Recent news reports from France suggest that the bodyguards of president Nicolas Sarkozy will soon be carrying a new defensive weapon – the Para Pactum umbrella. Reinforced with kevlar, the Para Pactum has apparently been tested against attack dogs and is also proof against knives, acid and thrown projectiles: video here.
While this high-tech development in defensive bumbershootery is undoubtedly impressive, it is also simply the most recent in a hundred-plus year history of attempts to weaponise the humble brolly.
As early as 1838, the Baron Charles de Berenger suggested several ingenious methods for using an umbrella in defence against highwaymen and ruffians:
In 1897, J.F. Sullivan proposed the umbrella as a misunderstood weapon in his tongue-in-cheek article for the Ludgate Monthy.
Only a few years later, Bartitsu founder E.W. Barton-Wright took the subject seriously in his two-part article series for Pearson’s Magazine, explaining the use of the umbrella and walking stick in self defence. The cane/umbrella were considered the first line of defence in the Bartitsu arsenal, which also included boxing, wrestling and jujitsu.
After the London Bartitsu Club closed under mysterious circumstances in 1902, instructors Pierre Vigny and his wife, who is known to us only as “Miss Sanderson”, continued to teach the use of umbrellas and parasols as defensive weapons. By 1908 the concept had made its way to the United States, being taught at the Philadelphia Institute of Physical Culture and featured in Popular Mechanics Magazine.
The remainder of the 20th century has seen the use of umbrellas as weapons of assassination:
… as well as numerous developments of the “umbrella sword” motif:
… and, of course, the Unbreakable Umbrella:
Finally, see this page at TVTropes.org for a comprehensive list of weaponised umbrellas in anime, comic books, film, literature and television.