Baton Francais

The Baton Francais, French for “French staff”, also known as French stick fighting, is a European historical fencing discipline which uses a staff about 4 feet long. The techniques have much in common with longsword and quarterstaff.

The origins of this system are lost in antiquity but probably share a common root with other European stick fighting systems such as quarterstaff, German Stockfechten, Portuguese Jogo do Pau, etc.

The Baton was systematized in France during the 1800s and is still part of a set of skills associated with the modern French martial art of boxe française (Savate).

The art of Bâton Français (French staff) comes to us from France, justly famous for guillotining the nobility, Cordon Bleu and fine Bordeaux. The baton is typically a longstick around 4 foot (1.2m) in length although some may approach 5 foot (1.5m). In general, the techniques have much in common with other European longstick systems although the French method has its own peculiar character.

The baton was systematized in France during the 1800s and during the mid 1850s baton practice was one aspect of a gymnastics curriculum for French soldiers established at the Joinville military academy. Practice with baton was also popular in 19th century Savate salles. It is likely the baton was popular among various 19th century European militaries (e.g. French, Italian, Portuguese etc) as the skills acquired had some transference to bayonet methods and the practice was believed to instill flexibility, endurance and courage in practitioners.

The older 19th century method of baton (e.g. that of the Joinville academy) is often referred to as Bâton Militaire or the ‘Joinville method’ to distinguish it from the more modern Baton Fédéral method which is largely a product of the 20th century. To this day the baton remains associated with the modern French martial art of Boxe Française (a.k.a. Savate) although the practice itself varies from salle to salle.

French baton method makes extensive use of blows and thrusts, both of which involve sliding the baton smoothly through the hands during execution. Moulinets feature heavily in the striking method, a commonality with other European long stick systems. Perhaps as a result of its links with Savate, some baton practitioners tend to maintain a fairly high carriage and centre of gravity in comparison to arts such as Jogo do Pau. In general the bâton method places great emphasis on mobility, grace and fluid motion.