British Columbia

Channel your inner Victorian gentleman with an umbrella self-defence class

Vancouver's Academie Duello is offering umbrella self-defence classes based on the Victorian martial art of bartitsu.

Vancouver's Academie Duello will teach you to protect yourself from more than just the rain

Learn to use your brolly for more than just protection from the rain

6 years ago
Duration 0:29
An umbrella self defense class in Vancouver is based on the Victorian martial art of bartitsu.

As the rainy season in Vancouver heads into full gloom, you may find yourself wishing there were other uses for your ever-present umbrella. 

Well, as it turns out, there are — and one of them is especially handy for anyone who's ever wanted to fight like a proper Victorian gentleman or gentlewoman.

Academie Duello in Vancouver's Gastown offers an umbrella self-defence class based on the traditional English martial art form — bartitsu. 

David McCormick, head instructor of Academie Duello's bartitsu program, said the unique form of combat is derived from "a fusion of jiu-jitsu, bare knuckle boxing, and savate, a French form of kickboxing."

McCormick said in 19th century London, England, men would train in bartitsu using walking sticks and canes. Suffragettes also learned the self-defence technique using parasols. 

Head instructor David McCormick said years ago, suffragettes trained in the art of bartitsu using parasoles. (Miguel Braun)

Umbrella self-defence a 'natural fit' for Vancouver

McCormick, whose career began in theatrical stage combat, said he first learned bartitsu from Tony Wolf, who choreographed the swordplay in the Lord of the Rings movies.

He immediately thought the self-defence techniques were a "natural fit" for Vancouver.

"Many other practical forms of martial arts don't incorporate the kinds of things that you might have readily available on your person," he said. 

"In Vancouver, it's almost guaranteed that you'll have an umbrella on you, and that's a highly effective object to have in any self-defence situation."

Bartitsu employs blunt objects like a cane or closed umbrella for both defensive and offensive moves. (Miguel Braun)

It's raining punches

McCormick said the workshops, which the Academie has offered off and on for the past few years, teach a variety of offensive and defensive moves.

"We're looking at the umbrella as a blunt weapon. It can be wielded with two hands like a spear or sword, or used defensively to deflect blows by holding the two separate ends of the umbrella," he said. 

McCormick said students of all fitness and experience levels are welcome at the workshops, which are held on Wednesdays and Sundays.

"Our focus is for every student to both learn something interesting and increase their confidence and their actual ability to defend themselves in a dangerous situation," he said. 

Academie Duello’s Bartitsu master David McCormick said the unique form of self defence is a 'natural fit' in Vancouver. (Miguel Braun)