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French Cane-Fighting 101

Updated on October 28, 2015

A Dynamic Sport, With An Historic Past

Canne de Combat is one of my top sporting passions. For young or energetic people, it can be a dynamic and athletic sport, great for improving fitness, co-ordination and skills. For older or less fit people, it is still a great way to use your leisure time and relax!

Canne de Combat was developed in France. It was originally taught as a form of self defense, using walking canes, often by the same masters who taught boxe francaise and fencing, and is still sometimes referred to as "Canne d'Arme".

Canne de Combat was a demonstration sport in the Paris Olympics, in 1924. More recently, it has become a world sport, with regular international competitions. The first world championship was in 2004. This was held on the Indian Ocean island of Reunion. The 2008 championships were in the quiet hamlet of Frankenberg in Germany. St Herblain, near Nantes, France was the host in September 2012. The World Championships are now held every two years. The last World Championships were held in September 2014 in Budapest, Hungary.

Essential Skills

Strikes and Defences

It's easy to begin Canne de Combat, as there are only six basic attacks. These are:

- two lateral strikes: Lateral croise & Lateral exterieur

- two overhead strikes: Brise & Croise tete

- two inverse vertical strikes: Enleve & Croise bas

My photo shows a lateral exterieur strike, at head height. This strike can also be delivered to the body or legs. I explain more about the strikes on the video below.

To score points, an attack must be valid. The strike must be clear and reach a valid target. It must also be properly 'armed', and correctly timed.

As well as learning how to attack, it is important to learn how to defend. The two ways are :

Evasion - by stepping, jumping or ducking

Parrying - with the canne, using one of several positions

The video below will give you a taste of some of these skills.

Beginning Canne

A brief introduction to the skills of canne de combat, filmed at our club. I am the short one, on the left.

The next World Championships in 2016 will take place in Varazdin, Croatia

Advanced Skills

This photo is copyright of Ollie Batts, please do not copy without permission. It was taken at our gym, in Cambridge. See more photos on our website

SO, what should you do once you have mastered the basics of strikes and defences. It is time to take things up a level!

Fighters need to learn the rules of competition, tactics and the more advanced skills of lunges and jumps.

For competition, the cannists (fighters) wear protective, padded suits and fencing helmet, with padded covers. The object of competition is to score more points than an opponent, with fights taking place in a circular ring.

Scoring is signalled by three judges, arranged around the ring, who raise coloured flags when they see a valid strike to one of the following zones:

- Head

- Torso

- Leg, below the knee

Simultaneous attack is not allowed - if one of the fighters starts an attack, the other must parry or evade, before counterattacking.

The canne can be held in either hand. Changing hands during the match is allowed, and can potentially confuse the opponent.

The video below shows part of the final of the Women's European Championships, held in Cambridge in 2010.

2014 World Canne de Combat Championships

Budapest, Hungary

On 2oth & 21st September 2014, the World Championships of Canne de Combat Championships took place in Budapest. The French team dominated the event, with Benjamin Latt and Selenia Claudin-Mabere retaining their titles. Canada and Hungary also performed well.


Gold - Benjamin Latt (France)

Silver - Yohann Leray (France)

Bronze - Alexandre Deneault (Canada)


Gold - Selenia Claudin-Mabire (France)

Silver - Aurelie Schneider (France)

Bronze - Marie Helene Proulx (Canada)

Team Results:

France, Canada, Hungary

2012 World Canne de Combat Championships

Saint Herblain, France

On 22nd and 23rd September 2012, the World Championships of Canne de Combat Championships took place in Saint Herblain, France. The French team dominated the event, taking all medals in the men's category, and gold in the women's, but Slovenia and Germany took silver and bronze medals in the women's event:


Gold - Benjamin Latt (France)

Silver - David Leble (France)

Bronze - Florian Adami (France)


Gold - Selenia Claudin-Mabire (France)

Silver - Jerca Primc (Slovenia)

Bronze - Amanda Duckworth (Germany)

Team Results:

Male teams: France, Canada, Slovenia

Female teams : France, Canada, Slovenia/Germany

World Championship 2012 Video Report

Canne in the World Combat Games - St Petersburg, October 2013

Canne de Combat Agility
Canne de Combat Agility

Superb photo by Ollie Batts, showing Jon West (Great Britain) in the air, striking Thomas Horstmeyer (Germany).

European Championship Final

First two rounds of the women's final in Cambridge 2010.

Information For Cane Collectors And Makers

Many cane-fighters collect antique and unusual canes. Competitors and officials in canne de combat championships often receive engraved canes as mementos of the event.

Make Your Own Walking Sticks: How to Craft Canes and Staffs from Rustic to Fancy
Make Your Own Walking Sticks: How to Craft Canes and Staffs from Rustic to Fancy

Includes step-by-step projects for beginners, and more sophisticated projects for experienced woodworkers. Charles Self includes information on the materials and techniques needed, as well as the best types of wood to use.


Sherlock Holmes & Cane-Fighting

Sherlock Holmes famously practised the art of bartitsu, and used it to defeat arch-rival Professor Moriarty.

The Bartitsu Compendium, Volume 1: History and the Canonical Syllabus
The Bartitsu Compendium, Volume 1: History and the Canonical Syllabus

In 1899, E.W. Barton-Wright founded the eclectic martial art Bartitsu, which includes elements of English Boxing, French Savate, Japanese Jujitsu, Vigny stick fighting and Swiss wrestling. This excellent Compendium covers the history, the theory and the practice of Bartitsu. It includes over 270 pages of essays, rare reprints and hundreds of photos and sketches.

The Sherlock Holmes School of Self-Defence: The Manly Art of Bartitsu as used against Professor Moriarty
The Sherlock Holmes School of Self-Defence: The Manly Art of Bartitsu as used against Professor Moriarty

Barton-Wright introduces us to the art of Bartitsu, covering such crucial topics as how to deal with undesirables how to escape when attacked from the rear, the use of the stout stick, self defence from a bicycle, and much, much more.


What About You?

Do you practise a combat sport?

See results
The Bartitsu Compendium, Volume II: Antagonistics
The Bartitsu Compendium, Volume II: Antagonistics

Volume 2 of the Bartitsu Compendium combines excerpts from 15 contemporary self defence manuals, along with long-forgotten articles from newspapers and magazine, and more than 400 illustrations.

The Art of Manliness: Classic Skills and Manners for the Modern Man
The Art of Manliness: Classic Skills and Manners for the Modern Man

This book covers the whole range of manly skills from survival to social skills, and includes advice on how to improve in all areas. Out in the wilds with your friends? Need to start a fire without matches? Looking for a girlfriend? Want to fight like a gentleman using the art of bartitsu? Raising a family? Here you'll find tips and inspiration for all aspects of life.


It would be great to hear your feedback on this lens your opinions on combat sports

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    • Brite-Ideas profile image

      Barbara Tremblay Cipak 3 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      One of my brothers is really into Fencing

    • skylepticz profile image

      skylepticz 4 years ago

      I want o learn that. Please come to my country.

    • takkhisa profile image

      Takkhis 4 years ago

      I know it is a fun sports :)

    • Michelllle profile image

      Michelllle 4 years ago

      I learned a lot. Really, not as easy as it looks.

    • savateuse profile image

      savateuse 5 years ago

      @lesliesinclair: It's a lot of fun!

    • lesliesinclair profile image

      lesliesinclair 5 years ago

      You've presented an interesting view of a sport I didn't know existed.

    • savateuse profile image

      savateuse 5 years ago

      @LisaDH: Thanks for visiting!

    • LisaDH profile image

      LisaDH 5 years ago

      Very interesting. I'm glad you included the video because I think I expected the fighting to be similar to fencing, but the technique looks completely different. Thanks for sharing!

    • profile image

      pawpaw911 5 years ago

      Very interesting. I had never heard much about Cane Fighting. Thanks for the education.

    • surfer1969 lm profile image

      surfer1969 lm 5 years ago

      I like the staff and bladed weapons like swords and daggers.I also love throwing weapons too.Nice lens too.

    • profile image

      dscribbler 5 years ago

      I saw this in a French movie once, but had no idea it was a sport. Cool lens.

    • profile image

      brian_pelton 5 years ago

      Great info on Canne de Combat. I enjoyed reading your lens!

    • savateuse profile image

      savateuse 5 years ago

      @rallo-smith: I hope to spread the word about this great sport... Thanks for visiting!

    • savateuse profile image

      savateuse 5 years ago

      @fugeecat lm: Yes, it's an interesting sport, with an interesting history, which I talk about more in my Canne de combat lens. Thanks for visiting!

    • rallo-smith profile image

      rallo-smith 5 years ago

      This a first for me too! I enjoyed learning about Canne de Combat.

    • fugeecat lm profile image

      fugeecat lm 5 years ago

      I've never heard of this before. It's an interesting sport.