Bataireacht is the art of stick fighting in Ireland, using a bata or shillelagh. It is a complex style including many strikes and parries, unarmed techniques and grappling. Irish stick fighters were in the past known as some of the best in the world, and the techniques taught in Antrim Bata are a testament to their talent.
The techniques of Antrim Bata were handed down the Ramsey family since at least the mid 19th century. The style was practiced for self-defence as well as organized battles known as faction fights. The Ramseys acquired quite a reputation as excellent stick fighters. The techniques are reminiscent of broadsword and boxing methods of the era, but are also uniquely Irish.
Antrim Bata is a complex martial art, which teaches fighters to hold their own in a variety of situations; be it facing one or multiple opponents, fighting from a distance or in close.
Following the disappearance of faction fights, bataireacht slowly went into hibernation, being only practiced by a handful of individuals. Antrim Bata was nearly lost, but techniques were safeguarded by members of the family and recorded by Max Chouinard. Since the early 2000s, a movement to repopularize the art has been active.
The style is currently headed by Máistir Max Chouinard from Canada. Max learned the style in Ireland in 2007 and going back to North America actively begun to teach and spread this fascinating and effective martial art. Max started practicing martial arts in 1997 with styles such as Kyokushin Karate and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and has extensive experience in weapon-based martial arts including Shinkendo, Hyoho Niten Ichi Ryu, Yagyu Shinkage Ryu, Olympic Fencing, Canne de Combat and is an active practitioner and researcher of Historical European Martial Arts.
Antrim Bata is a style of bataireacht
Bataireacht is a form of stick fighting that originates in Ireland, and which uses a club or cudgel like stick called by many names such as cleith alpin, bata, maide, etc, but better known as a shillelagh. It’s a martial art in the sense that it is a highly specialized skillset meant for battle. It was developed mainly for faction fighting, but can be applied to different forms of combat.
Antrim Bata is traditional
What we teach is not recreated from historical documents or experimentation. It is traditional as it was passed down the generations in an uninterrupted fashion until now. We don’t know when Antrim Bata was created. Bataireacht is a working class martial art, and as such it’s lineage is not as well documented as arts practiced by the aristocracy or the military would be. The art came down from the Ramsey and Kennedy families who lived in county Antrim, and we know they used it in faction fights at least up to the mid 19th century. It is very much possible that the art itself is much older, and the techniques compare well to martial arts of the 17th century and even before.
Bataireacht has recently undergone a renaissance
Many people wonder why they never heard or seen bataireacht, even in Ireland. While the art is documented as being taught and extremely popular up to the 19th century, it significantly waned out in the following decades up to the point that it went completely underground and very nearly vanished. There are now two known traditions left that we know of, as well as groups working to reconstruct bataireacht from manuals.
Antrim Bata is not open source
As with many traditional martial arts, what we teach belongs to the people who inherited the style. For the same reason we could not in good conscience claim to be the child of your parents and claim your family traditions, only people recognized as such are allowed to teach Antrim Bata. There is no problem in borrowing techniques and concepts from what we teach, but we ask that you give credit were due, and that you do not claim to teach a traditional art.
Antrim Bata has a teaching structure
The style is headed by one person, who is ultimately responsible for acknowledging the credentials of other instructors and setting up standards . Teaching levels are split into maistirs, propasts, instructors, assistant instructors, and captains. Each rank has it’s own rights and responsibilities in terms of teaching and grading other instructors. Schools are free to create internal ranks, but Antrim Bata does not recognize any student ranks.
Antrim Bata is not a sport and is non profit
While some of our instructors are professional martial arts teachers and make a living out of it, the style itself is run as a non profit. Also, while we may use training concepts from other combat sports, we spar -wear protective equipment and train with intensity and safety in mind- we do not hold tournaments, keep scores or give out trophies and titles.
Antrim Bata is not walking stick self defense
What we teach in Antrim Bata can very well be adapted to self defense with a stick or umbrella, and our instructors sometimes hold special classes on these subjects. That said, our aim is to teach the style as it was passed on, and students must keep in mind that some of what we teach is highly dangerous and cannot be applied in most modern self defense context.
Antrim Bata values diversity and inclusion
Antrim Bata maintains policies to actively fight discrimination of minorities, abuse and harassment in its schools. We do not tolerate racism and bigotry.
Antrim Bata is not about perpetuating stereotypes
We are well aware that shillelaghs and faction fighting holds a peculiar place in Irish history and culture. The role of Antrim Bata is to teach this martial art not as a means to reinforce stereotypes of the Irish brawler, but rather to put the focus on how Irish culture created a highly sophisticated martial art that is just as worthy of praise and practice as any created elsewhere in the world.
To learn more about the history of the practice, please read our article What is Irish Stick Fighting.
You can also learn more about it by reading our blog, or visiting our Youtube channel.