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“Who, in these times of peace, has need of self defence?”
-Emile Andre
Emile Andre was a noted French martial artist capable with both duelling sabre
and duelling sword (epee) and skilled at French boxing who saw that these
skills, while still practised in the salle d’armes of his country and across
Europe, were becoming increasingly divorced from the reality of actual combat
and increasingly geared towards displays of athleticism, thus turning martial
arts into combat sports.
This need for a return to the reality of the street was inspired by an increase in
violence and robbery aimed towards the Middle and Upper classes by an ever
expanding number of professional criminals from the Lower class, commonly
known as “Apaches”.
As a result he wrote “The Art of Self-defence in the Street- with and without
Weapons” as a counter to these assaults, expounding his “simple method” for
defence, later adding to it with techniques adopted from the then new, and
fashionable, Jiujitsu that had recently been introduced to Europe.
This method is effective on several levels due to its simplicity as it consists of a
few techniques for each aspect of defence, whether armed or unarmed, that can
easily be learned and practised no matter what one’s personal experience of
martial arts.
If one has no experience or training in the combat arts (fencing, boxing,
wrestling &c.) then the techniques he shows are readily understood and
performed. He even goes so far as to break down his method into one punch
and one kick that can be performed even if one is less physically able in some
way or has very little opportunity to practice.
If one has a little training then the techniques are derived from common
fencing and boxing theory so are readily adapted from a known repertoire using
transferable skills such as a knowledge of measure, the ability to thrust quickly
and fluidly, and a level of fitness and athleticism.
If one is well trained then the method shows how to pare down one’s repertoire
to a few simple but effective techniques which will work effectively in the street,
rather than appealing to the technical requirements, rules and aesthetics of the
fencing salle.