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.