during the mid-1800s, via English soldiers who had served in India and elsewhere in Asia.
  5. DdlR is offline
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    Posted On:
    7/13/2009 9:57am

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    Quote Originally Posted by Chili Pepper View Post
    Just what the heck would that be? I'm envisioning the swordsman cutting through a raw potato suspended on a string.
    If so, the idea was probably to cut through the potato without cutting the string. "Sword feats" were typically showboat demos. of cutting accuracy; same sort of thing you sometimes see in MA demos today. One popular "feat" involved cutting an apple wrapped in a lady's handkerchief without damaging the handkerchief, and another involved halving a broomstick suspended by two strips of paper without tearing the paper.

    BTW, the top left illustration above shows another sword feat; the saber fencer is cutting a sheep's carcass in half.
  6. D.J. THE B.A. is offline

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    Posted On:
    7/15/2009 11:27pm

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    hmm very interesting!
  7. jeff5 is offline

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    Posted On:
    7/16/2009 8:39am


     Style: KunTao & Kettlebells

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    Quote Originally Posted by DdlR View Post
    Not a kettlebell, although they were used during this period. He's actually lifting a very large Indian club - you can just see a row of them lined up behind him. Indian clubs were introduced into English (and then international) physical culture training during the mid-1800s, via English soldiers who had served in India and elsewhere in Asia.
    Ah very cool. I've been working out with KB's alot lately, but Indian Clubs are something I want to try out as well.
  8. futabachan is offline

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    Posted On:
    7/16/2009 8:43am


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    "Popular attraction?" "Crowd-pleasing demonstration?" This sounds exactly like Gekiken Kogyo, and it sounds like it was contemporary with it, too. Less aliveness, though, if "the events in the programme were displays and not competitions."
  9. DdlR is offline
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    Posted On:
    7/16/2009 10:29am

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    Quote Originally Posted by futabachan View Post
    "Popular attraction?" "Crowd-pleasing demonstration?" This sounds exactly like Gekiken Kogyo, and it sounds like it was contemporary with it, too. Less aliveness, though, if "the events in the programme were displays and not competitions."
    This particular assault-at-arms involved display bouts, but many others were actual tournaments. The biggest assault-at-arms in England was the Royal Tournament, which lasted up to three weeks and involved thousands of competitors; see http://ejmas.com/jmanly/articles/200...wolf2_0801.htm .
  10. A.M. is offline

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    Posted On:
    7/17/2009 3:24pm


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    It sounds like it was a continuation of Elizabethan Prize Playing.
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