Savate and The Chair Combat

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Chair combat is efficient, accessible and is one of the key civilian weapons for the 21st century martial artist. Given the huge range of combative disciplines available today and the rapid growth in weaponry training, it is strange that the chair has not been integrated into every training system. With its general availability you feel it should feature strongly in every instructor’s repertoire and be classified as one of the most important self-defence tools in society.

In the majority of self-defence situations the chair appears to be available a good percentage of the time. In the rare instances where you may be attacked by an assailant with a sharp object, or a impact weapon, the chair can place a barrier between or change the situation of control.

The chair is not easily battered aside or bypassed by rushing attacks and is difficult to disarm a determined and trained person with a chair. In home violence situations, the chair is a good barrier in seeking escape.

The single philosophy of chair techniques over the last century has been to provide an effective and simple method to deal with an armed opponent. It has been mentioned in many of the older Anglo-European systems of self-defence. The father of modern military unarmed combat, Captain William E. Fairbairn, celebrated its simplistic and effective use and included it in his curriculum taught to the British Commandos and the American OSS operates during World War Two.

Unfortunately, its very simplicity has led to the general lack of interest in any further development as a weaponry discipline. This has led the chair failing to move at the same pace as other more fashionable pieces of weaponry. It has become little more than a curio, with a particularly simplistic use.

Generally, the accepted way of holding the chair is by the front and back of the seat or the front of the seat and the top of the back or some variation thereof. The chair should be held so that the point is aligned towards the opponent’s throat. Your upper arms are held close to your body with the seat area protecting your torso. This alignment assists in balancing the chair, while allowing freedom of movement. Practice rising quickly from a seated position to on guard with a determined attitude.

One uniquely different method that reflects a sophisticated scientific approach to chair combat without conceding the loss of efficiency. It allows the chair to be utilised in a manner that enhances mobility and defines its defence and offence objectives.

Over the last decades this method has been demonstrated and trained to martial artists about the world and across Australia. Relatively a simple method because once the grip has been established the rest is easy. This is important because when you are under stress the last thing you wish to worry about is how to use the weapon at hand. This simplicity allows you to concentrate on your assailant and the tactics to place yourself in a commanding position.

The most important aspect of this method is the grip. To use the chair correctly and efficiently requires knowledge on grip and placement, so that the various manoeuvres can be freely executed. Training is conducted through a serious of systematic exercises so its concepts and manoeuvres can be firmly implanted and recalled under stress. Here I will describe the basic grip. Although a chair is used for the demonstration, the skills can be easily adapted to three and four legged bar stools, Generally the description is for a right handed person sitting on a four legged chair; should you be left handed please read vice-versa.

With your right hand, grasp the right side of the back of the chair just above the seat. Whilst lifting the chair grasp the right forward leg with your left hand. From this position snap the chair up to assume on-guard facing your assailant. This is done by stepping forward with your left foot so your feet are about shoulder width apart with knees flexed. The tip of the left forward leg of the chair is the thrusting point and plays a critical part in aligning the chair.

Now that you can grip and align the chair you can attempt a thrust. Remember that concentration of energy is through one thrusting point, which is the tip of the left forward leg. For the purpose of this exercise, disregard the other three legs, although they will help to confuse your assailant. Vigorously drive the chair forward with the point aiming towards your selected target, whilst taking a short step forward with your left foot. Don’t forget to exhale on exertion. At point of contact the striking leg should be about 45 degrees to the ground so the impact can be taken through the arms and shoulders without the chair twisting. After contact abruptly withdraw the chair, while stepping out of range.

As you practice the movements they will become more instinctive and you will be able to mobilise the chair with little effort. You will also find that it is excellent exercise for the arms and shoulders. When practicing keep upright so not to strain your lower back. As you will appreciate, this is only basic instruction. However, you will find that by driving thrusts at or into selected targets at random, you will be able to frustrate the most aggressive attacks. It is reassuring to note that after one thorough training session you can become quite competent in its use. Of course, practice refines reflexes.’

The Chair Combat is unique, versatile, efficient and Australian developed. The chair is a superb tool that instantly causes a defensive barrier between you and you assailant. It is capable of clearing a combat perimeter until tempers cool and is great for frustrating and neutralising assailants if you have no wish to cause injury. It’s defence offers the ability to defend against short and long percussion weapons, knives, broken bottles and can shield from thrown objects.

Offensively, the legs that can be used to jab at distance with surprising speed and range, and there are some seven different sections of the chair that can be used as solid direct or angular attacking blows. Having to defend against an obscure chair attack can place one in a tactical disadvantage. The grip allows the use of combinations, smothering manoeuvres, a crowd charge and the use of the boot at the right opportunity. Practice with all types of chairs and stools until it becomes instinct and you will always have a defensive weapon where ever you sit. ~ Bridgeman Savate