The “Soft Art” of Japan (1902)

An excerpt from an article published in the Vancouver Sun of January 21st, 1902:

At the exhibition given at the “Bartitsu” School of Arms in London recently some remarkable feats were performed by the Japanese experts. In wrestling with an English wrestler the Japanese caught his opponent’s wrist and, by turning around so that his opponent’s arm rested on his shoulder, he threw the Englishman over his head, using his opponent’s arm as a lever.

Although in jujutsu proper no weapons are used, the methods of the art may be applied to the use of different weapons, including cudgels, swords, daggers and other instruments. At the exhibition in London the Japanese experts not only showed their wonderful skill in wrestling but also in defense against attacks with walking sticks and clubs.

A surprising feature of the exhibition was that (performed by) one of the Japanese experts, who in some mysterious manner taught by his art resisted strong pressure on his throat. A rod was placed across the throat of one of the men, who was lying upon the floor; and each end of the rod was pressed down by the combined weight of two men. How the Japanese managed to escape being strangled is a puzzle, but he actually resisted or evaded the pressure in some way and was not injured.

The exhibition in London was one of the first of its kind ever given outside of Japan.

More from the CombatCon …

The CombatCon event in Las Vegas is now a little over 8 weeks away. Along with numerous classes in Western martial arts (everything from Renaisance-era Italian longsword fencing to bullwhip fighting), the event will feature multiple demonstrations, tournaments and panel discussions.

We’re pleased to announce that the CombatCon film expo will include a public screening of the new documentary Bartitsu: The Lost Martial Art of Sherlock Holmes, to be followed by a talkback session with co-producer/co-director Tony Wolf.

19th century “antagonistics” will be well-represented at the practical level as well, with taster classes in Bartitsu, bare-knuckle boxing, singlestick fencing, Italian military sabre fencing, Spanish navaja knife fighting, Victorian cane self defence and more.

Theatrical “baritsu” from Russia

A fun display of theatrical baritsu from Sergey Mishenev, the “Russian Jackie Chan”. Sergey is also a keen promoter of Bartitsu as a martial art, having written articles, hosted seminars and performed lecture/demonstrations over the past several years.

Bartitsu featured on national radio in Germany

Bartitsu instructor Stefan Dieke was recently interviewed by reporter Nico Rau for Germany’s DRadio Wissen. The item included a discussion of the origins, downfall and modern revival of the “gentlemanly art of self defence”, with the obligatory reference to Sherlock Holmes’ “baritsu”.

The interview is available (in the German language, of course) at this site and you can learn more about Stefan’s Bartitsu classes via the Bartitsu page on the Alte Kampfkunst website.

Early reviews for “Bartitsu: The Lost Martial Art of Sherlock Holmes”

Reviews are coming in for the new documentary (available here) and they are good …

Bartitsu: The Lost Martial Art of Sherlock Holmes reveals an exciting world of Victorian ruffians, garroting panics, militant suffragettes, and physical culture, as well as the colorful life of Bartitsu’s founder Edward Barton-Wright … music by the steampunk band Abney Park creates a moody atmosphere of Victorian danger, excitement, and heroics. Through interviews, re-enactment, archival images, and contemporary footage of neo-Bartitsu students, the “lost” martial art is brought to life.

Rachel Klingberg: read the full review here.

Here’s the problem – what to do when you love a good punch up, but public brawling is incompatible with your image as an amenable, if damp-stained, man of letters? The answer is “Bartitsu,” a nineteenth-century martial art developed specifically to transform the upright classes into killing machines, and whose unusual history has been revealed in an excellent new documentary …

Andrew McConnell Stott: read the full review here.

Sleek and engaging … fascinating … a superbly watchable piece of martial arts history …

Bullshido.net martial arts movie reviews: read the full review here.

Bartitsu demo. in Oxford (1902)

Thanks to Chris Amendola for tracking down this review of a circa January 1902 Bartitsu exhibition in Oxford, U.K. It appears that Barton-Wright also toured his “troupe” to Cambridge University during this period.

Though it was only a small audience which gathered at the Town Hall on Tuesday last week to see the exhibition of the Bartitsu school of self-defence, those who were present had no reason to regret having come. The feats of the two Japanese champions were really somewhat extraordinary, and we should not like to have to hazard a guess as to the secret of their skill; possibly it may have been something in the way of disposal of force, some system of balance. That it was perfectly genuine was soon discovered by those who tried to test it; that it was not a matter of mere strength was clear from their bouts with Mr. Whittall of New College, who, though obviously the stronger man, was overcome by the Japanese in the end. Not the least remarkable of their exploits was the way in which they managed to avoid getting damaged in falls in which it looked as if they must be killed, or at the least knocked senseless. Altogether it was a very interesting performance.

Bartitsu display at the Gaslight Gathering

Bartitsu instructor Tom Badillo will be reprising his Bartitsu demonstration from the San Francisco Edwardian Ball, the Dickens Faire and the Nova Albion Steampunk Expo at the upcoming Gaslight Gathering Steampunk and Victoriana conference in San Diego (May 6-8, 2011).

Mark Donnelly to teach Bartitsu at the Steampunk World’s Fair

Instructor Mark Donnelly (left, above) will be teaching Bartitsu classes at the Steampunk World’s Fair in New Jersey, USA (May 20th-22nd, 2011). Mark’s classes will include a 90 minute introductory session, an advanced class for those with considerable martial arts experience and also a class in Bartitsu for Ladies (and men in frocks!).

In memoriam: Roger Lafond (1913-2011)

We regret to announce the death of savate and la canne master Roger Lafond on April 8th, 2011. He was 97 years old.

Roger Lafond’s martial arts and combat sports lineage can be traced back to the early origins of la boxe Française as an organised system of self defence, via his father and grandfather, who were both named Eugene, through E. Quillier, the Leclerc brothers and to Charles and Hubert Lecour.

During the Second World War, M. Lafond served five years as a prisoner of war, instructing his fellow prisoners in French martial arts. He refused to teach the enemy officers and guards, protesting that this would be fraternisation.

After the War he was instrumental in the revival of la boxe Française in Paris. He established numerous clubs and, in 1955, created his own unique blend of French and Japanese martial arts, which he referred to as la Panache. In the late 1960s he was among the trainers for the cast of the popular British television spy series, The Avengers.

As recently as two years ago, Maitre Lafond was still teaching students at his Parisian school. He was featured on several martial arts-themed documentary series, including an episode of The Human Weapon.

His funeral was held in his home town of Le Perreux sur Marne.