Ladies and Gentlemen: The Umbrella

During these rainy winter months in Vancouver, we hold monthly workshops in Umbrella self defence. At the turn of the last century, every gentleman carried a walking stick, and every woman carried a parasol. Since we carry our modern umbrellas just as frequently in Vancouver today, it’s a great value to learn how they learned to use it as an improvised weapon.

Miss Sanderson

This week on, there is a short article about Pierre Vigny’s wife, also known as Miss Sanderson. Pierre Vigny was the Bartitsu Club’s stick fighting master, and originated our form of walking stick combat. The regular roster at the Bartitsu Club was upper class gentleman, but Miss Sanderson taught ladies very similar techniques for their defence as well.

Miss Sanderson Umbrella Combat

Miss Sanderson, whose first name is still a mystery, was an impressive fighter in her own right. The post references an article in Health and Strength, 1904 to her exhibition bouts versus Vigny, and how, “In tests, she has faced more than one Hooligan, who was paid to attack her, and each time he has earned his money well.”

1902 Daily Mirror Article references an article from the Daily Mirror, 1902, which was reprinted on previously.

Sanderson Umbrella defence

That article has a couple of general scenarios with replies and illustrations:

  1. A purse snatcher: let go of the purse and unleash a series of strikes to the head with the umbrella.
  2. An escaping villain: trip him up with the handle, then belabour him on the ground
  3. A ruffian swinging a studded belt: ward with the left hand, thrust the umbrella into the neck

The author of the article says that fencing has no practical use except this self-defence with umbrella. However dubious that assertion, we can agree with his conclusion that it imparts grace and suppleness, and with training a woman can defend against two or three assailants.


I’ve written previously on the Jusitsuffragettes, or bodyguards for the women’s suffrage movement in London. If those women who were in real danger from chauvanist men and trained police officers, then their training methods should be taken seriously.

Here’s another article with some great pictures and well-sourced information: The Martial Chronicles: Fighting Like a Girl 2 |

And another article from An Interview with Emelyne Godfrey, author of Femininity, Crime and Self-Defence in Victorian Literature and Society.

Umbrella Workshop Upcoming

Our next workshop on Umbrella Self-Defence will be 2pm-6pm on 17 March.

In four hours, we cover many self-defense scenarios, positions to grasp the umbrella, strikes and takedowns, and aim for the practical and elegant solutions of scientific combat.

Sign up at the Academie Duello website, drop by 412 W. Hastings Street, or call 604-568-9907.

David McCormick Head of Stage Combat at Academie Duello and certified Instructor with Fight Directors Canada. Head of Bartitsu at Academie Duello, the longest continuously running Bartitsu program in the world.
Read more from David McCormick.