1. #1

    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Jiu-jitsu & HEMA

    Brining the skin in bare-knuckle boxing

    Just curious…I’ve heard a lot of references to this practice. Brining the hands, brining the face, brining & then moisturizing or brining on its own. I’ve read some descriptions of why such a practice might be helpful & many descriptions of who engaged in such practices historically.

    What I haven’t read is any description of a specific brining routine. Does anyone know of something like this; the exact mixture, the method & frequency of application, how long until there is a measurable effect, how long such effects last after treatment, etc?

    Were such details recorded historically or is this information that comes from modern reconstruction? Does anyone know of modern WMA practitioners who’ve tried historical methods & if so, what were their findings?

  2. #2
    DdlR's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2005

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Mar 2004
    Dayton, OH
    Here are some refs I posted in an earlier thread:

    Title: Claret and Cross-Buttock
    ISBN: 0049200488
    Published: 1976
    Author: Joe Robinson

    "Some said he was an argument against the Ring: that he
    should'nt be let loose against a fightin' sportsman. That he fought like
    wild beast. That he never knew when to lay off. He hated gloves. Why go to
    all the trouble to pickle your hands in Tom Sayer's brew of turps, whiskey
    vinegar, horse radish and saltpetre, if ye were goin' to cover them up? Ye
    were supposed to use your hands to hurt him, not protect him."

    Here's the Fitzsimmons:

    Some trainers use a sort of pickling solution
    with which they pickle the hands, face and neck, in order that a
    blow will not cut the skin so readily. If my man had a very ten-
    der skin I might use something to toughen and harden his face,
    but as a rule I donít think that pickling the face and neck does any
    good. [...]
    To the hands, however, too much attention
    cannot be paid, and I have found nothing better than corned beef
    brine. This does not smell very nice, it is true, and should be ap-
    plied three times a day after eating. I would never allow my man
    to apply it before eating, as it might affect his stomach, which
    would be bad. But, although the brine does not smell anywhere
    near as good as Florida water, it does the business, and that is all
    that is required. After the brine is applied and well rubbed in,
    the following liniment should also be rubbed in. It can be
    obtained at any first class drug store, and the ingredients are as
    follows ; Laudanum, three ounces ; spirits of hartshorn, four
    ounces ; alcohol. one quart ; iodine, two ounces ; eucalyptic,
    three ounces. These mixed up together with ten cents worth of
    horseradish and five cents worth of alum, make a liniment which
    cannot be equalled for strengthening and hardening the bone, and
    when applied and well rubbed in it has a tendency to make a man
    feel fresh and strong.

    Dempsey says:

    Put camphor ice on your skinned knuckles before you go to bed. In a few weeks your knuckles will become calloused, and you'll have no more trouble with them.

    There are some others such as one which required rotten apples and just a plain old "pickling brine" solution or tannic acid.

    "If at first they should get a little raw or rubbed, a few
    applications of weak tannic acid solution, or rosin, or good
    strong pickle out of the salt-pork barrel, will soon make the
    hands and knuckles tough."
    - Billy Edwards' "Art of Boxing and Manual of Training" from 1888

    Here's a thread on the [ClassicPugilism] list.

    Peace favor your sword,

  4. #4

    Join Date
    May 2005
    S„o Paulo, Brasil.
    Jeet Kune Do
    In the Australian Army we were advised to toughen our hands with rubbing alcohol before Parachute School (the reason being that we were expected to spend a lot of time pulling ourselves up on canvas straps).

    I used methylated spirits (because I'm a cheap ass and didn't want to pay extra for the medicinal stuff) and it worked like a charm. I never bothered to repeat the process for boxing but I haven't had that much trouble with it, either, even when doing extensive bareknuckle practice.

  5. #5

    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Jiu-jitsu & HEMA
    Thank you for the information gentlemen. In particular I appreciated the "3 times a day, after meals" quote & lklawson's first hand account of trying these brining methods. These were exactly the sort of details I had previously missed.


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