The Defensive... Umbrella?

When is an umbrella not just an umbrella? When it's been designed for use as a defensive tool and can peform the task, in properly trained hands, well.


The old English spy movies and TV shows often had the hero using an umbrella as a whiz-bang weapon to beat down and ward off the bad guys.  Yeah, right!  Even as a kid I knew better.  It was obvious, even to my kid-brain, that no umbrella would stand up to that kind of impact.  And so I believed until last week.

Every baton-trained cop, and every Filipino stick-trained martial artist, has always lusted after an ordinary, common, everyday device that could be wielded like a baton or escrima stick, mostly for those places and situations where a firearm was not permitted.  We contented ourselves with canes of various weights, materials, and strengths.  “A cane is a common thing that many people carry,” we told ourselves, “no one will think of it as a weapon”.  Of course, we ignored the fact that canes went out of fashion for gentlemen as the 19th century drew to a close, and that a fit-looking man or woman carrying one definitely looked out of place.  “Well, still,” we told ourselves, “no one really notices the cane”.  In fact, it’s not the general public that we need to worry about “making” the weapon – it’s the bad guys…and believe me, they know that someone with no obvious disabilities carrying a cane is actually carrying a weapon.  But believing there was no alternative, I still occasionally carried one...until last week.

I have no idea how the Unbreakable® Umbrella escaped my notice until now.   It is the kind of quirky, brilliant, innovative, and practical thing that I love.  Imagine an ordinary-looking, common, black umbrella that has the strength and resilience to strike heavy bags repeatedly with full force without any damage, and be fully operable and functional as an umbrella immediately afterwards.  And I mean completely ordinary-looking – not extra big, not super-beefy.  Dead ordinary: that’s how the Unbreakable Umbrella looks.  Yes, it’s covert!  Even when it’s sunny, an umbrella never looks out of place, and you can take this with you anywhere in the world, anytime.  Hey, it’s just an umbrella!

Developed by Vermont-based martial artist Thomas Kurz, the Unbreakable Umbrella comes in three models: telescopic, standard, and premium.  There is a slight difference in length and weight between the standard and premium models, but they share the same “proprietary composite” core shaft.  The main difference between the models is in the frame of the umbrella, which is the structure that holds the fabric open.  In other words, all models are equally strong in the whacking department.

On Mr.  Kurz’s website you can see videos of him suspending one of his umbrellas between two chairs and then standing on its midsection.  You can see videos of him hitting a heavy bag with full force with an Unbreakable Umbrella. In each instance, he then immediately opens the umbrella to show that the opening mechanism is undamaged and that it still works as an actual umbrella. It seemed too good to be true.  So I took my Unbreakable Umbrella down to the basement and hit my banana bag with it as hard as I could a couple dozen times.  Then, for good measure, with a two-hand grip, I thrust the tip and rear of the umbrella into the bag as hard as I could.  And son-of-a-gun, there was no damage and the umbrella sprung open and worked fine afterwards.

Not satisfied, I took the Unbreakable Umbrella down to my local Arnis school to show it off and do a few more tests.  A few dozen more full-power hits on the heavy bag and the umbrella still functioned perfectly.  Then I used it in a series of hard strikes to a hard stick (number 1 and number strikes to number 1 and 2 blocks, if you know the Arnis system).  The nylon skin of the rolled-up umbrella was abraded through in one spot after several full power strikes to the hard sticks, but the umbrella held up and opened perfectly afterwards.  The Unbreakable Umbrella doesn't quite have the balance and whippy feel of a traditional Arnis stick, but it’s much more than perfectly functional in the hands of a Arnis- or law enforcement baton-trained practitioner.

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