Martial Exotica: Kusarigamajutsu in London (1919-23)

Founded by Gunji Koizumi in 1918, the London Budokwai remains the oldest Japanese martial arts club in Europe.  Former Bartitsu Club instructor Yukio Tani taught there for many years, shaping the first generation of British judoka. On May 31, 1919, the Budokwai hosted an exhibition at the Aeolian Hall by the visiting kendo master Sonobe … Continue reading “Martial Exotica: Kusarigamajutsu in London (1919-23)”

“Jiu Jitsu For Mental Nurses” (1911)

A historical curiosity from the Aberdeen Press and Journal of 4 January, 1911, detailing the self-defence training of psychiatric nurses via the game of “Indian wrestling” and some basic jiujitsu techniques.  Interestingly, Bartitsu Club fencing instructor Captain Alfred Hutton is believed to have been the first person in the Western world to teach Japanese martial arts as self-defence … Continue reading ““Jiu Jitsu For Mental Nurses” (1911)”

By Hook or By Crook: A New Weapon for the Millwall Dock Police (1903-05)

During the first decade of the 20th century, the Millwall Dock area of London’s East End was a notorious target for all manner of plunderers, who found easy entrance and escape via the Dock’s complex, shifting maze of alleyways.  The Millwall Dock Police, all of whom were former soldiers and whose average height was an … Continue reading “By Hook or By Crook: A New Weapon for the Millwall Dock Police (1903-05)”

Mitsuyo Maeda in England (1907-08)

Of the select group of Japanese judoka and jiujitsuka who pioneered their martial arts in the West at the turn of the 20th century, Mitsuyo Maeda is almost certainly the most famous.  It was Maeda who settled in Brazil, beginning the legacy of Brazilian Jiujitsu that would eventually sweep the world during the 1990s MMA … Continue reading “Mitsuyo Maeda in England (1907-08)”

Baritsu in Denny O’Neil’s “Sherlock Holmes” Comic Book Adaptation (1975)

Famed comics writer/editor Denny O’Neil offers his take on the famous “baritsu” fight between Sherlock Holmes and Professor James Moriarty in these scenes from O’Neil’s Sherlock Holmes #1 (1975). At the end of the first chapter, Holmes encounters Moriarty at the brink of the Reichenbach Falls in the Swiss Alps.  Both men appear certain to … Continue reading “Baritsu in Denny O’Neil’s “Sherlock Holmes” Comic Book Adaptation (1975)”

Boxing as Street Defence Cartoons (La Petit Journal, 12 September, 1925)

A gallery of cartoons from “L’Art de se Defendre dans la Rue si l’on est Attaque par les Apaches”, an article written by French bantamweight boxing champion Charles Ledoux.  The gist of M. Ledoux’s argument was that the sport of boxing, if practiced diligently and with serious intent, was adequate for most exigencies of street self-defence.

Demolition Derby: A Short History of the Weaponised Bowler Hat

Given that we have already outlined the histories of the weaponised umbrella and hat-pin and have tested the historicity and practicality of the razor-blade cap, it seems fitting to now consider the bowler hat-as-weapon in both fact and fiction. Perhaps surprisingly, the original bowler hat may have been designed with self-defence somewhat in mind. In 1849, London … Continue reading “Demolition Derby: A Short History of the Weaponised Bowler Hat”

“How Sir Hiram Maxim Met the Hooligan” (St James’s Gazette, 24 June 1902)

In which the estimable inventor Hiram Maxim, best-remembered today for devising the world’s first portable machine gun, tells of how he fended off a London hooligan with his fists and trusty umbrella. Sir Hiram S. Maxim, who says he has had three encounters with hooligans, writes to say that when walking from Southfields Station to … Continue reading ““How Sir Hiram Maxim Met the Hooligan” (St James’s Gazette, 24 June 1902)”

The Gentlemanly Art of 19th Century Cane Fighting in … 1990s Russia!?

The 1990 Russian sociopolitical satire Bakenbardy (“Side-whiskers”) is distinguished as the only feature film in which walking stick fighting serves as a crucial plot device.  It’s also a pertinent warning as to how youthful enthusiasm can be perverted by authoritarian impulses into something dark and ugly. The story revolves around two fire-eyed young men who … Continue reading “The Gentlemanly Art of 19th Century Cane Fighting in … 1990s Russia!?”

Umbrella vs. Knife in a Hamburg Back-alley (Swing Kids, 1993)

In this short fight scene from the movie Swing Kids, Peter Müller (Christian Bale) takes on a knife-wielding member of the Hitlerjugend, applying some deft umbrella techniques that will be recognisable to Bartitsu aficionados. In real history, the laissez-faire Swingjugend – who much preferred American jazz and English fashions to the crushing conformity of Nazism … Continue reading “Umbrella vs. Knife in a Hamburg Back-alley (Swing Kids, 1993)”