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19th Century American Heritage Fighting Arts Seminar Report
By Tod Creasey


    This weekend was the first in what we hope will be many seminars on the Fighting Arts of 19th Century America presented by Master of Arms Peter Kautz. It was an introductory seminar concentrating on traditional childrens games, 19th century physical education, Southern fighting culture and of course the weapons used in American fighting - bandana, bowie knife, saber, shillelagh and bayonet.

    Mr. Kautz refers to himself as a "Martial Anthropologist" who has studied the fighting styles of many cultures and his interest in his own American heritage has brought him to the study of the fighting arts of America.

    We started out the day learning the strength and flexibility exercises of the period - in particular the set of exercises done with the indian clubs, axes and knifes for warmup and suppleness of the joints. From there the warmup continued with Civil War era childrens games like "Fox and Hounds" and "Baste the Bear" which were a lot like the modern tag and monkey in the middle but with a harder edge as they involve hitting each other with knotted bandanas. We felt it would be an excellent game for some of the children at events although perhaps a little too rough to get the children of spectators involved in.

    From there we moved onto the bayonet  which really piqued the interest of the reenactors involved. Peter told us that in the 19th century bayonet was considered the 4th fencing weapon (foil, sabre and epee being the others)
and that McLellans manual was based on the bayonet fencing of the period.  (As a side note there is a move afoot to bring bayonet fencing into the Olympics and the United States is looking at putting together a team).  Peter started with the European fencing theory that is the basis of bayonet fighting and them moved into the training in McLellans manual of which we
covered about a third due to time constraints.

    The next section was to move onto sabre fighting, also based on the same principles of fencing that the bayonet was but with of course different parrys and thrusts. Peter concentrated on the application of the base principles of sabre fencing as they pertained to the traditional arts to keep flow with what we had previously learned. Major Pereira and Capt Jones are also very conversant in the drill for this weapon and I hope we gat an oppotunity to compare notes later this year at Cedar Creek.

    From the sabre we moved onto the bowie knife. This was a real eye opener for me as the bowie knife is so large that it is neither a knife or a sword and has a fighting style of its' own based on the previously mentioned weapons as well as ties to the European backsword. The traditional small knife fighters in the crowd really enjoyed this one.

    The final weapon we worked with was the shillelagh or "Irish Stick". Peter spent some time discussing the cultural differences of a stick fight and how they were more involved with demonstrations of physical prowess and generally not meant to seriously injure an opponent. In particular the variation that involves trying to knock the hats of the head of the opponent would make an excellent scenario for an event. Once again it was nothing like we expected.

    Finally we ended with a discussion of "Rough and Tumble" fighting popular with the likes of Mike Fink and the techniques used with that.

    This was an excellent seminar on aspects of American life many of us had never considered before and the amount of things we thought about to add to our impression was staggering. Pete has discussed doing bayonet training en masse sometime - perhaps at a Spring drill. We will be asking about it at upcoming events this year and hope we can generate a lot of interest.


    Tod Creasey
    16th North Carolina, E Company

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