Click here to learn more about this Kickstarter venture to create a steampunk series featuring a Bartitsu-trained protagonist, who trained with E.W. Barton-Wright in order to better combat the forces of supernatural evil …
A tongue-in-cheek review of the famous Bath Club exhibition of March 1899, from “The Truth” newspaper:
Very interesting indeed was the display of Elizabethan sword-play at the Bath Club last week. Messrs. Fraser, Johnson, Cooke, Gate, and the President, Mr. Grenfell, Captains Hutton and Matthey, all showed pretty play with swords, rapiers, and cloaks.
The President’s leave-taking before he descended into the arena, or rather on to the bridge of sighs, for the platform is over the centre of the swimming bath, was most pathetic. A two-handed sword broke clean in half. Where was it made? In Germany!
There was a large crowd of spectators, and such exhibitions should popularise sword-play. But the chief attraction was the lecture and display by Mr. Barton-Wright, of the noble science of Bartitsu. It might be described vulgarly as the gentle art of chucking-out and midnight murder. Unfortunately, Mr. Barton-Wright had been chucked out by a cab the day before, and could not, therefore, give a full display. He generously invited all members present as his guests to a public display at the St. James’s Hall.
However, despite a bad knee, he was able to show some of the interesting methods of this system of overpowering an opponent. Limbs can be broken at a moment’s notice, and strangulation can be induced in a few seconds. Of course, nothing so ghastly happens – an opponent wisely surrenders. But the method is invaluable for political meetings. Certified Bartitsuers should command a high price at election times.
The full display and lecture should certainly be well worth seeing. The lecturer should try to deliver his remarks more slowly. His enunciation is too rapid at times. Owing to his accident he had to shorten his display, and so Dr. Higgens and Instructor Drake had a few lively rounds with gloves, and some pretty trick swimming was added.
The best evidence indicates that E.W. Barton-Wright’s Bartitsu Club in London closed down during the early months of 1902, for reasons that are still mysterious. A recently-discovered series of advertisements from the Nottingham Evening Post, however, indicate that all of the Club principals were involved in an elaborate “Anglo-Japanese Tournament” and martial arts display at the grand Mechanics Institute Hall in Nottingham during late March of that year.
The Mechanics’ Institute Hall in Nottingham (shown to the left in this picture)
The Tournament was advertised as running over three nights, from March 24-26, and each evening’s entertainment commenced at 8.15 pm. Tickets for the first two nights cost 10s. 6d. for reserved seats and 2s. 6d. for unreserved seats; reserved seats were also offered at half-price for members.
The interior of the hall, circa 1898
The main event on all three nights was a wrestling contest for £50 between William Clark, who was advertised as the “Professional Champion Catch-As-Catch-Can Wrestler of the South of England”, and Bartitsu Club wrestling and physical culture instructor Armand Cherpillod, who then weighed in at 11st 6lb.
A reviewer described their contest on the evening of March 23rd as being the most exciting of the night’s events. It took Cherpillod over 20 minutes to pin Clark in the first round, but only 10 minutes in the second, deciding the contest in his favour. The reviewer added that “the work of both was really splendid, and they were frequently applauded.”
The next event was described as a “Display and Bout of the Japanese Secret Art of Wrestling by the Two Light-Weight Japanese Champions, Uyenishi and Tani, who have never been defeated”. A local reporter described their display as being “very engrossing”, and noted that jiujitsu resembled catch-as-catch-can wrestling, further describing their demonstration of “catch-holds, throws, and various ways of disengaging oneself when taken at a disadvantage”.
Also advertised was a “Display of Bartitsu method of defence with an ordinary Walking Stick” in which Bartitsu Instructor Pierre Vigny, “World’s Champion”, competed against a Mr. Marchant, who was an “(Amateur), Member and Pupil of the Bartitsu School of Arms”. This contest unfortunately did not take place on March 23rd, apparently due to some necessary apparatus being misplaced in transit.
Next on the agenda were a three-round bouting display of savate by Instructor Pierre Vigny, billed as the “World’s Champion of the Savate” (no opponent specified) and a display of fancy (speed)ball punching by D. Meier, another Champion of the World in this specialty. Meier’s display was also cancelled on March 23rd due to misplaced equipment.
Vigny’s billing as the savate world champion would have been very controversial, as in 1901 he had been challenged for claiming that title by the Parisian savateur Charles Charlemont, leading to an extremely vehement exchange of letters between Charlemont and Barton-Wright.
Adding further spice to the stew, the advertisements promised a prize of £20 to any Nottingham man who could defeat either of the Japanese champions or Armand Cherpillod. No weights were barred, “although the Bartitsu men (Tani and Uyenishi) are only Light Weights”.
On the night of the 26th Chas. Green (“English Champion”) won £10 for staying on his feet for 15 minutes, though it is not clear who he was contesting against. The next night, he agreed to fight again, staking his £10 prize against £20 that Cherpillod could not throw him twice within 20 minutes; there is no record of the results of that re-match.
On the 26th the three-round “savate vs. boxing” bout pitted Pierre Vigny against Woolf Bendoff, a heavyweight professional boxer, who was advertised as having “boxed for the largest stakes on record”, though his own record is not especially impressive.
On the last night, prices dropped to 5s for reserved seats, 2s 5d and 1s 6d, reserved seats still half-price for members.
Steampunk Bartitsu: A Dignified Response to altercations involving Pirates, Cads, Bureaucrats, and General Thuggery
Noted Lecturer, Historical Hoplologist and Antagonistics Enthusiast William ‘Battlin’ Bill’ Trumpler made an appearance at the Cowford Steampunk Society’s monthly meeting this past Saturday the 20th. The topic of the day was Historical Bartitsu, It’s Legend, Legacy, and Practical Application for the Defense of Gentlepersons’ in Modern Times.
The lecture began with the justly famous character of Sherlock Holmes and his astounding survival of the argument at Reichenbach Falls. The Great Detective credited his continuing health to be due his study of “Baritsu”, a defense system of some note at the time. “Baritsu” of course is actually a misspelling of “Bartitsu” as Holmes’ biographer Dr. John Watson, while ever faithful, and quite a brilliant companion, is not, sad to say, the World’s Greatest Editor.
Mr. Trumpler then regaled the audience with the tale of Edward William Barton-Wright, his travels throughout Europe and Asia, and his singular achievement of training in the Samurai and Sport traditions of far off Nippon. The lecture then proceeded to Barton-Wright’s return to Merry Old England, his gathering of foreign and local defense experts and his founding of The Bartitsu Club, where good folk of solid character and high moral fiber of either sex could attain a measure of health and self-reliance rarely found elsewhere.
After pointing out the similarities in philosophy between Barton-Wright’s academy and modern martial sport and defense, Mr. Trumpler provided historical photos and written description of Bartitsu from Pearson’s Magazine. The write-up and interview detailed the use of weapons such as a gentleman’s walking stick, as well as classical pugilism and foreign and native wrestling tactics effective upon the ruffians af the age.
Battlin’ Bill then pulled out all the stops with demonstrations and instruction of the aforementioned techniques. The physical portion of the meeting began with the use of Vigny’s system of La Canne de Combat, Vigny being one of the maestro’s whom Barton-Wright studied diligently. After much good-natured thwacking, participants proceeded to the art of fisticuffs with such details as the Straight Lead, Shovel Hook and The Dempsey Switch. From pugilism the attendees closed further with their opponents and afforded themselves the opportunity to practice wrestling holds and jiu-jitsu throws suitable for even the most aggressive airship boarding or back-alley brawl.
Despite the vigorousness of the Cowford Society members and the dangerousness of the style, no injuries were reported and a grand time was seen to be had by all. A special mention of Mr. Chris Ahrendt, the organizer of this event, surely must be made as he deserves a round of thanks for his leadership and procurement of the Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum as the location and hosting Mr. William Trumpler for this momentous occasion. The museum itself being a most apt location with it’s golden hard-wood floors and it’s grand windows being entirely reminiscent of the salles in which Bartitsu was practiced in the past.
There was enthusiastic talk of continued training in Bartitsu by the Cowford Society and a call for the return of Mr. Trumpler as instructor and lecturer in the future.
A dynamic throw demonstrated at the recent Victorian Martial Arts Symposium at the Gear Con 2013 steampunk event in Portland, Oregon.
Click here to read Steven Marrocco’s new article for FIGHT! Magazine, detailing some of the colour and variety of the c1900 self defence scene in England.
An extended Bartitsu fight scene from Christoph Roos’ Buch der Schatten (Book of Shadows) webcomic: