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

  • Originally published on the Bartitsu.org site on Friday, 17th February 2017

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.

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