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

  • Originally published on the site on Saturday, 13th June 2009

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.

Umbrella 5
Umbrella 6

The Purse Snatcher

Umbrella 1

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.

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.

Umbrella 4
Umbrella 3

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.

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.

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