“In the Footsteps of Sherlock Holmes” (1968 newsreel)


This 1968 British Pathe newsreel documents the travels of a party of British Sherlock Holmes enthusiasts as they make an elaborate costumed pilgrimage to Switzerland, including a re-enactment of the fateful battle between Holmes and Professor Moriarty at Reichenbach Waterfall. The party arrives in Meiringen at about 3.40 in the clip.

Objectively, there isn’t a great deal of baritsu on display, but the quick insert shot of Holmes’ foot tripping his nemesis may be a nod towards his skill in the mysterious “Japanese art of wrestling”.


Of interest to true baritsu completists, the very end of this second clip (consisting of footage that was not used in the newsreel) features a long shot of the re-enactor playing Holmes grappling with, and then throwing from the path, a mannequin representing Moriarty.

“Scientific ragging”: The New Jiu-jitsu (1904)

An anonymous commentary on the potentials of jiujitsu from “The Outing” magazine, dating to 1904:

WHO would have said three years ago that a remote Eastern nation would become an arbiter between the athletic aims of the two extreme nations of the West? But some such relation as this is set up by the Japanese protest against the American exploitation of jiujitsu. Directly the art was discovered it was seized upon in America, advertised, practised and explained in a number of books. The explanations certainly exceeded the art, of which the scope and wonders have been greatly misrepresented, and in giving Jiu-jitsu a flair, which made it the fashionable spectacle in Paris as in New York, abstracted at the same time its chief merit. Jiu-jitsu may be an art, almost a science; but above all it is a game, and the exploiters of it have done the harm to it that they have done to other athletic games in emphasising its spectacular and combative advantages. Jiu-jitsu professionals, skilled after the fashion of ” the magnetic lady” who set silly London gossiping some years ago, will soon be a regular part of music-hall performances. This does not much matter, but it is less endurable that a game which might be a real boon to town-dwellers should be spoiled by sham gymnastic exponents who take themselves more seriously than they deserve.

For an athletic nation we are curiously backward in what may be called palaestral games. Fencing has its eminent devotees. Mr. Egerton Castle, umpiring at a bout in Gray’s Inn Gardens, where a bundle of foils leaned against the leaning catalpa, is a spectacle full of the savour of the Middle Ages. The two straightest backs in the House of Commons were trained on fencing. Captain Hutton has from time to time inspired different schools with his zeal for foils, single-sticks, broad-sword and buckler, quarter-staff, two-handed sword, or case of rapiers. Nevertheless, fencing and the sister games languish in England. They are not popular amusements, and the desire to take them up possesses very few of the many town-immured men and women who lament daily their need of exercise. On the whole, the gymnastic peoples are not the athletic. The Japanese dislike sport on the whole. The Germans prefer to develop chest and arms rather than legs; the English neglect the torso. Perhaps the French are more naturally proficient at both athletics and gymnastics than any people, except the Americans, whose competitive genius is overmastering.

Beyond all question the Japanese are the greatest gymnasts in the world, and have been for years. Two forms of wrestling, Sumo and jiu-jitsu—the first chiefly professional, the second both aristocratic and democratic, have long interested the bulk of the nation. Sumo has been regulated by a Gild of its own which is recognised by Government, used for police purposes, and exempted from taxation. The Gild has schooled its members into the strictest loyalty to the canons of art and etiquette in the same way as the Rugby Union in England, though more precisely and dictatorially, as befits an institution long and officially established, which holds its public examination and publishes its class-lists. Sumo in Japan is the counterpart, with many necessary deductions from the strictness of the analogy, of the Football League in England. It is professional, a spectacular rather than a popular game, and its players need great physical development.

Jiu-jitsu has other qualities, and these seem to me to bring it a long way ahead of any gymnastic game we have in England. And it should be English, for it is no more or less than the science of “ragging,” the exaltation of a rough and tumble, the impromptu wrestling which everyone practices and enjoys from infancy till the age when the sinews creak. It is the only game common to the nursery, the school, the university, the office, and it is greatly improved as a mere amusement by some application of science. The Japanese have especially associated the game, since its emergence in the seventeenth century, with military training, and its superiority to the stiffness of much army gymnastics

does not need argument. But the question now is not whether Woolwich or Osborne should engage a Japanese instructor, but whether many active men who cannot keep their muscles from rusting might not with advantage take their opportunities of scientific ragging in off hours. Its reputation has been spoiled by American over-emphasis. The art includes, of course, instruction in the coup-de-grace, in blows, or rather taps, and falls, and locks, and grips which can incapacitate and break limbs; but its points as a game are quite independent of such violent usage of anatomical knowledge.

The game has the minimum of paraphernalia, can be played in a small space;can be learnt, at least in rudiments sufficient for extracting amusement, from a book. It depends, unlike most gymnastics, on nimbleness more than muscle, and balance, not power, is its key. It is the fashion now to claim moral attributes for games, and the disciples of jiu-jitsu have made the common mistake. But after all “the art of self-defence ” — in England a technical phrase unfortunately restricted to boxing — deserves its constant epithet “noble”; and the jiu-jitsu game, which begins with the art of falling happily and conquering from an inferior position, has a clear symbolic claim to a moral quality. Physical inferiority tends to moral subserviency to the bully; and now no swords are worn and sticks are flimsy, jiu-jitsu is almost the only game which can teach the punier people to flourish in a fight.

The Forteza Clubhouse: funded!

The Forteza Clubhouse fundraising campaign, towards creating a neo-Victorian lounge at the Forteza Fitness and Martial Arts studio in Chicago, has successfully raised US$6970 – well over $1000 higher than the target goal.

Forteza is home to the Bartitsu Club of Chicago as well as the Chicago Swordplay Guild, the Asylum Stunt Team and other groups. The studio features an “old school” aesthetic directly inspired by the original Bartitsu Club in London’s Shaftesbury Avenue, circa 1901.

The Forteza clubhouse will include a lending library of martial arts and fitness books, a lounge and learning centre as well as an art gallery of rare 19th century prints featuring Bartitsu, historical fencing and other “antagonistics”. It will also be accessed by a secret passage …

Watch this blog for updates on the rehab and construction over the coming months.

Pierre Vigny in 1934

A stern portrait of former Bartitsu Club instructor Pierre Vigny, taken circa 1934 when he was the Director of the Academy of Defensive Sports in Geneva. The short source article also offers the interesting detail that Vigny had made the acquaintance of French physical culture guru and entrepreneur Edmond Desbonnet, who was instrumental in introducing jiujitsu to Paris, at the Bartitsu Club.

The grave of Captain Alfred Hutton

Thanks to some excellent detective work by members of the Schola Forum, the grave and memorial tablet of former Bartitsu Club instructor Captain Alfred Hutton has been located in Astbury Churchyard, Cheshire, UK.

Hutton was amongst the foremost authorities on swordsmanship in late-Victorian England, writing many books on the subject and serving as a founder and President of the Amateur Fencing Association from 1895 onwards. He was also one of the original revivalists of historical (Elizabethan-era) martial arts such as the use of the two-handed sword, rapier and dagger and sword and handbuckler.

He collaborated with Bartitsu founder E.W. Barton-Wright during several exhibitions and then joined the Bartitsu Club as both a fencing instructor and board member, later describing the Club as “the headquarters of ancient swordplay in England”. Hutton also learned basic jiujitsu and the Vigny method of self defence with a walking stick from his fellow instructors.

Captain Hutton died on December 18th of the year 1910.

Those wishing to pay their respects can view his memorial tablet in the chancel of St. Mary’s Church:

Across the road you will see a stepped entrance to the graveyard. Go up these steps and follow the path (you will pass an ancient tree); you will have the Church on your right. Hutton’s grave is about ten metres along the church wall, and 5 metres into the graveyard. Use the pictures below for reference.

Although it appears that the stone cross has toppled onto the boulder, it is in fact designed that way; the cross fits snugly into a carved notch in the boulder. The inscription, which is covered by turf to protect it from the elements, reads:

“OA 392 – In Affectionate Memory of / ALFRED HUTTON late King’s Dragoon Guards & Last Surviving Son of HENRY WILLIAM HUTTON of Beverley / Hold thou Thy Cross Before My Closing Eyes / Born March 10th 1839. Died December 18th 1910, Aged 71 Years.”

The graves of Captain Hutton’s sister, Harriott (died 18th January 1906), another sister, Marianne Eleanor (died 31st January 1908 aged 95), his mother, Marianne (died 19th January 1879, aged 87) are close to his grave.

“Dodger” takes on the ne’er-do-wells of Dickensian London

Slightly pre-Bartitsu, but the alert and imaginative viewer may perceive echoes of Sherlock Holmes-style fight choreography in this excellent video trailer for Terry Pratchett’s new novel, Dodger.