Click this link to watch a short demo. and explanation of Bartitsu courtesy of the Riot A.C.T. stunt team, towards promoting author Adrienne Kress’s new steampunk/girl-power novel, The Friday Society. The item was produced by InnerSPACE, an entertainment news series associated with the Canadian SPACE TV channel.
From the Daily News, May 27, 1904:
All good citizens will rejoice to learn that a new and efficacious method of abolishing those pests of the streets known as Hooligans has been discovered and put into practical application by a French gentleman named M. Pierre Vigny.
Some years ago the idea occurred to M. Vigny, who, it may be mentioned, has been fencing muster to a French crack cavalry regiment, that it would be possible to discover a system by which people could guard themselves against the cowardly methods of assault practised by the blackguards of the streets. M. Vigny accordingly proceeded to study the methods of Hooligans in the slums of London and Liverpool. When he acquired first-hand knowledge of their ways, he repaired to Paris, where he sought wisdom from the Thugs and Apaches, ruffians who assault pedestrians with sand-bags and life-preservers, and then, for the purpose of finishing his education, he spent considerable time amongst the ruffians of Rome and Naples, who are proficient in the use of the murderous stiletto, and completed his curriculum in the Bowery of New York and the slums of Chicago.
He thus became conversant with every device of the street ruffian, and, what is of more importance, he discovered how to protect himself effectively from every weapon, with the exception of firearms, they use, including loaded belts, sand-bags, bludgeons, knives and daggers, with the instrumentality of a humble walking stick!
For the purpose of imparting this art he has established a “School of Self Defence” in a street near Oxford-street, which is largely patronised by young aristocrats, city men, actors, and others whose pursuits necessitate their being out late. Ladies also receive instruction at this unique school in large numbers, and M. Vigny maintains that anyone who has mastered the system of self-defence with a walking-stick or umbrella, which he has inaugurated, is a match for at least half a dozen street ruffians armed with belts or knives!
This excerpt from the Liverpool Mercury (Friday 5th May, 1899) may be among the first news reports in English concerning Professor Pierre Vigny, who would thereafter become a key instructor at E.W. Barton-Wright’s Bartitsu Club in Soho.
Either a walking-stick or an umbrella is now considered an indispensable part of a gentleman’s attire, but few of those who carry these articles know how to use them effectively. Carlyle dealt with the philosophy of clothes in a ponderous volume, which few people have ever finished; but it has been left to Professor Pierre Vigny to illustrate in a practical manner the philosophy of the walking-stick.
On Wednesday night, in the Salle Bertrand, Warwick-street, London, he gave an exhibition of what can be done with it as a weapon of defence as well as ornament, and gained the applause of an audience which comprised many of the best foilists and escrimeurs in London. In his hands the baton became a veritable poem, and showed a capability of development undreamt of by most people, whose chief use of either cane or umbrella is to whirl it in the hand like a windmill, to the imminent danger of their neighbours.
M. Vigny walks in with a stout oak stick, looking like a countryman on his first visit to London, who does not know much about anything. A gang of sharpers surround him as easy prey, and are considerably surprised when the cudgel falls on their heads with a force and dexterity which put them to flight. The same thing happened when M. Vigny was armed with only an elegant, neatly-folded umbrella. In fact, the possibilities of defence with even a fragile stick were shown to be unbounded.
In addition to this display, which was both clever and brilliant, M. Vigny gave exhibitions of his skill with foils, single-stick, sabres, duelling-swords, French and English boxing, and club-swinging, his opponents comprising such experts as Staff – sergeant Betts, Mr. John Jenkinson, Professor Anastasie, M. Felix Bertrand, Mr. Egerton Castle, Professor Danguy, Professor Perkins, and others. The “assault” was undoubtedly one of the best seen in London for a long time.
Although the venerable Bartitsu Forum remains the most active online venue for Bartitsu discussion, a number of Bartitsu clubs have set up their own Facebook pages as well. Here’s a list of links:
The Bartitsu Club of New York City
Botta Secreta Productions (San Francisco)
The Bartitsu Club of Chicago
The Bartitsu Club of Tallahassee
The Bartitsu Club: Isle of Wight
The Battersea Bartitsu Study Group
The Copenhagen Monday Bartitsu Club
Fight Like A Gentleman (Academie Duello Bartitsu, Vancouver, Canada)
An excerpt from The hooligan nights : being the life and opinions of a young and unrepentant criminal by Clarence Rook (1901):
The average Hooligan is not an ignorant, hulking ruffian, beetle-browed and bulletheaded. He is a product of the Board School, writes a fair hand, and is quick at arithmetic. His type of face approaches nearer the rat than the bulldog; he is nervous, highly strung, almost neurotic.
He is by no means a drunkard; but a very small quantity of liquor causes him to run amuck, when he is not pleasant to meet. Undersized as a rule, he is sinewy, swift, and untiring. For pocket-picking and burglary the feather-weight is at an advantage. He has usually done a bit of fighting with the gloves, for in Lambeth boxing is one of the most popular forms of sport. But he is better with the raws, and is very bad to tackle in a street row, where there are no rules to observe. Then he will show you some tricks that will astonish you.
No scruples of conscience will make him hesitate to butt you in the stomach with his head, and pitch you backwards by catching you round the calves with his arm. His skill, born of constant practice, in scrapping and hurricane fighting brings him an occasional job in the bashing line. You have an enemy, we will say, whom you wish to mark, but, for one reason and another, you do not wish to appear in the matter. Young Alf will take on the job. Indicate to him your enemy; hand him five shillings (he will ask a sovereign, but will take five shillings), and he will make all the necessary arrangements. One night your enemy will find himself lying dazed on the pavement in a quiet corner, with a confused remembrance of a trip and a crash, and a mad whirl of fists and boots. You need have small fear that the job will be bungled. But it is a matter of complaint among the boys of the Walk, that if they do a bit of bashing for a toff and get caught, the toff seldom has the magnanimity to give them a lift when they come out of gaol.
The Hooligan is by no means deficient in courage. He is always ready to fight, though he does not fight fair.
Roberto Munter has generously made available an extensive Bartitsu PDF for Italian readers.
The first third of the document presents a thorough history of Bartitsu as well as sections on la Belle Epoque, physical culture, the street gangs of London and Paris and the Suffragette movement.
The booklet also includes complete Italian translations of the New Art of Self Defence and Self-Defence with a Walking Stick by E.W. Barton-Wright, two articles about Pierre Vigny’s system and Self Protection on a Cycle by Marcus Tindal.
You can download the PDF by clicking this link.
Roberto Munter ha messo a disposizione dei lettori italiani un ampio documento PDF sul Bartitsu. La prima parte espone una storia completa del Bartitsu e delle sezioni su La Belle Epoque, la cultura fisica, le bande di strada di Londra e Parigi e il movimento delle suffragette.
Il libretto include anche le traduzioni complete in italiano de La Nuova Arte della difesa personale e L’autodifesa con un bastone da passeggio, di E.W. Barton-Wright, due articoli sul sistema di Pierre Vigny e Auto-difesa con la bicicletta di Marcus Tindal.
È possibile scaricare il PDF cliccando su questo link.
Mark Donnelly is offering a 10-week Bartitsu course between January 8th – March 26th in Harrisburg, PA. The course will be hosted by the Keystone Academy of Dueling and Swordsmanship (KADS) and held between 8-10 p.m. on Tuesday nights at the Appalachian Brewing Company, 50 North Cameron Street. All inquiries should be directed to Mr. Donnelly via 717 829 5534.