R. G. Allanson-Winn on “The Umbrella as a Weapon of Self-Defence” (1890)

Rowland George Allanson-Winn, the 5th Baron Headley, was a man of diverse interests and an interesting man. Born in London in 1855, he went on to study mathematics at Cambridge University and law at the Middle Temple before settling on a career in civil engineering, supervising numerous roadwork and land reclamation projects in Ireland and then in India.

While at Cambridge, Allanson-Winn took up the sport of boxing, which he pursued with great enthusiasm and significant skill, winning both the school’s heavyweight and middleweight championships. His voluminous 1899 treatise on the history and technique of pugilism, simply titled Boxing, is today regarded as a classic work. Indeed, Allanson-Winn was devoted to almost all the “antagonistic arts” available to a young man in late-Victorian England, as is evidenced by his co-authorship, with C. Phillipps-Wolley, of the also-classic Broadsword and Singlestick: with Chapters on Quarter-Staff, Bayonet, Cudgel, Shillalah, Walking-Stick, Umbrella, and Other Weapons of Self-Defense (1890).

The following excerpt from that book – which offers some notably sound advice on self defence in general – deals with the use of the umbrella as a defensive implement.

In 1913, Rowland Allanson-Winn converted from Catholicism to the religion of Islam, adopting the spiritual name of Shaikh Saifurrahman Rehmatullah El-Farooq. Upon his death in 1935, he was eulogised by his friends at the Woking Muslim Mission:

To say that he was popular would be belittling his character. He was charming, gentle, kind, lovable — a loving son, a loving father, a loving husband and a loving but, above all, a sincere friend. His was an extremely charitable nature, and God had gifted him with virtues of the highest order.

The Umbrella.

As a weapon of modern warfare this implement has not been given a fair place. It has, indeed, too often been spoken of with contempt and disdain, but there is no doubt that, even in the hands of a strong and angry old woman, a gamp of solid proportions may be the cause of much damage to an adversary. Has not an umbrella, opened suddenly and with a good flourish, stopped the deadly onslaught of the infuriated bull, and caused the monarch of the fields to turn tail? Has it not, when similarly brought into action, been the means of stopping a runaway horse, whose mad career might otherwise have caused many broken legs and arms?

If, then, there are these uses beyond those which the dampness of our insular climate forces upon us, it may be well to inquire how they can be brought to bear when a man, who is an expert swordsman, or one who has given attention to his fencing lessons, is attacked without anything in his hands save the homely umbrella.

It is, of course, an extremely risky operation prodding a fellow-creature in the eye with the point of an umbrella; and I once knew a man who, being attacked by many roughs, and in danger of losing his life through their brutality, in a despairing effort made a desperate thrust at the face of one of his assailants. The point entered the eye and the brain, and the man fell stone dead at his feet. I would therefore only advocate the thrusting when extreme danger threatens—as a dernier resort, in fact, and when it is a case of who shall be killed, you or your assailant.

There are two methods of using the umbrella, viz. holding it like a fencing foil— and for this reason umbrellas should always be chosen with strong straight handles—for long thrusts when at a distance, or grasping it firmly with both hands, as one grasps the military rifle when at bayonet exercise.

In the latter case one has a splendid weapon for use against several assailants at close quarters. Both the arms should be bent and held close to the body, which should be made to work freely from the hips, so as to put plenty of weight into the short sharp prods with which you can alternately visit your opponents’ faces and ribs.

If you have the handle in your right hand, and the left hand grasps the silk (or alpaca), not more than a foot from the point, it will be found most effective to use the forward and upward strokes with the point for the faces, and the backthrusts with the handle for the bodies. Whatever you do, let your strokes be made very quickly and forcibly, for when it comes to such close work as this, your danger lies in being altogether overpowered, thrown down, and possibly kicked to death; and, as I have before hinted, when there is a choice of evils, choose the lesser, and don’t be the least squeamish about hurting those who will not hesitate to make a football of your devoted head should it unfortunately be laid low.

Then, again, there is no better weapon for guarding a heavy blow aimed at you with a thick bludgeon than an umbrella, which, with its wire ribs and soft covering, is almost unbreakable, when all its ribs are held tightly with both hands; it is also, for the same reason, when thus grasped with both hands, an excellent defence against the attack of a large powerful dog, which may spring at your throat; but, in this case, remember to get one of your legs well behind the other so as to bring most of the weight of your body on the foremost leg, and, if you are lucky, you may have the satisfaction of throwing the animal on his back.

Thrusting, prodding, and guarding, then, may be called the strong points of the gamp; it is no use for hitting purposes, and invariably tumbles to pieces, comes undone, and gets into a demoralized condition when one tries to make it fulfil all the conditions of the unclothed walking-stick.  Besides which, the handles are never made strong enough for hitting, and the hittee is protected by the folds of silk.

Hitting, then, is the weak point of the gamp. Try to remember this when you feel inclined to administer a castigation to man or beast, and bear in mind that a comic scene may ensue, when, hot and angry, you stand with your best umbrella broken and half open, with the silk torn and the ribs sticking out in all directions.

Sometimes umbrellas have been made even more effective weapons by what is called a spring dagger, which consists of a short, strong knife or dirk let into the handle, and is readily brought into play by a sudden jerk, or by touching a spring. This may be all very well for travellers in the out-of-the-way regions of Spain, Sicily, or Italy, but I don’t like these dangerous accessories for English use, as they may be unfortunately liable to abuse by excitable persons.

“The New Art of Self Defence: A Clever Display” (1898)

From The Sporting Life29 October, 1898

Anything absolutely new with regard what no one will deny is an ancient and honourable pastime (we refer to the noble art) must of necessity be received with curiosity, and, to say the least of it, pleasure.

The noble art of self-defence stands where it did in the long ago, and beyond superiority and inferiority on the part of its professors, remains exactly the same, no better, no worse- as illustrated by Jackson, Figg, Broughton, and Cribb down to Mace, Sayers, Heenan, Travers, Wormald, and the rest of England’s greatest pugilists. It has been left to Mr. Barton-Wright to demonstrate some original ideas, which he illustrated on Wednesday evening St. James’s Hall.

Mr Barton-Wright describes his new art of self-defence as founded upon the principle of throwing unnatural strain upon any one of the joints of the body, arms, legs etc., which anatomically and mechanically it is absolutely impossible to resist.  It matters not how strong your opponent may be considered, viz., disturbing his equilibrium, at the time completely overpowering and paralysing his efforts.

In addition. Mr. Barton-Wright’s programme embraced an easy method of extricating oneself from the clutches of an adversary when attacked from behind suddenly and unawares, and in a most dangerous position, in any and every case the claimant to this new art of self defence contends that, notwithstanding the most formidable disadvantages, any and every opponent can be easily and effectually overcome.

On Wednesday evening the demonstrator illustrated all these methods, and showed their salutary effects to an attendance, if not numerous, then decidedly select, many ladies being present.

We may mention that Mr. Barton-Wright argues that boxing only a part of self defence, and that defence implies any means whereby a man is able successfully to meet an opponent. It was essentially a fashionable drawing room entertainment, and received unanimous approval.

At the outset (nine o’clock) Mr. Barton-Wright announced that, owing to disappointment, several of his artists had failed to put in an appearance. W. Clarke and Izar wrestled a five minutes’ bout in the Graeco-Roman style as the commencement to the proceedings. Tom Burrow, the famous club swinger, officiated as referee.

Catch-as-catch-can style came next, between A. Muller and E. P. Gruhn. The latter gained first and second falls and Muller the third. Donald Dinnie, the far-famed Scotch athlete, was here introduced.

Swiss trousers wrestling by F. Scherzdegger and Jean Schwickley. This provoked roars of laughter. Schwickley (anglicised) won the first fall, Scherzdegger the second. A “dog fall”; one of the men, shaking his head, described it as a “notting,” and they rested. Finally Scherzdegger won.

Mr. E. W. Barton-Wright now made a welcome appearance, attired in University costume, with Mr. Chipchase (middle-weight Cumberland and Westmoreland amateur champion).  Mr. Heffmann introduced Mr. Barton Wright.

Japanese Wrestling. —The illustrator divested himself of boots and socks. His illustrations were:

Tests of the art of falling, fall on back without shock, stomach throw on Mr. Chipchase.

Neck hold with throttle, throwing a man sideways, receiving an attack in Cumberland and Westmoreland style, holds when resisting a throw, demonstrating a lever weight, different ways of tripping, falls in marvellously intricate positions, cross-buttocks lowering the centre of gravity, different ways of throwing man and holding him down, and a thief’s throw.

There was then a bout with Mr. Chipchase – and finally Mr. Barton-Wright concluded amidst a hearty and well-deserved round of cheers.

“Fearsome Armour of the ‘Human Porcupine'” (1910)

From the Dundee Evening Telegraph of 10 January, 1910:

ARMOURED RUFFIAN HAS DESPERATE STRUGGLE WITH POLICE.

One Killed and Three Wounded.

Paris is no stranger scenes of violence in the streets, but the struggle which took place on Saturday night with Apaches surpasses in ferocity anything which has happened for a long time. The bill for the adventure was one policeman killed and three wounded.

Shortly after seven a sinister individual, of the true Apache type, sitting in a small wine shop the Rue Aubry-le-Boucher, boasted aloud that he was going to kill a policeman as soon as possible. Warned of this, two plain-clothes policemen came up and found the Apache, whose name was Liabeuf, just leaving the wineshop.

They immediately clapped hands on him, but at once jumped back with shrieks of pain. Under his sleeves Liabeuf, it seems, was armed with bands of leather studded with long needle-pointed nails, and these had penetrated deeply into the hands of the policemen.

Profiting from their pain and astonishment, Liabeuf then whipped out a long, sharp shoemaker’s knife, and as quick as lightning stabbed one policeman, named Deray, eight times in the chest, then immediately turned to the other policeman and stabbed him twice in the neck.

Half a dozen other policemen came running up and a terrible struggle followed, but owing to the studded bands round Liabeuf’s arms it was impossible to hold him, and he continually stabbed at random.

Liabeuf then took refuge in the entrance of small hotel, and, abandoning the knife, drew a revolver. At the first shots, Deray, who was first stabbed, and in spite of great loss of blood, had gallantly joined again in the struggle, fell with two bullets in the stomach.

Another policeman’s life was saved by his belt buckle, which stopped the third revolver ball.

A bloodthirsty struggle in the narrow, ill-lighted passage was only ended by six or eight policemen, all of whom showed the greatest gallantry, hurling themselves in a heap on Liabeuf. One policeman, then, drawing his sabre, transfixed him through the ribs, but without killing him.

It was with the greatest difficulty that reinforcements of police afterwards kept the enraged crowd of inhabitants from trampling on the inanimate body of Liabeuf.

Policeman Deray died in hospital from his ten wounds after the gold police medal had been pinned on his breast by Monsieur Lepine, just before the final operation. The other wounded are going on well.

Liabeuf turns out to be a vagabond shoemaker, who was recently sentenced three months for exploiting women in Paris. For this he had sworn to be revenged on the police as soon possible. The leather nail-studded bands were made with all the shoemaker’s skill, and had only just been finished.

 

Postscript: during his trial, Jean Liabeuf claimed that he had not intended to kill Deray, but was rather seeking revenge against the gendarmes Maugras and Vors, who had falsely arrested him for procuring.  He said that he had conceived of his unique “porcupine quill” armour during his three months of imprisonment on that charge.  

Despite the support of two socialist newspapers – La Guerre Sociale and The Radical – Liabeuf was executed by guillotine on the morning of Friday, July 1, 1910.  A large and hostile crowd of spectators had gathered to protest the execution; the police were hissed at and three shots rang out, one wounding a police inspector in the throat.  The police then charged the crowd with drawn sabres, and they were dispersed.

“Self-Defence with a Bicycle” video from the 2017 Dreynevent

A humourous and enlightening demonstration of Self-Defence with a Bicycle, animating the lessons of Marcus Tindal’s eccentric 1901 Pearson’s Magazine article. The demo took place at the recent Dreynevent historical European martial arts workshops in Vienna.

“The New Art of Self Defence for Women” ( Yorke’s Peninsula Advertiser, 28 May, 1909)

There is no chivalry among footpads. It not infrequently happens that a woman finds herself suddenly in a position where she must fight or surrender. The woman who knows how to use the weapons that fashion has supplied her with need fear no “hold-up” — the umbrella is a match for any weapon the tramp can bring into play.

The physical culturists are now teaching women this simple art of self-defence. It is easily learned, is no tax on the strength, and though a girl may never need it, if ever she should, she will need it very badly and very suddenly. A girl should, in short, learn to brandish an umbrella and fence with it as if it were a foil. She should also be instructed in the fine art of stunning a pickpocket with a swift and well-aimed blow with a hand-bag.

A lady, who has acquired this art of self-defence, tells us she handles her umbrella exactly as if it were a weapon, sometimes as a gun and bayonet and then again as a sword. She took a short course of training more for the exercise and the amusement of the thing than because she expected to have to use her umbrella in self-defence. But since she has learned its uses, the umbrella gives her such a feeling of security that she is never without one, and she has completely lost her fear of pickpockets and thieves.

She was first taught to deceive her adversary by a feint, just as a fencer would, except that with the umbrella she knocks the man’s hat down over his face as far as possible. This is sure to surprise the thug, and always disconcerts him, for he is, for the moment, blinded by the hat coming suddenly over his eyes. He loses his presence of mind and gives the woman time to swing the umbrella back again and to inflict upon him a punishment which he will long remember. While he is recovering from the first blow the young woman can choose between several different thrusts, each one effective in its way.

There are two knockout blows, each of which is effective. One is delivered in the solar plexus (just over the abdomen), the other in the throat, just below the Adam’s apple. It requires a little dexterity and practice to deliver the second blow with the accuracy that is necessary.

A dig in the throat when sharply given with the ferrule of an umbrella will make the strongest thug unconscious for a while at least, and allow the girl to escape. To get plenty of strength into the thrust, the umbrella must be taken in both hands and literally rammed at the neck or right at the pit of the stomach. The former blow paralyses the nerves of a man’s head; the latter makes him double up like a jack-knife, and gasp for breath, and if delivered with sufficient force will knock him unconscious.

Fashion has also given to woman two or more weapons from which even the strongest man will flinch. We allude to her hatpin. It is a useful means of self-protection. Many women use hatpins as children use pins, with the head and long end slipped up their sleeve, and just the point in their fingers. When they carry much money and have to go through crowd they hold a hatpin this way in their hands, ready to give a quick jab to any hand that may reach to snatch their treasure.

When the craze for jiu-jitsu first began, men and women believed that they could learn the magic art of self-defence, as taught by the Japanese, in a couple of lessons. Hundreds of women went in for it, but found after a time that the study of attack and defence, as understood by the Japanese, is a very long one, and has to be gone into systematically, carefully, and with circumspection. Few are willing to put in two or three years training merely in order to get in physical condition to be able to throw a footpad easily and gracefully. And though jiu-jitsu is one of the finest means of developing the physique, it has few women devotees.

The Japanese woman, when she is instructed in the art of self-defence, gives up a couple of years to the study, but for the women who do not care to spend time learning jiu-jitsu really the most scientific method of self-defenee is the use of the umbrella.

Unfortunately, however, in conquering footpads it is not so necessary to know the rules of umbrella fencing as to keep your nerves calm, your eye steady, and your head cool, for without these essentials the very finest theories will be found wanting.

The Belt as a Weapon (1890)

Bartitsu Club instructor Pierre Vigny demonstrates a walking stick defence against a hooligan armed with a leather belt.

Bartitsu founder E.W. Barton-Wright frequently referred to the utility of Pierre Vigny’s stick fighting art against common street weapons, including the fearsome, heavy-buckled belt favoured by gangsters in large English cities.  Here follows an excerpt from the Warminster & Westbury Journal and Wilts County Advertiser of Saturday, 13 September 1890, detailing how members of the Manchester scuttler gangs would use their belts in combat:

(…) the favourite weapons are stones and belts, and these latter form the almost indispensable outfit of “scuttler.” Many of these belts are very curious, bearing remarkable designs upon them. These are made the insertion of large number of pins, which are used to form a design along the whole length of the belt. The pins are inserted into the leather, then broken off, and filed down to a level with the leather.

The most dangerous part of the belt is the buckle, and this is made of brass, and usually measures about three inches in diameter. These are used by the “scuttler” fastening one end of the strap into the buckle end, and then, winding his hand round the strap from his wrist, he grasps the leather, leaving about eight or 10 inches the belt use a weapon, the winding of it round his arm preventing it from being readily dragged from him in a fight.

“One of Many Ways of Throwing a Man, without Exerting Strength, when you Seize him from Behind”

Members of the Cologne Bartitsu Club demonstrate a canonical Bartitsu technique from E.W. Barton-Wright’s article “The New Art of Self-Defence” (Pearson’s Magazine, March-April 1899).

The original text and images follow:

Seize the man by the collar of his coat from behind, and place your foot behind his knee. Pull with your hand, and press with your foot, and he will be at once deposited upon his back!

Without releasing your hold upon his collar, pass your right hand around his neck, so that you can bring your fore-arm across his throat. Then, seizing the right lappet of his coat with your left hand to prevent the coat from moving, you bear down with all your weight across his wind-pipe with your right arm, and so render him powerless to resist, and–if need be–throttle him!

“Ju-jitsu v. Boxing”: Yukio Tani takes on “Young Joseph” in a mixed-styles contest (1908)

From The Sporting LifeMonday, 13 April 1908:

JU-JITSU v. BOXING.

VARIED BOUTS AT SHOREDITCH OLYMPIA.

A really splendid programme was staged on Saturday afternoon at Olympia, Shoreditch, and was efficiently superintended the M.C., Mr. Jack Henderson, whoso duties were by no means light.

In addition to a match between a British exponent of ju-jitsu, Jack Madden, and Yamato Maida (Japan), the public were treated a most interesting contest, in which the boxer, Young Joseph, opposed Yukio Tani. The pictures of the championship light between Tommy Burns and Gunner Moir were shown, and various contests decided well-known wrestlers. Mr. Jack Henderson managed the proceedings on and off the stage, and was timekeeper, Mr R. P. Watson was referee for the ju-jitsu v. boxing, and Mr E. Joseph refereed the rest the events.

Details:— Tani cautiously eyed Joseph for several seconds. Joseph feinted repeatedly, and Tani kept out of harm’s way. The Jap cleverly escaped dangerous leads with right and left. Once Joseph lauded the left.

Tani jumped in twice with a leg trip, and just failed to bring the boxer down. Ail the time Joseph was threatening with the right, which Tani carefully watched and avoided.

At last Tani seized a favourable opportunity, and, dashing in, caught Joseph round the body (time, 4 min.). There was a fierce scramble on the ground, and Joseph escaped with a severe roughing. When they again faced each other Joseph drew close, and often led, but Tani cunningly side-stepped.

At last Tani dashed in with a body hold, and dragged Joseph to the mat.  Joseph tried in vain to extricate from this dangerous position, but Tani held him in a vice-like grip. Suddenly the Jap grabbed his arm, threw himself on his back, his leg over Joseph’s face, and with the arm lock won in 5 min. 34 sec.

“Attacked by Hooligans”: a Self-Defence Sketch with Pierre Vigny and Miss Sanderson

The Friday, 16 October 1903 edition of The Sporting Life included this short description of a self-defence skit performed by Pierre Vigny and “Miss Sanderson”, who was, in her private life, Madame Marguerite Vigny.  

SPECIAL MATINEE AT THE ROYAL MUSIC HALL

The first performance of a new and original sketch entitled “Attacked by Hooligans” written by Frank Howard, who is well known in sporting circles, round Professor Vigny’s new art of self defence, proved a great attraction at the Thursday matinee, for the house was well filled in every part.

The sketch opens with lesson in the professor’s academy, in which Mr. Vigny instructs Miss Saunderson. a lady pupil, in his clever art, and an exhibition how to defend one’s self is given. Then follows a “scrap” between a couple of Hooligans introduced by Mr. Howard, which might be considerably curtailed. The third tableau is a scene in the Clare Market, about the hour of the opening of the theatres. The Professor and his lady pupil are set upon by three Hooligans, whose number is afterwards increased. But so ably does the lady wield her umbrella and the Professor his walking-stick that their assailants are defeated in their fell purpose.

The sketch is a strong one, and highly instructive of what can be done with a common or garden walking stick. The Royal programme is especially strong at present, and the hall is well worth visit.