The earliest known collaboration between E.W. Barton-Wright and Pierre Vigny: July 20, 1899

These newly-discovered articles from the St. James’s Gazette offer our first glimpse at the original collaboration between Bartitsu founder Edward Barton-Wright and savate/stick fighting expert Pierre Vigny.  The articles also offer a number of “new” details, including references to Vigny demonstrating a self defence technique while armed with one stick in either hand, and to an exhibition bout of walking stick fighting by Vigny and Barton-Wright. 

Double-Handed guard

Swordsmanship and Walking-stick Play (St James’s GazetteWednesday 19 July, 1899)

Mr. Barton-Wright is organising a benefit at the Banqueting Hall, St. James’s Restaurant, tomorrow night, for Professor Pierre Vigny, the celebrated French swordsman and world’s champion of the savate and walking-stick play, both of which form branches of bartitsu.

Mr. Barton-Wright will personally give a lecture and a demonstration of walking-stick play with Professor Vigny, and explain and demonstrate what can done with a stick as means self-defence. He will also assist Professor Vigny in demonstrating the savate, explaining how the different attacks and defences are executed.

Lieut. Ronald Miers, the middle-weight amateur champion of the Army, will give an exhibition of boxing with Mr. Tom Burrows. Fencing will be represented by the best amateur talent. Professor Vigny will also have a bout with duelling swords with the best man who can found to oppose him, and Mons. Cori, the French professional strong man, will give an exhibition of feats of strength.

Bartitsu: The Real Use of the Walking Stick (St James’s GazetteSaturday 22 July, 1899)

The great beauty of Bartitsu is its completeness. It embraces all methods of self-defence; it is bound down by no rules or restrictions. In boxing, if a man is hit below the belt there is trouble for the offender; fencing is conducted along conventional lines, and even singlestick has its limitations. Bartitsu knows no rule except the law of expediency, and is specially adapted for use on lonely road, in a Whitechapel row, or a single-handed contest with a Walworth Hooligan, when gentle measures would be useless and your opponent is intent on blood.

Mr. Barton Wright, who has adapted this useful accomplishment from many different schools of self-defence, gave an exhibition of its various forms last night at the St. James’s Hall, to introduce to the British public Professor Vigny, who will the principal instructor in walking-stick play and savate when Mr. Wright’s new school is opened.

The programme commenced with bout of fencing between Mr. W. H. P. Staveley and W. P. Gate, which served to indicate to the audience that the sword is the basis not only of all the systems of hand-weapons, but of most theories of defence.

The Use of the Walking Stick

This was followed by a short lecture by Mr. Wright, who initiated his audience into the real value of a walking-stick in a row. In his hands an ordinary cane became a powerful weapon, and the head of the tramp who held up Mr. Wright would be considerably damaged. Professor Vigny, who is the acknowledged expert on the subject, went through a few of the simpler movements slowly just so as to give time to grasp them, and afterwards repeated them at the proper speed.

Everything is done from the wrist, and the swing which it is possible to get on a stick when it is held this way is immense. Either hand can be used, and they should be changed at will; both hands may he employed to execute a sort of body-shove which is very taking; but perhaps the most valuable cut of all is the back stroke. The cane is brought down to the guard and suddenly swung back over the shoulder. Another method which is used to clear the way in an aggressive crowd consists of sweeps with the right and left hand alternately, with, if necessary, the leg cut, delivered just below the knee, after the cane has completed a half-circle in the air. This will usually disable your adversary.

All these movements Professor Vigny executed, and although it improbable that any pupil would ever attain his wonderful knack of using both hands with the greatest ease, or get the whole weight of the body behind the blow, which makes it much more telling, a very few weeks’ practice should enable man to learn enough to hold his own against any one, or even two men who might hold him up.

At the conclusion of this part of the programme, Professor Vigny manipulated two sticks at once, and illustrated his cuts upon the body of Mr. Wright. The most telling, perhaps, was a curious twist of the wrist, by which you get one stick on each side of your adversary’s neck, and lock them behind. A short bout of two rounds between Professor Vigny and Mr. Wright completed this portion of the programme.

La Savate

After Lieut. Ronald Miers and Mr. Tom Burrows had concluded a short boxing match, Prof. Vigny and Prof. Anastasie engaged in La Savate, which is generally, albeit erroneously, believed to be the French method of boxing.  Its peculiar feature is the use of the leg, and it takes some time before the power of balance is mastered sufficiently to enable a man to kick his adversary under the ear, plant your left hand on the point of his jaw and catch him a swinging thump on the ribs at about the same moment.

On this occasion, however, both of the performers were experts, and the audience were immensely interested to see the clever kicks, and the guards which warded them off.  Against this type of boxing an English fighter might have little chance of success, unless he broke his opponent’s leg as a preliminary.

To Make Men Fall

An exhibition by Monsieur Cori, the French professional strong man, had been announced as the concluding item of the programme, but he was too unwell to attend, and Mr. Barton-Wright concluded by illustrating a few of the methods of Bartitsu which you use when you are set upon and have no weapon at hand.

A bold member of the audience mounted the stage.  Mr. Wright took him by the coat and he sat down – heavily.

Mr. Wright pulled his feet from under him; the victim fell on his face.

Once more he got up, but a vice-like grip of the upper part of the arm fetched him on his knees.

“I could break your arm, couldn’t I?” Mr. Wright asked pleasantly.

“You could,” was the reply, so he took him by the hand and flattened him out once more.

After he was satisfied that his strength was useless, (he stood 6 ft., at least), he returned to the audience, and Mr. Wright concluded the entertainment. A most interesting exhibition exercises calculated to be extremely useful to everybody.

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4 thoughts on “The earliest known collaboration between E.W. Barton-Wright and Pierre Vigny: July 20, 1899”

  1. Can’t confirm 100% but it’s very highly probable – we know that Burrows was both a boxer and a club swinger and that he was in England during this period.

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