Saturday, November 08, 2008
Bike Kwan Do
Is anything more entertaining than Edwardian martial arts? I think not.
Which brings me to a great Neal Stephenson quote over in The Telegraph:
But for now he's instructing me, over a pint, about longsword-fighting, walking-stick self-defence and an Edwardian martial art that used a bicycle as a weapon.... "Yeah. There's a whole curriculum over fighting with bicycles. Pictures of an Edwardian lady in a floor-length dress and a huge hat with flowers, riding primly down a country lane, and when a ruffian comes out she uses some trick with the bicycle to flatten him and rides off. It's great stuff. The bicycles we're not sure how to approach, but we've created a little assembly line to make rattan canes, with a knob on the end. But there's, you know, how to use a bicycle pump as a weapon. How to defend yourself with a parasol. Crazy."
Searching on "bicycle pump" and "weapon" turns up this utterly wonderful article from 1900 on escaped big game in England in Fores's Sporting Notes:
Although 1898 was so devoid of interest from the elephant shikaris point of view, it was undoubtedly the best season the hunter of the British bear has yet seen. On Lady Day of that year the first bear hunt on bicycles was instituted quite involuntarily by some Shoreditch cyclists, who rode as only Shoreditch cyclists can, at full speed into a herd in the neighbourhood of Leighton Buzzard. One of the riders, during this exciting encounter, was thrown from his saddle, but alighted upon the back of one of the bears — a truly Rougemontal feat — and two others were thrown, but not without rolling over a couple of the ursi.
During the second week in August bear-hunting was very popular in the outlying villages of Colchester, but shopping and walks abroad were decidedly at a discount. The bear in question escaped from its den near Walton-on-the-Naze, and for over a week roamed at large, though any able-bodied man with a gun in his hand thought himself at liberty to indulge in a little stalking.... A cyclist, armed with a bicycle pump only, was more fortunate, and came into camp, evidently greatly alarmed, with the news that he had met the monster on the high road....
Since 1896, in which year there was a splendid hunt at Bedford, the ostrich has not afforded the British sportsman much excitement, but the pursuit of the Bedford ostrich through the streets of that town by a highly talented body of circus employes mounted on horseback... has only once been rivalled, namely at Croydon a couple of years ago, when a boxing kangaroo ran amok through the busiest thoroughfares.