A video memoir of fisticuffs/savate, French wrestling, self-defence and Bartitsu classes at the December, 2016 Toulouse Historical Martial Arts gathering:
A video memoir of fisticuffs/savate, French wrestling, self-defence and Bartitsu classes at the December, 2016 Toulouse Historical Martial Arts gathering:
Test your general Bartitsu knowledge with these ten questions (answers given below):
1: In his lecture for the Japan Society of London, E.W. Barton-Wright defined Bartitsu as
A) “the new art of self defence”
B) “self defence in every form”
C) “the manly art of self defence”
D) “self defence for ladies and gentlemen”
2 – What name did Sadakazu Uyenishi assume when competing in music hall wrestling challenges (clue – it’s the same name he used when writing The Text-Book of Jujitsu)
3 – Pierre Vigny’s wife was known professionally as “Miss Sanderson”. What was her real first name?
4 – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had Sherlock Holmes describe “baritsu” as
A) “the Japanese system of wrestling”
B) “a secret style of Japanese wrestling”
C) “the art of Japanese wrestling”
D) “the Japanese art of wrestling”
5 – To invite an opponent’s attack to an apparently unguarded target, then avoid that attack while simultaneously counter-attacking, is described by Barton-Wright as a
A) “Guard by Resistance”
B) “Guard by Distance”
C) “Guard by Evasion”
D) “Guard by Deception”
6) Against which of the following tools-as-weapons did Barton-Wright not claim to have had to defend himself during his travels overseas:
7 – Which style of jiujitsu did E.W. Barton-Wright study while living in Kobe, Japan?
A) Asayama Ichiden-ryū
B) Kashima Shin-ryū
C) Shindō Yōshin-ryū
D) Shinden Fudo-ryū
8 – In which year did Barton-Wright return to England from Japan?
9 – During Yukio Tani’s career as a music hall challenge wrestler, he was nicknamed:
A) The Pocket Hercules
B) The Little Samson
C) The Small Apollo
D) The Compact Ajax
10 – Which one of the following nicknames was not given to Emmeline Pankhurst’s jiujitsu-trained security staff?
A) The Jiujitsuffragettes
B) The Amazons
C) The Suffrajitsus
D) The Bodyguard
1 – B
2 – C
3 – D
4 – A
5 – B
6 – B
7 – D
8 – B
9 – A
10 – C
This anonymous letter to the editor of the St. James’s Gazette was originally published on March 9th, 1905. The author’s objection to submission wrestling on moral and nationalistic grounds was fairly common during this period, and indeed had originally been levelled against E.W. Barton-Wright, circa 1900. Barton-Wright’s displays of Japanese unarmed combat had been decried by some critics as being “un-English” and “comprised of absolute fouls“.
Via his lectures and comments offered in Bartitsu displays, Barton-Wright replied that the object of testing the Japanese style via sport was to train for actual self-defence, wherein the traditional conventions of English sportsmanship were moot.
Much the same objection had been made against English-style boxing in Japan, where traditional sentiment was set against the idea of striking another person in the face – and, particularly, of drawing blood from their nose – for the purpose of sport.
The letter begins:
Sir, —Jujitsu seems to be the fashionable graven image of the moment before which the whole athletic world is bowing down. English wrestling is abasing itself before this foreign god nightly at the Lyceum Theatre, where the best of our English wrestlers are being used for dusting scenery and wiping the floor.
Is it, or is it not, a fact, that all the holds and tricks which the Ju-jitsu experts beat our wrestlers, and compel them to hammer the floor in agonised token of defeat, should properly be called “fouls”? English wrestling knows nothing of these tricks; but it is not hard to imagine that English wrestlers could invent a few that would have the same effect on Japanese wrestlers as Ju-jitsu has on English experts. The Jap gets a twist on the Englishman’s arm of a sort that gives intense pain, and would result in a fracture if the victim did not at once give in.
Why not invent an English art of Ju-jitsu which might include such holds as, say, seizing the opponent’s car in the teeth, or thrusting the fist in his mouth and retaining it there; sitting firmly in the face; pressing tightly on the wind-pipe with the knee? A little imagination will supply no end of victory-compelling holds. I don’t know, but a sort of patriotic pride makes me wonder how the Ju-jitsu experts would shine in a wrestling contest according to English rules—all fouls, English or foreign, barred.
The anonymous writer would not have to wait long for his answer to that question, as some Japanese fighters, notably including Yukio Tani and Taro Miyake did, in fact, compete successfully in English-style matches, most especially in the catch-as-catch-can style.
This article, which first appeared in the Wide World Magazine of October, 1904, represents a curious sub-genre of 19th and early 20th century literature that might be described as the “exotic fighting styles travelogue”. Writers in this tradition describe their adventures learning from, or occasionally fending off, local masters of esoteric martial arts in some far-flung locale, frequently while in the company of comely young ladies. Minus the young ladies (as far as we know), Bartitsu founder Edward Barton-Wright had his own share of similar tales, including some rather hair-raising descriptions of the various weapons he’d had to contend against during his long travels abroad.
In this case, the Englishman Bernard St. Lawrence – whose other articles for Wide World included a piece on “The Serpent Garden of Butantan” – apparently chanced to cross paths with an exponent of Brazilian capoeira. Strictly truthful or otherwise, St. Lawrence’s story is notable in that capoeira was almost entirely unknown outside of Brazil during the early 20th century, aside from occasional references in French media and an allusion by the English self-defence writer Percy Longhurst.
Noting for the sake of clarity that while the art of capoeira is now world-famous as an acrobatic dance/ritual/fight, the word was traditionally also used to describe the class of “ruffians” who were skilled in that art, as is noted here by the editor of this unusual and interesting story:
Wide World Magazine editor’s note:
“Capoeiras” are the Brazilian equivalent of the class of ruffians known in London as “hooligans,” in America as “bad men” or “hoodlums,” in Australia as “larrikins,” and in Paris as “Apaches,” save that they are probably even more formidable. Trained in a most peculiar method of fighting, having small razors fixed in their hair, and often carrying others, they can inflict terrible wounds by charging an adversary with head down. They are so agile that it is almost impossible to aim a revolver at them. In this story the author narrates his thrilling experience with one of these miscreants whose jealousy he had unwittingly aroused.
AS we rode up the Itatiaia Mountains I began to realize what a large country Brazil is, with its vast solitudes still so little frequented by man. A sense of loneliness came upon me as I looked back upon the last village we had left, the little white houses of which stood out like big mushrooms against the red earth. There was something desolate and yet fascinating in the expanse of mountains as I climbed higher: they looked like a world as yet unfashioned.
No incident particularly worthy of mention happened on the journey, and I reached the hacienda for which I was bound in safety. It was a large, tumbledown old house, seldom used, and far from the plantations, so that we took up our abode in a “barraca” — a house built of wood, of the kind used by the work-people on the estate, whose habitations formed a small colony around us.
Though life is dull upon a farm in the interior of Brazil, there is much of interest to a stranger, and I tried to learn all I could. I must confess, however, that I did not receive much help from anyone, save from a girl who happened to know a few words of English, which she loved to air on every possible occasion. Being an Englishman, I seemed to possess a great attraction for her, and we came much into each other’s company. I was very fortunate in this, for she was one of the most intelligent persons in the district, and had become quite a person of authority on account of the many good deeds she had done there. She worked hard to keep her mother and sisters, who were good-for-nothing and lazy. Her name was Chica — short for Francesca.
It was to this girl that I was always referred when in any difficulty, because of her knowledge of English, which the people thought to be much greater than it really was; and thus I saw more of her than would otherwise have been the case, going on several occasions to her “barraca,” where her mother sat near the door eternally spinning cotton or drying tobacco on little sticks.
I think these occasional visits pleased the girl’s vanity, for she took me quite under her protection, pointed out all the interesting sights, and gave me much information.
Soon the day drew near for my return to more civilized parts. It had been a quiet, uneventful sojourn; in fact, on the last day but one before my departure I was thinking how humdrum my trip into the interior had been, when there occurred the exciting incidents which it is my intention to relate and which quite changed my opinion of the trip.
On the day in question a great “batugue” was given. This dance — of Indian origin — is not such as would be popular in very refined circles. Nevertheless, from its peculiarity it merits some description.
You must not look for graceful movements in a “batugue.” An insinuating but rather monotonous tune is played upon a guitar, and the men, beating time with their naked feet, make up a couplet — comic, sentimental, or satirical, as the fancy takes them — which they sing to the women, who thereupon make suitable reply. All then clap their hands in time to the music, and each man in turn capers more or less wildly before his partner, after which they dance together for awhile. This is repeated by each couple one after the other, while those not dancing sing and clap their hands. The dance is common all over Brazil, and particularly so up-country, though it is only affected by the lower classes.
I had often seen the people dancing it, but had never been to a regular big “batugue,” so I looked forward to the function with no small interest. There was to be a beautiful Spanish girl there too, who lived near the plantation, and who interested me much, for I had often seen her and wondered why she stayed in such an out-of-the-way and lonely place. It was said she would perform some of the dances of her own country that night, for she would not take part in the “batugue” and was looked upon as insufferably high-minded for that reason.
When the night came round I went early to the place where the “batugue” was to be held, and had not long taken up a position whence I could see what was going forward, when a voice close to my ear said, in surprised tones: “Is the son of bif come batatas (beef and potatoes) come here to dance?”
I turned and saw my little friend Chica. It was now my turn to be surprised, for Chica never attended these dances, which, as I have said, are not of a very elevating character. My answer to her question, therefore, took the form of stolid silence, while I looked askance at her. This had the desired effect, for Chica immediately began to explain her presence. It was to see the Spanish girl Nita, she said, and last, though not least, because her betrothed had come to see her, and she wanted to prevent him from joining in the dance, of which she much disapproved.
Brazilians, whether good or bad, are very jealous, and Chica, though a good girl, was fond of admiration, so I guessed that she looked upon the beautiful Nita with no favourable eye, fearing that she might attract the roving eye of Domingo, her betrothed. It was for these reasons, Chica explained at length, that she was present at the “batugue” that evening.
We looked on at the scene for awhile in silence, waiting to see if Nita would begin her performance; but though she was there she did nothing, but talked rather listlessly to a little man I had never seen before. Presently Chica said, “Let us go, senhor: she’ll never begin, and I can make as pretty music as this for you under the palm-trees yonder.”
She pointed to a clump of trees with one hand, and with the other showed me a little guitar she had with her. There was a shadow of displeasure on her face as she spoke, but I took little notice of it, and we moved away.
The “batugue ” was held in the open air, the weather being warm. The people were strolling about or sitting here or there chatting, smoking, singing, or playing, as the fancy took them. Chica and I sat down beneath a tree, and she began to talk of her country — a favourite theme with her — telling me of the days when the culture of sugar-cane was a flourishing industry, and exulting in the fact that cotton was daily increasing in importance.
Presently, detaching a string from her waist, Chica fastened it on her wrist. At the end of this string dangled a paper manikin, so that as Chica sat to play his feet just touched the ground, and he stood, as it were, upon it, following the action of her hand and thus producing faithfully the movements of a dance she played. This performance soon restored Chica’s gaiety, and was, indeed, so grotesque as to cause the onlookers great merriment.
It was during a hearty burst of laughter caused by the antics of the doll that a thin little man whom I had previously observed, and who looked as if he had the agility of twenty monkeys in him, came along and spoke to Chica. She did not seem pleased at the interruption, and he was evidently annoyed with her. The interview, however, was short, for she sent him away with a curt remark. As he went the girl began to make her manikin jump furiously, exclaiming loudly, “It’s so like him !”
The man heard her, for he turned his head, though he said nothing. When he had gone Chica told me his name was Domingo, and that she was destined to be his wife. “He is a Capoeira,” she added, in a lower tone.
“What is that ?” I asked.
“Didn’t you see any in Rio?” said the girl. “They are men trained to move so quickly that when fighting they are impossible to catch. They are not generally strong, but light, and so active. They do evil things. In their woolly hair they fix a little razor, and, ducking their heads, they run with all their might at a man, killing him if they choose; and all the time they move so quickly that it is most difficult even to take aim at them with a pistol.”
I had heard of something of the kind, and asked Chica many questions concerning these men.
She told me their method of attack was to circle round and round a man, suddenly making furious thrusts at him with the head. If there is a razor in the head — or in the hand, as happens rather often — it is a serious matter. Even without these weapons they can do much damage, and have been known to kill a man with a well-placed kick.
I had heard vague stories before about these ruffians, and listened to Chica’s recital with interest, idly wishing I might see a real Capoeira in action. I was about to utter the wish aloud, when I heard, in many different tones, the long-drawn “Oh! oh!” with which Brazilians call attention to anything worth seeing.
Rising to look, I saw that Nita, the Spanish girl, was dancing; so bidding, I fear, a rather hasty good-bye to Chica, I went in among the people to watch what was going on.
There was always something inexplicably fascinating to me in the sound of the castanets, and when Nita held them and danced it was a veritable poem of motion. Her tiny feet hardly seemed to touch the ground, so lightly and gracefully they moved. Presently she ran forward with bewitching grace, inviting one amongst us to stand before her and be her partner. All the men struggled for the honour, and I found myself side by side with the ill-favoured Domingo.
Half to please myself, and half because I thought little Chica would be glad if I danced with this siren instead of her betrothed, I pushed Domingo aside rather unceremoniously, but in one bound he stood before me, trying to assume the haughty grace of a Spanish cavalier. With a laugh at my momentary folly I was turning away, when I saw Nita shake her forefinger in the air at Domingo, which amongst Spaniards and Brazilians means “No,” and at the same time — no doubt through some caprice — she beckoned me to take his place. I lost no time in going forward, and we danced awhile together, Domingo throwing an angry glance my way ere he disappeared in the crowd.
Soon after this Nita left the scene of her triumph, and I wandered about looking idly at the various groups, exchanging a word here and there with those I knew amongst them.
I was just about to leave the place when I heard Chica asking Domingo, in angry terms, why he had stayed so long at the dance.
“Why did you leave us to play and sing to the Englishman?” he replied, viciously.
“You didn’t come near me,” cried Chica, rapidly. “Why did you stay with Nita? What do you see in her?”
Domingo spoke slowly and insultingly, saying that Nita was beautiful, graceful, and amiable, and all the rest of it. So the dispute went on, till at last Chica left him with angry words, and flung up against me as I stood there astonished that I had, though quite unwittingly, anything to do with this lovers’ quarrel.
She begged my pardon in some confusion, and then asked me to guide her through the throng of people until she should be safe. I guessed this was meant to annoy Domingo, for Chica wore that night a longish knife with a curious handle, so that she could have gone alone, if necessary, and, besides, she was so much respected that it was not likely she would suffer at the hands of anyone. Therefore I asked why Domingo did not perform this duty, but Chica, still smarting from the quarrel, declared that she would not allow it. Thinking it wiser to put an end to the matter, therefore, I complied with her request.
Once clear of the crowd I left her, and went musing to bed. There my thoughts went back over the events of the evening, and I saw that I had unwittingly made an enemy of Domingo the Capoeira. It was clear from his point of view that there was much to complain of in my conduct, for Chica had spoken to me at the beginning of the evening and had sung to me, sending Domingo away from her, and, though I had nothing to reproach myself with, I knew it would be futile to try and explain things to the angry lover, for Brazilians are intensely jealous.
Finally I dismissed the matter from my mind, listened awhile to the faint sounds of music and singing that floated in, and then fell asleep.
It must have been very late when I was awakened by a slight noise from the outside of the house, and through the crevices which occurred here and there in the frail woodwork that framed its sides I saw what seemed to be a figure peering. I judged it wise to have a look round, though there were many people abroad that night in the “barraca” who were not generally there, and this might well be one among them or only a belated reveller desirous of laying his weary limbs to rest somewhere or other.
Rising, therefore, and feeling for the revolver I had been warned always to carry about with me, I picked my way over the prostrate forms that lay across my path, opened the door, and went out.
Not a sound disturbed the stillness of the night, and, finding no one near the spot whence the sounds had proceeded, I moved some yards away from the shelter of the house, the better to admire the glorious moon and stars blazing above my head.
Then I heard distinctly the soft tread of naked feet, and an odd sensation as of some evil thing approaching came over me. There was something awe-inspiring in that quiet, stealthy sound breaking in on the calm beauty of the night. Turning quickly I beheld a weird object — a small, thin man, who began to wheel round me in rapid circles. Too amazed at first to reason, I thought he must be drunk or mad, until I saw something upon his head that gleamed blue in the moonlight, and which helped me to realize my peril. It was Domingo the Capoeira, and I was to be the object of one of the terrible onslaughts of which Chica had told me.
Guessing that he meant to give me a “cabecada” (thrust with the head) I at once pulled out my revolver and tried to take a steady aim at him. This was no easy task, however, for he shifted his position continually with quick, lightning-like movements. Just as I was about to fire, unable to bear the tension any longer, Chica appeared from somewhere and ran up against him. I never knew how it happened, but she was knocked over, with the blood pouring from a slight wound in her arm.
Hearing her cry as she fell heavily to the ground, I rushed headlong at Domingo, hoping to secure him while he was not moving, but went with too much impetus, and we both rolled over in a heap, my revolver going off in the struggle.
The report disturbed the heavy sleepers in the houses, and in the twinkling of an eye there was a curious group of men and women on the spot. Picturesque, too, they looked in the soft light, many with their various coloured night coverings still hanging about them. All talked and asked questions excitedly.
Domingo said something in a low tone, the purport of which I did not understand, but there began to be ominous murmurs against the “Inglez.” I do not know what might have happened had not the owner of the plantation opportunely appeared upon the scene, and between commands and threats he restored some order. To my astonishment he told me that it would be advisable for me to leave the place next day, as my presence there might cause serious disturbances.
After consideration I made no objection, and set out for the coast the following morning.
I never set eyes upon poor little Chica again, for during the conference with mine host she disappeared, and to all my inquiries as to where she was and how she fared a stolid “nao soi” (don’t know) was returned.
I sincerely hope that she suffered no further harm at the hands of her ruffianly suitor.
I made good progress on my journey, and as I approached Rio Janeiro I felt heartily glad to think that I should soon be in regions where dangerous and unpleasant adventures do not happen so frequently as on a Brazilian plantation in the interior, and where I should be tolerably safe from the jealous hatred of Domingo the Capoeira.
By Tony Wolf
This article offers a brief “history” of the Bartitsu revival movement, especially via the production of the two volumes of the Bartitsu Compendium in 2005 and 2008.
The advent of the Internet during the late 1990s facilitated contact and communication in innumerable special interest fields, very often among individuals and small groups that had been working in relative isolation for years. The newfound ability to “meet” fellow enthusiasts from all around the world online dramatically expanded and accelerated many of these fields; it was, to put it mildly, a heady time.
In the martial arts sphere, the esoteric practice of reviving previously extinct fighting styles received an especially strong boost during this period. The Bartitsu revival began as part of this new movement, originally via the Bartitsu Forum Yahoo Group email list, which was founded by author and martial artist Will Thomas in 2002; almost exactly one century after the original London Bartitsu Club had closed down.
Within about three years, members of the Forum – which had quickly and informally morphed into the Bartitsu Society – had tracked down a vast quantity of archival information related to E.W. Barton-Wright’s martial art. Most notable were Barton-Wright’s article series for Pearson’s Magazine, which had been discovered by the late British martial arts historian Richard Bowen and which were first broadcast online via the Electronic Journal of Martial Arts and Sciences website. Many of the characteristics of Bartitsu revivalism, including the concepts of “canonical” and “neo” Bartitsu and the essentially open-source nature of the revival itself, were likewise defined during this period.
By early 2004, we had so much information that it seemed fitting to try to get it into a publishable format, if only for the convenience of the (still) relatively few people who had taken a strong interest in the subject. Also, though, there was a growing sense that E.W. Barton-Wright had not yet received due recognition. The more we were learning about his life and fighting style, the more it seemed that he should be acknowledged as a martial arts pioneer and innovator. Therefore, the decision was made to dedicate any profits from the book to memorialising Barton-Wright’s legacy.
Because the potential readership seemed so small and specialised, we realised that the Bartitsu Compendium was unlikely to appeal to traditional publishers. Therefore, we decided to take advantage of the then-relatively new POD (Print On Demand) technology, which would allow individual copies of the book to be automatically printed and shipped as they were ordered.
Volume 1 of the Bartitsu Compendium – which was eventually subtitled “History and the Canonical Syllabus” – was compiled as a group labour of love. I volunteered to edit and generally steer the project and numerous others produced original articles, tracked down ever more obscure sources in European library archives and second-hand bookstores, manually transcribed print into electronic text (OCR technology was not then what it is now) and lent their talents to translations from various foreign languages.
The compilation and editing process took about a year, and then the book was officially launched at a function held in an Edwardian-era meeting room in the St. Anne’s Church complex in Soho, London, literally a stone’s throw from the site of the original Bartitsu Club in Shaftesbury Avenue. A simple table display included a bouquet of flowers, a straw boater hat and a Vigny-style walking stick, along with print-outs of the various chapters. Ragtime music played quietly in the background.
I offered a short lecture on the history of Bartitsu and a demonstration of some of the canonical techniques, followed by a champagne toast to the memory of E.W. Barton-Wright. Guests were then invited to mingle and peruse the print-out chapters (and, if they wished, take them as souvenirs).
To our surprise, the first volume of the Compendium sold well and, in fact, it was Lulu Publications’ best-selling martial arts book for a number of years. Funds from those sales supported the first three Bartitsu School of Arms conferences (in London, Chicago and Newcastle, respectively) and paid for a Bartitsu/Barton-Wright memorial that became part of the Marylebone Library collection, among other projects.
The Bartitsu revival proceeded and grew, with increasing numbers of seminars and ongoing courses being established. By 2007 it was clear that we needed a second volume, presenting resources that went beyond the canonical material and into the corpus of material produced by Bartitsu Club instructors and their first generation of students.
Volume 2 was a more complicated undertaking because it involved cross-referencing over a dozen early 20th century self-defence manuals, almost all from within the direct Bartitsu Club lineage, with the aim of synthesising a complete neo-Bartitsu syllabus. Individual techniques were carefully gathered from multiple sources and assessed, omitting redundancies and duplications while retaining useful variations. We also wanted to avoid developing a fully standardised, prescriptive curriculum, in favour of allowing individuals and clubs to choose their own “paths” through the various techniques and styles that went into the Bartitsu cross-training mix. Further, the lessons of volume 2 were joined together by a set of technical and tactical principles or “themes” redacted from the writings of E.W. Barton-Wright.
Again, the production of the book was very much a team effort, requiring the locating, scanning, transcribing etc. of a wide range of antique self-defence books and articles.
The second volume of the Bartitsu Compendium (subtitled “Antagonistics”) was launched in 2008, and proved to be very nearly as popular as Volume 1. The Compendia have formed the backbone of the Bartitsu revival since then, especially during the “boom time” of roughly 2009-13, which was engendered by the massive popular success of the action-packed Sherlock Holmes movies and consequently by substantial media, pop-culture and academic interest in Bartitsu.
There are currently about 50 Bartitsu clubs and study groups spread throughout the world and many of the old Bartitsu mysteries have either been solved outright or satisfactorily mitigated through educated guesswork. Although it will never be the “next big thing” in the martial arts world, all signs point to Bartitsu continuing as a niche-interest study for those who spend about equal time in the library and in the dojo.
This six-minute Bartitsu featurette recently screened on the Japanese television show Sekai Kurabete Mitara (“See the World in Comparison”).
Some absolutely mental bits from Bartitsu Lab on Japanese TV
Geplaatst door The Bartitsu Lab op Donderdag 30 augustus 2018
Playing to the pop-culture notion of the “gentlemanly martial art” via the Sherlock Holmes and Kingsman movies, the segment still manages to communicate some of the essential details such as Edward Barton-Wright’s travels in Japan and the eclectic boxing/kicking/jiujitsu/Vigny cane nature of Bartitsu.
Kudos to the Bartitsu Lab of Warwickshire, UK and to their instructor Tommy Joe Moore.
Chilean stickfighting instructor Andres Morales (in the dark clothing) and a sparring partner display an aggressive take on the Vigny cane style:
Hailing from the Alpine village of St. Crois, wrestler Armand Cherpillod was the last full-time instructor to join the staff of the London Bartitsu Club. According to Cherpillod’s memoirs, E.W. Barton-Wright sent Pierre Vigny to Switzerland with the express intention of bringing a wrestling champion back to London.
It’s likely that Cherpillod was approached because the then-current war of words between Bartitsu founder Edward Barton-Wright and the English wrestling establishment had reached a stalemate. The wrestlers refused to accept Barton-Wright’s challenge for them to compete with his club’s champions under jiujitsu rules, and Barton-Wright refused to allow Yukio Tani and Sadakazu Uyenishi to compete under other rules.
Bringing Cherpillod in as a “ringer”, having him train with Tani and Uyenishi and then fight under catch-as-catch-can rules was a clever tactic on behalf of Barton-Wright. Representing the Bartitsu Club, Cherpillod won his match against the famous wrestler Joe Carroll during a highly-publicised Bartitsu tournament, and then continued into a successful career as a challenge wrestler both in England and on the European Continent.
The following article, translated from the Revue Olympique of January, 1905, highlights Cherpillod’s take on jiujitsu atemi-waza (striking and nerve pressure techniques). It’s both interesting and unusual in that, although Barton-Wright’s own original articles for Pearson’s Magazine had included a variety of atemi-waza, that class of techniques was not emphasised in the books later produced by Tani and Uyenishi.
Atemi methods were, however, also detailed in some of the books written by second-generation instructors, such as W. Bruce Sutherland. The British Jujitsu Society – which largely consisted of instructors who had been trained by Tani and Uynenishi – later produced a pamphlet detailing the same branch of skill, titled “The Art of Ju-Jitsu: Nerve Pinches and Fatal Blows”, which is reproduced in The Bartitsu Compendium.
The translated Revue Olympique article follows:
Among the first European followers of jiu-jitsu is the world champion of freestyle wrestling, A. Cherpillod, who arrived in London during the year 1901 as a teacher at the Bartitsu Club, where he met with the Japanese masters Uyenishi and Tani. An exchange of teaching took place between these athletes, as they began to introduce each other to the beauties of their arts.
Returning to Switzerland, Cherpillod taught some colleagues about the principles of jiu-jitsu and, when in charge of a wrestling course at the Royal Naval Officers at Portsmouth, he joined them in performing demonstrations of the Japanese method. He perfected his own skill and acquired some good pupils. Finally last year, Cherpillod, assisted by his friend, the distinguished Professor E. Richème, of Neuchatel, prepared his little practical manual of jiu-jitsu, which enjoyed considerable success.
Mr. Cherpillod considers that jiu-jitsu and European freestyle wrestling have a common origin and that the former is only a particular style of freestyle wrestling, starting from the initial common principle of seeking defeat of the adversary without any regard for convention, every technique being good provided it tends to the desired result. In ancient Greece, writes the author, “freestyle wrestling became the object of public competitions. The progress of civilisation and certain sporting considerations gradually softened the brutality of these matches. Thus, over the course of centuries, conventions emerged, mainly leading to the recognition of the touch of the shoulders to the ground, or a similar position, as the end of the fight.
It follows from this that freestyle European wrestling would have lost, by becoming civilized or sporting, all that the Japanese style has gained in science and in virtuosity by its independence and freedom. It is this virtuosity which gives jiu-jitsu the appearance of a mysterious art, thanks to the success that those who practice it invariably win over all the athletes constrained by modern (i.e. Western) conventions and incapable of realizing the scope of an art which systematically ignores the outdated rules of which they are imbued.
This judgement is interesting; it seems a little sketchy, perhaps, in disregarding some of the fundamental originality of the Japanese method. The latter recommends itself in two points which do not appear to him to be common with any other kind of free wrestling; the role played by the fingers and the whole hand – and also through the intervention of scientific anatomy.
But, of course, Mr. Cherpillod did not fail to appreciate the importance of these two points when he himself became a jiu-jitsu expert and that is why it is astonishing that he has not emphasized them by giving in his textbook a general overview of the Japanese style; on the other hand, when it comes to what might be called the preliminary preparation in jiu-jitsu, the famous Swiss athlete ascribed to the first rank the exercises of the hand and anatomical study.
The general gymnastic method he indicates does not call for any comment. Certain movements are hardly different from those which are customarily taught to obtain relaxation of the whole body. The author has no preference; he says so overtly. We even take note of this clear theory, so contrary to the excitement of the day, and for which we express our warm sympathy; “All systems are good, provided they are applied consistently.” There is no master of gymnastics who can not apply a rational training program capable of developing the strength of the limbs, the flexibility and resistance of each part of the body. To arrive at a determined result, it is enough to create a system and to practice it every day with perseverance.
That being said, Mr. Cherpillod comes to the preparation of the hands and the indication of the vulnerable points of the human body; these are essential elements of jiu-jitsu. A trained Japanese fighter can, with a single stroke of the edge of the hand against the neck, dislocate cervical vertebrae and bring death. There are not many ways to train in this regard. It is necessary, with the hand well open, the fingers held tightly, to strike or slice at a very hard object as violently as possible, with a percussive blow; you must not only repeat this exercise a very large number of times, but vary it by striking from top to bottom, from bottom to top, from right to left and from left to right.
Vulnerable points in the human body are not all affected by the same techniques, nor in the same way. Some are sensitive to torsion, others to pressure; others again must be assailed by a sharp blow of the hand. Here is the enumeration furnished by M. Cherpillod:
1. Points sensitive to torsion or reversal ending at the same time by the disarticulation of the grasped member:
2 – Sensitive pressure points:
3 – Points sensitive to strikes with the hand:
It will be noticed that, practically, there is a ranking to operate between all these points; many of them, while they might be excellent attack points upon the naked body, are usually protected by clothing.
It will also be noted that they are not all easy to determine, other than in theory. First, there are the individual physiques to be taken into account, the real anatomy of men differing considerably from one to the other; but, even on a normal man, a strike may not invariably land upon its target, especially if it is a quick and sudden movement.
Now, in Jiu-Jitsu, as in every other form of fighting, accuracy in partnership with speed leads most surely to success. Hence the precision exercises to which the Japanese attribute real importance, but which the Swiss champion seems to leave a little aside. It is said that, in Japan, one sometimes uses the following process: a man draws upon a table a series of small circles in pencil, then he steps away from the table first one pace, then two, then three, and he suddenly lunges and places his finger in one of the circles. We can do the same thing with a piano keyboard, aiming to depress this or that key.
There is, of course, no equivalent exercise that can be performed upon the body of an adversary, and, to tell the truth, we do not believe that, without an adversary, one can acquire even a summary knowledge of jiu-jitsu.
On the other hand, it is always good to study etudes (formal exercises) and any work in physical culture should more or less start with those. The jiu-jitsu etudes are exercises aimed at hardening the slice of the hand, the strength and agility of the fingers, as well as the knowledge of the points of attack and in the way to use this knowledge both quickly and precisely.
A gallery of images from the Sherlockon 2018 event in Warsaw, Poland. The demonstrators are members of l’Extreme Est, a Polish savate and Bartitsu club.