A report on the 2011 Bartitsu School of Arms (London)

The 2011 (and inaugural) Bartitsu School of Arms symposium was held over the weekend of August 27-28 in London, England. The symposium represented a landmark in the revival of E.W. Barton-Wright’s “New Art of Self Defence”, founded 110 years ago in the same city. 18 participants attended the event, including Bartitsu enthusiasts from the USA and Germany as well as throughout the U.K.

The theme of the 2011 School of Arms was to continue Barton-Wright’s radical experiments in cross-training between various martial arts and combat sports, which were abandoned as a work-in-progress when the original Bartitsu Club closed down under mysterious circumstances in early 1902.

The event began on Friday evening outside the doors of the Shaftesbury Best Western Hotel, the building that once housed Barton-Wright’s club. At precisely the time the group gathered, sheltering from a torrential downpour, the clouds parted and the sun shone through, which was generally taken as a good omen. The group then made its way to the back bar of the Salisbury inn, a classic late-Victorian London pub.

Training began at 9.00 a.m. on Saturday morning at our venue, the ground floor of a Victorian era warehouse in Bermondsey, which roughly made up in 19th century ambiance what it lacked in amenities. The large, white-walled space was divided into 10′ squares by a grid of iron pillars, with enormous wooden beams in the ceiling and a sturdy old wooden floor. A wall display featured a portrait of E.W. Barton-Wright, rare photographs taken inside the original Bartitsu Club and other inspirational images. Rubber-tipped rattan training canes were propped against the pillars and one section of the floor was covered with thick rubber jigsaw mats.

Mornings began with various warm-up exercises, including American wrestler and physical culturist “Farmer” Burns’ upper-body routine. The remainder of the mornings were spent alternating between circuit training, in which small groups rotated between instructors teaching 5-10 minute mini-lessons/drills in savate kicking, boxing, jujitsu and stick fighting, and team-taught sessions in which pairs of participants experimented with self defence scenarios incorporating elements of each of the lessons they’d just learned. The aim was to practice Bartitsu as a holistic art, smoothly transitioning between techniques, styles and ranges as required by the needs of the moment.

After the lunch break, the afternoon sessions featured longer, whole-group classes in each of the specialist subject areas, taught by James Marwood, Tony Wolf, Allen Reed, Stefan Dieke and George Stokoe. These classes covered practical self defence, neo-Bartitsu drills inspired by the canonical stick fighting and unarmed combat sequences, fencing theory applied to Vigny stick fighting and tactical kicking.

The final session on both days was allocated to “break-out” time, a chance for participants and instructors to explore areas of special interest in a less formal environment. In one corner a group would be debating and demonstrating the “garotting” attack of 19th century muggers, in another a pair of stick fighters would be sparring and a submission grappling match would be taking place on the mats.

Evening events included drinks and socialising at the Sherlock Holmes pub on the banks of the Thames and a meal at Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, a pub and restaurant dating back to the 1700s that was once the haunt of Charles Dickens and, later, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

The 2011 Bartitsu School of Arms was a great success and plans are already underway to make it an annual event.

“Wrestling or Ju-jitsu?” (1914)


On the whole, catch-as-catch-can wrestling is not a sport to be recommended to amateur athletes. It is true that a knowledge of the chief holds and the appropriate counters and checks would be useful to a person engaged in an all-in street scrummage, though a more profitable investment of time and trouble against that emergency would be found in a study of the rudiments of la savate, with its bone-shattering kicks, all of which can be easily acquired by a football player.

Here it should be pointed out that a smattering of ju-jitsu, which is still a fashionable accomplishment, might be worse than useless against an able-bodied rough. Japanese wrestling, which is based on yielding a point in order to gain a greater advantage, must be thoroughly acquired — so thoroughly, indeed, that the well-balanced non-European physique of the Japanese athlete becomes your own private possession — if a knowledge of its subtleties is to be practically useful in an emergency. Instead of wasting time and energy on ground-wrestling, ju-jitsu, and the like, the able-bodied, able-minded person who is interested in the art of self-defence will be well advised to acquire the rudiments of wrestling in the Cumberland and Westmorland style, which, added to a fair knowledge of boxing, will enable him to hold his own against any type of street ruffian.

– E. B. Osborn, T.P.’s Weekly (1914)

“Self Protection on a Cycle”, courtesy of Riot A.C.T.

Longtime Bartitsu aficionados are well aware of Marcus Tindal’s eccentric 1901 article Self Protection on a Cycle, which appears to have been inspired both by E.W. Barton-Wright’s articles on self defence with walking sticks and by this 1900 letter published in the London Bicycle Club Gazette. Tindal’s article included several ingenious techniques involving the use of bicycle pumps, water pistols and bikes themselves as weapons of self defence:

In this video, Canadian stunt team Riot A.C.T. offers an updated take on the same idea …

“Manly Arts Day” returns to Maryland

The “Manly Arts Day”, one of the Hampton National Historic Site‘s most popular Second Sunday Programs, returns with a Civil War theme between 10.00 a.m. and 4.00 p.m. on Sunday, September 18th.

While called “Manly Arts,” all men, women and children are invited to come and experience a rare look at self defense “Victorian style” in Baltimore City and County on the eve of the Civil War!

This is a hands-on program giving visitors the opportunity to learn swordsmanship, basic fist-fighting techniques, “swing” into action with stick fighting and engage in safe demonstrations with professional instructors. Special guests will include Professor Mark Donnelly and Mr. Steve Huff, internationally famous authors, historians and instructors of Western Martial Arts. They will be assisted by Victor Markland and members of The Mid-Atlantic Society for Historic Swordsmanship. A special display titled “Hampton, a House Divided” showcasing rare letters, photographs and objects from the Civil War will be available in the mansion.

Visitors will gain an appreciation of history. One hundred and fifty years ago people in Baltimore City and Baltimore County learned these same techniques. The first bloodshed of the Civil War occurred in a riot on Pratt Street in Baltimore. The violence of the Pratt Street Riot and its aftermath were not unexpected. In Mobtown (as Baltimore was known) gangs of thugs and criminals roamed dangerous streets. These “political” partisans easily moved from the chaos of the street fight to the carnage of battlefield. In the North and the South militia and para-military units were formed and equipped in anticipation of war. It was with one of these units, from Massachusetts, that the Baltimore mob clashed with in close-quarter combat. Charles Ridgley of Hampton led another as the Captain of the Maryland Horse Guard, a Pro-Southern militia unit.

10 years of the Bartitsu Forum

August 14th marked the 10th anniversary of the Bartitsu Forum, established by author Will Thomas in August of 2002. Back then, the Internet was largely a Bartitsu-free zone, and the subject was obscure and esoteric. As of today, Google searches pull up over 198,000 Bartitsu references and the revival is well and truly underway, to a degree that was almost unimaginable even a few years ago. The Forum membership currently stands at over six hundred and fifty.

The Forum is the main conduit for Bartitsu research and communication between the informal coalition of enthusiasts known as the Bartitsu Society. As such, it has been the driving force behind much of the modern revival of E.W. Barton-Wright’s “New Art of Self Defence”. Via over 14,000 posts to date, Forum members have discussed a panoply of topics relating to Bartitsu and the milieu of self defence at the turn of the 20th century. At any given time, typical conversation subjects might include the jujitsu-trained Bodyguard society of the Suffragette movement, training methods being developed for the modern practice of Bartitsu, martial arts content in upcoming media projects such as the Sherlock BBC TV series and Sherlock Holmes: A Games of Shadows, the selection of training canes and plans for upcoming seminars.

Volunteers from the Forum collaborated on the production of both volumes of the Bartitsu Compendium. The first volume (published in 2005) is consistently the best-selling martial arts title available from Lulu.com, and volume two (2008) is currently the seventh bestseller in that category.

The Bartitsu Forum is a notably active and positive venue. Inspired by the genteel ideals of our period of interest, we have never even experienced a “flame war” – surely some sort of record for a martial arts forum!

Here’s to the next ten years –

(Image by Free-StockPhotos.com)

“… the loaded hunting crop …”

I was not surprised when Holmes suggested that I should take my revolver with me. He had himself picked up the loaded hunting-crop, which was his favourite weapon.

– Dr. John Watson, The Adventure of the Six Napoleons

Thanks to Hans Dielemans for the above image of a loaded hunting crop from a 1914 “Manufrance” catalogue. The central crop features a “steel core, fully covered with braided leather with a lead filled head (and) can also be used as an implement of self-defense.”

Bartitsu seminar in Racine, Wisconsin (October 8 & 9)

Instructor Tony Wolf will lead a Bartitsu seminar at the DeKoven Center‘s 1875 vintage gymnasium in Racine, Wisconsin. The seminar will run from 12:30 to 5.00 pm each day on the weekend of the 8th & 9th of October, 2011. The beautiful DeKoven Center, originally a 19th century university campus, is located at 600 21st Street in Racine, Wisconsin.

What is Bartitsu?

In the year 1899, an English gentleman named Edward William Barton-Wright created the “New Art of Self Defence” that he called Bartitsu; a combination of low kicking, jiujitsu, fisticuffs and walking stick fighting, designed to beat the fearsome street gangs of Edwardian London and fin de siècle Paris at their own dastardly game.

Bartitsu was the first “mixed martial art” to combine Asian and European fighting styles. It was later incorporated as “baritsu” into the Sherlock Holmes stories, and was used by Holmes to throw his arch-enemy, Professor Moriarty, to his doom from the top of Reichenbach waterfall.

What will we learn?

This seminar provides an intensive, practical grounding in this fascinating system, first taught circa 1900 at the Bartitsu School of Arms and Physical Culture in London’s Shaftesbury Avenue.

Canonical Bartitsu refers to “Bartitsu as we know it was”; the self defence skills and sequences that were specifically presented as Bartitsu by Barton-Wright and his associates between 1898-1902. Neo-Bartitsu refers to the modern application of the art, continuing Barton-Wright’s martial arts experiments in the 21st century; it is “Bartitsu as it may have been and as it can be today”.

We will begin with warm-up exercises taken from the 19th century “physical culture” repertoire before exploring the underlying principles and tactics of Bartitsu, via lessons in the unique combination of fighting styles that made up Barton-Wright’s arsenal of tricks.

The seminar will include:

• a selection of the original self defence sequences represented in Barton-Wright’s classic article series, “Self Defence with a Walking Stick” and “The New Art of Self Defence”

• practical examples of both the canonical and neo-Bartitsu blends of jiujitsu, scientific boxing, low kicking and stick fighting

• discussions on the fascinating history and revival of Barton-Wright’s New Art of Self Defence, the “hold-up” tactics of 19th century street gangsters and the counters developed by self defence masters of the period, and the jiujitsu training of the Bodyguards of the radical Suffragette movement.

This introductory seminar is suitable for participants of all experience levels, though prior intermediate-level training in martial arts, boxing, fencing and/or stage combat will be an advantage.

What should I bring?

Please bring suitable exercise clothing, including shoes; a sturdy cane (crook handle preferred), or strong, smooth dowel approx. 36″ long. Fencing masks, boxing gloves and judo gi jackets are useful, but are not required.


$100.00 per participant until September 17th, with the possibility of the price coming down as more participants enroll before the deadline. Once the deadline of September 17th is past, the fee stays at $100.00 per person.

A bag lunch and water will be supplied for each participant free of charge.

For further information please contact the organiser, Mr. Mario Baleywah, at handmbaleywah@att.net .

Bartitsu School of Arms and Physical Culture: London 2011

A reminder that the 2011 Bartitsu School of Arms will be taking place in London, U.K. between August 26-28. This event will be the first opportunity in over one hundred years to study with multiple instructors from different countries towards the (re)development of E.W. Barton-Wright’s “New Art of Self Defence”.

The 2011 School of Arms teaching team includes James Marwood, Tony Wolf, Allen Reed, George Stokoe and Stefan Dieke.

Each day will begin with a team-taught warm-up session drawing from the Edwardian physical culture tradition. Inspired by the model of the original Bartitsu School of Arms (circa 1900), the teaching team is developing an innovative daily training programme including whole-group classes, small group circuit training/cross-training formats and “breakout” sessions covering areas of special interest. Each participant will leave with an enhanced appreciation for the depth and breadth of Barton-Wright’s “New Art”.

Participants are invited to meet for orientation and socialising on the evening of Friday, August 26th and to relax after training on Saturday over a meal at the Sherlock Holmes pub and restaurant. A second dinner at the Sherlock Holmes will be held on Sunday night, for those participants whose schedules allow it.

For all details and to book your place at this historic event, please see the 2011 Bartitsu School of Arms page.

We hope to see you in London!

“I must warn you – I know baritsu!”

You’ve Ruined A Perfectly Good Mystery TRAILER from Rob Matsushita on Vimeo.

Some spiffing baritsu action is featured in the Mercury Players Theatre production of You’ve Ruined a Perfectly Good Mystery. The play premiered in Madison, Wisconsin in 2010 and is scheduled for a repeat season as part of the New York International Fringe Festival in August.

The world’s most famous investigator clashes with the world’s most preposterous narrator in You’ve Ruined a Perfectly Good Mystery! — a play that hilariously exploits and subverts theatrical conventions and classic detective stories. Audiences decide which clues the detective and his associate follow in a fantastic investigation that features entertaining combat, dastardly schemes inspired by Victorian-era science fiction, an increasingly vexed protagonist, and cultural references as diverse as Shakespeare, Abbott & Costello, Oscar Wilde, and Monkey Island video games.