Patients are not able to call for help during a generalized tonic-clonic epileptic seizure. Our objective was to develop a robust generic algorithm for automatic detection of tonic-clonic seizures, based on surface electromyography (sEMG) signals suitable for a portable device. Twenty-two seizures were analyzed from 11 consecutive patients. Our method is based on a high-pass filtering with a cutoff at 150 Hz, and monitoring a count of zero crossings with a hysteresis of ±50 μV . Based on data from one sEMG electrode (on the deltoid muscle), we achieved a sensitivity of 100% with a mean detection latency of 13.7 s, while the rate of false detection was limited to 1 false alarm per 24 h. The overall performance of the presented generic algorithm is adequate for clinical implementation.