Scott Brown, a swordsmanship instructor in Houston recently met up with the Bartitsu Society’s Chris Amendola, and provided this report
Through recommendations from James Marwood and Alex Kiermeyer I recently made contact with a local Gentleman here in the Houston area named Chris Amendola, a Bartitsu specialist with a mentionable Eastern martial arts background.
Chris was kind enough to come by the training hall yesterday and offer an introductory workshop and lecture on E.W. Barton Wrights ‘mixed martial arts’ self defence system. I am extremely happy to report that he did a very fine job of not only giving a fairly thorough, if concise, overview of the system but also accommodating to the significantly wide variety of skill levels of the attending participants. While he did discuss some of the jujitsu elements of Bartitsu he was kind enough to focus the workshop on the Vigny cane aspects, covering a classification of techniques he termed “Guard by Distance”, making special emphasis on the very interesting Bartitsu ‘hanging guard’ (my term). Chris did a great job of keeping the class interesting and moving along as he demonstrated what I would consider to be a graspable number of defensive and offensive techniques, variations, and a number of counters to these. Personally, I was exceptionally pleased that he was able to take a number of our more experienced fencers out of their comfort zone by emphasizing Bartitsu’s rather unique ‘inverted overhand strike’ (my term) which is executed with some very interesting voiding footwork (nearly a demi-volta of sorts).
I am also happy to report that not only does Chris have a good ability to identify context and circumstance but also how they very importantly relate to fencing/fighting. He very capably demonstrated a number of tactical based decision making scenarios and almost nonchalantly discussed how they interplay with his interpretations of the plays in the Bartitsu system. I confess this was a pleasant surprise and excited me to know that such an informed and talented fellow is very nearly here in my own back yard. Additionally, he did a great job of being honest when he wasn’t sure about something when subjected to the customary grueling questions put forth by some of our gang and very admirably put serious thought into his responses, producing viable and coherent arguments only moments later. Very respectable in my book.
On the practical side, Chris was not only willing to fence but eager as anyone I’ve met and he further impressed me by not only wishing to fence using his Vigny, Cunningham and, I think, Lang cane understandings but also asked to fence against both the longsword and sword and buckler. Obviously, these are fencing systems that were never meant or designed to face each other and that only speaks to Chris’ good HEMA attitude. We also indulged him by playing at baton vs. baton with he and I going extra rounds we were having so much fun! The best part is Chris clearly is a man of mentionable skill, tactical understanding, and the ability to adapt. His unfamiliar, to us, methods definitely presented our gang with some new challenges and I suspect that he in turn found a few (but hopefully exciting) hurdles from our crowd. Bruises were shared all round, as it should be! Chris has a unique over/under/over strike combination that is faster than anyone I’ve yet to meet in a one handed weapon and he has a very dynamic and mobile style of fencing. He also put his money where his mouth is by capably demonstrating the unique ‘inverted overhand’ strike when fencing which was particularly fun to observe in addition to presenting some interesting challenges.
In short, it is my opinion that Chris Amendola is an excellent representative for Bartitsu as a functioning martial art. I think he poses great potential for growing this art, has a great attitude towards sharing, exchanging, training, and HEMA in general. And on top of it all, he’s a heck of a nice guy. If you get the chance, don’t miss an opportunity to train with Chris! I’m certainly looking forward to working with him in the future.