Our method of unarmed self-defense does not come from any Asian martial art-- but it's not modern boxing either. Our self defense system is the old English boxing method known as Pugilism. Our focus is on Pre-Transitional Pugilism, although we are familiar with other styles.

Classical Pugilism is the forerunner of modern boxing. It was practiced in England from the 1600's up until the introduction of boxing gloves in the 19th century. Besides not wrapping the hands or wearing boxing gloves, another important difference was that early Pugilism commonly contained grappling techniques. Sometimes considered crude or unsophisticated by those not familiar with it, Pugilism was a system that dominated for centuries; its champions were scientifically-minded technical fighters. Pugilism would have looked rather different than modern boxing. In the 1860's padded gloves became a requirement, and grappling techniques were removed, causing changes both in the appearance of the fighters' stances and the way in which blows were delivered.

Although Pugilism is commonly known as "bare-knuckle boxing", this should not be taken to mean that we will be boxing without gloves. What it does mean is that our system of self-defense was originally designed around the idea that you wont be wearing any hand protection but you still need to be able to avoid injury. This is a very important point, because in any self-defense situation, you will have to use your hands without protection (you don't get to choose when you're attacked), and so you must learn to use your hands correctly and effectively. Our methods are extremely effective against any style (or no style).

Our purpose in providing Pugilism is to ensure that our HEMA school offers a European martial art for practical unarmed self-defense that is both historically accurate and highly effective. For those who have a more 'sporting' interest, Pugilism is great for adapting into MMA or other competitions. HEMA is not just swords alone!

Our curriculum was developed under the supervision of Martin "Oz" Austwick of the English Martial Arts Academy. Our system is presented in a structured and progressive way that leads new students through the development of guards and stances, footwork and body movement, power generation, and historical tactics-- using a variety of drills and methods designed to ensure that the system is fully absorbed, but in a way that helps the student develop control under stress. 


James Figg (1695-1740) is widely regarded as the founder of boxing. He was an accomplished swordsman who used his fencing skills to bring structure and science to fist fighting.

Reading the works of George Silver (Paradoxes of Defense and the Instruction on the Paradoxes) will provide a thorough understanding of English martial arts of that time period.

James Figg founded a school in 1719 where he taught boxing, fencing and quarterstaff. He was the first undisputed English champion, from 1719 to 1734.



If you interested in learning Classical Pugilism but are unable to train in person with an instructor, we recommend and endorse these trusted online courses and books. Just click the links for more information.

Classical Pugilism - What Every Martial Artist Should Know (book)

The Serious Striking Online Pugilism Course

The Ned Donnelley Course