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Maybe Canadians can't have pistols but, fortunately, they can still carry a stout blackthorn shillelagh. Not to be confused with a "Paddy-whacker", which is what old time cops used to call their nightsticks... - News

Irish martial art has a storied past and a modern-day practioner in Milton

March 17, 2007
Christian Cotroneo
Staff Reporter

As nasty a business as Irish stick fighting can be, one of its foremost practitioners refuses to make it his business.

After all, the art of beating the bejesus out of opponents with nothing more than a stick has been a Doyle family tradition.

"I was taught by my dad," says Glen Doyle. "He was taught by my granddad. He was taught by my great granddad."

And the rules of this brand of stick fighting long prohibited anyone but a Doyle from learning the method. But having no children himself, Doyle beseeched his father, dying of cancer in 1998: "Dad, if I cross the street and get hit and die, this style is done."

Reluctantly, the elder Doyle agreed to allow the way of the stick to go beyond the family.

Glen Doyle, 41, could profit from his job as a martial arts instructor, but won't let himself. So, while he teaches martial arts at his Milton school The Cead Bua Fighting Faction â€" which has clients ranging from NHL players to figure skater Elvis Stojko â€" about a dozen or so students pay $10 each for a Saturday session of stick fighting.

"And then I just take that money and donate it to a local charity here in Milton," he says.

"It's sacred to me. I don't want to make any money off it because it just cheapens the memory.

"I donate the money, get the style out there and let people know, the Irish weren't always about drinking and falling down," he laughs.

"There was always a lot of fighting involved."

Wherever there was an insult, there was a stick to back it up.

The charm of the stick, often called a shillelagh, is its incredible functionality. At times, the Irish were banned from carrying weapons.

So when they left the house, they brought along their walking sticks, fishing poles, dance props, what-have-you. Everything would seem top-o'-the-mornin' until ... WHACK!

Along came a man named Doyle, who, according to family history, hired himself out to settle disputes between factions or guard illegal distilleries. Having applied boxing techniques to the use of a two-handed stick, Doyle was a renowned thumper.

Rince an Bhata Uisce Bheatha, as the Doyle art was nicknamed in Celtic (it literally means Whisky Stick Dance) was later passed down to Edward Doyle, who settled in Newfoundland around 1867.

He instilled son Christopher with a sense of stick. And Christopher passed it to Gregory.

One day, Gregory Doyle presented his 7-year-old son Glen with a length of wood, called a blackthorn â€" its name derived from the prickly tree that provided it.

Gregory after all, had already paved the way by teaching Glen to box at the age of 4.

"Okay, so all the stuff I taught you ... " his father began. "Now, do it with this."

As so often happens when propositions are made at the end of a stick, Glen Doyle accepted the challenge.

"It wasn't like I said, `Hey, I'm interested in that,'" he recalls, laughing. "No, I had to learn it."

Doyle rules

Here's Glen Doyle's basic guidelines to Irish stick fighting:

1. Never trust anything you can count on

Pertains to the main target of the stick fighter â€" the hand, which is to say that you can count by using the fingers on your hand. Hit your opponent's hand and he drops his stick.

2. Evermore alee against those who oppose

Never retreat when stick fighting, always move in or stand your ground.

3. Enter each match with a cock of the tin

Pertains to the act of "wheeling" before each match â€" a verbal battle of wits.

4. Always leave the table with the hunger in your stomach

When your opponent is no longer a threat, step away and allow them to retreat.

5. Remember skibbereen

For every blow you sustain when fighting, return with two of your own.

6. Give the come hither

When factions meet, call out their biggest or their best stick fighter immediately to make an example of him.

7. Tell of the "One Fear"

Warn the other stick fighter if the fight is to the death, i.e., "The only fear I have is the fear of killin' you."

8. Never walk from a dogfall

Never end a contest in a draw or an unknown victor; there must be one sure winner.

9. Blaze abroad your clan with might

Announce to your foe that you are of Doyle blood so they know from where the blow fell.

10. Through Fortitude We Conquer

The Doyle family motto, found on the coat of arms.

SOURCE: /bata/10commandments.html
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