I'll admit it: I'm a fan of Catherine Townsend--well of her writing anyway. I don't know her personally although I would love to have coffee with her in a very public place (she scares me a little).
Her latest piece in The Atlantic, "How to Fight Like a Victorian Gentleman," is a great example of her writing skills, and it couldn't have come at a better time.
She starts like this: "It’s sundown at a small park in Burbank and I’m dressed in head-to-toe black, carrying a big stick and ready to street fight, Sherlock Holmes style."
Why is this important? At this point pretty much all my friends have been licensed to carry (a gun)--some in a "concealed" fashion, others right smack on their person, out there for everyone to see.
I'm honestly not sure why everyone has decided they need to bear arms. Is there some threat I don't know about that I could actually defend myself from if I were pistol-packin'? (Other than my armed neighbors who live in my "safe, gated community.")
Don't read this as bragging but: I've been to all five Boroughs of New York City, day and night. I've been to Chicago's north side and south side. I've been to the east side of St. Louis and Skid Row in Seattle, to Bourbon Street in New Orleans, to Washington D.C. and to Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco. I've been to Amsterdam, Paris France, and Venice Italy. I've even been to Muskogee, Oklahoma in the 60s with long hair and bell-bottom jeans, driving a VW bus.
And I've never feared for my life. Well there was that one time: a "lady" in Edmond, driving an enormous SUV, wearing yoga pants (I'm guessing) and doing something on her mobile phone was in front of me at a red light. The light changed, she didn't notice. I honked. She turned, flipped me off and said something with fire in her eyes. I couldn't read her lips because of the froth flying from her mouth. It was very scary.
Now, apparently there's a new threat in the air and I need to up my defense and offense somehow. The problem is I'm more of a Sheriff Taylor kind of guy, than a Barney Fife. Speaking of whom, I would be much more comfortable in the "safer" neighborhoods of our fair city if I knew that all the newly-armed citizens had only one bullet and that bullet had to be kept in their shirt pocket.
Somewhere in a closet we have a Red Ryder BB gun. I'm not sure which closet, and I have no idea where our BB might be, but that's all the arms-bearing I plan to do. I know right now there are some out there shaking their heads at my foolish naiveté. And they are appalled at my stupidity for posting to the worldwide web that me and my Amazing-Missus are home and unarmed.
But be not dismayed. I think I've found a solution in the words of my future friend, Catherine Townsend. In the aforementioned article, Catherine tells of her training in the ancient art of bartitsu. She explains it this way:
"Bartitsu was developed by Edward Barton-Wright, a British engineer who moved to Japan in 1895. After returning to London, just before the turn of the century, he created a mixed martial art hybrid, combining elements of judo, jujitsu, British boxing, and fighting with a walking stick.
The style was promoted to the middle and upper classes during a time when they were becoming increasingly worried about the street gangs and crime publicized by the tabloid newspapers."
Catherine boils bartitsu down:
Basically it's half historical recreation; half beating the crap out of someone with a cane.
Bartitsu is sort of cool. It was incorporated into the fight choreography of the Sherlock Holmes movies starring Robert Downey, Jr.
“There’s all sorts of locks and chokes and various other techniques used to incapacitate someone. There’s lots of throwing hats at someone’s eyes, and then striking at them, if you can, with a walking stick."
The movies helped propel what a bartitsu expert calls the “fringe of the fringe” movement into the spotlight, and attract a growing number of women. Googling will help you locate classes for guys with titles like: "Sparring With Sherlock," and for the girls: "Kicking Ass in a Corset: Bartitsu of Ladies."
Catherine read my mind and asked the obvious, important question: "But could an anachronistic art really protect me against a modern-day bad guy?"
“Chances are your opponent isn’t going to be walking through the streets of a major world city twirling a parasol. But the classes do teach practical information about body awareness, how to target an opponent’s weak points and escape tactics that could come in handy in any situation."
So with a few lessons and a walking cane, we'll all rest better knowing I'm equipped for whatever it is that seems to be lurking in the night.