“A New School of Self-Defence” (1902)

From The Referee of 21 September 1902:

I have been asked to notice the New School of Self Defence and Salle D’Escrime, opened at 18, Berners-street, Oxford-street, and the system of umbrella or stick play illustrated by Professor Pierre Vigny and disciples. Though unable to respond in person to the invitation given to be present at an assault held on Thursday of last week, I can do what is asked, for at various times I have assisted—as a spectator—at such displays.

Certainly the school does make good case for the articles’ usefulness, both in offence and self-defence, when expertly handled; but the art is scarcely new, though carrying much variety. Anyone well versed in single-stick can, of course, easily adapt anything in the nature of a stick for purposes of self-defence, which naturally includes carrying the war into the enemy’s quarters; but to my mind better possibilities are contained in being armed with a stout blackthorn, not to mention “my friend Captain Kennedy.”

At the same time, I have seen in street rows some awfully effective play made with a strong umbrella—a truly terrible weapon in the hands of a clever fencer indifferent as to what damage he might inflict. I wouldn’t like to go for anyone that way, save in extremity. Give such a one room to start —say, with his back against wall, and the foe in front, and he can do tremendous execution, almost murderous.

Once in an election riot I saw an old Army man, set upon by roughs, send his assailants down, man after man, at each lunge. Over they went, struck full on the chest, and no one came for a second dose. How much he hurt them goodness knows—seriously, most of them, I expect.

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