I recently saw a video posted online of two opponents squared off, preparing to fight each other. As they warily circled and feinted, one combatant gripped a cane in reverse grip, which is a hallmark of the Bonafont Method. While I respect these martial artists, I must politely disagree with their interpretation of Maestro Bonafont and his method.
Most martial arts schools practice mutual combat continuously, whether learning technique, drilling technique, or sparring. Combatants are known to each other (i.e. you know who your opponent is and that he’s going to attack you), you begin at a comfortable distance apart with a weapon in your hand as you stand in a fighting stance.
The insight of Bonafont is that he realized these types of conditions–mutual combat–often don’t exist on the street. You may be ambushed, you may be uncertain if the guy yelling in your face intends to attack you or if he’s all bluster. You don’t know for sure if you can verbally deescalate the situation, and the opponent may be too close for your techniques to work. That spectator watching the fight or the build up to it may be looking to get in a sucker punch to help out his buddy. If you have a cane, you’re probably not in a fighting grip, yet you can’t switch grips with an opponent in your face without him blasting you in the process.
The Bonafont "fighting stance" doesn’t look like a fighting stance. That is the key to its deceptiveness and usefulness. The opponent doesn’t realize you are in a combative stance until after he wakes up on the sidewalk.
I believe that those of us who regard Maestro Bonafont as a teacher, no matter how many decades separate us from the grandmaster of the 1930s, should focus on the innovative genius of his system–defeating spontaneous attacks on the street.
My translation of Maestro Bonafont’s classic cane-fighting text is available here.