Self-Defence With An Umbrella (Daily Mirror, Jan. 9 1902)

The dangers unprotected ladies incur when they travel alone was not long ago strikingly illustrated by a terrible assault perpetrated in a railway train.

It is all very well to tender advice, which in everyday life is almost impossible to act upon, recommending ladies never to travel alone, nor walk down lonely lanes or rough neighbourhoods unattended by a male escort. Modern conditions make advice of this nature impracticable, even if the independence of the modern maid did not rebel against the restrictions which were de rigueur in the days of her grandmother, and the lesson for the lady of to-day to learn is self reliance, in self-defence, even as in other things.

Unknown to herself almost every woman carries with her a perfect means of protection from either lunatic or hooligan when she walks abroad or travels, in the shape of that inseparable companion of womanhood—an umbrella or parasol!

Match for any Ruffian

All that is necessary is a little practice in the use of the umbrella, and the self-confidence which knowledge of its potency as a weapon of self-defence will give, for the most delicately-nurtured lady to feel herself more than a match for any cowardly ruffian of the streets.

Madame Vigny, the wife of the well-known maitre d’armes, has elaborated a perfect system of self-defence with an umbrella or parasol by combining some of the “wards and thrusts” used in fencing with passes suitable to the make of the umbrella, along with certain throws, similar to those used in Ju-Jit-Su or Japanese wrestling, recently described and illustrated in the Daily Mirror.

The Purse Snatcher
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Suppose, for instance, a lady is walking along a lonely street carrying a purse in her hand, with her umbrella swinging on her arm. A lurking ruffian suddenly approaches her and snatches her purse from her hand. The correct thing for her to do is to relinquish her hold of the purse, grasp her umbrella about two-thirds of its length from the point, and swing it rapidly towards the fellow’s head. Instinctively he will throw up his arm to ward off the blow, and if he understands boxing will probably strike out with his fist. The lady draws back on her left foot and suddenly, with a dexterous twist of the wrist, lunges forth, as with a rapier, and strikes her assailant with the point of her weapon behind the ear.
Umbrella 1
Brought to the Ground

Should he be as strong as Sandow, the concussion will bring him to the ground, and the lady can then pick up her purse and call for the police, meanwhile mounting guard over her prostrate foe, with her umbrella firmly grasped ready to strike again should the occasion require it.

Suppose, on the other hand, that the purse is so rapidly snatched that the fellow is making off with his booty before the lady has time to perform the evolutions described above. Nothing is simpler than to “hook” him by the ankle as he is running off, and bring him to the ground in confusion.
Umbrella 4
Umbrella 3
Should he prove to be a really desperate fellow, he will probably have recourse to that dangerous weapon of the hooligan, a studded belt. Even if he does this there is no reason for the mistress of umbrella self-defence to feel alarmed. Let her regard him steadily, and place her left arm at an angle, and advance it to meet the descending belt. If she thus meets the blow the belt will coil round her arm without hurting her in the slightest, and then, while she clutches the wrist of her assailant, she thrusts the umbrella with all her force into his neck. The rough is not living who can survive a second experience of this nature, and with experience a lady can hold at bay not one but two or three assailants.

Imparts Grace and Suppleness

This exercise imparts to its votaries great suppleness and gives to the figure that erectness and grace which only fencers can hope to obtain. It was mainly for the gracefulness of contour which fencing gives that popularised the foils amongst ladies and caused such noted exponents of the art as Miss Annie Lowther and Miss Esme Beringer to be the envied of all observers.

Beyond this, fencing has no practical use, but, when the principles of swordsmanship are applied to the umbrella, the woman who has become mistress of the art will feel a sense of security when travelling or alone that hitherto even the bravest of the fair sex have been strangers to.

Bartitsu seminars in Italy: Aug./Sept. 2009

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The inaugural event of the new Bartitsu Italia association will be a series of Bartitsu seminars taught by Tony Wolf and organised by Ran A. Braun and Paolo Papparella.

Seminar 1: August 28-30 in Rome
Seminar 2: September 2-4 in Cosenza (Calabria)

Both seminars will include intensive introductions to canonical and neo-Bartitsu training drills as well as discussions of Bartitsu history and related subjects.

For further details and booking information please contact info@bartitsu.it and/or see http://www.bartitsu.it/eventi.html.

Bartitsu in “Absinthe and Flamethrowers”

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Plugging Bill Gurstelle’s new book, Absinthe and Flamethrowers: the Art of Living Dangerously, which includes a six-page article on the history and practice of Bartitsu.

According to the publishers:

Want to add more excitement to your life?

This daring combination of science, history, and DIY projects will show you how. Written for smart risk takers, it explores why danger is good for you and details the art of living dangerously.

Risk takers are more successful, more interesting individuals who lead more fulfilling lives. Unlike watching an action movie or playing a video game, real-life experience changes a person, and Gurstelle will help you discover the true thrill of making black powder along with dozens of other edgy activities.

All of the projects—from throwing knives, drinking absinthe, and eating fugu to cracking a bull whip, learning bartitsu, and building a flamethrower—have short learning curves, are hands-on and affordable, and demonstrate true but reasonable risk.

With a strong emphasis on safety, each potentially life-altering project includes step-by-step directions, photographs, and illustrations along with troubleshooting tips from experts in the field.

Bartitsu intensive at ISMAC 2009

A quick report on the Bartitsu intensive at the tenth International Swordfighting and Martial Arts Convention, held at the Detroit Westin hotel between May 21-25, 2009.

The Bartitsu course was divided into two three-hour classes held on days 2 and 3 of the conference, and was well attended on both days (14 participants.)

We started with a precis discussion of E.W. Barton-Wright, the Bartitsu Club era and the Sherlock Holmes connection.  The participants then proceeded into a fairly quick study of the three themes of alignment control, initiative control and adaptability, using as examples the left-lead off and counters from scientific boxing, the coup de pied bas and chasse bas kicks of savate and two canonical jiujitsu defence sequences. The rest of this session covered a representative sample of canonical Bartitsu walking cane defence sequences, focusing on the straight or ball-handled cane.

Day 2 began with a discussion of Edith Garrud and the “Jiujitsuffragettes”,
progressed into a selection of crook-handled cane defences and then into the “twist” and “segue” exercises, as detailed in Volume II of the Bartitsu Compendium, applied to many of the canonical sequences that  had ben practiced up til then.  The “defenders” were challenged to spontaneously adapt their set-play defences in response to their first intention being defeated by the “attacker”, leading towards controlled, self defence oriented sparring scenarios.

During this class I was honoured to be joined by Mark Donnelly who has been teaching Bartitsu in England for a number of years. Mark and I had never worked together before, and I am very happy to report that he is a great asset to the international Bartitsu community; an excellent instructor, historian and martial artist. He has recently moved to the US and I’m looking forward to more collaborations with him in the future.

Bartitsu instructors Mark Donnelly (left) and Tony Wolf (right)
Bartitsu instructors Mark Donnelly (left) and Tony Wolf (right)

Bartitsu Club Italia

Bartitsu Club Italia is a new initiative by martial arts history enthusiast and artistic director Ran A. Braun.  The object of this new society will be to promote and advance the teaching of Bartitsu throughout Italy.  Also spearheading the B.I. is journalist and martial arts enthusiast Paolo Paparella.

The inaugural event on the Bartitsu Italia calendar will be a series of Bartitsu workshops and press events held in Rome, Cosenza and Savona between August 28-September 6, 2009.

Not your grandfather’s Sherlock Holmes …

Sherlock Holmes movie trailer

The first official trailer for the upcoming Holmes movie, evidently calculated to outrage purists and attract the attention of a younger audience.

Holmes’ “baritsu” is not identical to E.W. Barton-Wright’s Bartitsu, but still, the trailer shows us bare-knuckle boxing, stick fighting, a jiujitsu-like throw and a savate-like kick.  By establishing the equation of “Victorian London” and “martial arts”, the new movie risks making Bartitsu cool ..

THE UMBRELLA: A MISUNDERSTOOD WEAPON

This article, written and illustrated by J.F. Sullivan, originally appeared in “The Ludgate Monthly” of 1897,  just a few years before E.W. Barton-Wright introduced Bartitsu to London.

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No weapon is so little understood as the umbrella. This—the true arm of the citizen — has simply been brought into sheer contempt and ridicule by no fault of its own, but simply by the ignorance and want of skill of its wearer. In the case of every other weapon which has been adopted, at various periods of the world’s history, by man, the user has considered a thorough knowledge of its capabilities and limits a fundamental necessity in its effective employment; and has invariably fitted himself, by long and constant practise, for that employment.  What prehistoric man would have thought of using his flint spear as a gun? What Roman legionary would have dreamed of applying a fuse to the hilt of his sword ? Would any sane Knight of the Middle Ages have been caught employing his lance in the capacity of a single-stick ? Very well then !

It fills me with an inexpressible shame to have to declare—to inform presumably intelligent citizens—that the umbrella is not a broadsword!

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The umbrella is distinctly a form of rapier; the husband-beater is a hand-and-a-half estoc (to be used in the saddle, if required); and the sunshade and parasol are short swords, or long daggers: and one and all are designed for thrusting— not cutting.

Yet how does the citizen use his characteristic weapon ? Why, as a broadsword—nearly always!

How does Jones, Brown, or Robinson —fully armed with his umbrella—behave when attacked by bravos, infuriated females, mad dogs, or infuriated cabmen?

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MISTAKEN UMBRELLIST AND MAD DOG

He simply hits them on the hat—with the exception of the mad dog, of course —with his gingham: and they simply smile, and reduce him to a pulp. We read of cases every day in the newspaper.

Linger for awhile in any wild district into which the arm of the law has not yet penetrated, and where the citizen holds his life in his hands: the districts round about Bow Street Police Station, for example. Wait until you perceive some pedestrian attacked by a gang of footpads, descending from the mountain fastnesses of Betterton Street and Somebody’s Rents. You need not, as a rule, wait more than five minutes.

Now watch : how does that pedestrian employ his umbrella ? Why, almost invariably as a broadsword.

With his swashing blow he endeavours to cleave a rough to the chine, and behead him.

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MISUSED AS A BROADSWORD

The effort fails in its purpose—and why ? Why, simply because no umbrella, even of the finest temper, will bear an edge sufficiently keen to sever the head from the body at a single blow.

Why does that citizen fail to go home to tea; and why are his widow and orphans left desolate ?

Because he never studied the true use of the umbrella.

But see—here approaches another pedestrian whose wary eye indicates that he knows what’s what. He proceeds along Endell Street, his light overcoat twisted around his left arm; his stern right hand gripping a tightly-rolled umbrella. As he arrives at the scattered chips of the former pedestrian, with a blood-curdling war-cry whose echo may even startle the slumbering policemen in the adjacent station, and cause the magistrate to shudder in his chair, out rush the wild hordes of the alley.

Calmly the new pedestrian places his back to the workhouse wall; then, in a moment, his flashing umbrella has passed, to the very hilt, through his foremost assailant. It is out again, and its keen ferrule passes down the throat of a second foeman.

A third falls, the wind whistling shrilly through three distinct perforations which pierce him from back to front. The rest flee in confusion. It is a rout. That citizen stands erect amid a ring of the silent slain. He has learned the use of the umbrella—that is all. He goes home to tea, while the police arrive and gather up the slain.5

It is a national disgrace that there exists no School of Umbrella-Fence. In this very London are many schools and clubs for the culture of the rapier and single-stick; yet there is not one where umbrella play may be studied.

Still, even in the absence of schools, the science may be studied at home, with the aid of one’s wife.

It is as well not to allow the wife to be armed in this game, as ladies are proverbially clumsy with weapons, and might damage one seriously.

Let the wife be merely on the defensive, and armed with a shield. A dish- cover with a string inside will serve admirably as a shield; or a sofa cushion will do. By a little practise, according to the following rules, the umbrellist may quickly become proficient in the use of one of the handiest and prettiest weapons yet invented by man.

First Position.—Stand with the feet some sixteen inches apart; the right foot in advance ; the right shoulder turned towards the adversary; the point of the umbrella lowered; the left arm raised as a balance.

The Lunge.—Raise the umbrella to a horizontal position, and thrust it suddenly out until the arm is fully extended; the right foot simultaneously taking a step forward. With a little practise a hit is almost certain, unless your wife has a very quick eye. Hit anywhere, as every hit counts.

If your wife tires of the game, tear up her hat and twist the cat’s neck. Return to first position, and smile.

After a time, when the umbrellist has become to some extent expert, an orange may be placed upon the wife’s head, to lunge at; and when the lunger can succeed in transfixing the fruit with the ferrule, some amount of dexterity has been attained. It is as well for the wife to be provided with sticking-plaster, and a few false eyes; but, as we said before, never allow her to use an umbrella, as serious accidents to the male umbrellist may result.

Where no wife is at hand, any person unable to retaliate will answer the purpose. If you possess a very fat friend, you will find excellent practise in lunging at his waistcoat buttons. Should you injure any vital part, apologise at once: for the strict etiquette of the game should never be omitted.

We will now suppose that the umbrellist has qualified himself for serious combat; and append a few hints as to the proper methods of procedure in some of the many occasions in which the umbrella, as a lethal weapon, may come in useful.

The Duel To The Death With A BURGLAR.—On being disturbed at night by sounds indicative of the presence of a burglar in the house, the umbrellist should arise, select his favourite umbrella, and, proceeding to the grindstone, give a keen point to the ferrule.

He then descends the stairs, and challenges the burglar to single-combat; when the following rules of the duel must be strictly observed :

The burglar, first laying aside any dangerous weapon, such as a revolver or jemmy, with which he may be armed, assumes an upright position, with his hands clasped behind him. The umbrellist now advances, and bows to his adversary, who returns the salute. Play now commences.

It consists of the endeavour of the umbrellist to transfix the burglar with the umbrella. The burglar should not move, as movement is calculated to baulk the aim of his opponent. In this play no hits count unless the ferrule appears on the further edge of the burglar’s periphery.

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At each thrust which penetrates, yet fails to go right through, the burglar is at liberty to call “half-through,” and scores one. Seven perforations through vital parts secure victory to the umbrellist. Should there be several burglars, only one should join in the duel at a time; the other or others standing aside and somewhat behind the one engaged, in order to check the effective thrusts. These may be marked on the drawing-room wall-paper, or scratched on the piano with a nail.

For the adjustment of affairs of honour, the umbrella might be made invaluable. In fine, the misuse of the umbrella by a nation priding itself upon its military instincts—a nation upon whose flag the sun never sets—is a standing disgrace only to be wiped out by speedy and thorough-going reform.

Bartitsu fight scene in “Sherlock Holmes” (2009)

Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey, Jr.) fends off two ruffians.
Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey, Jr.) fends off two ruffians.

According to USA Today:

“It’s a kind of Japanese street fighting,” explains director Guy Ritchie.  “It uses walking sticks, bowler hats, choke holds to put people to sleep – any means possible.”  The form of martial arts was invented in England in the late 1800s and was mentioned by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (he used the term “baritsu”) in one of his stories.

“Introductory Bartitsu” DVD review

Introductory Bartitsu

“Introductory Bartitsu” is a new instructional DVD by Allen Reed of the Gallowglass Academy.

Allen begins with an accurate precis of Bartitsu history and then takes viewers through American catch-as-catch-can wrestler Farmer Burns’ warmup routine, focusing on isometric and calisthenic exercises.

The next section introduces basic jiujitsu ukemi techniques (side, front and rear breakfalls) and this is followed by an introduction to some of Barton-Wright’s atemi-waza (striking techniques) as detailed in his Pearson’s Magazine articles.

Subsequent sections take us through many of the jiujitsu techniques demonstrated in B-W’s “New Art of Self Defence” articles, with occasional neo-Bartitsu variations based on Allen’s background in Miyama-ryu jiujitsu and Paracombatives; a complementary section on throwing and counter-throwing from classic pugilism; basic boxing, drawing largely from “Boxing” by R.G. Allanson-Winn; two fundamental low kicks drawn from the savate repertoire and a thorough sampling of the Vigny/Bartitsu cane fighting techniques from B-W’s “Self Defence with a Walking Stick” articles.

The presentation is simple and straightforward, as a progression of individual techniques demonstrated from both sides, often several times.  Allen explains the techniques as they are being demonstrated by himself and his assistant Chris Vail.  The video and sound quality is clear.

In sum, this 1 hour, 33 minute DVD from Gallowglass is a concise, no-frills introduction to largely canonical Bartitsu techniques.  It should be of particular use to beginners, especially those working from volume I of the Bartitsu Compendium.

You can purchase the DVD from Allen’s site.