By Reg L Baker
Australian Reg L. (” Snowy” ) Baker was an outstanding all round sportsman. He achieved state and national titles in such athletic events as swimming, diving, running, polo, rowing, wrestling, and fencing (including bayonet)”.
He was the Australian middleweight boxing champion and won the silver medal at the 1908 Olympics held in London. Requesting a rematch with the man who beat him for the gold medal , it is reported that both met at a London pub and fought bare knuckle , Snowy Baker knocking out his opponent in the third round.
During the early 1900s Baker produced a magazine entitled “Snowy Bakers Magazine” which covered ,among other things, boxing , health -giving sports, physical culture and personal hygiene.
The article presented on the Australian Savate Home Page covers boxing for self-defence and first appeared in the 1913 (Volume 2 number 1) issue of Snowy Baker’s Magazine.”
Special thanks to Tim Jones for contributing this article.
One hears many strange opinions from the man in the street. Loiter fifteen minutes or so in King Street during your lunch hour after some much talked of- boxing contest at the Stadium, and you will be startled by the amount of information you will pick up. It is extraordinary the number of tips and “scientific” points you will learn in this manner. I fear, however many of the statements made one to the other would place you in a serious corner if they were accepted and put into practice.
Boxing, or the art of self-defence, is truly an art of bringing into play not only the brain, but every muscle of the body. There are such men as we call “natural boxers.” They are only “natural” in the sense that Nature endowed them with a temperament, or “love of the game, ” as it is termed in boxing vernacular. They certainly must learn by practice and experience to become champion boxers.
The “white hope” theory, and the way many American promoters have practiced it, gives an instance of my meaning. Some clever advertising man discovers a white giant, has him boxing all comers who will visit his training quarters for a year, and then launches him out through the ready medium of the American sporting journals as the man to lower Johnson. Fortunately for the feelings and pockets of the boxing public, he is placed on the shelf by some comparatively light novice long before he can get sufficient limelight to step in the same ring as the big fellow.
No. A boxer cannot become a champion without, first, acquiring a thorough groundwork through a skilful master, and he must have the natural qualities before referred to. Yet every young fellow can become a boxer. Some would naturally become more proficient than others. Yet all can learn this fascinating art as a means of exercise and self-defence.
I have heard people make the bold statements that a scientific boxer would have little hope if suddenly attacked in the street by a rough of the “all in” type who, if he knew the rules, would not be chivalrous enough to give them thought in his cowardly attack. Needless to say, it is the uninitiated who makes such statements, or perhaps, the man who has an axe to grind. Obviously, even an elementary knowledge of boxing will teach and train one in the general body agility, and control of the limbs, and particularly does it develop pace and foot movements in such a manner that a wild rusher can be sharply side-stepped and knocked down as he passes in his mad dash.
There are many ardent admirers of jiu-jitsu, or Japanese wrestling, who argue that boxing is only a secondary method of defence where jiu-jitsu is concerned. In fact, supremacy of these two arts is a source of much disagreement in most parts of the world; many arguing that jiu-jitsu is the only sure means of putting one’s antagonist out of action, while others cannot see their way clear of comparing the Japanese art with the good old British method of placing the enemy ‘hors de combat’.
Personally, I have practiced both boxing and jiu-jitsu, practically from infancy, and while having a great admiration for the latter as an excellent means of inculcating coolness, courage, and quickness of action in time of need, I cannot compare it with boxing, added to the development of a calm reserve and a feeling of strength and confidence in any emergency. The knowledge gives one the power to attack the enemy at long rage, so to speak. If we suddenly attacked it shows more finish, and is certainly a cleaner- cut job, to send the enemy tumbling back on his own tracks by means of a well timed stiff punch.
In coming to grips there is always the danger of a nasty ‘mauling’ on the muddy road. Personally, I have tried boxer versus jiu-jitsu attack in my own rooms, and have always found where conditions are equal, the boxer triumphs. At various times in Great Britain and America , they have promoted contests of this nature, but the conditions have rarely been fair to both sides, consequently it has been difficult to get a true line of merits and demerits.
Recently such a contest was held in Melbourne between Jack Howard standing for boxing, and Shima, the blocky Japanese defending his national method. The result was a contradiction. Howard, in the first round, by means of a well timed blow, knocked his opponent clean out. This, on the face of it should have been definite and final, but on Shima recovering his senses, they engaged in two more bouts, which the Japanese succeeded in winning. In this match, however, the relative skill was very unequal, Howard being about a third rater in the worlds boxing calendar, while the stock Japanese is certainly the best exponent of jiu-jitsu in Australia, and, probably, one of the best in the world. It must be remembered, in this contest, as in most others of a similar kind, the boxer wears boxing gloves, while his opponent is bare handed.
A common question, and one that I am continually asked is: What are the best ways to stop a fellow who comes rushing in at you? Or, how would I defend myself against a ‘bull-at-the-gate’ type or an attack in the street? The orthodox “stab” or straight left, and “right cross” are certainly the best ways of administrating a drubbing to the street offender.
Of course, these punches equally apply in their usefulness in the gymnasium or hempen square, but it is the street I am concerned within this article.
Should you at any time in the street be forced in such a corner, and are compelled to resort to the manly use of Nature’s weapons, your fists, or should you be suddenly set on by a rough, bear in mind the value of your “straight left”. Stand up well squared, keep the right arm well up for a guard, and as he comes in stab out the straight left, remembering to tightly shut your fist, and tense every muscle at the moment of impact. This “straight left” and its effect can be readily understood by glancing at the first illustration. If through this medium the aggressor has not been knocked of his feet, he will at least get such a forcible shock that an easy opportunity will be afforded for your “right cross” to be shot onto his jaw; if the right connects squarely he will, probably, go into dreamland.
Another method of avoiding attack and retaliating with a smashing blow ,but a method that takes a more or less skilled boxer to bring into practice, is to sharply side-step your opponents rush with your right foot, at the same moment pushing him away to the side with your left hand and instantly shooting the “right cross” on to the jaw. This move is shown in the second illustration.
The third illustration is not a very “gentlemanly” manner of dealing with an opponent, but there are times when “honor” or “fair play” are no concerns of an enemy, and it becomes a case of Greek meeting Greek. There is a type of man who knows no other mode of attack but to rush in with head lowered like a bull , in the hopes of butting one in the abdomen: if he connects the result is serious, and possibly fatal. In such as emergency, one is fully justified in resorting to such defence as I have illustrated. No quarter is given by such toughs nor should any be allowed.
If a butter rushes at you, brace yourself, and as he comes in snap the knee up on to his face, jerking his head down, at the same moment catching the back of his head with your two hands, as the illustration shows.
It would seem rather paradoxical after writing the foregoing to say the only safe and sure way out of trouble is not to allow yourself to be mixed up in a quarrel at all. However, there are times when every conceivable move of diplomacy becomes exhausted, and one is driven to drastic measures if only to take the part of a weaker friend. In such a case, ‘strike first and hard’. What is commonly known as the “king hit” or first punch home, has often in as quick a time as it takes to administer converted a rampant lion into a passive lamb. If you are up against a bully or bluffer start operations by a good stiff left, and he well probably turn tail instantly. Even if you meet a tough proposition, a stinging punch will steady him and shake his confidence. It will set him thinking, so to speak, and make your contract much easier than it would other wise be, for in no sense is the adage “ He who hesitates is lost” more applicable than in boxing. A moment’s hesitation and the bitterness is tasted.
People will say “Oh, but in the excitement of the moment one forgets all about the science he had been taught and wades in, in any old way”. This is not so. By the use and practice of certain scientific boxing blows and parries, they become second nature, as it were, and are unconsciously brought into play by our ever-ready instinct of self- preservation.
Learning to box simply means the developing on scientific lines of this primary animal instinct. In prehistoric state man, no doubt, clawed and bit in protecting himself from his enemies, but he has evolved to a state of intelligence when he finds the best means of defeating his enemy is by the schooled use of his hands. This has been so with Anglo-Saxon race for hundreds of years past, and is gradually being recognized by France , Germany , Belgium , Holland , Denmark , and other Continental countries which have their progressive boxing associations and clubs. It is only a matter of time when the fistic art will not only be generally recognized on the Continent, but will be taught in the schools as swimming is at present.
As a final hint to the man who strikes trouble in the street, I would have him bear in mind that good condition is half the battle. It is a pity to have to confess it, but true nevertheless, that not one in every ten one meets in the street are anything like fit. This sad fact I daily encounter. Men probably have their morning dip in the surf and believe themselves in “fine fiddle”, but I guarantee they could not stand three minutes really strenuous exercise in the nature of a round of boxing at any pace; so with the knowledge of these few hints and illustrations in this chapter it is advisable, in fact necessary, to keep fit. You may never have cause to test your fire in unlooked- for battle, but on the other hand you never know when your guns will be thrown into action. Have them cleaned and ready for work, and after all it is just glorious to be physically and mentally fit.