Bartitsu at WMAW 2009

Between September 9-13, the beautiful 19th century campus of the DeKoven Center (Racine, Wisconsin) was the venue for the 10th annual Western Martial Arts Weekend conference. This was the first year that Bartitsu was included in the WMAW lineup.

The conference was sold out some months in advance, having attracted a record-breaking 160 participants from 6 countries. As we enjoyed perfect weather every day, almost all of the classes took place under the oak trees on the DeKoven Center lawns, with 4 classes of (typically) 40 students each training in a panoply of Western martial arts disciplines. Students were able to choose classes from four “tracks” including Fundamentals, Medieval Martial Arts, Renaissance and Early Modern Martial Arts and Close-Quarters Combat.

The 3-hour Bartitsu seminar took place on the morning of Day 4 and began with a precis of the cultural history of Bartitsu. The three major “themes” of this seminar were initiative control via pre-emptive striking/feinting and invitation, alignment control via efficient biomechanics and the process of martial improvisation.

We began with a series of basic exercises in alignment – using one’s own posture and skeletal structure, represented as a triangle, to control a partner’s triangle to the point of imbalance. These exercises were then formalised into a selection of basic boxing and savate techniques and into some examples of canonical jiujitsu kata.

The neo-Bartitsu process of “twisting” canonical sequences into improvisational exercises was then applied to the kata, and subsequently to a series of Bartitsu stick fighting set-plays. Participants were challenged to spontaneously recover the initiative after “something goes wrong” with the set-play (for example, the opponent defeats a particular technique; how to flow with the disruption and re-establish control of the fight?)

I was very happy with the students’ progress and particularly enjoyed working with some fellow Bartitsu practitioners from clubs in Seattle and San Francisco, who also asked for an informal private lesson.

In all, WMAW 2009 bodes very well for the continued growth of interest and enthusiasm for Bartitsu in the wider Western martial arts community.

Bartitsu: Steampunk martial art!


A new article by John Reppion, “Baritsu, Bartitsu and the Jujutsuffragettes” is featured in the 6th issue of Steampunk Magazine. The hardcopy version of the magazine is also available here.

Mr. Reppion’s article is an entertaining and informative look at Bartitsu history and links to the Sherlock Holmes adventures and the women’s suffrage movement in the early years of the 20th century – recommended reading.

Bartitsu Italia tour summary

I have just returned from a very busy two-week tour of Italy, teaching Bartitsu and stage combat master-classes and preparing for an exciting new project: a Bartitsu documentary!

I would like to begin by thanking my hosts, especially Bartitsu Italia and the Cletarte cultural organisation, for their tireless and expert support. From arranging hotel accommodation and sight-seeing expeditions to dinners and press conferences, they were a delight to work with and I hope to visit them again soon.

The three-day masterclass series in Rome was a great success, with a wonderfully enthusiastic body of students representing the gamut of martial arts and stage combat experience. It was held in a new (in parts, still under construction) sports and exercise facility in the heart of the city.

Day one was devoted to learning about the cultural history and basic principles of Bartitsu: the biomechanical and tactical precepts that underlie Barton-Wright’s fusion of boxing, jiujitsu, savate and stick fighting, and the process of applying neo-Bartitsu drills to many of Barton-Wright’s canonical self defence sequences.

The second day was largely given over to the application of Bartitsu to stage combat and stunt fighting, and day three was devoted to neo-Bartitsu as self defence. The Rome seminars generated nine hours of professionally shot high-def video footage.

The Greco Academy, Rome
The Greco Academy, Rome

While in Rome I was also privileged to be able to visit the fencing school of Maestro Renzo Musumeci Greco, which has been run continually as a sala d’armi by members of the Maestro’s family since the 1870s.

After flying to the lovely resort town of Amantea in Calabria (Southern Italy), we spent an intensive three days filming re-enactments and other footage for the Bartitsu documentary, including (by special and unusual permission) some scenes at the Palazzo delle Clarisse.

Interview for Calabrian television
Interview for Calabrian television
Priamar Fortress
Priamar Fortress

The final stop was in Savona, where I adjudicated a stage combat and historical fencing tournament at the magnificent Priamar fortress and taught a four-hour Bartitsu seminar for tournament participants. Again, their enthusiasm (and good-natured tolerance for my feeble attempts at spoken Italian) was much appreciated.

Finally, notes of personal thanks to Ran, Aile, Rocco, Jerome, Paolo, Angelica, Filomena, Gaetano, Luca, Daniele, Alessandro, Michele and Giuseppe. Grazie mille.