Cudgeling: Stick-Fighting in the MacGregor Method

Note: in this video, we use Action Flex foam weapons so we can hit each other without holding back. We usually train with actual sticks, but of course that requires much more restraint.

This video teaches the basic principles of cudgeling or stick-fighting in the Cateran Society’s MacGregor Method, a system for using all cold weapons according to the principles of the Highland broadsword.

One of the most famous manuals on the use of the Highland broadsword was written specifically to teach self-defense with the cudgel or stick, applying the principles of the broadsword to that weapon.

The author was Captain Sinclair, a retired officer of the Black Watch, and his manual was called Anti-Pugilism, referring to the superiority of the stick over the fist in a street fight.  According to Sinclair, training with the cudgel or broadsword is “well calculated for chance encounters in the street, as there is no show or preparation in it, and our adversary probably supposing you are totally unacquainted with the stick, will heedlessly attack you, when in all human probability you will settle the difference with the point of your stick, without any trouble, or receiving a single blow.”

Battlefield Broadsword

The Highland broadsword is a battlefield weapon, but the broadsword fencing system is designed for single combat. Considering the popular martial arts saying “you fight like you train,” why is this the case? This exercise should help clarify the issue.

A duel of skill with the Highland broadsword is a much more complex scenario than anything likely to occur in a melee fight. First-hand accounts of real broadsword combat suggest that battlefield swordfights were usually short and simple, often lasting no more than a second or two.

To simulate the conditions of the battlefield, designate one fighter as the antagonist and the other as the protagonist. The antagonist sees the protagonist, runs in and makes between one and four simple but powerful attacks. The protagonist must respond with an effective defense and end the encounter with a decisive technique.

Rather than starting from a guard position, the antagonist should simply raise the sword and cut as if charging at the enemy. The protagonist should start with the broadsword lowered, the safest and least fatiguing way to carry it on the field.

As you can see from this video, the battlefield use of the broadsword is much less sophisticated than a standard broadsword bout. Anyone trained in the art of broadsword fencing should find this type of encounter almost simplistic by comparison. The training is actually much harder and more complex than the scenario you’re training for, giving you a distinct advantage against an opponent without equivalent skills.

Presented in slow motion for clarity.