In Memoriam: Master-at-Arms John Waller

The international historical European martial arts and stage combat communities mourn the recent passing of John Waller, who was a modern pioneer in both fields.

Possessed of a life-long fascination with arms and armour, Mr. Waller founded the Medieval Society in 1963 and, a few years later, he also became a founding member of the Society of British Fight Directors. His long association with the Royal Armouries Museum likewise began during the late 1960s, when he owned an antiques and archery shop adjacent to the Museum, which was then housed in the Tower of London.

As a stage combat instructor, John Waller was responsible for training generations of young actors via the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, Arts Educational School and the Drama Studio.

During the 1970s and ’80s he was involved in the production of a number of educational videos by and for the Royal Armouries, notably including Masters of Defence which was among the first videos to present historical European fighting styles as martial arts in their own right. He also served as the fight director for numerous plays, films, TV series and commercials.

When the Royal Armouries moved from the Tower of London to its new, purpose built facility in Leeds during the early 1990s, Mr. Waller also relocated and went on to become the Museum’s Director of Interpretation, training the fight demonstration team in the performance of numerous historical combat styles. In 2002 the R.A. Museum became the site of the first public Bartitsu demonstrations in a century, based on the then-recently republished “Self-Defence With a Walking Stick” articles by E.W. Barton-Wright.

Above: Royal Armouries Fight Interpreters Keith Ducklin (left) and Rob Temple demonstrate Bartitsu stick fighting.

Mr. Waller was proud to have met the Queen when she visited the Royal Armouries on three occasions. He retired in 2006 but continued to serve as a consultant for the Museum and, in 2009, was featured in the documentary Reclaiming the Blade.

“Self-Protection on a Cycle” Re-Animated

Here’s an edited recap of the main lessons from Marcus Tindal’s article “Self-Protection on a Cycle”, as brought to life at the 2017 Dreynevent Western martial arts conference. The full presentation is available here.

Tindal’s article was published by Pearson’s Magazine at about the same time as E.W. Barton-Wright’s Bartitsu articles, leading to the common mistaken assumption that bicycle self-defence was part of Bartitsu per se. It does, however, come under the heading of fun adjunct studies and is occasionally revived, as previously seen at the ISMAC event in Michigan.

Sergeant George Wheeldon’s Police Self-Defence (circa 1905)

The City of London police history blog Plodd in the Square Mile offers this short but informative article on Sergeant George Wheeldon, who essentially pioneered the systematic practice of unarmed self-defence within the English police force.

Sergeant Wheeldon had been in the audience during some of E.W. Barton-Wright’s first Bartitsu displays, including the original Tivoli Theatre displays by Yukio Tani and Sadakazu Uyenishi.  He was also a prominent correspondent in the great “Jujitsu vs. Boxing and Wrestling” debates that raged via letters to the editors of various sporting journals during 1905-7. In a letter to Health and Strength Magazine, Wheeldon evinced some skepticism about jiujitsu, more in terms of its actual novelty than its evident practicality:

Regarding a number of these holds, I can safely assert that I knew a great many of them long before Ju-ju-tsu came to this country, having studied anatomy for many years, and always having a hankering for tricks of self defence. I learnt a good many through the above study.

He went on to note that the jiujitsu “scissor hold” (dojime) was not unique to Japanese unarmed combat, having been illustrated in a book on catch-as-catch-can wrestling dating to the 1820s, and referred to another hold or takedown which was widely known among English poachers.

Although he may have been overstating his case a little for effect, and possibly out of nationalistic sentiment, Sergeant Wheeldon’s own course in self-defence was itself an eclectic blend of Japanese and English grappling techniques.  It probably represents the first attempt to systematise a method of unarmed self-defence and restraint training for a professional police force.

Jujitsu at Glen Parva Barracks (1905)

Although he had been brought to London to partner Yukio Tani in teaching and demonstrating Japanese unarmed combat via the Bartitsu Club, Sadakazu “Raku” Uyenishi went his own way after the club closed during early 1902. While Tani went on to great success as a music hall wrestler, Uyenishi established the the successful Golden Square School of Jujitsu. As described in this article from the Leicester Daily Post of December 9th, 1905, Uyenishi also gave a number of exhibitions for the armed services.

Noting as usual that the term “Jap” did not carry any negative connotation in Edwardian English, being directly equivalent to the abbreviation “Brit” for British.

Professor Uyenishi, of London, and Mr. Nelson, a promising pupil, gave fine display of the Japanese national art at Glen Parva barracks on Thursday evening. The first portion consisted of throws and self-defence tricks, with some of the wonderful locks which are used in the above. The trips by ankle and knee were given with marvelous dexterity, but undoubtedly the most wonderful tricks of this kind were achieved with the cross hock and cross thigh, when the defeated wrestler found himself performing a neat “cartwheel.”

The Professor also gave a fine exhibition of self-defence tricks, showing how a small man, or woman, may easily defeat a burly opponent, although taken at a serious disadvantage by being attacked from behind. Then followed a lesson for the pupil, who, despite his frantic endeavours to keep his feet, soon found that he had had enough.

The final part of the display was between the Professor and Sergt. Jones, of the gymnastic staff of the depot, who came to the front on the Professor’s call for a volunteer The sergeant made a determined effort to keep feet and, if possible, throw the clever little Jap, but ultimately had to give the signal of defeat, after a good struggle. This concluded the performance, no other candidate coming forward to try conclusions with the professor, who, needless to say, had delighted the audience.

An Update Re. “No Man Shall Protect Us”, the Suffrajitsu Documentary

Above: Edith Garrud (played by actress Lynne Baker) is featured in screenshot of the current No Man Shall Protect Us edit.

Editing proceeds apace on No Man Shall Protect Us, the upcoming documentary on the secret society of martial arts-trained female bodyguards who protected the leaders of the radical women’s suffrage movement just prior to the First World War.

The project was successfully crowdfunded during October 2017 and will feature extensive use of archival media and re-enactments.  Although reference will be made to E.W. Barton-Wright and Sadakazu Uyenishi of the Bartitsu Club, the martial arts focus is on Edith Garrud, the pioneering women’s self-defence instructor who trained members of the suffragette Bodyguard in jiujitsu.

Once editing is complete, No Man Shall Protect Us will be made freely available online.

The “Bartitsu Lab” in Warwickshire, UK

New Bartitsu classes are beginning via the “Bartitsu Lab” in the Warwickshire town of Alcester:

What’s ‘The Bartitsu Lab’?

TBL is a ‘test and learn’ approach to Bartitsu. We cover the key skills required with a scientific method. In this way, we ensure that content is always relevant, practical and reliable.

It means we explore different arts, bring in guest instructors, and test what we think we know. Bartitsu is a ‘process’ through which we can apply any art.

For us, the art must always evolve to meet the challenges of its day. TBL allows us to do just that with Bartitsu.

For all details, see the Bartitsu page at​.


Dr. Herman Ten Kate Discusses the Shinden Fudo Ryu (Part 1)

Bartitsu founder E.W. Barton-Wright studied jiujitsu between the years 1895-98, while working as a chemical engineer for the E.H. Hunter Company in Kobe, Japan.  Building on a background that included boxing, wrestling, savate and “the use of the stiletto” as well as, by his own account, considerable street fighting experience in far-flung locales, Barton-Wright was almost uniquely well-positioned to appreciate the Japanese art of unarmed combat, which was then almost completely unknown to the Western world.  By the time he returned to England, it’s likely that his practical knowledge of jiujitsu exceeded that of almost literally any other Westerner.

Barton-Wright did not, however, record much of his Kobe jiujitsu experience, other than referring to training with a sensei who “specialised in the kata form of instruction”.  For details about that sensei and his school and style, we must refer to the writings of Dr. Herman ten Kate.  Ten Kate was a Dutch medical doctor and anthropologist who had met Barton-Wright on a steam ship sailing from Batavia (present-day Jakarta) to Singapore, en route to Japan, where both men became students at the same Kobe jiujitsu dojo.

In 1905 ten Kate wrote an article titled “Jujutsu, de Zachte Kunst” (“Jujutsu, the Yielding Art”) for the Dutch journal De Gids.  It’s evident that ten Kate had come across Barton-Wright’s own articles on “The New Art of Self-Defence”, which had been published in Pearson’s Magazine several years previously.  It’s also clear that ten Kate mistakenly assumed that Barton-Wright had “mis-appropriated” jiujitsu by re-naming it after himself; this strongly implies that ten Kate was not aware of Barton-Wright’s other writings on Bartitsu, which demonstrated that Bartitsu was a “new art” specifically because it combined jiujitsu with other fighting styles.

Ten Kate’s article was primarily concerned with the history, theory and variety of jiujitsu koryu-ha (traditional styles).  It also included several anecdotes and a number of technical analyses drawn from his personal experience.  The following translated excerpts from “Jujutsu, the Yielding Art” offer the best available insights into the type of training given to Herman ten Kate and E.W. Barton-Wright at their Kobe jiujitsu dojo, and thus offer some clues as to the early origins of Bartitsu.  We have offered some annotations in italics, for clarity and context.

After introducing the theory of victory by yielding to an opponent’s strength, ten Kate states that:

It was by chance, during a conversation with Barton-Wright aboard a steamship between Batavia and Singapore, that, several years ago, I first learned of  Jujutsu. His Japanese teacher, the already elderly Terajima Kunichiro, would also initiate me into the secrets of this art; and so, for fifteen months, I was his pupil in Kobe. I also saw jujutsu performed repeatedly in the exercises of police constables in Nagasaki and by others elsewhere in Japan.

From the literature on jujutsu that is known to me, the study of the Japanese neurologist Miura the most comprehensive and most scientific. Therefore, I want to follow him  particularly when describing the essence of Jujutsu.

This art is essentially based on the following principles:

1. Attempts to reduce the opponent’s strength by pulling them off-balance;

2. Attempts to divert the attacks of the opponent;

3. One tries to put the opponent in a weaker position, while also maintaining one’s own (stronger) position;

4. One focusses one’s attack upon the opponent’s weakest point;

5. Leverage is primarily used to effect the overthrow of the opponent – “knowledge of balance and leverage” as Barton-Wright calls it;

6. To pin (lock) the fallen adversary, as well as to free oneself from an opponent’s grip, use joint rotations and pressure applied to sensitive areas;

7. When the enemy attempts to attack, strikes to certain highly sensitive areas of the body will cause them to fall unconscious;

8. An enemy thus downed can, however, be revived again, according to certain methods.

In studying such modes of attack and defense, as well as the method of imparting them, one might think that they had been developed by a physician, especially with regards to their anatomical and physiological invention. I believe, however, that there is much less theoretical than empirical scientific knowledge in Jujitsu. At the time in which the art originated, the level of scientific knowledge of the human body was extremely low. Certainly very few practitioners have heard of the median nerve or the gastrocnemius muscle, and yet all know how to put unbearable pressure on those points.

Further, when a Japanese man inflicts a blow upon some points of the chest and makes his foe fall unconscious, he need not know that he repeats the experiments of Meola, Riedinger and others, but still the blood vessels of the lungs are widened, blood flow to the left ventricle is obstructed and general blood pressure lowers. Likewise, (he need not know) that he brings into use, by certain thrusts under the ribs and below the navel, the ‘Klopfversuch’ by Goltz.

This refers to anatomical experiments by Friedrich Goltz (1834-1902) which demonstrated the effects of nerve stimulation.

One can, in general, distinguish four main divisions of jujutsu:

I. Randori, i.e. (free) wrestling, where one throws his opponent to the ground and holds him there. The 1st-6th principles enumerated above are then put into application.

II. Kata, i.e. engaging in a particular (pre-arranged) way.

III. Atemi or Sappo, i.e. the way to strike a blow to weaken or kill if necessary.

IV. Kwata or kwappo, i.e. the way to render a man unconscious.

We can not dwell within each division, because going into detail would fill a volume. As in European swordsmanship, but regardless of weapon, lessons in the various divisions are made according to a certain order; also, all techniques, within randori, kata and atemi, may be combined in various ways. In the school of my teacher Terajima there were over seventy (such methods). This combination between them also happens in “man to man” practice, which are mimic (mirror) combats, and also in actual combat. In addition, the attack and counterattack depend entirely on the circumstances of the moment. Perhaps more than in any other conceivable fight, of any kind, is lightning fast reflex speed a prerequisite to jujutsu.

Part 2 of this article will continue Dr. ten Kate’s analysis of jiujitsu techniques and principles.