WHO’S WHO IN IRISH STICK-FIGHTING?

The only really legitimate instructor of Irish stick-fighting out there today is Glen Doyle and after a number of his students jumped ship, he has become more reticent about sharing what he knows. Glen has a living family style that was brought over from Ireland by his ancestors and taught to successive generations of Doyles living in Irish Newfoundland, Canada. He is the last known person to have learned the style. Now, there might be other people with similar family traditions but Glen Doyle was the first to state so publicly, way back in 1995, in an interview with Inside Kung Fu magazine, before the current internet interest in Irish stick-fighting and the publication of my books. So claims by other people of having living styles often appear to be people jumping on the bandwagon trying to cash in on the new interest in Irish stick-fighting, otherwise where were they before? The main issue though, if not timing, is substance. Glen has a hard core cadre of students who are professional martial artists, bouncers, etc., serious people who only want a system that works. They are not a couple of New Age Celtophiles banging tourist sticks in their garage. These professionals can attest to its veracity of Glen’s style. As for the “reconstructionists” with an alleged “Northeast Ulster Monaghan Style,” and self-proclaimed Shillelagh “Masters” and “Shillelagh World Champions” fighting with plastic sticks who post hey-aren’t-I-profound-about-Irish-Shillelagh-rambling videos, yes, these guys are bogus.

I wish the state of things was better and who knows hopefully someday people will come around and see the value in just being honest about what they do and not be so hell bent on making money. Maybe then we can all get along. Until then I guess I will continue to make enemies exposing fraudulent styles. No doubt more will appear, so stay tuned and don’t settle for anything other than the real thing. Irish tradition needs to be kept alive and deserves our respect not our exploitation.

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6 Responses to “WHO’S WHO IN IRISH STICK-FIGHTING?”

  1. Im confused a bit. Isnt the way to teach, to keep alive, the art of Irish stick fighting, is to have it branch out from Mr. Doyle.

    Im very interested in learning what he has to teach, but travel is out of the question.

    So, if students do leave, isnt this a good thing? Taking those seeds and sprinkling them out to grow?

  2. irishstickfighter Says:

    I’m not sure about what you mean by “if students leave” being a good thing. Breaking with a family and making up your own fake style would not be a good thing, and I’m sure you don’t mean that.

    No, the way to keep Glen’s family style of Irish stick-fighting alive is to have it taught to the student the way it was learned by the teacher and not tinkered with and changed by every student who learns it and decides, without permission, to teach the newly minted version. It was preserved for so long by adhering to what was originally taught. Watering it down into something it is not, mixed with other styles and techniques that have never been tried in actual fighting, only destroys it. And Gregory Doyles’ attitude was that if people cannot be trusted to just do that well then, the style should be allowed to die out.

    • As a student of the Doyle family style (being taught to me by one of his faithful who has not jumped ship) I have to say, Amen! It frustrates me to no end to see the huge risk Sifu Glen took opening his father’s style to outsiders only to have it abused by so-called teachers. It’s nothing short of a betrayal of trust.

    • Students “leave” for a verity of reasons: geographic incompatibility, cost, injury, and one reason might be that they feel that they no longer respect the leadership shown by a teacher.
      Also, i would suggest that the only “fake style” is one that is completely copied from another source and just relabelled “Irish”.
      It would be fair to say that all styles were developed progressively and organically/evolutionary, so if a martial artists decides to work really hard at technique and constantly challenges and tests it, then bothers to record their results as their style, who is anyone else to say that it is fake? Tested in the crucible of battle is the justification for RBUB being lauded here, well, if anyone else does the same with their own results it is not a lesser thing, it only has a shorter history.

      • irishstickfighter Says:

        True, but sadly, students seem to leave in Irish stick-fighting because they refuse to show simple respect for the people who are the original source. This has usually happened because the students were eager to sell a fake style against the wishes of their teacher. In other words the greedy selfish student didn’t get what he demanded and so the “leadership” of his instructor is suddenly now poor. Pure disrespect for both the teacher and the style not to mention the future students, all driven by ego and greed.
        The logic of your second statement is lacking. Irish martial arts were not developed like they are today. For a modern student to “borrow” – or steal – a few genuine techniques and then try and develop them into a larger working style…..well, you would have to replicate this “organic evolution” by getting a large group of guys who have never been exposed to Asian martial arts and who were willing to kill each other – nothing less – and then test the techniques and invent new ones in that environment again and again for a few hundred years to have nearly as long a history. I mean if you want to dress up as a Civil War soldier and shoot blanks out of your rifle while standing on a field at Gettysburg, you can indeed do that, but doing that – despite the right uniform and years of training etc. – in no way makes you an actual Civil War soldier risking your life now does it? Of course not. But much of the modern martial arts world revolves around claiming that that kind of fantasy is real so people believe what they want to believe. And then if someone like Glen tells them the hard truth well…suddenly they don’t want to be his student anymore. It’s a culture clash too – a fast food, Anglo-centric consumer society up against centuries of Gaelic Irish tradition. You can learn almost any kind of martial art today or make one up. But if you want to learn the martial arts that your Irish ancestors did (as I want to) you have to stick to the traditions that they lived and died by even if you don’t like how it’s done. To do otherwise is to ignore centuries of Gaelic tradition to the point of no longer being a part of it and hence, of authentic Irish martial arts. It’s akin to telling for example, a Chinese martial arts instructor that he isn’t very Chinese (even though say, he speaks Chinese and you don’t) and then doing “Chinese martial arts” your own way and in a way that people in China would never dream of doing. Yes, you can do that but it does not mean that you aren’t living in a fantasy world. And given the source for authenticity that you have just rebelled against, chances are you’re going to dislike much of the other authentic teachers and material out there for the same reasons.
        Unfortunately Irish culture is not big enough for most people to be able to see and understand that that is what they are in fact doing to it. And it doesn’t just apply to martial arts. So yes actually people claiming to have tested their newly invented techniques “in battle” and all that…..those are actually completely fake styles with no history in Irish culture and no future in it either.

      • irishstickfighter Says:

        Cris, this is John Hurley, not “Michael” (whoever that is). I can’t approve your bizarre rant because I don’t know who Michael is; you are addressing me in your post and yet are not responding to anything I wrote just making strange accusations. If you would like to try a less emotional response – and not appear to troll – then by all means please rebut my points, point by point rather than avoiding them with spiteful comments. People like you are simply poisoning the well that I helped to create.

        In lieu of that, if you want to study and create stick-fighting and tell yourself it’s Irish, you’re right – you are free to do so. And thanks to freedom of speech we all have the right to express our opinions based on the years of work that we have put into them.

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