Bartitsu at the San Francisco Edwardian Ball

On January 22nd and 23rd, nine gentlemen and suffragettes from the Botta Secreta historical martial arts school performed a Bartitsu exhibition at the Edwardian Ball, a SteamPunk event held in San Francisco’s Regency Ballroom.

The audience, almost all sporting the latest in neo-Victorian finery, was wowed by an action-packed ten minute antagonistic extravaganza combining Vigny stick fighting, pugilism, wrestling, savate, jiujitsu, singlestick fencing and navaja knife combat in the Spanish tradition.

The display (narrated by “E.W. Barton-Wright” himself!) has also introduced a new catchphrase to San Franciscan SteamPunks: “Belabour him as you see fit!” was the battle-cry of the night.

“Keep diving with your stick between peoples’ legs, upsetting them right and left,” – E.W. Barton-Wright, 1901

“About Martial Arts, E.W. Barton-Wright and Yukio Tani”

Marcus Rowland’s short article About Martial Arts, E.W. Barton-Wright and Yukio Tani was first published in Valkyrie magazine in 1996, and accompanied a CD-Rom which included all five of the articles E.W. Barton-Wright had written for Pearson’s Magazine between 1899-1901. As such, Rowland’s article appeared at the very beginning of “modern” Bartitsu scholarship, several years before copies of Barton-Wright’s articles were broadcast online via the EJMAS website.

Since the original publication of Mr. Rowland’s essay, the Bartitsu Society has undertaken considerable further historical research on Bartitsu and on Barton-Wright himself, and offers the following comments and corrections:

Barton-Wright worked in Japan from 1891 to 1899, and towards the end of this period he trained under the sensei Yukio Tani, then aged nineteen. When he returned to Britain, he persuaded Tani and his older brother to accompany him, with the aim of setting up a martial arts school in London. Why they agreed is unclear; while Tani was obviously very talented, he was also very young to be a sensei, and it seems possible that there were simply few opportunities for him in Japan. The picture shows Barton-Wright with a bearded Japanese martial artist, possibly Tani or his older brother.

Barton-Wright actually lived in Japan for approximately three years, between 1895 and 1897. There is no evidence to suggest that he met Yukio Tani while resident in Japan; his major martial arts training there appears to have been in Kobe, at the Shinden-Fudo Ryu jiujitsu dojo of sensei Terajima Kuniichiro. Barton-Wright also claimed to have taken some lessons with professor Jigoro Kano, the founder of Kodokan judo, but nothing more is known of that connection except that Barton-Wright apparently later corresponded with Kano “and other friends in Japan” towards arranging for some jiujitsu instructors to work at the Bartitsu Club in London.

The identity of Barton-Wright’s demonstration partner in the photographs for his “New Art of Self Defence” articles remains a mystery, but it is certainly not Yukio Tani, nor Tani’s elder brother.

Bartitsu was never very popular, possibly because Barton-Wright’s changes deterred sportsmen with an interest in authentic Ju Jitsu and its associated ceremonies, and the dojo closed within a few months.

The Bartitsu Club was active for a little over two years, between late 1899 and early 1902 and in fact, a number of athletes did train at the Club. It is also worth noting that no-one else in England during this period actually knew what “authentic jiujjitsu” was, and that there is nothing to suggest that anything other than “authentic jiujitsu” was taught at the Club. Barton-Wright’s concept of Bartitsu essentially involved cross-training between the various martial arts and combat sports taught at the Club, thus including jiujitsu, fisticuffs, kicking and Vigny stick fighting; a crucial point that has eluded many critics between the early 1900s and the present day.

He next tried to make money by putting on Ju Jitsu displays on the music hall stage; Tani’s brother promptly denounced this abuse of the art and returned to Japan.

Barton-Wright had publicised Bartitsu via lecture/demonstrations on music hall stages since 1899, well before any of the Japanese fighters had arrived in London. Of the original group of three (Yukio Tani, his elder brother who is only known to us by his initial, K, and their associate S. Yamamoto), K. Tani and Yamamoto taught at the Bartitsu Club and participated in exhibitions for a short period before returning to Japan. No-one is certain why they left England, though their departure aroused some controversy at the time. Barton-Wright’s version of the story was that, through a mis-communication, K. Tani and Yamamoto had not realised that they would be required to exhibit jiujitsu in the music halls. Yukio Tani evidently had no problem with that arrangement and became a popular “star turn” in the halls throughout and for many years after the Bartitsu Club era.

How To Pose as a Strong Man (January 1899) shows some simple tricks based largely on martial arts concepts of leverage. It was not written to publicise Bartitsu, but does illustrate Barton-Wright’s opportunistic approach; it seems unlikely that a more dedicated student would have written it.

Barton-Wright was evidently fascinated by the mechanics and psychology of these types of leverage stunts, and his article was actually written as an exposé of the tricks employed by athlete/entertainers such as the “Georgia Magnet”, who often claimed that their performances displayed supernatural powers of “electricity” or “animal magnetism”. This is comparable to the modern practice of exhibiting similar feats as demonstrations of ki or chi power. It’s difficult to see how Barton-Wright’s article can be viewed as being opportunistic, or as demonstrating a lack of dedication; if anything, it suggests an advanced understanding of body mechanics that could only have augmented his martial arts skills.

Portland Bartitsu seminar

The Academia Duellatoria historical fencing school in the Portland, Oregon suburb of Milwaukie, will be hosting a two-day Bartitsu seminar with guest instructor Tony Wolf on March 20-21, 2010.

The seminar will focus on the self defence applications of Bartitsu and the skill of spontaneously transitioning between techniques and styles as required by the needs of the moment.

The registration form PDF is available here.

Bartitsu seminar in Eugene, Oregon

Maestro Sean Hayes will be hosting a two-day Bartitsu seminar with Tony Wolf at the Northwest Academy of Arms on Saturday, March 13 and Sunday, March 14, 2010.

Both days will begin with training in the Wolf System, an integrated progression of competitive and co-operative combat biomechanics exercises. These challenging exercises foster the balance, improvisational ability, physical confidence and related skills that are fundamental to the study of any martial art.

The classes will then segue into the study of both canonical and neo-Bartitsu. The canonical material is based on E.W. Barton-Wright’s classic 1900 articles, “The New Art of Self Defence” and “Self Defence with a Walking Stick” and provides a platform for training in neo-Bartitsu, continuing Barton-Wright’s experiments in cross-training between jiujitsu, fisticuffs, low kicking and the Vigny system of walking stick fighting.

When: Saturday March 13 and Sunday March 14, 2010 at the Academy. 9 am to 5 pm each day, with lunch from 12 – 1 pm.

Space is limited!

Where: The Northwest Academy of Arms, Eugene, Oregon

Cost: Two Days – $75 One Day – $50 At the Door – add $20

Lunch: $12 additional for cold cuts, good bread, apples, coffee and tea ($8 for one day)

Equipment: Suitable exercise clothing, including shoes (we have a textured wooden floor). Sturdy cane (crook handle preferred), or strong, smooth dowel approx. 36″ long. We will have some training canes for a minimal cost at the seminar.

Fencing masks, boxing gloves and judogi jackets are useful, but are
not required. The Academy has some masks for loan, but bring your own if you can.

Water bottle (refills from on-site fountain).

Registration form PDF: Downloadable here.

Art of Stick Defence (1903)

Presenting the magnificently entitled article, “Schools Where Men Are Taught How To Defend Themselves Against The Attacks Of Street Rowdies”. It’s taken from the August 30, 1903 edition of the New York Tribune, and probably substantially based on another article from the Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News.

Although he’s not mentioned by name, the article and accompanying pictures clearly represent the stick fighting method of Bartitsu Club instructor Pierre Vigny.

Click the links below to view the full PDF files.

Art of Stick Defence
Art of Stick Defence 2

A tip of the hat to the Art of Manliness

Founded by Brett and Kate McKay in 2008, the Art of Manliness website and forum has exploded in popularity, attracting over 50,000 subscribers and also spawning a best-selling book.

The essential Art of Manliness philosophy is expressed in the subtitle, “classic skills and manners for modern men”. Proposing that many contemporary men lack substantial role models, and in reaction against the shallow “men’s magazine” image of masculinity, Art of Manliness often draws its inspiration from 19th and early 20th century sources.

As well as promoting interest in Bartitsu via an online article and chapter in their book, the McKays’ website frequently features essays and discussions of interest to members of the Bartitsu Society, including martial arts, self defence, physical culture and gentlemanly deportment.

A small sampling:

10 Manly Feats of Strength
The Gentleman’s Guide to Umbrellas
10 Ways to be a Gentleman at the Gym
The Virtuous Life
Bringing Back the Hat

Pay them a visit, and remember to man up!

Bartitsu seminar at the Academie Duello (Vancouver)

Advance notice of another upcoming Bartitsu seminar at Vancouver’s Academie Duello historical martial arts school. This will be an intensive 4-hour session taught by David McCormick, featuring instruction in:

* English boxing, French kickboxing and the English interpretation of Judo
* Stick fighting and self-defense with an umbrella
* Modern urban self-defense evolved from the principles of Bartitsu