“Lady Versus Hooligan” (The Royal Magazine, December 1903)

To celebrate the revival of the Bartitsu Society website, here’s a newly-discovered and unusually thorough article demonstrating some of Madame Marguerite Vigny’s umbrella self-defence system. Mme. Vigny’s style was adapted from her husband Pierre’s method, which addressed the use of umbrellas as well as gentlemanly walking canes as weapons of self-protection.

Notably, the last section of this article offers the most detailed demonstration ever found of the Vigny system’s signature counter to an attack with a heavily-buckled belt swung as a flail. This technique was alluded to or partially illustrated in other sources, but is here presented in full for the first time in 117 years.

Does everybody know what a hooligan is? Probably. But, in case there is some who have not heard the name, it may be as well to state briefly what it means. Well, hooligan is the distinctive title given to young London roughs who waylay and rob unsuspecting passersby in some secluded street where help is not likely to be promptly forthcoming. 

Occasionally the hooligan hunts in packs or gangs of from three upwards; and his robberies, unlike those of the ordinary pickpocket, are almost invariably accompanied by violence, the favorite weapon being a stout belt, heavy with buckles.

The name hooligan originated with the leaders of a notorious gang of roughs which made its appearance in the East End some a few years ago. 

Now we can start comfortably. 

There is a certain young gentleman and inhabitant of Houndsditch, rejoicing in the name of Alf Smith, over whose disposition has lately come, a sudden and extraordinary change. 

Three months ago Mr. Smith was the terror of his neighborhood – more like a wild beast than a man, he had never done an honest days work in his life; subsisting entirely on the products of that form of robbery known as hooliganism. Now, Mr. Smith is very nearly a model character. He works hard all day, and amuses himself soberly of an evening. One peculiar characteristic he has also developed which must be mentioned – the site of a lady in a quiet street carrying an umbrella fills him with a sudden terror, he trembles violently, and crosses the road promptly. 

This is how it all came about.

One evening Alf was lurking in a doorway on Berners Street, fingering a heavy leathern belt started with nails and brasswork. The pavements were deserted, the night was foggy – Mr. Smith was in his element.

An evil smile crept over his face as presently he observed a lady come out of a house a short distance below him, and advance rapidly in his direction. 

Now, unfortunately for poor Alf, the house from whence this lady appeared was number 18 – number 18, at which a certain Professor Vigny is wont to instruct ladies in the methods of self-defense here shown; whilst the lady advancing toward Mr. Smith was one of Professor Vigny’s most apt pupils. But all of this poor, deluded Alf knew nothing.

He crouched back in the shadows of the wall. The lady passed him. In her hand Mr. Smith gleefully observed a purse.

“Lucky for her, “said Mr. Smith to himself. “I won’t hit her . I’ll just grab her purse and scoot.”

Out from his hiding place he slipped, grabbed her purse with a dexterity born of long practice – and turned to “scoot.” 

Well, he “scooted” precisely one step, and at the next moment he found himself lying flat on his face, having fallen with considerable violence, as the result of his leg being deftly “crooked” by his assailant’s umbrella. 

Mr. Smith was too annoyed for words! Springing to his feet, he rushed in savagely at the lady – received the point of her umbrella full in the throat, threw up his arms at the shock, felt his leg crooked again, and fell with a crash – backwards this time!

Imagine his feelings! In all the course of his 23 years Alf had never heard of such brutal treatment – much less met with it! The thing was an outrage!

Up he scrambled, savage madness in his bloodshot eyes; unclasped the murderous belt from around his waist, and delivered, with the full swing of his arm, one of those blows which had laid so many persons senseless and bleeding at his feet – but not this person! 

With lightning quickness the belt was caught as it descended; down on the unhappy Alf’s head came of the handle of that hateful umbrella with a force causing him to relinquish his hold with a cry, and then – well, what followed then only the lady could tell you. To poor Alf it was nothing but a hideous nightmare of blows , and digs, and tripping and shoves, till finally he lay gasping and half senseless on the pavement, nearly stunned by a sharp blow on the temple delivered with the handle of the umbrella.

Then the lady sauntered off. Mr. Smith, picking himself up and feeling himself all over very tenderly, in order to try to find an unwounded spot, limped painfully off in the opposite direction – a reformed character. Never again, he vowed, would he attempt any form of street robbery. The game was not good enough, now that the victim might very well be able to take a hand in it also. 

Whilst the thing was a one-sided form of pleasure, giving a little excitement, considerable gain, and practically no risk, it was alright and very simple and delightful.

But now it was no longer one-sided – well, clearly, it wasn’t worth it. Your true hooligan, you see, has no heart for a fair fight, and, accordingly, from that moment Mr. Smith definitely abandoned his former pursuits and settled down to a quieter and less risky mode of life.

So much for poor Alf! 

But Mr. Smith has his counterparts by the hundred all over England, whilst such hooligan – tamers as the lady he met are very few and far between.
 Yet, imagine want confidence and self-reliance the ability to use this system of self-defense must impart to a lady.

No longer need the fair readers of the Royal fear to walk certain streets in their neighborhood; which, though “much quicker,” have always to be avoided on account of their unenviable reputation. No longer, either, need these ladies be dependent on their male friends before indulging in a long country walk. 

All that is required is a short study of the accompanying photographs, a crook handled umbrella or stick – and there you are! Though, of course, much greater proficiency in the art is to be attained by attending at the school in Berners Street.

Furthermore, it may be said that strength is by no means a necessity for the proper carrying out of these methods of self-defense. The most delicate woman – provided she has the use of her limbs and her eyes – is as well fitted to make use of them as our remote more muscular and athletic sisters. 

It is not, of course, to be imagine that the only methods of attack favored by hooligans and the like are those shown in the photographs accompanying this article – and hence the exact motions of self-defence they’re employed are by no means invariably possible or suitable. 

But the system on which the whole scheme is built up is entirely reliable and may be adapted to meet any form of assault with the greatest success.
 in the hands of a skillful person a stick or umbrella may be a terribly effective weapon.

Take, for example, the “lunge” shown in pictures number four and five (below). Here the umbrella is – or may be – used to inflict a thrust almost equal and it’s stopping power to that of a sword. The weight of the whole body is concentrated with tremendous force behind the sharp, stabbing blow which will be delivered , and the shock to the assailant is one before which he must reel helplessly; whilst, if the point entered the eye, the result could not be other than fatal.

It is, in fact, this use of the point which makes the umbrella so deadly a weapon. 

A shower of aimless blows at one’s assailant would be of a very little use. 
But the points – that is entirely a different affair! And it is quite safe to say that no hooligan, having once met it, could ever risk encountering it again.

1 – The hooligan creeping up behind the lady in order to snatch her bag. 
2 – He makes off with his prize, but the lady, turning quickly, crooks his leg with her umbrella and …
3 – throws him on his face.
4 – She then places herself in this position and awaits his attack …
5 – … thrusting the point of the umbrella into his neck as he rushes at her.
6 – He throws up his arms, at which she again crooks his leg …
7 – throwing him on his back and deftly hooking the bag towards her. 
8 – here she has regained the bag, and is ready for an attack with the belt which he is loosening from his waist.
9 – He raises his weapon, she raises her arm …
10 – down the comes of the belt, swings harmlessly over her wrist, and is smartly gripped by her hand. 
11 – Here she has caused him to release the belt by a sharp blow from her umbrella on his knuckles. She throws the belt behind her; he prepares to hit her with his left fist.
12 – With her own left hand she grips his as he hits holding it palm upwards and catching his neck with the crook of her umbrella. In this position he is absolutely powerless …
13 – and a pull on umbrella and hand throws him on his face and knees.
14 – A sharp blow on the temple with the handle now settles him completely. 
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