“How Sir Hiram Maxim Met the Hooligan” (St James’s Gazette, 24 June 1902)

In which the estimable inventor Hiram Maxim, best-remembered today for devising the world’s first portable machine gun, tells of how he fended off a London hooligan with his fists and trusty umbrella. Sir Hiram S. Maxim, who says he has had three encounters with hooligans, writes to say that when walking from Southfields Station to … Continue reading ““How Sir Hiram Maxim Met the Hooligan” (St James’s Gazette, 24 June 1902)”

The Gentlemanly Art of 19th Century Cane Fighting in … 1990s Russia!?

The 1990 Russian sociopolitical satire Bakenbardy (“Side-whiskers”) is distinguished as the only feature film in which walking stick fighting serves as a crucial plot device.  It’s also a pertinent warning as to how youthful enthusiasm can be perverted by authoritarian impulses into something dark and ugly. The story revolves around two fire-eyed young men who … Continue reading “The Gentlemanly Art of 19th Century Cane Fighting in … 1990s Russia!?”

Umbrella vs. Knife in a Hamburg Back-alley (Swing Kids, 1993)

In this short fight scene from the movie Swing Kids, Peter Müller (Christian Bale) takes on a knife-wielding member of the Hitlerjugend, applying some deft umbrella techniques that will be recognisable to Bartitsu aficionados. In real history, the laissez-faire Swingjugend – who much preferred American jazz and English fashions to the crushing conformity of Nazism … Continue reading “Umbrella vs. Knife in a Hamburg Back-alley (Swing Kids, 1993)”

John Steed’s Umbrella-Fu

Secret agent John Steed (Ralph Fiennes) wields a mean brolly in this training sequence from The Avengers (1998). Steed’s impeccable umbrella-fu was probably the most entertaining part of the movie, which bombed at the box office. See here for further information on Steed’s weaponised umbrella as featured in the classic Avengers TV series, starring Patrick … Continue reading “John Steed’s Umbrella-Fu”

The Story of the Jujitsuffragettes, Courtesy of “Drunk History UK”

In these excerpts from a recent episode of “Drunk History UK”, inebriated comedienne Luisa Omielan attempts to relate the history of the jujitsu-trained suffragette Bodyguard team: Bonus points for the casting of actress and real-life suffragette history enthusiast Jessica Hynes as WSPU leader Emmeline Pankhurst. Ms. Omielan also struggled valiantly to recall the name of … Continue reading “The Story of the Jujitsuffragettes, Courtesy of “Drunk History UK””

The Japanese School of Ju-jitsu in Oxford Street (1904-08)

After the closure of the Bartitsu School of Arms in mid-1902, the various specialist instructors went their separate ways.  Wrestling and physical culture tutor Armand Cherpillod returned to Switzerland, where he became instrumental in introducing Japanese unarmed combat to the European mainland.  Pierre Vigny eventually established a successful self-defence and fencing academy in London’s Berners … Continue reading “The Japanese School of Ju-jitsu in Oxford Street (1904-08)”

Rare mid-20th century film of Vigny/Lang stickfighting

It’s well-known that the method of walking stick defence taught at the Bartitsu Club circa 1900 was devised by Pierre Vigny. Vigny himself instructed Bartitsu students in his system, and then taught it for some years thereafter at his own London self-defence school.  Curiously, however, there are only sporadic records of Vigny teaching walking stick … Continue reading “Rare mid-20th century film of Vigny/Lang stickfighting”

“At Them, Girls!” How the Amazon Defence Corps Trained to Take on Nazi Invaders

During the fraught summer of 1940, the people of England were bracing themselves for a seemingly inevitable invasion by the German army.  While politicians dithered over whether women should be allowed to serve as “Home Defenders” – and some women planned suicides – others began training themselves to repel the Nazis by force. Venetia Foster’s … Continue reading ““At Them, Girls!” How the Amazon Defence Corps Trained to Take on Nazi Invaders”

“Fighting with pot lids” – nabebuta displays at the London Budokwai

Exhibitions of kobudo (weaponed martial arts) by members of the London Budokwai during 1919, 1922 and 1924 included displays of combat with a highly unusual weapon – the nabebuta or “pot lid”.  Described by one journalist as resembling “wooden cymbals”, the nabebuta are rare even in koryu bujutsu (“old-school martial arts”), being particularly associated with … Continue reading ““Fighting with pot lids” – nabebuta displays at the London Budokwai”

“Proof of great strength”: grappling with the Kibbo Kift Kindred

Exemplifying the virtues and limitations of the early 20th century “self-taught man”, John Hargrave (1894-1982) was accomplished in a variety of fields.  A senior scoutmaster possessing great powers of imagination, energy and charisma, Hargrave’s experience of war during the Battle of Gallipoli caused him to become bitterly disillusioned with the nationalism and militarism of Sir Robert … Continue reading ““Proof of great strength”: grappling with the Kibbo Kift Kindred”