The VHCA teaches a fun, interesting, historically accurate and martially vigorous syllabus, while remaining true to 19th Century / Victorian-era source material as the basis of study.
Classes are held from 7.30pm to 9.30pm each Wednesday in the School Hall of the Moorabbin Primary School in Worthing Road, Moorabbin. They consist of a warm-up and light physical conditioning session; training and drills in specific theories and techniques from our source material and structured bouting (sparring with weapons), giving students the opportunity to apply what they have learned in a coached oppositional environment.
The Academy’s focus on Victorian-era combat styles gives us a wide-range of possible historical manuals to choose from. Our main focus is the Italian military sabre, while two secondary weapons are la canne (singlestick) and the bayonet. We’ll also look at a number of other systems and weapon styles as time permits.
Primary Study: Sabre
Our main sabre manual is The Art of the Dueling Sabre (Christopher Holzman, 2011), an English translation and expansion of an Italian military sabre instruction manual from 1872. The original, Istruzione per la scherma di sciabola e di spada del professore Giuseppe Radaelli scritta d’ordine del Ministero della Guerra (Instruction for fencing with the sabre and sword by Professor Giuseppe Radaelli, written by order of the Ministry of War) was written by Captain Settimo Del Frate, a student of Maestro Giuseppe Radaelli, who ran a Milanese fencing school for the fencing instructors of the cavalry and artillery regiments in the Italian army in the mid-1800s.
Secondary Study: La Canne (Singlestick) and Rifle Bayonet
As time permits, the VHCA will also train in la canne (singlestick in English) and rifle bayonet, as both were important weapons of the Victorian-era. The singlestick rose to prominence as a weapon for the gentleman on the street, who was unlikely to be carrying a sword but could very well have a walking stick or umbrella. The rifle-bayonet was the primary hand-to-hand weapon of infantry during this time.
Theory of learning la canne in 25 lessons, published in 1843 by Louis AV Leboucher of Rouen, will be the Academy’s primary la canne source. We may also look at:
- La Canne Vigny, the bartitsu version of la canne, as published in The Bartitsu Compendium and other works, from the turn of the century
- The Cane as a Weapon (1912) by AC Cunningham of the US Navy (slightly later than the period we are looking at, but it is clearly based on earlier works).
Our primary rifle-bayonet text will be The Manual of Bayonet Exercise: Prepared for the Use of the Army of the United States (1862) by George B. McClellan, Commander-in-Chief of the US Army. We may also look at:
- Angelo’s Bayonet Exercises 1857, by Henry Angelo, the superintendent for sword exercises in the British Horse Guards
- A Complete System of Bayonet Exercises, written in 1853 by Richard F. Burton.
Both la canne and rifle-bayonet will be taught through short introductory courses, with more advanced training in both weapons interspersed with the sabre training throughout the year.
Tertiary Study: Other forms of 19th Century fighting styles
While sabre will be the main areas of study for the Academy, with occassional forays into la canne and bayonet, there are other Victorian-era weapons and techniques we may spend some time on, including:
- Bartitsu (including Jiu-Jitsu, Pugilism and Savate)
- Great stick / baton
Should we decide to go ahead with teaching these styles of fighting, classes will be delivered through short introductory courses or one-off workshops, depending on the amount of material required to be covered and the availability of outside instructors.
The VHCA has deliberately chosen to focus on 19th Century European Martial Arts. We recognise the styles of fighting we train in have evolved from earlier styles and weapon types. As a school dedicated to honouring our martial history, it seems fitting to invite guest lecturers from other HEMA schools in Melbourne and around Australia (and the world) to come into the school and teach our students about the particular HEMA styles they are focused on.
The VHCA will therefore set up a series of guest lectures, which will be one-off events taking the place of our regular Wednesday night classes, by instructors invited from other HEMA schools in Melbourne and around Australia.