This is not exactly the same as Bare Knuckle Boxing as practiced in the contemporary West – but might be nearer to the ‘bare knuckle’ equivalent (under the ‘London Prize Fighting Rules’) practiced in the West prior to the advent of the Queensbury Rules and the implementation of ‘gloved’ fighting (in the late 1800s). Indeed, the further back in time the comparison is taken – the nearer the two forms of combat become – with Western boxing originally involving throwing and kicking, and used as an unarmed augmentation to fighting with staffs, swords and pistols, etc. A book I read in my youth in the UK was entitled ‘Cross-Buttocks and Claret’ - referring to bloody public spectacles of punching, kicking, tripping and throwing!
My father (Peter Wyles) – from the working-class slums of Leicester was taught by his father (Alfred Gregory Wyles 1916-1976) the bare-knuckle style passed-on by his father (Archibald Britton Wyles 1887-1941 – born in Duddington, Northamptonshire). A bolt upright – two-armed affair that relied on a solid and repetitive jab occasionally follow by a straight-right – the closed hand of which would habitually be used to protect the chin when not being thrown (the 'point' of the chin 'sits' in the 'eye' of the closed-fist). Coupled with elaborate foot-work and ‘swaying’ from the hips – no hooks were used. The arms were used like ‘bats’ to ‘catch’ and ‘hit’ away any incoming blows – including head-butts and elbows. Correct-positioning overcame rapid and continuous movement whilst power of punch overcame diversity of punch. I suspect that in an era when people in the West had never encountered Asian martial arts (or ‘French Savate’), the general paradigm around ‘fighting movement’ would have been quite different and premised upon historical Western institutions involving fighting arts and any innovations that had developed out of these entities.
Modern weaponry and service in the professional military (and particularly experiences of combat) may have developed variants and styles of fighting all over the UK. Brutal hand to hand fighting to the death on the battlefield may have ended in unarmed combat when weapons broke, bayonets snapped and ammunition ran-out. Fighting in fairgrounds and outside public house is, of course, a British institution and I have met a number of Romany people in the UK who have been brought-up fighting ‘bare-knuckle’ in what they call the ‘Gypsy Style’! Generally speaking, these Romany people have treated both my Asian and Western martial history with a great respect. As Romany people have had to fight to defend their very existence throughout the years – obviously as a people they have developed a very healthy respect for the fighting arts!
Shifu Adrian Chan-Wyles (b. 1967) - Lineage (Generational) Inheritor of the Ch'an Dao Hakka Gongfu System.