Vote for Edith!

We all now have an opportunity to vote for a memorial plaque to record Edith Garrud’s memory as a pioneer of Jujutsu and a suffragette. Islington Council in London will erect a plaque on one of the houses where she lived if she receives enough votes. Edith is one of ten candidates for a plaque and the top five will be commemorated.

You can vote for Edith online via the Islington People’s Plaques website.

“The Hooligan and the Lady”

Hooligan vs. Lady from Nick McHugh on Vimeo.

A fight scene/Edwardian-era self defence demonstration from the upcoming play The Hooligan and the Lady by Pauleen Hayes, premiering on February 24th at BATS Theatre in Wellington, New Zealand. The play is based on a book entitled The Life and Adventures of Miss Florence LeMar, the World’s Famous Ju-Jitsu Girl. Published in New Zealand in the year 1913, Life and Adventures is undoubtedly among the rarest and strangest self defence manuals ever written.

Florence “Flossie” LeMar was a pioneering advocate of jujitsu as self defence for women. She and her husband, professional wrestler and showman Joe Gardiner, toured vaudeville houses throughout New Zealand and Australia prior to and even during the First World War. Their signature act showed audiences how a Lady might fell a Hooligan in any number of ways, which are also explained and illustrated in Flossie’s book. The fight choreography shown above is verbatim from the book and was staged by Allan Henry, who also plays the Hooligan.

In addition to jujitsu lessons, Flossie’s book offered a great deal of feminist polemic and a series of very tall tales describing her hair-raising adventures as the “World’s Famous Jujitsu Girl”, taking on desperadoes including opium smugglers in Sydney, crooked gamblers in New York City and an English “lunatic” who believed he was a bear.

Though not without charm, Flossie’s stories have the sharp corners and hard edges typical of early 20th century dime novels. They are also undeniably theatrical and, in combination with an enactment of Flossie’s biography and her fierce feminism, should make for excellent edutainment on stage.

Bartitsu seminar in Spino d’Adda, Italy

Ran Arthur Braun (pictured left in the foreground, above) recently presented a Bartitsu seminar for twenty martial artists and police officers in the town of Spino d’Adda, Italy. The one-day intensive covered both unarmed combat and self defence with a walking stick.

The seminar was a great success and a further, much larger Bartitsu training session is planned for Spring.

First glimpse of baritsu action from “Sherlock Holmes 2”

Courtesy of Entertainment Tonight, this clip from Sherlock Holmes 2 features some quick shots of a fight sequence in which Holmes (Robert Downey, Jr.) displays his baritsu skills against a group of rifle-bayonet wielding enemies.

Dr. Watson (Jude Law) is shown here exerting some gentlemanly fisticuffs:

The as-yet-untitled movie is due for release in mid-December of 2011.

“The tricks of other trades”; French boxing at the Alhambra (1898)

Beginning in early November of 1898, Georges D’armoric presented a series of displays of la boxe Français at London’s Alhambra music hall. The Alhambra exhibitions are particularly interesting insofar as they reveal the sentiment of late-Victorian London audiences towards “exotic” arts of self defence, and in that they closely proceeded E.W. Barton-Wright’s efforts to popularise Bartitsu, which also included displays at the Alhambra.

D’armoric evidently intended his exhibitions to educate the British public as to the virtues of “fencing with four limbs” and stick fighting, both as gentlemanly athletic accomplishments and as practical means of self defence. Earlier that year, he had published a booklet entitled Les Boxeurs Français: Treatise-argumentative-on the French method of the Noble Art of Self Defence, which put forth his case in erudite terms.

Faced with the music hall-going public’s insatiable demand for novel entertainments, however, Alhambra manager C. Dundas Slater’s promotion may have rather sabotaged D’armoric’s high-minded goals. Quoted in an article in the London Daily Mail of October 31, Slater said “the audience will go into fits of laughter, as the show is one of the funniest in the world”.

The Daily Mail article continued:

It is hardly likely that (D’armoric’s) efforts will meet with much success, and the main reason is that this really is the country of sportsmen who look upon men who kick as a degrading and cowardly set of curs. But for all that, they will go to the Alhambra to see “Les Boxeurs Francais”, just for the fun of the thing. Whether or not they will have much sympathy for the professors of the Chausson from “gay Paree” is quite a different matter.

The origins of the middle-class, urban Anglo-Saxon bias against kicking are obscure. Striking an opponent with the feet had long been banned by the conventions, if not literally the rules, of boxing. Neither the revised Rules of the London Prize Ring nor those dedicated to the Marquis of Queensberry specifically prohibited kicking, presumably because it was simply taken for granted that boxers would not kick. Certainly, late-Victorian literature makes much reference to the act of kicking an opponent as being “unmanly”, “brutal”, etc.

At least one British method of antagonistics had cultivated the art of kicking, though by 1898, the fearsomely weaponised shoes of rural Devonshire wrestlers, which had played merry havoc with their opponents’ shins in bloody purring contests throughout the first three-quarters on the 19th century, had become the stuff of folk memory. Even during their heyday, when chanced upon by literate urbanites who deigned to record these matches for posterity, the gory mess that was made of Devonshire wrestlers’ lower legs seem to have inspired greater revulsion than the “spout of claret” occasioned by a boxer’s stiff left lead-off or right cross-counter. Ultimately, it is likely that kicking fell out of fashion due to the same civilising impulse that eventually replaced bare-knuckle prize fighting with gloved boxing.

Whatever its cultural origins, by the 1890s the English resistance to kicking was entrenched enough to be remarked upon by several reviewers of the Alhambra exhibitions:

(…) the whole business appears too opposed to our insular ideas of boxing to excite any real interest in the performance.

(…) the British portion of the audience look on with amused toleration, which in the gallery sometimes finds voice in rough and ready criticism. Looked at as an exhibition of graceful agility, the show is a good one, but taken as a serious exposition of a means of self-defense, it seems scarcely worthy of the attention bestowed upon it.

There were also more technical objections:

Setting aside our insular prejudice against kicking, there remains the objection that in nine cases out of ten, despite the marvellous balancing power of these French boxers, the kicker, as soon as he raises his foot a certain distance from the ground, weakens his defense immeasurably. The comparative slowness of the action in striking with the foot, as compared with the fist, together with the fact that much of the force of the blow is spent in secondary movements, also militate against the punitive effects of the art. Nevertheless, the exhibition is an interesting one (…)

This context may help to explain Barton-Wright’s own comments on the kicking content of his Bartitsu curriculum. He took pains to distinguish the kicks practiced at the Bartitsu Club from “the French style”, but omitted to explain what the difference was; given his strong preference for self defence-oriented techniques, he may have preferred to concentrate on low kicks over the more gymnastic high kicking style that was displayed by D’armoric and his colleagues at the Alhambra.

Two years later, the Alhambra exhibition was cited in W.T.A. Beare’s article Antagonistics: A Comparison of Some Methods of Self Defence for Sandow’s Magazine. Perhaps this passage is revealing as to the curious bias shown by earlier reviewers, and which was subsequently repeated by British boxers and wrestlers provoked by Barton-Wright’s jujitsu challenge contests:

Even if not always openly expressed, there has generally been the inference conveyed by the promoters of these new methods that they are superior to our good old English system of fisticuffs; and such expertness and agility have been displayed by the demonstrators that there is little occasion for surprise if many people have arrived at the conclusion that here was something entirely new, something which would nonplus our professors of the “noble art,” and which, to be fully equipped for attack or defence, we should immediately proceed to at least assimilate and superimpose upon our ancient methods, even if we should not abandon these latter altogether.

Perhaps, given the traditional Anglo-French rivalries, the mere fact of difference was enough to conjure a reflexive antagonism, or an assumption of challenge, in the English audience. If so, then D’armoric’s exhibitions may have struck a cultural nerve as symbols of French militarism.

Beare, however, was fair-minded, and in reviewing both French boxing and Bartitsu as he had witnessed them on the Alhambra stage, he concluded:

If, however, I do not admit the superior excellence of this system of fighting to our English system, I am prepared to concede its value in some respects. Its practice must tend to strengthen the legs and to give a man great command over the movements of his body in almost any position; it will render him more agile, and an acquaintance with its main features will prepare him to resist attack in that form.

It is a maxim with many English trainers and instructors, no matter what the game may be, that it is best to specialise and confine attention to the one thing in hand. The running man must not walk, nor vice versa, and if he be a sprinter he must never run distances. The cricketer must not dally with lawn tennis of golf. The Rugby footballer must never play the Association game, and so-on. So, in boxing and wrestling – but the one system must be practised, for indulgence in other forms will vitiate the style, and render the man slow and tame.

Now, with these propositions I do not at all agree. I do not believe in specialism in sport, and much more does the fairly capable all-round athlete command my admiration than the expert in one form of sport or exercise who is a rank duffer in most others.

It must, of course, be conceded that when a man has set himself to attempt some particular feat, or is matched against others in some special form of contest, he should pay, in the later stages of his preparation, exclusive attention to that one thing; but the true athlete should possess a ground-work of all-round excellence, and should not specialise until he has developed all the powers of his body.

In this particular connection I say that an acquaintance with the various different styles of self-defence is of distinct value to the man who would be a good boxer. He cannot know too much, and, though he may not require to use all his tricks in an actual contest, yet the knowledge that he has reserves to call upon at need in the case of an unexpected attack will lend him increased confidence; and he is much less likely to be taken by surprise if he is already well-acquainted with the tricks of other trades.

E.W. Barton-Wright would have applauded.

“Victorian Vigilante”

A fan-made video clip for the Abney Park song “Victorian Vigilante”, from their End of Days album , using footage from the recent BBC Sherlock series.

Victorian Vigilante

lyrics by “Captain” Robert Brown

Each night as I go walking
I hear the dead men talking
They tell me of all your misdeeds
Lead me to all your leads

Each night as I go walking underneath the lamplight
I bring my baritsu and I’m ready for a fight.
My boots are shining brown
And my cane’s of oak.
I’ll Unleash some hurting on you,
Justice I’ll invoke!

‘Cause I’m a Victorian vigilante,
Bring some justice on your head.
From the palace to the riverside,
For your troubles you’ll get led.

A Victorian vigilante,
Bring some justice on your head
From the palace to the riverside,
For your troubles you’ll be dead.

Cut Scene: your victims dethroned!
Dripping ice hook on crimson cobblestones.
Wipe your hands on the dead man’s greatcoat
And dive into the sewer’s black moat.

All your steps have led me to this spot.
You hide your tracks but there’s one that you forgot.
Drag your dripping coat out of the water black
But I stand waiting, and I’m on the attack!

‘Cause I’m a Victorian vigilante,
Bring some justice on your head
From the palace to the riverside,
For your troubles you’ll get led

A Victorian vigilante,
Bring some justice on your head
From the palace to the riverside,
For your troubles you’ll be dead.

Pacing slowly round each other in the rain
Our eyes are locked as you unsheathe your sword cane.
We know each other, although we’ve never met.
An ice cold game you won’t soon forget.

You swing and thrust, I wrap you in my coat.
I’m suddenly behind you, and my blade is at your throat!
You kick and swing your fists and blade and shoe,
But all your twitching and pulling has cut your neck in two.

‘Cause I’m a Victorian vigilante,
Bring some justice on your head
From the palace to the riverside
For your troubles you’ll get led

A Victorian vigilante,
Bring some justice on your head
From the palace to the riverside,
For your troubles you’ll be dead

E.W. Barton-Wright on “How to Pose as a Strong Man”

Bartitsu founder E.W. Barton-Wright’s article How to Pose as a Strong Man was first published in the January, 1899 edition of Pearson’s Magazine. Presented as an instruction manual of eleven parlour tricks for amateur entertainers, the article doubled as an expose of feats that had been made famous by vaudeville and music hall performers such as Lulu Hurst and Annie May Abbott.

Hurst, Abbott and their imitators claimed that they possessed a mysterious electrical or magnetic force that allowed them to overcome or resist the strength of large, strong men, often with the use of simple props such as chairs, pool cues, walking canes or umbrellas:

This report from the Fielding Star, 25 October 1899, is typical:

(Annie Abbott) is only a small person weighing 100 lbs and yet strong men were unable to lift her whenever she desired to offer resistance – a resistance which evidently was not mere physical strength, but a wonderful power which she possesses. On the other hand she was able to raise men with a mere touch of the hand. One of her most extraordinary feats was where seven men were piled on a chair and Miss Abbott raised the mass of humanity a few inches off the stage by a mere touch of the hand.

Experiments with boys were also extraordinary. A boy from the audience was asked to stand in the centre of the aisle, half way down the hall, and a gentleman in the audience was asked to lift him off his feet. Under ordinary circumstances this could easily have been done, but Miss Abbott exercised some unknown power over the boy and the gentleman was unable to lift him off his feet. Various other tests were given by Miss Abbott, and in all she successfully resisted the forces pitted against her, giving an astounding manifestation of some force other than that making up the ordinary phenomena of nature.

As an engineer with a background in martial arts training and an interest in both electrical technologies and showmanship, Barton-Wright was almost uniquely qualified to assess and explain these “tests”:

It must not be supposed that it is necessary to possess any unusual strength to pose as a strong man; indeed, in many strong men’s feats, strength plays a less important part than knack and trickery.

… (The Georgia Magnet) declared that it was solely owing to the fact that she possessed remarkable magnetic and electric powers that she was able to perform these feats. This, of course, was not the case, for anyone of average strength, who follows these instructions, will be able to perform them.

The article explains the feats of the “Electric Girls” as demonstrations of trickery via subtle bio-mechanics and the power of suggestion, making clever use of leverage and the ideomotor effect. Some twenty years later, magician, escapologist and arch-skeptic Harry Houdini would also pick up on the relationship between martial arts techniques and those of the music hall charlatans …

… who gave the world of science a decided start about a generation ago.

The jiu jitsu of the Japanese is, in part, a development of the same principles, but here again much new material has been added, so that it deserves to be considered a new art.

– Harry Houdini, Miracle Mongers and their Methods, 1920

These feats are amusing to perform and can be useful in teaching skills of balance manipulation, but it is ironic that despite being thoroughly debunked over a hundred years ago, they are still sometimes exhibited as demonstrations of unexplained (para)physical power. A novel commercial twist may be seen in the “tests” associated with products such as wristbands or pendants claimed to be imbued with “frequencies” that improve balance, strength and flexibility:

Caveat emptor …

“Master of Men: the Life’s Work of William Muldoon, Champion and Trainer of Champions”

“Master of Men” is an anthology of books, articles and essays about the remarkable Irish-American combat athlete and coach, William Muldoon. Muldoon learned the basics of wrestling as a soldier in the Civil War. After numerous adventures as one of “New York’s finest”, he left the police force to become one of the first American professional wrestlers, taking on all comers in rough and tumble saloon matches and working as an actor/stuntman on the Vaudeville stage.

In 1889, Muldoon’s radical training methods brought the out-of-shape, alcoholic bare-knuckle boxing champion John L. Sullivan back into form for his legendary title fight with Jake Kilrain. Muldoon later became the inaugural chairman of the New York State Athletic Commission and a personal trainer for some of the richest and most powerful men in America. Includes 29 rare illustrations and a special bonus interview with Scott Burt of the Bare Knuckle Boxing Hall of Fame.

The 316 page book is available in print or e-formats from the Antagonistics Emporium, which also features a free instant preview.

“The Cape” to fight crime with “British Bartitsu”

The Cape, a new superhero drama, premieres on Sunday, January 9th. According to advance publicity, the title hero’s mentor, Max Malini, trains him to use his super-powered cape as a weapon, including the use of “British Bartitsu” amongst other martial arts.

The writers were evidently inspired by Bartitsu founder E.W. Barton-Wright’s classic overcoat trick, which was also used to good effect by Dr. John Watson in 2010’s Sherlock Holmes feature film.

Introduction to Bartitsu seminar in Vancouver

The Academie Duello is offering an introductory Bartitsu class on Saturday, January 8th:

“If one gets into a row and plays the game in the recognised style of English fair play – with fists – the opponent will very likely rush in and close, in order to avoid a blow. Then comes the moment for wrestling in the secret Japanese way. Instantly the unwary one is caught and thrown so violently that he is placed hors de combat, without even sufficient strength left to retire unassisted from the field.”
– E.W. Barton-Wright, “Black and White Budget” magazine, December 1900

Learn the mixed martial art of the Victorian English Gentleman. In this four-hour workshop, you’ll acquire the essential Bartitsu skills of Boxing, Jujitsu, Savate and Cane fighting:

-the basic punches of scientific boxing and the first defensive moves of pugilism,

-the first throw from jujitsu and how to land without hurting yourself when thrown,

-the foundations of walking stick self-defence, and the essential kicks of savate.

This Introduction to Bartitsu is a pre-requisite for the ongoing Bartitsu class. We want all newcomers to the weekly class to have some familiarity with the core techniques, and to get some practice in an easy environment where all of the students are learning the skills together.

Saturday, January 8, 2011 1pm-5pm

So, whether you’re interested in studying Bartitsu on an ongoing basis, or if you just want to learn the essential elements, the Introduction to Bartitsu covers the fundamentals. Fun and self-defense without getting your spats dirty!

$60 (15%off for members

* Location: Academie Duello, 412 W. Hastings St., Vancouver

You can sign up online via this link.