“Jiu-Jitsu with the Umbrella” (1909)

A concise sketch illustration of some of the umbrella self-defence techniques taught by Marguerite Vigny, the wife of Bartitsu Club instructor Pierre Vigny. Madame Vigny – who also went by the name “Miss Sanderson” – devised her own method of self-protection, based upon her husband’s but specialising in the use of parasols and umbrellas rather than walking sticks, the latter being more typically carried by men than by women.

Madame Vigny’s method favoured thrusting attacks with the steel ferrule – referred to by Bartitsu founder Edward Barton-Wright as “bayonet thrusts” – and hooking attacks with the crook handle, the latter backed up by the judicious use of the feet and knees.

Umbrella defence had previously enjoyed a brief media vogue during 1904, when several articles about Mademoiselle Marie Gelas appeared in American newspapers. Further articles on the Gelas method, especially highlighting umbrella techniques, were published in 1908/09, coinciding with reports on Madame Vigny’s system.

A sketch based on one of Marie Gelas’ demonstrations.

The notion of women’s self-defence via bumbershoot was then largely forgotten until circa 1970, when Los Angeles radio producer and fencing enthusiast Jill Maina devised her own take on the art.

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