Vigny stick fighting in Santiago, Chile

Little sparring with walking stick.

Geplaatst door Andres Pino Morales op zaterdag 6 mei 2017

Some more fast, strong sparring in the Vigny/Bartitsu style by members of the Santiago Stickfighters club.

“The Ballad of Tarro Myake” (1905)

The following poetic tribute to the skill of jiujitsuka Taro Miyake was first published in Punch Magazine of June 7, 1905.  Miyake’s name was frequently rendered as “Tarro Myake” by Edwardian journalists.


(After Tennyson’s “Ballad of Oriana.”)

You challenged one and all to fight,
I took your challenge up one night,
They advertised it left and right,
Thousands appeared to see the sight,
My prospects were considered bright,

A model I of manly grace,
Yours seemed a pretty hopeless case,
Awhile we danced around the place,
Then closed and struggled for a space,
And you were down upon your face,

Oh, I would make you give me best,
A thrill of pride inspired my breast,
Then you were sitting on my chest,
Your knee into my gullet pressed,
Was this the way to treat a guest,

You’ve got me by the neck, and oh,
There is no rest for me below,
You’re right upon my wind, you know ;
I’m suffocating fast, and so,
You’ve beaten me; now let me go,

O breaking neck that will not break
O yellow face so calm and sleek,
Thou smilest, but thou dost not speak;
I seem to have waited here a week,
What wantest thou? What sign dost seek,

What magic word your victim frees,
What puts the captive at his ease,
‘Touché,” “Enough,” or “If you please,’
I keep on trying you with these,
Alas! I have no Japanese,

I am not feeling very well,
(They should have stopped it when you fell,
Oh, how is it you cannot tell
I am not feeling very well,
What is the Japanese for “H-l”

The blood is rushing to my head,
Think kindly of me when I’m dead,
What was it that your trainer said –
“Pat twice upon the ground instead!”
There . . there . . now help me into bed,

Somewhere beside the Southern sea,
I walk, I dare not think of thee,
All other necks I leave to thee,
My own’s as stiff as stiff can be,
My collar’s one by twenty-three,

“How I Became a Ju-Jitsu Champion” by Taro Miyake (1905)

This detailed interview with Taro Miyake was published in the Sunday Times of September 3, 1905. Miyake, who rose to fame by defeating former Bartitsu Club instructor Yukio Tani in a London challenge match during September, 1904, subsequently joined forces with Tani in opening the Japanese School of Jujutsu in Oxford Street and in producing the “Game of Jujutsu” textbook in 1906.

Though largely a catalogue of Miyake’s various successes and accolades as a martial artist, the article is also notable for naming three of Miyake’s own instructors – Tanabe, Uyemura and Handa.  Miyake’s association with Mataemon Tanabe and with Yataro Handa is significant to Bartitsu studies because both Yukio Tani and Sadakazu Uyenishi are likewise associated with these sensei, whose unusual newaza (mat-grappling) techniques helped define the eclectic “British jiujitsu” of the very early 20th century.

How would you like to get up at four o’clock on a bitterly cold January morning, and wrestle for two or three hours with no covering but a thin, loose tunic and knee breeches, when the wrestling mats are frozen hard, and the garments you wear are quite stiff with frost? (asked Tarro Myaki of a London journalist).

Yet that is what we ju-jitsu wrestlers do in Japan — at least, those of us who are very keen, and are anxious to harden our bodies and to practise endurance. Very often after such a morning I have been so sore and chafed that the clothes I wore made me smart all over. But I have turned out again next morning, all the same, until my skin got hard enough to withstand the cuts and scrapes of the hard mats.

Although, like all Japanese boys, I was in a way familiar with ju-jitsu — for is it not as much a part of our national schooling as your football, cricket, and other games? — yet it was not till I was eighteen years old that I took it up in so keen and determined a spirit as to lead me eventually to become the champion of my country. This was principally because I had other things to do, and did not have the time to devote to my favorite sport till I reached that age.

When I did begin, however, I made up for lost time. I entered upon my apprenticeship, so to speak, to the art of self defence with the fixed determination to reach the top of the tree, and with this end in view I concentrated all my attention upon learning the tricks of throw and lock which were shown me, and making myself more proficient at them than those who taught me. That I was successful in my endeavors you may guess, when I tell you that at the end of a year and a half I went in for and won my first contest.

This first success set the final spark to my enthusiasm, and two or three subsequent defeats in minor matches, such as every beginner must suffer, fanned it into a flame. My improvement during the nine months which followed was so rapid that about that time I obtained my first position
as instructor.

Until I was twenty-one, and apart from my duties as instructor, I studied ju-jitsu under one of our most famous teachers, Tanabe, and, although I was still very young, he entrusted me with all the secrets of his school, for in Japan, there are distinctive “schools” of ju-jitsu, just as you have distinctive ‘schools’ of art. Each school has some special little tricks and secrets of its own, which are only fully disclosed to its pupils when they reach a certain proficiency, or years of discretion.

Above: Taro Miyake and Takisaburo Tobari demonstrate a series of formal waza (techniques) for the Pathe film camera in Paris (1912).

When I was twenty-one, I was appointed instructor to the police at Kioto, and during the time I was there I still went on learning, studying at that time in the great Uyemura School. Here, again, I proved my self so proficient that I learnt their secrets before I moved on to Osaka to teach the police there. At Osaka I worked under another great teacher, Handa, and in this way I mastered the secrets of three distinct schools of ju-jitsu.

During, and subsequent to this time I went in for numerous contests, and I am probably more proud at being able to tell you that I have never been beaten in any important match than your English gentlemen are of winning the Derby.

It was in Osaka, last May, that I went through the most trying contests I have ever taken part in, and achieved the greatest success of my career by beating all who opposed me. For this an unusual honor was paid me in the shape of a gold medal, which was presented to me by the Crown Prince of Japan. I have also received a sword of honor from Prince Komatsu, the President of the Butokukai — our national society for the encouragement of ju-jitsu, fencing, and other sports.

What I am specially proud of, however, is that at the age of twenty-two I was admitted to the fifth degree in ju-jitsu. This is rarely attained before the age of thirty five, and then is conferred more as an honorable recognition of a closing career than as the reward of real proficiency.

Now I suppose you will want to know something about my training. Well, that is soon told. My only training has been hard work. We Japanese athletes pay no attention to diet, but just eat and drink and smoke like everyone else. But those of us who are specially keen go through trials of endurance which the others will not face.

What sort of condition I am in you may judge from the fact that from ten o’clock in the morning, when I commence giving lessons in the Japanese school of Ju-jitsu, which Yukio Tani and I have founded in London at 305 Oxford-street, till eleven o’clock in the evening, when I finish my last bout on the stage, I am practically wrestling all day!

All my efforts now are centred upon trying to make ju-jitsu champions out of other people, but, although you Englishmen are eminently suited to become experts, it is difficult to get you to take it seriously. You take it up as an amusement and an exercise, but you do not persevere and stick to it till you become expert. Englishwomen, I think, are far quicker to learn it than the men. I have more than one lady pupil who is very expert, indeed, and I should be sorry for anyone who attacked them now.

I find hard work agrees with me, and I have an excellent appetite. I conform to your ways now that I am in England — which is a country I like very much indeed — by eating English food at English times. That is to say, I have breakfast, lunch, tea, and dinner, all of them at regular times except the last, which is what you call a ‘movable’ feast’ with me. I have it whenever I am hungry.

There is one thing which everyone over here seems very much surprised at. I have never had a cold bath in my life. We don’t go in for cold baths in Japan. If we bathe in the open air it is in the Summer time, when the sea or the river is quite warm. I have several warm baths a day— whenever I have finished practice. If I took a cold bath I should catch cold at once, and
get out of trim.

Bartitsu exhibition at Shorncliffe Army Camp (1902)

During early 1902, the instructors of the Bartitsu School of Arms and Physical Culture hit the road for a series of touring martial arts exhibitions in Oxford, Cambridge and Nottingham. This recently-discovered report from the Sporting Life of 15 February, 1902 confirms a fourth venue – the gymnasium of the historic Shorncliffe Army Camp near Cheriton, Kent.

“Bartitsu at the Tivoli Theatre” (1901)

From the Morning Post of 23 August, 1901:

Yesterday afternoon Mr. Barton-Wright gave a private exhibition of Bartitsu, his system of self-defence, which, though mainly founded on Japanese methods, is not exclusively confined to them. The inventor, who opened the proceedings with short explanatory speech, claims that his system combines all that is best in East or West. It is based on strictly anatomical and mechanical principles, and enables five stone of knowledge to throw twenty stone of ignorance out of the window with less apparent exertion than normally attends the pulling up of a blind.

The legs play an even more prominent part than the arms and several English principles are set at defiance. Our styles of wrestling are too conventional, too detached from life. A man who is down on three points, so far from being defeated, occupies a strong defensive and offensive position. Really, the fun has just began. Our “Don’t kick man when he is down,” should, in fact, be revised, and should read, “Keep clear of man when he is down, or he may kick you.”

The two best Japanese light-weights were in attendance, and gave a startling exhibition of their art. Not all was quite novel. Mr. Kawakami has familiarised us with some of the throws, and there were other grips and similar devices which it part of constable’s business to master. But there was an abundance of novelty.

First, the combatants, wearing bicycling skirts and barefooted, gave an exposition the various kinds of catches. It did not seem to matter where the one caught hold of the other, he was invariably thrown off and down with violence to the resonant floor. Did grasp his adversary by the hair? The adversary, with a toss of the head, jerked him over his shoulder as if he had been raindrop.

Next came the throws, not the whole three hundred of them, but just a few samples. They included some very quiet and effective means of settling your man, which might be useful to girls anxious to rid themselves of an ill-waltzing partner. Others were much more terrific and wholly unsuitable to the ball-room.

Then came some mere feats of strength. Previous invitations to test the genuineness of the display had been disregarded, but the audience had now conquered its first feeling of shyness, and there was no trouble making up a small party to stand on the exponent’s chest and otherwise prevent him from rising from the ground. He rose all the same. Then a portly gentleman vainly tried to keep him down by sitting on his head. Anon another heavy-weight pressed a long pole against his neck, much as Mr. Punch endeavours to shore up his dead, only harder. In five seconds the heavy-weight was in full retreat.

And many other strange spectacles were seen, which may not be so much as enumerated. It will readily be surmised that, in so resourceful a system, one is not accounted beaten till one gives in, the sign of surrender being smack on any part of his victor’s anatomy that happens to be handy. The display will on Monday take its place in the regular bill, of which it is certain to prove extremely popular item.

A “new art of self defence” in Ballarat, Australia (1902-09)

Aside from the curious demonstrations of “baritzu” by Australian soldiers circa 1906, E.W. Barton-Wright’s martial art may have inspired at least one other Aussie enthusiast during the early 20th century – although the latter took pains to deny any influence.

Above: calisthenics at the Ballarat Amateur Athletic Club (1904)

Starting in May of 1902, members of the then-newly formed Ballarat Amateur Athletic Club began to perform exhibitions of a “new art of self defence” that was claimed to have been devised by the Club president, Mr. John Trekardo.  During a packed and diverse athletic display that included gladiatorial tableaux and interludes of song alongside the more standard boxing, fencing and wrestling bouts, Mr. Trekardo and his assistant took the stage to demonstrate:

First, “A new way to cope with a footpad” and, second, “A new art of self-defence.” In the first it was demonstrated how easily the staid citizen, who is accosted by a garrotter or rough on his way home, might by the exercise of a little ingenuity and physical force capsize his would-be assailant before the latter could attack him, while in the second part an entirely new method of stopping the rush of an assailant in the street was cleverly demonstrated.

Mr. Trekardo performed several similar displays throughout the remainder of 1902, always to extravagant praise if the newspaper reviews are to be believed.  During a demonstration in August, the Trekardo system was introduced by his student Captain Olden, who claimed that:

(…) the system had been invented by Mr. Trekardo before the introduction of the Barton-Wright system in London.

Records indicate similar self-defence exhibitions in connection with the Ballarat Amateur Athletic Club’s annual displays between 1903-09.  There do not, however, appear to be any records of Trekardo actually teaching the “new art”.

The last records of exhibitions of Trekardo’s system are from 1909, during which his associate, a Mr. Lazarus, remarked that:

Mr Trekardo had instituted the teaching of grips in 1899, long before the jiu-jitsu of the Japanese was spoken about here.

It’s probably true that jiujitsu per se was not known in Australia during 1899; in fact, that word appears in Aussie newsprint for the first time in February of 1904.  Granting that it’s possible that Trekardo invented his own system independently, it does, however, seem highly likely that it was inspired by, if not actually copied from, Barton-Wright’s first series of articles for Pearson’s Magazine.  Those articles were published in England during March and April of 1899 and were widely available in Australia during that year.

A takedown from Barton-Wright’s second article for Pearson’s.

Notably, Barton-Wright’s articles did not refer to jiujitsu by name, but clearly do describe and illustrate Japanese unarmed combat – under the title “The New Art of Self Defence”.

It should be noted that, during this period, it was quite common for “colonial” entertainers and athletes to jump on the bandwagon of novel, popular trends originating in Europe and the United States.  Vaudeville acts and so-on were regularly undertaken by performers who had no actual connection to the “real thing” but whose experience allowed them to pull off a more-or-less convincing imitation.

By 1909, of course, jiujitsu had become internationally famous, and Australians were even able to witness the art performed by an expert in earnest.  The jiujitsuka Ryugoro Shima (1885-1958) had arrived in the Land Downunder during 1905, and four years later he was well-established on the wrestling challenge circuit.  Possibly Mr. Trekardo took that opportunity to retire his own system;  in any case, he went on to some success in local politics, serving as the mayor of Ballarat between 1937-38.

Bartitsu with Allen Reed at “Cogs and Corsets” in Bloomington, IL

Come learn the martial art made famous by Sherlock Holmes when he fought with his nemesis Prof. Moriarty at the top of Reichenbach Falls.
Prof. Reed spent many years tracking down and apprehending miscreants who violated the law. Now in retirement he brings his experience in antagonistics, fisticuffs and preventing mayhem to ladies and gentlemen who may find themselves in need of such training when waylaid by hooligans upon the highways and byways.

The class is scheduled for 2 PM on Saturday June 3rd on the lawn of the historic courthouse in Bloomington, IL. For more information about all the events of the three day festival (June 2 to 4, 2017) see

The Apache’s Foe (The Bystander, 12 September 1906)

Burglaries in Paris and the provinces, wherein the revolver and the knife, as a rule, play an important role, are becoming more and more frequent. The police seem powerless, and the attacked citizens, paralysed by fear, do not make use of the weapons at their disposal, with the result that the ghastly list of murdered persons has been swelling of late to an alarming extent.

But help has come from an unexpected quarter. The Apache has encountered a formidable foe, on whom he never reckoned, and that foe is woman. Under normal conditions, a woman shudders at the thought of shedding blood, but when she once decides to kill, her hand does not tremble.

We have had many instances of that of late. A young woman was married to a scoundrel who wanted to force her to get her living in the streets, whereupon she left him and went back to her mother. A month ago the fellow burst into the room where the two women were dining, and with horrible threats called upon his wife to return to him. Before he had time to strike her, he fell to the ground with the carving knife buried in his throat. She informed the jury that if she deserved punishment it was for not having performed the deed sooner and the twelve gentlemen evidently agreed with her, for she was at once acquitted.

The Modern Amazons

Last week a girl distinguished herself in a similar manner. She was nursing her sick sister and waiting her father’s return, when two men attempted to break the shutters of the lonely cottage. In an instant she had seized her father’s rifle, and lodged a bullet in one of the burglars’ heads. There was no necessity to fire a second shot. Number one was “out of business” as the Americans say and the other had fled. She then resumed her sewing, as if nothing had occurred. Her name is Mlle. Brazy, and if she were placed at the head of a company of Amazons, I feel certain the Paris streets would be safer at night than they are at present.

Our policemen appear to be always in doubt as to when they may or may not use their revolvers, and whilst they are weighing the matter, the psychological moment has passed. Women do not trouble about the subtleties ot the law. If they are threatened they strike, if they are struck they kill. They are doing good work as long as they continue to aim their shots at the enemies of Society.