Report on a Bartitsu seminar at the Gallowglass Academy

A guest post by Allen Reed, reporting on his recent Bartitsu seminar at the Gallowglass Academy in Leaf River, Illinois.

On Saturday, February 11th, five new Bartitsuka gathered at Gallowglass Academy to find out more about the art of Bartitsu. Four out of the five had previous Oriental martial arts experience. The other student had previously taken my classes on Bowie knife and tomahawk.

I started with the standard precis of the history of Bartitsu and how it got to where we are today. We then started in on 19th century pugilism. I like to start with pugilism as I find it provides a good warm up and starts building a sense of body movement and contact.

We covered the standard left lead and right rear punches both in slow motion and then with focus mitts so everyone got to actually feel how powerful the punches can be. We then covered defenses against these punches. First the standard blocks with the opposite arms and then the Jack Slack elbow block. From the Slack guard I showed how to counter with a “chopper” to the nose of the opponent. We then returned to standard blocks and worked on using the elbow and hammer fist as a counter strike.

We then moved to the two savate kicks I include in my Bartitsu teachings, the coup de pied bas and chasse bas (both front foot and rear foot versions). First we worked them slowly using each other to see how they can be used against knee, shin and foot. I then had each student use the kicks with full force against a kick shield. We then went back and worked on combinations of kicks and punches in slow motion on each other, using “pushing” force to examine how each strike impacts an opponent’s posture and balance.

During the discussion of pugilism I showed how the pugilistic left foot and arm forward stance can be modified for modern self defense with the “fence” stance of both hands open in front of you to provide a physical and psychological barrier to an attacker. Yet the hands up in front also allow for powerful strikes.

This brought us to lunch time. During the lunch break I discussed the modern legal ramifications of using force in a self defense situation.

After lunch we put the mats down and worked on how to do break falls. Two of the participants had experience with falling before but the other three had not. I then started work on the back heel throw from pugilism which is close to the throws that Barton-Wright uses in many of the jujutsu techniques.

This then moved into doing jujutsu from the Canon. Since we had been doing the back heel throw I first taught the defense from a face strike that is blocked and you end up tripping the attacker up with a rear throw (back heel.) We then did a failure drill of allowing the attacker to block the “back hander” strike so the defender had to do some other strikes to set up for the throw or take the attacker down another way.

We then worked on the defense from a one handed lapel grasp, since this is pretty much the same defense as the face strike but we did the grasp with the left had so everyone could learn that these techniques can be done on both sides. The failure drill for this technique was that the attacker steps back with his left foot so you can not get the trip on the first attempt.

The final technique we worked on from this series of throws was the belt grab or reaching for the pocket watch defense. I switched this to a neo-Bartitsu grab on the wrist since none of us wear swords or carry pocket watches very often. For this I showed the pain compliance grab at the throat version showing how this can also be used as a choke.

Next I taught the “How to Escort a Man Out of the Room” with the figure four lock on the elbow. We then worked on a neo-Bartitsu version using the same arm lock for a knife defense.

With that I thought it was time to start work on the Vigny cane techniques. I explained how Vigny advocated using a walking stick with a heavy ball on the end but that I liked to use a crook handled cane for modern defense since it is legal any where you go and does not stand out as much as a walking stick does in our modern world.

First we worked on Guard by Distance. We started by doing the Canonical technique slowly to get the feel for the move. I then had one of the partners in each pair put on a focus mitt on their “cane” hand so the defender could actually strike with power to the incoming hand. After seeing how powerful the blow to the hand could be we switched to a neo-Bartisu move with the attacker wearing a hockey glove while armed with a knife. So again the defender could strike with some power while facing a more realistic modern attack.

For the failure drill I had the neo-Bartitsu attacker with the knife decide if the strike to the hand was hard enough to disarm them and if not the defender had to follow up with other strikes with the cane.

We then worked on the first of B-W’s defenses using a light stick against a man with a heavy stick where again the idea is to trip the attacker up. First we covered the Canonical technique and then switched to a more modern neo-Bartisu “heavy stick” of a baseball bat. We then worked on how to do the same basic technique but using the crook cane to hook the knee or ankle of the attacker.

I then showed the technique of hooking an unarmed attacker at the neck and pulling his head into a knee strike.

As a prelude to doing a series of failure drills against an unarmed attacker I went back and showed how to use the head control movements that B-W uses in the jujutsu techniques. For the Canonical technique we used the two handed lapel grab. We then did a series of failure drills where the defender with the cane has the cane grabbed or taken away by the offender.

The grand finale of the day was everyone put on some head protection and we did individual drills with everyone rotating through being attacker and defender one at a time so they had the mat space all to themselves. After the first series I stood by as coach and second attacker who came with a baseball bat in case any defender got too tied up with their offender.

After it was all over we did a quick after-action review. Everyone said they enjoyed themselves and learned new things. In particular they liked the failure drill since their previous martial arts training had never included that kind of follow up in case the first plan did not work.

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