Dueling canes

Highlights of a hard contact Bartitsu cane sparring match at the Forteza Fitness and Martial Arts studio in Ravenswood, Chicago.

The fighters are using 3/4″ diameter, 36″ rattan sparring canes from Purpleheart Armory, tipped with solid rubber blunts to simulate the steel ball handles and asymmetrical balance of a Vigny fighting cane, and are protected by standard 3-weapon fencing masks and street hockey gloves.

Targets in this bout included the mask, gloves and arms, torsos and thighs.  Standing grappling was also allowed, but unarmed striking, throwing and ground-grappling were disallowed in this bout, to focus on thrusting, striking and parrying with the canes.

Dubious “self-defence umbrella” initiative by Vodafone India

Although they’re presumably well-intentioned, one hopes that Vodafone India and their ad agency will also be shelling out for the extensive training these women will need in order to be able to actually defend themselves. The notion that over-the-counter instructions and cartoon graphics can substitute for actual training and skill is dangerously naive.

If not backed up with real training, these “self-defence umbrellas” may only serve to signal that the women are carrying money …

Defense dans la Rue Vol. 2: Fundamental Striking Skills

The second volume of Craig Gemeiner’s Defense dans la Rue (“street self-defence”) instructional DVD series is now available:

During the later decades of the 19th century Parisian citizens experienced the brutality of the French Apache gangs, the call for an effective means of dealing with it intensified. Out of necessity a new system of personal combat began to develop. It came to be known as Defense dans la Rue.

This new DVD production features the striking skills from old school Defense dans la Rue as influenced by classical English boxing & French Savate.

Savate instructor Craig Gemeiner provides a detailed breakdown of the various stand-up striking techniques of this combat system, integrating it with specialized pad work, conditioning exercises and pressure drills making it ideal for the modern self-defence practitioner.

You won’t learn any fancy high kicks or low percentage techniques, only those skills that have been time tested in the streets, milling grounds and salles during the past 200 years have been included.

Crowdfund the next generation of high-tech weapon sparring armour!

The Unified Weapon Master armour allows full-contact weapon-based sparring between combat athletes of almost literally any style. High-tech force and impact sensors wirelessly transmit video-game style “damage stats”, eliminating the need for corner judges and allowing for continuous action.

Founded by Justin Forsell – an old training partner of Bartitsu instructor Tony Wolf – UWM is currently crowdfunding to develop its next generation of high-tech sparring armour, in preparation for holding its first live competitions in Sydney, Australia during 2016.

Click here to visit the UWM Indiegogo page …

The United Kingdom Bartitsu Alliance


This new initiative in the UK seeks to:

(…) continue and expand the recognition and legitimisation of the Victorian martial art of Bartitsu, in its historical context, as both a competition sport and combat art. Also to promote both groups and individuals who seek to advance their knowledge and level of participation.

To help promote and inform to the general public of the history of Bartitsu, it’s part in the development of martial arts in the UK and its place as a bona fide style in the martial arts world.

To actively seek the instructors of each modernised form of Bartitsu who are willing to uphold the knowledge and traditions of the art.

UKBA is not currently seeking to be an Association, a Federation or a Governing Body but it is in fact a friendly and welcoming networking organisation for practitionsers. Please remember, the UKBA strongly encourages its Affiliates to retain and in fact expand their affiliations with a wide range of organisations in the martial arts and self defence world upon registration.

The UKBA is open to all regardless experience within the art. The UKBA does not promote the petty politics that many other groups seem to contain, there are no hidden agendas and it will not interfere with its valued Affiliates’ practices either, all affiliates are open to practice and instruct their classes as they wish, there is no need to sign up to a ‘right’ way of doing thing and so on, just join and network and take advantage of events, offers and so on, simple as that!

More at the UKBA website and Facebook page

A Bartitsu cartoon from 1976

1976 Bartitsu cartoon

Originally published in the Xenia (Ohio) Gazette of July 27, 1976, this cartoon is a curiosity of recent history in that E.W. Barton-Wright’s martial art was almost completely forgotten during the 20th century. The cartoonist evidently based his work on a copy of Barton-Wright’s 1901 Pearson’s Magazine article, “Self Defence with a Walking Stick”.

“Directly you are seized, strike your assailant”: the atemi-waza of canonical Bartitsu

Atemi montage

The Bartitsu canon consists of the close-combat techniques presented as Bartitsu by E.W. Barton-Wright and his colleagues between the years 1898-1902. Most notably, they include the various jiujitsu kata and Vigny stickfighting set-plays recorded by Barton-Wright in his two article series for Pearson’s Magazine; The New Art of Self Defence (1899) and Self Defence With A Walking Stick (1901).

This article catalogues the atemi-waza (striking and pressure point techniques) represented in Barton-Wright’s New Art of Self Defence articles. Although it’s been confirmed that B-W trained primarily at the Shinden Fudo Ryu dojo of sensei Terajima Kuniichiro in Kobe, we have never been able to positively identify B-W’s demonstration partner in these photo-series, nor exactly which school of jiujitsu is represented. B-W simply referred to studying with a teacher in Kobe who “specialised in the kata form of instruction”.

The most significant details on the Kobe Shinden Fudo Ryu dojo were recorded, not by Barton-Wright, but by Herman Ten Kate, a Dutch anthropologist who met B-W on a steamship from Jakarta to Japan. Ten Kate also trained at the Kobe dojo and, in 1905, wrote an essay for the Dutch magazine De Gids describing their training, “in which all types of randori, kata and atemi are combined”. Ten Kate continued that, “in the school of my instructor Terajima, there were more than seventy (kata or defence sequences)”.

Experts in Japanese martial arts history believe that the Shinden Fudo Ryu of Terajima Kuniichiro was distinct from the style of that name commonly associated with the Bujinkan lineage today.

The sixteen kata shown in Barton-Wright’s articles feature thirteen atemi-waza techniques, including:

  • hammerfist or backfist strikes to the mastoid process/hinge of the jaw (“behind the ear”)
  • direct punch to the “pit of the stomach” (probably the brachial plexus)*
  • rear headbutt
  • finger and thumb pressure to the trachea (“tonsil”) and mastoid process
  • foot stomp
  • thumb pressure to the femoral nerve
  • backfist and double backfists to the face
  • thumb pressure to the ulnar nerve
  • palm-heel strike to the elbow joint
  • elbow strikes to the wrists

* N.B. that this strike is part of Barton-Wright’s curious defence with an overcoat against a dagger-wielding attacker, and may actually represent a boxing punch rather than a jiujitsu punch.

New Art of Self Defence, Part 1


“Overcoat trick”: “a right-handed knock-out blow in the pit of the stomach”


#2: “strike your assailant behind the ear with your right fist”


#3: “jerk your head backwards, striking him in the face”


#4: “strike him a back-hander with your right hand”

1.4 alt

#4 (alternative technique): “seize his throat with your right hand, forcing your thumb into his tonsil”


#5: “strike him with the right fist behind the ear”

New Art of Self Defence, Part 2


#4: “stamp heavily on your assailant’s right foot” and then “grasp his right leg with your right hand, in the precise position shown in the third photograph, exerting as much pressure as possible with your thumb”


#6: “strike him (or if you are practising the feats with a friend pretend to strike him) in the face with your right fist”


#7: “strike your assailant, simultaneously with both fists, in the face, and bring your elbows down very sharply upon his wrists”


#9: “face your assailant, seizing him just behind the elbow with the thumb and finger of your left hand. Then exert pressure upon the nerve of the funny bone, which is situated just behind the elbow”

#9 (alternative technique): “Should it be found difficult to release your opponent’s hold in the manner described, a sharp upward blow at the elbow joint will have the desired effect.”

Then, “seize him by the throat with your right hand, and throw him upon his back”.

Bonus technique only recorded in the US edition of Pearson’s:

One further atemi-waza technique was described (but not illustrated) in the June, 1899 edition of Pearson’s Magazine published in the United States. The full sequence is reprinted here and the atemi technique requires the defender to “seize him by the throat, pressing your thumb into his tonsil or just under the back of the ear, which is extremely painful”.

Reviewing this list, we note that the mastoid process and trachea are the most common targets and that the atemi techniques serve the same tactical purposes as in most ko-ryu (traditional) jiujitsu curricula, including distracting or interrupting the opponent’s intention, causing momentary imbalance prior to a joint-lock or throw, and creating sufficient space for follow-up techniques.

A video interview with English judo and Bartitsu research pioneer Richard Bowen (1926-2005)

Richard (Dickie) Bowen was born in Belgravia, London in 1926. His father was English and his mother was from Wexford, Ireland. His early training was in bacteriology and, after serving in the army for nearly four years, he worked as a laboratory technician. Generally physically active, he had become a proficient skier during his military service and on his return to London Bowen was keen to find an occupation to maintain and improve his physical fitness.

In January 1949, on the recommendation of a colleague, he took up judo and joined the Budokwai, the UK’s oldest judo club,where he received expert instruction from senseis Gunji Koizumi, Percy Sekine, Trevor P. Leggett and Teizo Kawamura. Two years later, he was present at a meeting of the Budokwai during which Koizumi presented the then-90 year old Edward William Barton-Wright to the audience as “the pioneer of jiujitsu in England”. Barton-Wright died the following year.

In 1956 Bowen was selected to represent Britain at the 1st World Judo Championships, an openweight competition held in Japan. He subsequently spent three and a half years training at the Kodokan in Tokyo. As part of the Kodokan’s Kenshusei, an elite group of mostly Japanese judoka, including Matsushita and Watanabe, Bowen was regularly taught by senseis Daigo, Osawa and Kawamura and received occasional tuition from senseis Mifune, Samura and Kotani.

Bowen’s close, life-time association with the Budokwai, as a judoka and instructor, and as a committee member and Vice-President, continued when he returned to the UK. He also became actively involved with the British Judo Association (BJA).

Bowen had always been interested in the history and early development of judo in Britain, and in 1990 he embarked on a project to document the people, techniques and styles connected with ‘the old judo’ that Bowen felt may otherwise be forgotten. This long-term project encompassed painstaking research via numerous libraries and both public and private archives.

His research inevitably uncovered original copies of E.W. Barton-Wright’s Pearson’s Magazine articles, which were of special interest to Bowen in that he was an aficionado of the Sherlock Holmes stories and recognised Barton-Wright’s Bartitsu as the inspiration of Holmes’ “baritsu”. He summarised his findings in an article for the Northern Musgraves Sherlock Holmes Society, titled Further Lessons in Baritsu (1997).

In the year 2000 Bowen forwarded photocopies of Barton-Wright’s articles to Joseph Svinth, the editor-in-chief of the Electronic Journal of Martial Arts and Sciences. These articles were then scanned, transcribed and broadcast online via the EJMAS Journal of Non-Lethal Combatives (edited by Svinth) and the Journal of the Manly Arts (edited by Tony Wolf), providing a basis for international Bartitsu research via the Bartitsu Society.

By this time, with the help and support of friends, acquaintances and fellow enthusiasts, Bowen had painstakingly accumulated a substantial UK ‘judo archive’. His personal collection of judo and related books and ephemera was later donated to the University of Bath and now forms the Bowen (Judo) Collection, comprising some 82 boxes of material.

Sadly, when Richard Bowen died in 2005, his book remained incomplete. However, the book was later published posthumously in two volumes, under the title 100 Years of Judo in Great Britain (2011). As well as forming a unique and invaluable record of the events, politics and personalities of English judo, Bowen’s book offers a highly accurate and detailed study of Bartitsu history.

“Engaging toughs”: Bartitsu pressure-testing and sparring

“I learned various methods including boxing, wrestling, fencing, savate and the use of the stiletto under recognised masters, and by engaging toughs I trained myself until I was satisfied in practical application.”

– E.W. Barton-Wright, 1950


The Bartitsu revival has gathered real momentum over the past several years, spurred on by the success of the Sherlock Holmes film franchise and by the continuing popularity of steampunk. New clubs and study groups are forming and Bartitsu presentations have become fixtures on the pop-culture convention circuit, especially at steampunk conventions.

The association with Sherlock Holmes and “fantastic Victoriana” means that Bartitsu now holds some appeal for people who might not otherwise take much of an interest in martial arts training, perhaps via taking a “taster” class or just watching a demonstration at a convention. Demonstrations at these events can vary widely, from closely researched presentations of authentic Bartitsu techniques, through to slapstick displays that bear little actual resemblance to the c1900 art.

Thus, a new student’s first exposure to Bartitsu is often in a basically ironic, playful or academic context that is geared towards people with no, or very little, prior background in martial arts training.

Going through the motions …

Under these circumstances, the overriding requirements are that the experience should be safe and enjoyable for all concerned. Thus, in taster classes, techniques are typically taught and rehearsed slowly and carefully, with some attention to correct form but little emphasis on realistic application against a determined, resistant opponent.

Engaging toughs …

Participants in an ongoing Bartitsu course, however, can expect to go beyond the rote rehearsal of pre-arranged techniques, and to be progressively introduced to the crucial element of spontaneous, active resistance.

“Active resistance” in this context can be understood as sparring within safe but realistic levels of speed and contact, in which both participants are determinedly attempting to hit without being hit, to physically dominate their opponent via any agreed-upon techniques in the Bartitsu arsenal of Vigny stickfighting, c1900 boxing and jiujitsu.

In so doing, they may join in the spirit of E.W. Barton-Wright and Pierre Vigny “engaging toughs”, or Bartitsu Club jujitsu instructors Yukio Tani and Sadakazu Uyenishi, who regularly took on all challengers on the stages of London music halls.

The cliched “sport vs. street” or “sport vs. martial art” argument posits an artificial either/or duality between self-defence/combat training and active competition. Understanding that it’s impossible to safely spar or compete using the totality of techniques from a combat-oriented style, it certainly is possible to spar within
a rule-set that draws as much as is safely practical from that style.

It can easily be argued that the benefits of actually being able to pressure-test those techniques against active resistance out-weigh the objection that one is only using a limited range of techniques.

The case can also be made that it is in the crucible of athletic pressure-testing, via hard sparring or any other form of spontaneous, genuinely resistant training, that the art initiated by Barton-Wright in the late 1890s is really brought back to life.