M. Vigny’s School of Self Defence (1904)

From the Daily News, May 27, 1904:

All good citizens will rejoice to learn that a new and efficacious method of abolishing those pests of the streets known as Hooligans has been discovered and put into practical application by a French gentleman named M. Pierre Vigny.

Some years ago the idea occurred to M. Vigny, who, it may be mentioned, has been fencing muster to a French crack cavalry regiment, that it would be possible to discover a system by which people could guard themselves against the cowardly methods of assault practised by the blackguards of the streets. M. Vigny accordingly proceeded to study the methods of Hooligans in the slums of London and Liverpool. When he acquired first-hand knowledge of their ways, he repaired to Paris, where he sought wisdom from the Thugs and Apaches, ruffians who assault pedestrians with sand-bags and life-preservers, and then, for the purpose of finishing his education, he spent considerable time amongst the ruffians of Rome and Naples, who are proficient in the use of the murderous stiletto, and completed his curriculum in the Bowery of New York and the slums of Chicago.

He thus became conversant with every device of the street ruffian, and, what is of more importance, he discovered how to protect himself effectively from every weapon, with the exception of firearms, they use, including loaded belts, sand-bags, bludgeons, knives and daggers, with the instrumentality of a humble walking stick!

For the purpose of imparting this art he has established a “School of Self Defence” in a street near Oxford-street, which is largely patronised by young aristocrats, city men, actors, and others whose pursuits necessitate their being out late. Ladies also receive instruction at this unique school in large numbers, and M. Vigny maintains that anyone who has mastered the system of self-defence with a walking-stick or umbrella, which he has inaugurated, is a match for at least half a dozen street ruffians armed with belts or knives!

“Father Frank’s trick”

Text from “The French Scotland Yard: About the Paris Detective and his Work” by Alder Anderson and H. de Noussanne; The London Magazine, Volume 9, 1903.

Has the reader ever heard of “the trick of Father Francis?” Or as it is in its French dress, “le coup du Pere Francois”? Whether he has or not, let him offer up a devout prayer that it may never be practically demonstrated to him on his own person. To the industrious antiquarian must be left the task of discovering exactly who “Father Francis” was; the trick to which he stands sponsor will, nonetheless, remain one of the most effectual methods known to he Paris representative of the London “hooligan”, of disabling a belated bourgeois, who looks as if he might be the temporary custodian of a heavy purse, a well-lined pocket book, a gold watch or any of the hundred and one trifles for which the soul of the hooligan of every country hungers.

Properly executed, the “trick of Father Francis” is not inartistic, and though painful to the victim, seldom proves fatal. Any person whose steps lead him Pariswards may see the interesting youth of the French metropolis who select the dry moat of the fortifications as their playground, practicing this trick and others in sheer wantonness among themselves. All that is required for the purpose is a large silk handkerchief.

A former professor of the art has been good enough to describe for the readers of the London Magazine his modus operandi. It would be a pity to attempt to improve on the naive precision of his style. Here, then, is a faithful transcription, in English, of his lesson.

“Take a strong silk muffler (scarf), which you should wear very loosely round the neck. You should have (at least) one accomplice, who follows you at a distance of about a dozen paces. Select a belated wayfarer of substantial appearance, and walk in the same direction as he is going, and, as nearly as you can, on a level with him without arousing his suspicions. Should the street be well lighted or you have reason to suspect that anyone may be observing you, be particularly careful to appear utterly indifferent, both to the man you are following and to your accomplice.

Sooner or later, you will traverse some dark, deserted thoroughfare. Here you must arrange to be a few steps in advance. You stop in an unconcerned manner, as if to light a cigarette, and your man comes up level, and finally passes you.

You then quickly drop the match, take a firm grip of each end of the muffler and swing it over your own head and over the head of your man, so that it goes under his chin. At the same instant you half turn round, bend slightly forward, and by so doing lift the bourgeois off the ground by the neck. He is half suffocated and has no time to utter the least exclamation. Your accomplice, meanwhile, has run up, and while you keep a firm hold of the muffler, at once explores all the pockets of the choking and helpless victim. If necessary, he can give the bourgeois a blow on the head to keep him quiet. The whole operation is over in a few seconds. It is rarely necessary to kill the victim, who may be just left senseless on the ground where he falls.”

In spite of all their precautions, Father Francis tricksters are occasionally caught red-handed by the guardians of the law. They then, commonly, resort to the “head trick,” which consists in charging at the policeman with lowered head. A blow thus delivered in the pit of the stomach is usually all but fatal. The police are carefully instructed how to parry this form of attack by stepping quickly aside at the last moment, felling the aggressor by a heavy blow on the nape of the neck as he passes. An alternative is for the policeman to stand on one leg and check the rush of the oncoming “ram” with the raised knee of the other leg, giving a heavy blow on the head with the fist at the same time.

Finger Weapons of the Parisian Apaches

(From the June 1911 issue of “Popular Mechanics” magazine)

All the weapons used by the Apaches in Paris are unique, but none are more ingenious than these curious rings and the device known as the “thorn punch”. The latter, held as shown in the illustration and delivered with a hard, straight blow, would drop a man as if hit by a sledge. The rings, however, are more subtle, as they appear to be nothing more than ordinary finger adornments with the exaggerated settings or heads often worn by fad extremists, but hidden within the hand is an extension. This rests against the palm when the fist is doubled and adds much force to the blow.