"one who fights with the fists," 1789, from Latin pugil "boxer, fist-fighter," related to pugnus "a fist" (from suffixed form of PIE root *peuk- "to prick") + -ist. For sense development, compare punch (v.), also from a root meaning "to pierce." Related: Pugilistic "of or pertaining to fighting with the fists" (1789); pugilistically.
Pugil (n.) occasionally turns up in English as "boxer, fist-fighter" (17c.-18c), but it has not caught on; earlier it meant "a little handful or a big pinch" of something (1570s). Pugil stick (1962) was introduced by U.S. military as a substitute for rifles in bayonet drills.
UNTIL recently bayonet training has lacked realism. Bayonet instruction consisted of basic positions and movements, the fundamentals of bayonet fighting, and a practical examination conducted on the Bayonet Assault Course. This training is essential for the combat Infantryman; however, he completes his training without knowing what an actual bayonet fight is like. The dummies used in training cannot fight back or take evasive action. The only true test of an Infantryman's skill with bayonet is vicious, close combat against an armed opponent. [Lt. Wendell O. Doody, "Pugil, Man, Pugil!" in Infantry magazine, Nov.-Dec. 1962]