Here’s a newly-discovered Bioscope playbill for the short silent film Ju-Jitsu to the Rescue, which starred former Bartitsu Club instructor Yukio Tani and which played widely throughout England during late 1912-early 1913.
The film itself is sadly lost, but scarce and scanty reviews indicate that it began with a technical demonstration – possibly as part of a scene in which Tani was instructing a student – and then closed with a dramatic fight sequence in which Tani rescued a third party who was being unfairly set upon. One reviewer mentioned that “the villain is defeated by Tani by means of his well-known arm lock”, which almost certainly refers to the extended jūji-gatame lock by which Tani won many of his music hall challenge matches.
Tani was actually the second Bartitsu Club affiliate to star in a film, as Edith Garrud had famously appeared in a short subject called The Lady Athlete, Or, Jujitsu Downs the Footpads, which was produced in 1907. A number of other very early short films also featured Japanese unarmed combat, including Juvenile Ju-Jitsu and A Lesson in Ju-Jitsu (both released in 1909) and the slapstick comedies Charlie Smiler Takes Up Ju-Jitsu and Nobby’s Ju-Jitsu Experiments (both 1914). None of these films are known to have survived, although it’s worth noting that the great majority of items in the British film archive have not yet been catalogued.
A closer look at the Ju-Jitsu to the Rescue playbill illustration:
The Bartitsu Compendium, Volume 1: History and the Canonical Syllabus (2005) and The Bartitsu Compendium Volume II: Antagonistics (2008)
Compiled by members of the Bartitsu Society, volumes 1 and 2 of the Bartitsu Compendium are available in print from Lulu.com.
Volume I collates most of the canonical Bartitsu material and features over two hundred and seventy pages of original essays, rare vintage reprints and never-before-seen translations, illustrated with hundreds of fascinating photographs and sketches.
Volume II provides resources towards continuing Barton-Wright’s martial arts experiments. It combines extensive excerpts from fifteen classic Edwardian-era self defence manuals, including well over four hundred illustrations, plus a collection of long-forgotten newspaper and magazine articles on Bartitsu exhibitions and contests; new, original articles on Bartitsu history and training; a complete course of Edwardian-era “physical culture” exercises; personality profiles, essays and more besides.
Bartitsu: The Lost Martial Art of Sherlock Holmes documentary (2011)
At the end of the Victorian era, E. W. Barton-Wright combined jiujitsu, kickboxing, and stick fighting into the “Gentlemanly Art of Self Defence” known as Bartitsu. After Barton-Wright’s School of Arms mysteriously closed in 1902, Bartitsu was almost forgotten save for a famous, cryptic reference in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Adventure of the Empty House.
In this fascinating 54-minute documentary shot in Switzerland, Italy, the UK and the USA, host Tony Wolf reveals the history, rediscovery and revival of Barton-Wright’s pioneering mixed martial art.
Suffrajitsu: Mrs. Pankhurst’s Amazons graphic novel trilogy (2015)
London, 1914: The leaders of the radical women’s rights movement are fugitives from the law. Their last line of defense is the secret society of “Amazons”: women trained in the martial art of bartitsu and sworn to defend their leaders from arrest and assault.
After a series of daring escapes and battles with the police, the stakes rise dramatically when the Amazons are forced into a deadly game of cat and mouse against an aristocratic, utopian cult…
The Suffrajitsu graphic novel trilogy is available as e-books from Amazon and comiXology – we strongly recommend comiXology’s Guided View system for a fluid, intuitive online reading experience – as well as in print form as part of the Blood and Honor anthology.
Bartitsu: Historical Self-Defence with a Walking Stick (2018) instructional video series
German Bartitsu instructor Alex Kiermayer has collaborated with Agilitas.tv in producing this new instructional video series on the art of Vigny stick fighting, as incorporated into the original Bartitsu curriculum at the turn of the 20th century.
Bartitsu sparring cane from Purpleheart Armory
Widely used by members of the Bartitsu Society, these rattan training canes are recommended for both drills and sparring applications.
The BlackSwift Raven self-defence walking stick
Combining a stylish, low-profile appearance with superb dexterity and great strength, the BlackSwift Raven is especially recommended as a “carry” cane for self-defence purposes.
The Unbreakable Umbrella
Developed by Thomas Kurz specifically for self-defence applications, Unbreakable Umbrellas are available in a variety of styles including ball-handle, crook-handle and telescopic models. All Unbreakable Umbrellas are capable of withstanding extreme stress and impacts that would destroy regular umbrellas.
Bonus free gift: No Man Shall Protect Us (2018) suffragette bodyguard documentary
Embedded here for your convenience, the 2018 documentary No Man Shall Protect Us details the origins and exploits of the jiujitsu-trained Bodyguard Society who protected the radical suffragettes of England just before WW1. The documentary refers to Bartitsu and offers a special focus on Bodyguard martial arts instructor Edith Garrud, who was one of the most prominent self-defence teachers in England during the early 20th century.
Master magician, actor, magic consultant/historian and martial arts aficionado Ricky Jay has passed away at the age of 70.
Although Jay’s fame was due to his extensive accomplishments as a scholar and performer, his long-term involvement with the martial arts dated back to the 1970s, when he took up karate. He later admitted that, as a professional sleight-of-hand artist, the danger of hand injuries from intensive martial arts training had been a foolish risk.
After karate came aikido – a style that shares more than a few principles with the art of legerdemain. His aikido sensei was Fred Neumann, who would recall challenging Jay to repeat a particularly confounding sleight of hand trick while Jay was showering after a training session. Without missing a beat, and with no evident means of preparation, Jay casually performed the feat again, stunning his sensei.
Ricky Jay’s 1977 book Cards as Weapons quickly became an underground cryptohoplological classic, purporting (with a fairly straight face) to teach a unique method of self-defence via card-scaling; the venerable magician’s feat of hurling playing cards with great accuracy and force. The book combined absurdist humour, quirky historical scholarship and practical instruction, also featuring “guest appearances” by some of Jay’s acquaintances, including singer Emmylou Harris and scientist Carl Sagan.
Twenty years later, when he was cast as a villain in the James Bond movie Tomorrow Never Dies, Jay was asked to exert his card-throwing prowess in a scene with Pierce Brosnan as Bond:
At one point, they wanted me to throw cards as weapons to attack Bond, but the first time they asked me to do it in rehearsal, I was an enormously long distance away from Pierce Brosnan, and I warned them that the cards went very, very hard and fast, and they said no no, they had someone in front of it to block the shot, and I again said, “I don’t think you should do that,” they said, “No, no, it’ll be okay.” And Pierce seemed to be fine with it.
So I whaled a card, I don’t know how far, 50 or 75 feet away, and they said, “Just throw it at his face,” and I hit him right above the eye, and realized that I almost ruined the most lucrative franchise in the history of film. Suddenly that scene was no longer in the movie. [Laughs.] So in a way that was horribly disappointing, but the rest of it was fun.
Here’s the master himself, performing a number of his “cards as weapons” stunts:
In 2002, Jay playfully scaled cards at action movie star Jackie Chan during a mutual appearance on a talk show hosted by Conan O’Brien.
Throughout his career, the magician frequently drew parallels between the disciplines of close-up magic and martial arts, and likened the mentor/mentee relationships of traditional magic apprenticeship to those of a sensei and his students. Although he “retired” into more sedate and academic pursuits later in life, Jay’s involvement in the martial arts continued via his close friendship with playwright, screenwriter and jiujutsuka David Mamet. Mamet cast Jay as an unscupulous fight promoter in his peculiar, cerebral martial arts movie Redbelt (2008):
And finally, here’s Jay reciting a poem written for (and about) him by the late Shel Silverstein, encapsulating the arcane dangers of a life lived in the service of deception:
Rest in peace, Ricky Jay – man of mystery, scholar of the obscure and sworn enemy of the mundane.
Instructor Christoph Reinberger (in the knee breeches) and a student demonstrate 19th century pugilistic sparring. Notably different from modern boxing, “classic pugilism” may include:
- the milling guard – a dynamic guard involving rotating the fists in vertical circles
- lunging left lead punches rather than short left jabs
- spinning “pivot punches”
- choppers (hammerfist/backfist punches)
- standing grappling and throwing from the clinch position
The so-called “secret style of boxing” developed by Edward Barton-Wright and Pierre Vigny was never explicitly detailed in Barton-Wright’s writing on Bartitsu. However, it likely resembled the generic 19th century style with the confirmed addition of parries designed to injure the opponent’s attacking limbs, and with the confirmed tactical aim of entering to close quarters and finishing the fight with jiujitsu.
A six-minute item on the gentlemanly mixed martial art of Bartitsu, as featured on a recent episode of BBC2’s Celebrity Antiques Road Trip and including demonstrations by the Manley Academy of Historical Swordsmanship:
For the sake of strict historical accuracy, there’s no evidence that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle actually studied Bartitsu (in fact, the evidence suggests that he wasn’t even especially familiar with it). That said, it’s great to see another precis treatment of the art and its intriguing history in the mainstream media, and media doesn’t get much more mainstream than the Celebrity Antiques Road Trip.
Also worthy of note is that the show benefits the BBC’s charity Children in Need, which funds a wide range of projects helping children and disadvantaged young people throughout the UK.
The popular TV comedy series Drunk History offers its inebriated (and somewhat NSFW) take on the suffrajitsu saga, starring Tatiana Maslany (Orphan Black) as Emmeline Pankhurst, Maria Blasucci (Ghost Girls) as Edith Garrud and Kat Dennings (2 Broke Girls) as Gert Harding.
— Drunk History (@drunkhistory) November 6, 2018
We detailed some of the show’s more radical departures from what actually happened in history when this episode originally screened in February 2018. Historical pedantry aside, it’s an entertaining 5.5 minutes and it’s nice that the full episode has now been made freely available.
Viewers with access to BBC2 should keep an eye out for this upcoming episode of the popular Celebrity Antiques Road Trip series, in which comedians Al Murray and Paul Chowdhry hunt for antiques whose auction sales will benefit the BBC’s Children in Need charity. A tangent will also see Paul Chowdhry investigating Bartitsu, in collaboration with the Manley Academy of Historical Swordsmanship.