Bellicose Chaps

Are you up to scratch? Ready to “toe the line”?

Or are you down for the count? Take a swig of aqua vitae and put up your dukes…


Some martial artists really love the terminology and the exotic names in foreign languages. Fisticuffs, on the other hand, uses English words for the techniques, but still has some fun terms for the amateur lexicographer:

  • Pugilism: Uses the prefix “pugi-” which means “punch” and also used in “pugnacious”
  • Bellicose: Uses the prefix “belli-” which means “war” and also used in “belligerent”

Some fun expressions also have direct roots in boxing:

  • “Up to Scratch”: There were two lines drawn in chalk on the floor of the fighting area (the ring is traditionally 24 feet per side). A fighter shows that he is ready to continue by putting their toes on the Scratch Line. This led to our expression which means “ready and worthy”.
  • “Toe the Line”: Has a similar origin. You are ready to fight and you have chosen your side.

Fighting Words

Who can resist an epic rap battle? I personally recommend that you search for “Epic Rap Battles of History” on YouTube, but they’re light on historical fisticuffs.

For something a little more Steampunk, check out Professor Elemental:

A New Political Arena

Let’s turn to the time-honoured tradition of politicians challenging each other to physical punishment. Did you hear that Justin Trudeau beat Patrick Brazeau in a boxing fight last week? Sadly, it was not bare-knuckle, but exciting nonetheless.

Hilarious commentators: “As expected, Trudeau hits from the Left, and Brazeau from the Right.” Groan.

Bare Knuckle on Film

My favourite example of fisticuffs in modern film is the climactic fight in the movie Snatch:

How Can We Film Fights?

This Sunday is an Introduction to Stage Combat workshop!

In four hours, you won’t look like Brad Pitt, but we’ll try to get you at least the level in this video:


David McCormick Head of Stage Combat at Academie Duello and certified Instructor with Fight Directors Canada. Head of Bartitsu at Academie Duello, the longest continuously running Bartitsu program in the world.
Read more from David McCormick.