Captain Laing’s “1st Practice” of Bartitsu Stick Fighting (#1)

In 1902, Bartitsu Club member Captain F.C. Laing wrote an article titled The ‘Bartitsu’ Method of Self-Defence for the Journal of the United Service Institution.  Captain Laing’s sequence of set-plays such as “Attacked by a man with a stick in his hand” and “A man without a stick rushes at you with his fist” offers a unique canonical supplement to E.W. Barton-Wright’s Self-Defence with a Walking Stick (1901) and also includes some basic technical drills which B-W did not record.  Laing’s article is reproduced in full in the second volume of the Bartitsu Compendium (2008).

Although Captain Laing produced some simple sketch illustrations of basic techniques, most of his sets were only described in a few lines of text.  The following is the first of a series of interpretations of Laing’s “Practices”, illustrated using modified photographs from Barton-Wright’s articles, which will appear on this website over the coming weeks.

“1st Practice” #1 is a foundational drill teaching a high strike, guard and riposte.

“Come on guard”: Pierre Vigny (right) assumes a low variation of the front guard vs. Edward Barton-Wright’s low front guard.
“Strike head”: Vigny strikes high, drawing Barton-Wright’s high guard.
“Guard head”: Barton-Wright ripostes with a high strike, which Vigny guards.
“Strike head”: As Barton-Wright’s stick sheds past Vigny’s guard, Vigny instantly ripostes with a strike to Barton-Wright’s head.

How “Re-Nie’s” Jiujitsu Won Against Dubois’ Savate (1905)

In the wake of his stunning six-second victory against savateur Georges Dubois in their 1905 style-vs-style challenge fight, jiujitsuka Ernest Regnier (a.k.a. “Re-Nie”) posed for the following series of technical photographs. The pictures are from the November 3, 1905 edition of La Vie au grand air: revue illustrée de tous les sports and the descriptive text is translated from L’Illustration of November 4th, 1905.

Dubois feinted a low kick with his right leg, which Re-Nie dodged. Dubois then executed a side kick with the same leg, but at the same time, with extraordinary agility, Re-Nie performed a cat-like leap towards Dubois and grabbed him round the waist.

Dubois tried a hip check: Re-Nie, moving to the right of his opponent, placed his right hand on the abdomen of the latter, simultaneously compressing the lumbar muscles with the left hand and swinging a knee to Dubois’ right thigh.

Dubois reeled and fell back onto his shoulders; nevertheless Re-Nie stayed in contact, taking a grip that allowed him to seize Dubois’ right wrist.

Re-Nie immediately dropped onto his back, to the left of Dubois, passing his left leg across Dubois’ throat; Re-Nie was now gripping Dubois’ forearm with both hands, Dubois’ arm passing between his two legs.

  • Note the discrepancy here; if Re-Nie was gripping Dubois’ right wrist, then he must in fact have dropped to Dubois’ right, as illustrated in the photograph, rather than to his left.

A strong pressure exerted upon the wrist of Dubois threatened to dislocate his arm at the elbow, which was now cantilevered. Dubois resisted for a second, then cried for mercy.

  • Interestingly, some observers – completely unfamiliar with jiujitsu techniques – believed that Re-Nie had won by choking Dubois with a leg scissor lock around his neck, rather than via the extended arm-lock.  The arm-lock was also a favourite submission technique of Re-Nie’s jiujitsu instructor, former Bartitsu Club trainer Yukio Tani.

“Urban Heroes vs. Folk Devils”

Above: French self-defence specialist Jean Joseph Renaud (left) embodies the role of the urban hero vs. three “apache” gangsters .

Emelyne Godfrey‘s 2010 essay on civilian self-defence circa 1880-1914 is available via this link.

Here are some excerpts:

Pearson’s Magazine boasted articles on adventure, features on sport and remarkable fiction; it had just recently serialised H.G. Wells’s The War of the Worlds (1897). Here, Barton-Wright offered the readers of PM the opportunity to imagine their own responses in swashbuckling fantasy scenarios which, although statistically unlikely, could nevertheless occur in everyday life.

Bartitsu constituted an exotic mélange of fighting styles, fortified with ‘traditional’ British virtues. Barton-Wright’s creation could be adapted to fit in with the mere act of strolling, with the anticipation of or encounter with crime. Martial arts were not only designed for use against physical threat, they prompted an imaginative response to the quotidian, an emotional and personalised engagement with the landscape of the city.

The Story of the Jujitsuffragettes, Courtesy of “Drunk History UK”

In these excerpts from a recent episode of “Drunk History UK”, inebriated comedienne Luisa Omielan attempts to relate the history of the jujitsu-trained suffragette Bodyguard team:

Bonus points for the casting of actress and real-life suffragette history enthusiast Jessica Hynes as WSPU leader Emmeline Pankhurst.

Ms. Omielan also struggled valiantly to recall the name of suffragette jujitsu trainer Edith Garrud, finally settling on “Gertrude” before being gently corrected by an off-screen colleague. She was probably confused by the similarity of names between Garrud and Gertrude Harding, who was, in fact, the main organiser of Mrs. Pankhurst’s security vanguard.

The episode also included a semi-accurate re-enactment of a confrontation between the Bodyguard and the police during one of Mrs. Pankhurst’s public rallies in Camden Square:

“Victor Ros” Fights Crime on the Mean Streets of 1890s Madrid

Set in Madrid during the years 1895-6, the Spanish action/drama telenovela Victor Ros is notable for its Bartitsuesque fight scenes, as shown below. Note that the video may take a few seconds to start playing after you’ve clicked on the “play” button.

The Japanese School of Ju-jitsu in Oxford Street (1904-08)

Above: students and teachers training in the Japanese School of Ju-jitsu, circa 1906.

After the closure of the Bartitsu School of Arms in mid-1902, the various specialist instructors went their separate ways.  Wrestling and physical culture tutor Armand Cherpillod returned to Switzerland, where he became instrumental in introducing Japanese unarmed combat to the European mainland.  Pierre Vigny eventually established a successful self-defence and fencing academy in London’s Berners Street, while Sadakazu Uyenishi opened his own dojo in Golden Square.

Yukio Tani continued his career as a music hall challenge wrestler, handily winning most of his contests until December 23 of 1904, when he fought the jujitsuka Taro Miyake.  Then newly-arrived in London from Japan, Miyake was the stronger and heavier wrestler.  His victory over Tani was widely reported in the sporting press, with journalists observing that, whereas jujitsu was a great equaliser in instances of mismatched skill favouring the jujitsu stylist, weight and strength advantages still held when two fighters were of approximately equal skill.

Tani and Miyake then joined forces in opening the Japanese School of Ju-jitsu, which was initially located in the basement of a house in Gordon Square. They were assisted in adminstrative matters by L. F. Giblin, an adventurous young Australian jujitsu enthusiast and then-resident of London, who possessed the business acumen and contacts to establish the new venture on a secure footing.

After a few months at the Gordon Square location, the Japanese School moved about one mile to set up a larger dojo on the second floor of a building at 305 Oxford Street (one pities the downstairs neighbours of a jujitsu school).  The School quickly gathered a staff of assistant instructors including S.K. Eida, Shozo Kanaya, Yuzo Hirano, Phoebe Roberts and W.H. Collingridge, with Mr. Giblin serving as secretary.

They offered ongoing daily training and the senior instructors also travelled to teach short-term training intensives for various institutions, including the Royal Navy’s School of Physical Training in Portsmouth.

Above: a composite image showing Phobe Roberts (right) and Yuzo Hirano demonstrating self-defence techniques.

Another major project was the production and publication of The Game of Ju-Jitsu for the Use of Schools and Colleges, which was attributed to Tani and Miyake but edited (and, very likely, largely ghost-written) by L.F. Giblin and his friend Martin Grainger.

By early 1908, with Giblin and Grainger departed for further adventures and Tani and Miyake increasingly busy travelling to compete in challenge matches, the Oxford Street school was no longer viable as an ongoing concern.  Miss Roberts and Mr. Hirano married and set sail for Portugal; Mr. Eida enjoyed a successful music hall career as a “ju-jitsu waltz” performer; Mr. Kanaya is believed to have returned to Japan, while W.H. Collingridge went on to write Tricks of Self-Defence (1909), which remained in print until the 1960s.