Editorial note: several years ago I had the privilege of traveling with my adult son and my teenage nephew to a boxing gym in the Bronx, NYC and meeting with Daniel Marks, who had, over the previous decade, done much to popularise the hitherto little-known fighting art of the 52 Blocks. Mr. Marks had produced documentaries on the 52s and also spearheaded an initiative to use the art to turn young men away from drugs and gang culture.
The 52s include all the hallmarks of sophisticated body mechanics and fighting tactics associated with more formal, mainstream methods, applied with an almost uniquely personal, improvisational flavor. The method is also characterised by its range of “destructive defence” techniques – blocks that don’t simply redirect or stop an opponent’s punches, but are designed to do damage.
Although the technical details of the “secret style of boxing” developed for Bartitsu by E.W. Barton-Wright and Pierre Vigny remain frustratingly vague, their style also emphasised the principle of destructive defence. Barton-Wright wrote that the guards of “Bartitsu boxing” were “much more numerous” than those of the orthodox style then being taught in London gyms, and that those guards would “make the assailant hurt his own hand and arm very seriously”, as demonstrated here by Pierre Vigny:
In this video series, Bartitsu instructor Tommy Joe Moore teaches a number of 52 Hand Blocks techniques that are – probably – as close as we’ll get to Barton-Wright and Vigny’s “secret style”.