The first twelve minutes of this 2013 BBC documentary focus on Bartitsu and the use of jiujitsu by the radical suffragettes, featuring demonstrations by James Marwood and George Stokoe and interviews with Tony Wolf and Emelyne Godfrey.
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.
The Bootfighters Catalogue (canne Vigny and defence dans la rue instructional videos)
Australian instructor Craig Gemeiner’s set of canne Vigny and defence dans la rue DVDs are recommended by many members of the Bartitsu Society.
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.
A mini-documentary on the life and times of Edith Garrud, the martial arts trainer of the radical “jujitsuffragettes” during the early 20th century.
Welcome to our traditional annual review of all things Bartitsuvian!
This year saw a continuation of the boom in new Bartitsu clubs and study groups that began in 2011, due in a large part to the huge success of the Sherlock Holmes movies and the new Sherlock TV series from the BBC. 2013 also saw an unprecedented level of mainstream exposure for both E.W. Barton-Wright’s “New Art of Self Defence” and for the “jujitsuffragette” bodyguards of 1913/14, including newspaper, television and online media and even graphic novels and video games.
Please note that, in general, the events recorded here are those for which we received detailed reports after the fact, as opposed to those for which we only received announcements.
The Canadian InnerSPACE TV show features a Bartitsu demo in celebration of the release of author Adrienne Kress’ book The Friday Society. Instructor Mark Donnelly is featured on the Mansome series of short web documentaries and Roberto Munter’s extensive series of Bartitsu articles in the Italian language premieres online.
The major BBC documentary Everybody Was Kung Fu Fighting: The Rise of the Martial Arts in Britain features a 13-minute section on Bartitsu and the jujitsuffragette phenomenon, including interviews with instructor Tony Wolf and historian Emelyne Godfrey and demonstrations by instructors James Marwood and George Stokoe.
We feature an exclusive interview with director and film theorist Noel Burch, the auteur of the 1982 documentary The Year of the Bodyguard, as well as a detailed, illustrated summary of the documentary itself. We also unearth a historically significant 1912 Pathe Company film featuring jujitsu demonstrations. The Bartitsu Club of New York City is featured on the Edge of America series, Jujitsuffragette trainer Edith Garrud is “officially” named the “Badass of the Week” and Detective Inspector Archibald Brock of the popular Grandville graphic novel series is revealed as a Bartitsu enthusiast.
Edith Garrud is honoured with a commemorative “portrait sculpture” and the Bartitsu Club of New York City’s lecture/demonstration at the Observatory arts and events space in Brooklyn is recorded in a short video memoir. Bartitsu.org runs a series of articles on newly-discovered c1900 self defence topics including Bowie knife fighting(1890), women’s self-defence in Boston (1904), E.W. Barton-Wright vs. the Georgia Magnet (1895-1899) and the Latson Method of Self Defence (1906-1911). We also discover what may be the only three surviving photographs of jujitsuffragettes in training.
Mark Donnelly and the Bartitsu Club of New York City are featured in both print and video articles by the Wall Street Journal and in Time Online. The Victorian-themed Captain Alfred Hutton Lounge is officially opened at the Forteza Fitness and Martial Arts studio, home of the Bartitsu Club of Chicago. Announcement of Mrs. Pankhurst’s Amazons, a graphic novel trilogy by Tony Wolf showcasing both Bartitsu and the jujitsuffragettes. A Harrisburg, PA newspaper runs a feature on Bartitsu training at the Keystone Academy of Dueling. Bartitsu seminars take place in Niwot, Colorado and in New York City.
Bartitsu in Sunderland, UK is featured in video and print media and a new course in announced via the Idler Academy (London). A newly-discovered 1913 article reveals that electrical stun-gloves were once proposed as a self-defence and restraint tool for Philadelphia police officers.
Bartitsu action scenes are extensively featured in the Book of Shadows web-comic and both Bartitsu and the jujitsuffragettes are showcased in an article for FIGHT! Magazine. A Victorian Martial Arts Symposium is held at the Gear Con 2013 steampunk gathering in Portland, Oregon, featuring instructors David McCormick, Tom Badillo and Jeff Richardson. Instructor William Trumpler presents a seminar for the Cowford Steampunk Society. We discover records of one of the very last c1900 Bartitsu exhibitions, which took place in Nottingham during March of 1902.
We interview Kathrynne Wolf, auteur of the Scarlet Line action/drama web-series, which posits a secret survival of the jujitsuffragette Bodyguard tradition beyond WW1 and into the present day. Mark Donnelly offers a Bartitsu intensive in Merchantville, New Jersey. The character “Flint” in the popular online video game Urban Rivals is a Bartitsu-fighting flamingo, for some reason. We look at the life and career of Alice Clement, a jujitsu-trained detective and one of the first female members of the Chicago police department. Instructor Stefan Dieke is featured in a Bartitsu article for the German Schwert & Klinge magazine.
We feature an article on the importance of sparring and pressure testing in Bartitsu training and a detailed report on the third annual Bartitsu School of Arms and Physical Culture international conference/seminar event, which took place at Beamish Museum near Newcastle, UK. Mark Donnelly offers a Bartitsu intensive for the Malta Historical Fencing Association and James Marwood is interviewed by The Perfect Gentleman.
Seminars and/or new ongoing courses are offered by the newly-formed Manchester Bartitsu Club, the Bartitsu Club of New York City and the Idler Academy in London. The magazines His Vintage Life and Tweed both feature Bartitsu articles, the latter showcasing the Bartitsu Club: Isle of Wight. Video and guidelines for hard-contact sparring are offered by the Bartitsu Club of Chicago and BWAHAHAHA (the Barton-Wright/Alfred Hutton Alliance for Historically Accurate Hoplology and Antagonistics) performs an exhibition at the 2013 Sherlock Seattle Convention.
Mrs. Pankhurst’s Amazons is previewed at the Jet City Comics Show in Tacoma, Washington. Instructor James Garvey of the Idler Club is featured in UK media, including an appearance on the Sunday Brunch show and a feature article in The Libertine. Tony Wolf lectures on Bartitsu history for the Criterion Bar Association of Chicago and is interviewed, along with Los Angeles Bartitsu Club instructor Matt Franta , for Catherine Townsend’s article on Bartitsu for The Atlantic Magazine. We feature an English translation of a memoir by Russian fight choreographer Nikolay Vaschilin on his staging of the climactic Holmes/Moriarty “baritsu” battle for the 1980 Russian TV show The Deadly Combat, a close adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Adventure of the Final Problem.
We feature an exclusive interview with author Tony Wolf regarding the inspirations behind the Mrs. Pankhurst’s Amazons graphic novel series, in which Bartitsu plays a key role.
Bartitsu: the Lost Martial Art of Sherlock Holmes is the first and only feature documentary on Bartitsu, the “gentlemanly art of self defence”.
At the end of the Victorian era, E.W. Barton-Wright founded Bartitsu as a pioneering “mixed martial art” combining jiujitsu, kickboxing and self defence with a walking stick. It was also the means by which Sherlock Holmes was said to have defeated his arch-nemesis, the evil Professor Moriarty, in their famous battle at Reichenbach Waterfall.
This groundbreaking documentary was shot on location in Italy, Switzerland, England and the USA. Through numerous interviews, animations, re-enactment sequences, rare archival film footage and historical images, it explores the history, rediscovery and modern revival of Bartitsu.
(…) reveals an exciting world of Victorian ruffians, garroting panics, militant suffragettes, and physical culture, as well as the colorful life of Bartitsu’s founder Edward Barton-Wright … music by the steampunk band Abney Park creates a moody atmosphere of Victorian danger, excitement, and heroics. Through interviews, re-enactment, archival images, and contemporary footage of neo-Bartitsu students, the “lost” martial art is brought to life.
– Rachel Klingberg
Here’s the problem – what to do when you love a good punch up, but public brawling is incompatible with your image as an amenable, if damp-stained, man of letters? The answer is “Bartitsu,” a nineteenth-century martial art developed specifically to transform the upright classes into killing machines, and whose unusual history has been revealed in an excellent new documentary …
– Andrew McConnell Stott
Sleek and engaging … fascinating … a superbly watchable piece of martial arts history …
– Bullshido.net martial arts movie reviews
Further information/how to order
Please visit the Freelance Academy Press website to view a photo gallery, read an article about Bartitsu and the documentary production, and to place your DVD order.
Copies of the DVD may also be ordered from Amazon.com.
TW: Can you describe your interest in women’s self defence circa 1900?
NB: I think I was first excited by the idea of women learning jiu-jitsu in the West at the beginning of the twentieth century when reading Kafka’s Amerika, in which Karl is humiliated by a young American woman with the then still mysterious art of jiu-jitsu
– and of course, since then I have understood that Kafka too was a masochist.
Many years later I came across a cover of Sandow’s Magazine where a “Mrs. Garrud throws her Japanese teacher”. I’m not sure how I found out about the Bodyguard, but it was still later, I think …
For years I had been a militant male feminist, and when I finally understood about the role of the Bodyguard in the suffragette movement, and had a privileged contact with Allan Fountain’s 11th Hour (documentary series) slot at Channel Four, I decided this was a good “politically correct” subject to propose, dealing as it did with women’s violence, and which would also fit in with my personal passion … which is actually alluded to in the film itself, on the demand of certain members of what was an almost exclusively female crew, including Debbie Kermode, daughter of Frank and a very hip feminist (she comes into the shot where I am challenged).
TW: How did you go about researching Year of the Bodyguard?
NB: As I recall, I spent a good deal of time in a library in Hackney devoted to the suffragette movement. My main source was that book by Antonia Raeburn, which was, I believe, devoted to Edith Garrud and which several sequences in the film are copied from, including the pseudo-TV interview with “Edith Garrud” herself.
The hardest part was digging up and paying for the Blondie comic strip which opens the film and which had revealed my passion to myself at the age of 7.
TW: Can you describe the artistic/political choices you made in presenting the Bodyguard story for a television audience?
NB: I wasn’t very interested in the TV audience, which may explain certain errors in the film, such as the Bernard Shaw Androcles excerpt, shot in an overly long shot to evoke the early cinema framing. The whole film was made as if I were working for the cinema.
The film reflects a long-term concern I had had with the hybrid documentary, involving different materials, different styles, etc. And involving here the mixing of periods – the TV interviews with Chesterton and with a bobby beaten by the women, etc. This was meant to be a pedagogical “de-alienating” form in those days, when we believed the classical film-language was “bourgeois”. I personally was into the forms of the early cinema as proto-avant-garde practice. I was writing a book about the emergence of film language. Today, I have problems with that avant-garde crap, but at the time, many of us working for Channel 4 were into that.
TW: I was wondering about the scene in which an actor playing a psychiatrist, in modern dress, is commenting on the psychological state of the suffragettes as masochists and martyrs. Was that monologue based on a published report, or was it written for the docudrama?
NB: The psychiatrist scene, I wrote myself, possibly basing it on bits from the papers at the time, but more generally on a type of discourse we on the left all know from the dominant schools of analysis and therapy, tending to reduce political commitment to the individual psyche. Marcuse called it “neo-Freudian revisionism.”
TW: That seems apt. Changing tack, do you remember who served as your fight choreographer or martial arts advisor?
NB: I had no martial arts advisor. I was the one who brought the actress some books and advice. I’ve been poring over (self defence) manuals for sixty years and I have a vast collection. She was the one who choreographed the demonstrations. She was both an aspiring actress and a teacher of women’s self-defence, and her physique vaguely resembled that of Edith Garrud; those were the reasons she was chosen.
TW: What was the public response to the docudrama?
NB: I haven’t the slightest idea; does one ever know? The critics (but they are not the public!) were few and far between; not necessarily hostile, but nobody was very enthusiastic.
TW: How about individual reactions?
NB: I remember one reaction by a former student of mine at the RCA, at the time a promising independent director but who now does routine work for the BBC. He felt that the scene where the bobby comes down to the gym where the women have just hidden their street-clothes under the tatami (mats) should have been filmed from the point of view of the police; it would have been more suspenseful, he thought. I tried to explain that I was on the side of the women, that the film was on the side of the women, that such a view-point would have been out of the question. He didn’t understand and, thirty year later, I think I understand why …
TW: I believe that the Suffragette Bodyguard was essentially fighting battles at two levels; the practicalities of street-fighting and evading the police, and as symbols of feminist militancy in the propaganda war against the Asquith government. Do you have any thoughts on that subject?
NB: I really don’t know any more about the Bodyguard’s activities than you do, probably less, though your remark seems quite credible. But I should point out that when the film was shown to some committee at the BFI Production board at the time I was submitting a different project to this august body (which was turned down), some feminist historian, whose name I do not remember, was reported to have said “He doesn’t understand anything about the Bodyguard” or words to that effect. At the time I suspected this woman was simply picking up on the perverse underpinning of the film.
TW: Finally, are there any other anecdotes from the production that you’d like to share?
NB: Well, after we had spent a whole day shooting that single long take where the women who have just smashed all the windows on Oxford Street take refuge in Mrs. Garrud’s studio (an authentic anecdote, drawn from Antonia Raeburn’s book), I was so happy to have achieved what was a kind of tour de force (a seven minute take, I think), that I failed to go thank that bunch of actresses who had been knocking themselves out all day for “my film” and they were complaining in the dressing room. My producer bawled me out and I tried to make amends.
Also, during the casting, there was one very beautiful actress who was quite skilled but whose agent wouldn’t let her be in the film because her role wasn’t important enough.
Also, and this is the best, the actor who plays the policeman on whom “Mrs. Garrud” does her demonstration at my reconstruction of the women’s festival, tried to get more money afterwards because he hadn’t been warned that he would be “hurt” (which he wasn’t at all, of course, it was just machismo … he didn’t like being thrown around by a woman!)
For a number of years, the 1982 docudrama The Year of the Bodyguard, directed by Noel Burch, was one of the sasquatches of Bartitsu/Edwardian antagonistics research. There was tantalising evidence that it existed somewhere, but it proved frustratingly difficult to track down.
We recently (finally!) had the opportunity to watch the telefilm, which was originally broadcast as part of a British Channel 4 documentary series called The 11th Hour. What follows is not a review, but a comprehensive summary of the film, highlighting those aspects most likely to be of interest to readers of this website.
The film opens with a shot of a chair, upon which rest a red Edwardian-style jujutsu gi (training uniform), an Indian club and a short whip – weapons associated with the militant Suffragettes. In voiceover, an actress representing Edith Garrud briefly quotes the advice given to her by Suffragette leader Emmeline Pankurst – “Speak, and I think that we shall understand”.
Cut to the narration of an eyewitness to police brutality against a Suffragette protestor during the infamous “Black Friday” riots of 18 November, 1910, as the camera very slowly pans in on the face of a woman who has fallen to the pavement:
There follows some early newsreel footage of the riot itself; lines of police, a vast, milling crowd of behatted Londoners pressing around a small collection of suffrage banners off in the distance.
Next, there is a re-enactment of the Women’s Social and Political Union’s “Votes for Women” exhibition at Prince’s Skating Rink in Knightsbridge, in which a mock-up of the relatively opulent, large cell afforded to recognised political prisoners is contrasted with the cramped, miserable cell of an imprisoned Suffragette. We then watch a re-enactment of the forced feeding of a Suffragette on hunger strike.
A fashionable shop window is smashed by an unseen militant Suffragette protestor crying “Votes for women!”, and next we see the protestors, having barely out-run the police, escaping into Edith Garrud’s jiujitsu studio. They quickly hide their weapons of vandalism – hammers and stones – and street clothes in a trap-door hidden under the tatami mats, and by the time the police arrive, they appear to be a group of young women innocently practicing jiujitsu.
Next, an actor portraying G.K. Chesterton delivers a monologue to the camera, making the point that a woman’s deltoid muscles are the least thing a man has to fear from her. This is followed by a startling scene of modern (1980s) domestic violence.
Returning to the Edwardian era, we witness another common form of Suffragette protest by vandalism, as a woman pours a liquid accelerant into an iron post-box and incinerates the mail within. A female narrator quotes Christabel Pankhurst on the relative moralities of different types of violent action.
This is followed by a documentary photo-montage of militants being arrested and disorder in the streets of London, while a male narrator explains the doctrine of state-sanctioned physical force behind the rule of law, also suggesting that while physical force is a male domain, the law drew equally from moral force, which is associated with women; “let the men make the laws, and we (women) will make the men.”
An actress portraying a working-class suffragist from Lancashire delivers a speech to the camera in the style of a 1980s television interview, arguing that the undignified protests of middle- and upper-class women who “kick, shriek, bite and spit” were driving her peers away from public political action.
There follows a long, static shot, rather in the manner of early silent film, showing a performance of the George Bernard Shaw play, Androcles and the Lion, which is disrupted by a loud argument on the suffrage question between members of the audience. Three of the actors on stage eventually break the fourth wall and applaud the pro-suffrage position.
The next shot is of a black and white television set which is showing an actress playing the elderly Edith Garrud circa 1967. She describes her first meeting with Emmeline Pankhurst, which took place at a jiujitsu display she was giving in the early 1900s.
We then segue to another actress playing Edith at the time of that display, lecturing on jiujitsu and demonstrating several holds and throws on a man wearing a police uniform.
We shift to September of 1913, as two plain-clothes police officers climb a ladder outside a building to secretly observe a Bodyguard jujitsu training session through a skylight.
One of the women spots them and, after some confusion, organiser Gertrude Harding orders the trainees to leave one at a time and not to allow themselves to be followed home. The camera follows one of the women as she confronts a detective in the street and proposes a game of wits; if she is able to lose him, she will win. They walk off into the darkness.
A narrator quoting Christabel Pankhurst describes the formation of the Bodyguard and the power of women to terrorise men, over a montage of photographs and early film footage showing Suffragettes in prison, practicing jiujitsu and protesting, “divinely discontented, divinely impatient and divinely brave”.
Next there is a re-enactment of three militant Suffragettes harassing Prime Minister Asquith during a motoring trip through a Scottish forest. The women rush out from hiding and stop his car, then attack Asquith and his companions with flour-bombs and horse-whips, crying “votes for women!” and “Asquith out!”
The next sequence quotes a speech by Sylvia Pankhurst, who was concerned with organising political protest among the working classes of London’s East End, urging her followers to learn jiujitsu and to bring sticks to their protests. “There is no use talking. We have got to really fight.” This is followed by a stylised, slow motion scene in which the young Edith Garrud, wielding an Indian club as a weapon, defeats two male attackers in front of a flickering projection of a suffrage rally.
This scene is interrupted by the Year of the Bodyguard director, Noel Burch, who asks the actress playing Edith to demonstrate one of her jujitsu locks for him. She asks why and the scene freezes momentarily.
There follows a humourous scene in which a large, but bruised and dishevelled c1913 police constable is interviewed by a female reporter, ostensibly in the aftermath of an encounter with the Bodyguard. He abashedly admits that he was hit by a woman, claims that he doesn’t know whether he supports the right of women to vote in elections, and ends up distractedly trying to re-attach his right sleeve, which has been partially torn off during the affray.
The film then takes a much more serious turn, with slow-motion archival footage of the Suffragette protestor Emily Wilding Davison running into the midst of the Derby Day horse race of 1913 and being trampled by the King’s horse, Anmer. Both woman and horse somersault through the air after the impact, and then the crowd surges on to the racetrack to help; the horse survived and Emily Davison became the first Suffragette martyr.
In a satirical scene, an actor in modern dress playing a psychiatrist offers the opinion that Wilding was a masochist and a “hysteric”.
The final scenes show a group of women training in a contemporary (early 1980s) self defence class, followed by a series of interviews with the trainees about the value of learning self defence and the politics of inter-gender violence. Following a short scene in which a woman is shown defending herself against an attacker in a busy London street, a title card describes the impact of the First World War on the suffrage movement, as Mrs. Pankhurst suspended the “Votes for Women” campaign and organised many of her followers to support the government during the war effort, which prompted the granting of the vote to women over the age of 30 on 11 January, 1918.
The Bartitsu and Jujitsuffragette sections take place within the first 13 minutes, with another Bartitsu reference and demonstration towards the end.
A short promo. video for the BBC documentary Everybody was Kung Fu Fighting: the Rise of the Martial Arts in Britain, featuring Bartitsu instructors James Marwood and George Stokoe demonstrating Edwardian “antagonistics” in dramatic slow motion.
The hour-long Timeshift documentary Everybody was Kung Fu Fighting: The Rise of Martial Arts in Britain, showcasing the cultural impact of Asian martial arts in the UK and featuring a 12-minute section on Bartitsu and the Jujitsuffragettes, will screen in the UK on BBC4 at 10.00 pm, Sunday Feb. 24th.
Timeshift, the black belt of the archive world, takes a look at the rise of martial arts in Britain. From the early days of bartitsu, through judo and karate to kung fu, Britain has had a long and illustrious involvement with the martial arts. Gold medals have been won, Sherlock Holmes’s life has been saved and aftershave has been worn – all thanks to the martial arts.
An associated website, including a short film about Bartitsu Club instructors Yukio Tani and Sadakazu Uyenishi, is expected to go live at some point between now and then.
The production team crew shot in-depth interviews with Emelyne Godfrey and Tony Wolf as well as combat demos with James Marwood and George Stokoe; they also tracked down the very elusive early-’80s Noel Burch documentary The Year of the Bodyguard, which deals with the jujitsu-trained Bodyguard unit of the British Suffragette movement.
More as it comes to hand …