Members of the “Jujitsuffragette” Bodyguard team were trained by Edith Garrud, who had studied Japanese martial arts with former Bartitsu Club instructors Yukio Tani and Sadakazu Uyenishi as well as Akitaro “Daibutsu” Ono, Taro Miyake, Mitsuyo Maeda and other notable sensei who were active in Edwardian London. Mrs. Garrud will be portrayed in re-enactment sequences in No Man Shall Protect Us, which will document the origins, training, tactics and missions of the Bodyguard.
Production will continue through early January of 2018 and the full documentary will be made freely available online upon completion.
I am here tonight in spite of armies of police. I am here tonight and not a man is going to protect me, because this is a woman’s fight, and we are going to protect ourselves! I challenge the government to re-arrest me!
The production will make use of rare archival media, narration and theatrical re-enactments, featuring actors playing Emmeline Pankhurst, Canadian Bodyguard leader Gert Harding and jiujitsu trainer Edith Garrud among other notables.
My friend Ran Braun, who is a fight choreographer and also a prominent stage director of operas in Europe, first proposed the idea of a Bartitsu documentary in early 2009. We developed some concepts via email, but then both became busy with other projects.
In August of that year, Ran organized a three week Bartitsu and stage combat seminar tour for me in Italy. I arrived at the first venue, which was a brand new sports center in the middle of Rome, and was surprised to meet a professional film crew there along with the students.
An opportunity had suddenly come up, virtually while I was in transit, and Ran had contacted some cultural associations and production companies including the Digital Room, Cletarte and Broken Art. They offered the basic technical and logistical means to start producing a documentary about Bartitsu, but because it had all happened so quickly, we didn’t have a script nor even a storyboard prepared.
Without a script, everything was ad hoc; we started shooting sequences that we could organise in our downtime during the seminar tour, brainstorming and improvising shoots at various exotic locations. As the de facto on-camera host – which was not a role I would have chosen for myself, under normal circumstances – I remember standing on a balcony of the Palazzo delle Clarisse overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea, facing the camera and having to begin a monologue with the generic segue “… and so we find ourselves here …”, trusting that there would, eventually, be a script to justify the transition.
I also recall wandering through the streets of Amantea one warm evening, gazing up at the ancient castles on the hills and trying to figure out how to tie location shoots in this beautiful Italian seaside resort in to our then-scriptless documentary about an obscure Victorian English martial art. I realised that the best link was actually the Italian concept of rievocazion; the artistic revival of cultural heritage. That realisation inspired one of the major themes of the documentary.
Simultaneously, I realised that I was going to have to return to Europe in the near future.
The next few months were a blur of activity, because at that stage we were hoping to release the documentary in late December to coincide with Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes movie. I returned to the USA for about two weeks, wrote a script, bought video equipment and started organizing second-unit shoots and interviews, re-enactments, image archives, animations, etc.
The project quickly generated a lot of buzz, and many people were very generous with their time and talents. Second-unit location shoots were arranged in the UK and USA, including both martial arts demonstrations and interviews with luminaries such as speculative fiction author Neal Stephenson and mystery writer Will Thomas, both of whom were also Bartitsu enthusiasts. Ran arranged the musical score with input from his colleagues, and we were also given permission to use instrumental tracks by the famed steampunk band Abney Park.
I then flew back to Europe and traveled with Ran to Meiringen in the Swiss Alps for a shoot at the famous Reichenbach Falls, where Holmes used his “baritsu” against Moriarty. I’d never driven through the Alps before – it’s a shattering, vertiginous landscape, with valleys full of massive boulders that have rolled down off the mountains.
We booked in to a Meiringen hotel late in the evening and were woken the next morning by somone in the vicinity practicing his yodeling – welcome to Switzerland! We then figured out how to get up to the Reichenbach Falls, which involves riding a terrific Victorian-era cable car a long way up one of the mountains. The falls are actually a series of cascades, with the biggest one – where Holmes grappled with Moriarty – perhaps half-way up the heavily-forested slopes.
We arrived at the cable car station, which offered a nice view, but it was at that point that we discovered that a local hydroelectric power company was channelling water from the river that feeds the falls. Apparently they regularly do this at at certain times of the year, including, unfortunately, when we were there. So, yes, it was a large waterfall, but it was pretty far from the roaring, boiling chasm that Dr. Watson had so vividly described.
We had a long hike up, over and around the waterfall until we arrived at the “baritsu spot”, where Holmes and Moriarty (notionally) fought to the death. It’s at the end of a narrow path cut into the cliff face on the opposite side from the cable car station. Apparently the path used to extend almost within touching distance of the actual waterfall, but landslides have changed the topography over the past hundred-odd years. We shot our intro sequence there, then made our way back down the mountain into Meiringen township.
The town makes the most of its Sherlock Holmes connection – they have a great little Holmes museum and a fine bronze statue of the Great Detective. We spent the rest of the day doing pickup shots of Holmes-related Meiringen sights and scenic shots of the mountains.
The next day I flew to London to film further location shoots and interviews. The exterior shots in London were all “guerilla style”, of course, which was a great test of nerve and ingenuity. I visited the Holmes Museum in Baker Street, where an elderly actor playing Doctor Watson regaled me with an impressive in-character summary of the Final Problem plot. I wish we could have used part of that speech in the documentary.
We managed some quick “talking head” presentations in front of #67 Shaftesbury Avenue, where the original Bartitsu Club had been headquartered. The building now houses the Shaftesbury Best Western Hotel, but it’s much the same as it was back in Barton-Wright’s day, having been narrowly missed by a German bomb during the Second World War. Additional shoots took place at locations including the exterior of the Surbiton flat where Barton-Wright had spent his final years, and – soberingly – at Surrey’s Kingston Cemetery, where Barton-Wright was interred in an un-marked “pauper’s grave”. Sadly, because it is impossible to pinpoint exactly where an individual is buried in one of these communal plots, local ordinances do not allow memorial markers to be placed there, so instead I laid a small bouquet of white flowers at the base of a nearby tree.
Then I took a train to the Northern English village of Haltwhistle, near the Scottish border, to record some additional interviews and, during a free afternoon, navigate through a wandering herd of cattle en route to walking along a section of Hadrian’s Wall.
After I returned to the US, however, it quickly became obvious that, even given the terrific run of enthusiasm and luck that carried us through that initial production period, there was simply no way we could produce the entire documentary before Christmas. We were, however, able to develop a successful trailer for the project:
Early and mid-2010 were marked by a series of false starts and technical problems. These issues are typical of most media projects, but they were compounded by the fact that we were producing an independent multi-media documentary, staffed entirely by volunteers spread between several countries. There would be intense bursts of activity – including filming a re-enactment of a circa 1914 suffragette jiujitsu training session – followed by long delays as DVD packages of raw footage went missing in transit, personnel left the project, etc.
During post-production my father, Michael, and wife, Kathrynne – who were both professional actors and voiceover specialists – were prevailed upon to record in-character narration for the documentary, all taken verbatim from speeches and articles written during the heyday of the Bartitsu Club. Kat provided the voice of Mary Nugent, the Edwardian-era journalist whose article “Barton-Wright and His Japanese Wrestlers” offered shrewd insight into E.W. Barton-Wright’s character. My father performed the voices of Barton-Wright, Dr. John Watson, an anonymous c1900 newspaper reporter and Captain Alfred Hutton, giving each of them different accents and delivery styles – a significant feat of vocal gymnastics!
We regained our momentum in September. In Rome, our colleagues and co-producers at Broken Art, Paolo Paparella and Angelica Pedatella, collaborated with editor Emanuele Pisasale during post-production, and there was a very great deal of communication back and forth between Italy and the USA. Meanwhile, I had arranged an art contest that produced some lovely cover art for the DVD, and a publishing deal with the Freelance Academy Press, while continuing to gather seminar footage from the US and Italy to represent the Bartitsu revival.
The documentary DVD finally launched in March of 2011. It gathered some great reviews, which were very gratifying to those of us who had been working so long and hard behind the scenes. With permission of the producers, Bartitsu: The Lost Martial Art of Sherlock Holmes has subsequently been publicly screened at a number of libraries, Western martial arts conferences and similar events. It is available on DVD from the Freelance Academy Press.
Bartitsu el arte marcial del Detective Sherlock Holmes Creado por Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, interpretado por Robert Downey Jr en el 2009, experto en el arte marcial Bartitsu. El actor, Robert Downey Jr, practico Wing Chun, pero el personaje Sherlock Holmes es experto en Bartitsu. Arte Marcial de origen europeo y practicado por la clase alta es reconocido por ser el sistema de defensa personal utilizado por Sherlock Holmes en sus enfrentamientos de la época.
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 availablein 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.
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.
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.
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 …