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A “New System of Defence with the Bowie Knife” and the Strange Case of Mons. Bobij

April 7, 2016

Martial Arts New York

On Sunday, March 22, 1840, the following unusual notice appeared in the Times-Picayune:

Sunday, March 22, 1840 - Times-Picayune BOWIE

Mons. Bobji–or Bobij, as he was more widely known–was an extraordinary character who had recently arrived in America from Europe. French by ancestry, Polish by birth, and a former Lieutenant Colonel in the Polish army, he had taken part in a failed revolution in his homeland, then enlisted in the Russian military, escaped again, and traveled throughout Europe, where, pursued by “evil genius,” he survived multiple assassination attempts, one of which left “a large scar from a poniard directly over [his] left eye”. Bobij finally fled to the United States, where he offered instruction in fencing, and gave public exhibitions demonstrating the use of the broadsword, smallsword, bayonet, Bowie knife, dirk, dagger, quarterstaff, lance, and most notably, “two swords, one in each hand.” Especially tantalizing was Bobij’s announcement that he was presenting a “new system of defence with the Bowie…

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