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!

“Hurricane fighting”: the Hooligans of London, circa 1900

An excerpt from The hooligan nights : being the life and opinions of a young and unrepentant criminal by Clarence Rook (1901):

The average Hooligan is not an ignorant, hulking ruffian, beetle-browed and bulletheaded. He is a product of the Board School, writes a fair hand, and is quick at arithmetic. His type of face approaches nearer the rat than the bulldog; he is nervous, highly strung, almost neurotic.

He is by no means a drunkard; but a very small quantity of liquor causes him to run amuck, when he is not pleasant to meet. Undersized as a rule, he is sinewy, swift, and untiring. For pocket-picking and burglary the feather-weight is at an advantage. He has usually done a bit of fighting with the gloves, for in Lambeth boxing is one of the most popular forms of sport. But he is better with the raws, and is very bad to tackle in a street row, where there are no rules to observe. Then he will show you some tricks that will astonish you.

No scruples of conscience will make him hesitate to butt you in the stomach with his head, and pitch you backwards by catching you round the calves with his arm. His skill, born of constant practice, in scrapping and hurricane fighting brings him an occasional job in the bashing line. You have an enemy, we will say, whom you wish to mark, but, for one reason and another, you do not wish to appear in the matter. Young Alf will take on the job. Indicate to him your enemy; hand him five shillings (he will ask a sovereign, but will take five shillings), and he will make all the necessary arrangements. One night your enemy will find himself lying dazed on the pavement in a quiet corner, with a confused remembrance of a trip and a crash, and a mad whirl of fists and boots. You need have small fear that the job will be bungled. But it is a matter of complaint among the boys of the Walk, that if they do a bit of bashing for a toff and get caught, the toff seldom has the magnanimity to give them a lift when they come out of gaol.

The Hooligan is by no means deficient in courage. He is always ready to fight, though he does not fight fair.

Defence Against “Hooligans”: Bartitsu Methods in London (1901)

An article by “S.L.B.” from “The Sketch”, April 10, 1901:

Last year, a very interesting exhibition of self defence was given at St. James’s Hall, and was the subject of prolonged discussion by many of the people present. Mr. Edward Barton-Wright, who gave the demonstration, was honoured with an invitation to repeat it before the Prince of Wales, but he met with a bicycle accident and the exhibition became impossible. It may be that the style of self-defence introduced to public notice would have failed to attract attention by reason of its novelty alone, but Mr. Barton-Wright had not mastered it without the firm intent to give it a fair chance before the public. He proceeded to found a Club at 67b, Shaftesbury Avenue, where physical culture may be studied under Professors of all nationalities, some of the best of the world’s athletes and sportsmen being engaged as instructors. To-day the work is in full swing, stimulated by the uprising of the “hooligan”.

In his early days, Mr. Barton-Wright was an engineer, and his duties took him into strange lands and among ill-disposed people. He had to go slowly, and to learn that the knowledge of boxing under the Queensberry rules, his sole accomplishment then among the arts of self-defence, is of little or no use against men who attack their opponents with feet as well as hands, from below the belt as well as above it, from the back as well as face-to-face, and with bludgeons, life-preservers, knives and other persuasive weapons. The straightforward stroke that, catching the ruffian upon the “point” or “mark”, disables him from further attempts, is of little or no good when it cannot be delivered, and in every city he visited the young engineer found more and more to learn.

Soon he was seized with the bright idea of combining the self-defence of all nations into a system that, when properly acquired, should enable a man to defy anything but firearms or a sudden stab in the dark.

The chief point to bear in mind was that an adequate system of defence must be able to meet any form of attack; the man who endeavours to disable you by kicking you in the stomach is entitled to as much respect and consideration as he who strives to garrote you, or to try the relative resisting powers of a loaded stick and your skull.

The Bartitsu Club, through its Professors, over whom Mr. Barton-Wright keeps an admonishing eye, guarantees you against all danger. In one corner is M. Vigny, the World’s Champion with the single-stick: the Champion who is the acknowledged master of savate trains his pupils in another. He could kill you and twenty like
you if he so desired in the interval between breakfast and lunch – but, as a matter of fact, he never does. He leads you gently on with gloves and single-stick, through the mazes of the arts, until, at last, with your trained eye and supple muscles, no unskilled brute force can put you out, literally or metaphorically.

In another part of the Club are more Champions, this time from far Japan, where self-defence is taken far more seriously than here. The Champion Wrestler of Osaka, or one of the shining lights among the trainers for the Tokio police, dressed in the picturesque garb of his corner of the Far East, will teach you once more of how little you know of the muscles that keep you perpendicular, and of the startling effects of sudden leverage properly applied. The Japanese Champions are terribly strong and powerful; at a private rehearsal of their work, given some two months ago on the Alhambra stage, I saw a little Jap. who is about five feet nothing in height and eight stone in weight, do just what he liked with a strong North of England wrestler more than six feet high, broad, muscular and confident. The little one ended by putting his opponent gently on his back, and the big one looked as if he did not know how it was done.

There is no form of grip that the Japanese jujitsu work does not meet and foil, and in Japan a policeman learns the jujitsu wrestling as part of his equipment for active service. One of the Club trainers was professionally engaged to teach the police in Japan before he came to England to serve under Mr. Barton-Wright.

When you have mastered the various branches of the work done at the Club, which includes a system of physical drill taught by another Champion, this time from Switzerland, the world is before you, even though a “Hooligan” be behind you. You are not only safe from attack, you can do just what you like with the attacking party. He is as helpless in your well-trained hands as a railway-engine in the hands of its driver. The “Hooligan” does not understand the principles on which he works; you do, and, if it pleases you to make his machinery ineffective for further assaults upon unoffending citizens, you can do so in a way that cannot be believed until it is seen. No part of South London need have terrors for you; Menilmontant, La Vilette and the shadier side of the Bois are as safe for you in Paris as the Place de l’Opera. I find myself wishing that the Bartitsu Club had been in Shaftesbury Avenue as recently as some five or six years ago, when shortly after midnight the slums of Soho would send forth ruffians at whose approach wise men sought the light.

The work of the Club makes a strong appeal to Englishmen, because they are naturally of an adventurous disposition and have a great aversion to the use of any but natural weapons of defence in the brawls that they are bound to encounter now and again. There is a keen pleasure in being able to turn the tables on a man who tries to assault us suddenly and by means that he relies upon to give him an unfair advantage. I am well assured that a few of Mr. Barton-Wright’s pupils sent into a district infested by “Hooligans” would do more to bring about law and order than a dozen casual arrests followed by committal with hard labour, with or without the “cat”. And there is an element of sport in the Bartitsu method that should appeal to any “Hooligan” with a sense of humour.