Review by Ralph Grasso
Written during the 1920s this rare manual was a nice attempt to teach civilians a method of all in cane fighting for street survival .The prologue talks of a recognized and true master of arms Arturo Bonafont visiting an elderly fencing master and asking him to write the prologue to this manual .The older master was very insulted and thought this to be below his standard and the standard of all who teach classical fencing. He very much disliked the idea of promoting and teaching cane fencing as a means of self defence or as he called it “street brawling”. Bonafont, taken back by the old masters comments decided that the average law-abiding citizen should be able to defend themselves and their family, and so, after careful thought choose to write the prologue himself.
By integrating the classical movements from la canne, saber, bayonet and other forms of western fencing Bonafont devised a versatile and highly structured system. His approach is unique in that it would be the first to utilize all the standard parry’s, riposte’s, attacks and counter attacks while holding the cane in a reverse grip at the top of a non crook cane. While some people may consider the reverse grip limited in it’s combat application Bonafont proved completely the opposite . He would use his cane like a two handed bayonet for thrusting, a quarter staff for smashing and thrusting or a single sword in a reverse grip – as used by Japanese and Korean swordsmen.
“Nuevos Modus de Defenderse” contains 25 small chapters covering amongst other things molinets and cuts. Delivered along horizontal, vertical and diagonal plans the molinets were used both offensively and defensively at ‘Larga’ or long rang. Target selection included the temple, mandible, clavicle, stomach, kidneys, hand and knee cap .To develop speed, power and aggression, all cuts and thrusts are performed on two specially designed pieces of equipment. The first is a dummy or plastron which is shaped liked a man and the second a flat version that is attached to a wall.
Other blows included ‘golpes con el puno’, which are poking attacks with the top of the cane that extends from the hand. Falling into the ‘corto’ or close range grouping of skills the ‘con el pono’ manoeuvres form a vital part of the Bonafont system as did the ‘golpes de regaton’ or blows with the distal end of the cane .Due to Bonafont’s unique reverse grip these blows could be delivered in the ‘medio’ (middle) range from a variety of angles. Another blow was the ‘bastonazo’ which was delivered as a preemptive attack from non telegraphic defensive positions, targeting the groin and knees this swinging blow is given special attention in Bonafont’s manual.
Combination attacks start with molinets and ‘bastonazos’ from long range and finish with ‘regation and ‘puno’ methods at close range. Bonafont favours these combinations as ways to deal with armed attackers .
The rest of this excellent manual covers binding, defences against grabs and multiple attackers, street kicks and tripping common to the martial arts of France, Spain and Italy of which Bonafont was aware of. This manual is a treasure as it is entirely devoted to the use of the walking cane for street survival and has no sportive application to it.