Not your grandfather’s Sherlock Holmes …

Sherlock Holmes movie trailer

The first official trailer for the upcoming Holmes movie, evidently calculated to outrage purists and attract the attention of a younger audience.

Holmes’ “baritsu” is not identical to E.W. Barton-Wright’s Bartitsu, but still, the trailer shows us bare-knuckle boxing, stick fighting, a jiujitsu-like throw and a savate-like kick.  By establishing the equation of “Victorian London” and “martial arts”, the new movie risks making Bartitsu cool ..

Bartitsu Compendia on Amazon.com

Both volumes of the Bartitsu Compendium are now available via Amazon.com:

The Bartitsu Compendium, Volume I: History and Canonical Syllabus

The Bartitsu Compendium, Volume II: Antagonistics

All proceeds from sales of these books have been dedicated towards funding a memorial for E.W. Barton-Wright and to furthering the study of Bartitsu.

Houston Meet-Up

Scott Brown, a swordsmanship instructor in Houston recently met up with the Bartitsu Society’s Chris Amendola, and provided this report

Through recommendations from James Marwood and Alex Kiermeyer I recently made contact with a local Gentleman here in the Houston area named Chris Amendola, a Bartitsu specialist with a mentionable Eastern martial arts background.

Chris was kind enough to come by the training hall yesterday and offer an introductory workshop and lecture on E.W. Barton Wrights ‘mixed martial arts’ self defence system. I am extremely happy to report that he did a very fine job of not only giving a fairly thorough, if concise, overview of the system but also accommodating to the significantly wide variety of skill levels of the attending participants. While he did discuss some of the jujitsu elements of Bartitsu he was kind enough to focus the workshop on the Vigny cane aspects, covering a classification of techniques he termed “Guard by Distance”, making special emphasis on the very interesting Bartitsu ‘hanging guard’ (my term). Chris did a great job of keeping the class interesting and moving along as he demonstrated what I would consider to be a graspable number of defensive and offensive techniques, variations, and a number of counters to these. Personally, I was exceptionally pleased that he was able to take a number of our more experienced fencers out of their comfort zone by emphasizing Bartitsu’s rather unique ‘inverted overhand strike’ (my term) which is executed with some very interesting voiding footwork (nearly a demi-volta of sorts).

I am also happy to report that not only does Chris have a good ability to identify context and circumstance but also how they very importantly relate to fencing/fighting. He very capably demonstrated a number of tactical based decision making scenarios and almost nonchalantly discussed how they interplay with his interpretations of the plays in the Bartitsu system. I confess this was a pleasant surprise and excited me to know that such an informed and talented fellow is very nearly here in my own back yard. Additionally, he did a great job of being honest when he wasn’t sure about something when subjected to the customary grueling questions put forth by some of our gang and very admirably put serious thought into his responses, producing viable and coherent arguments only moments later. Very respectable in my book.

On the practical side, Chris was not only willing to fence but eager as anyone I’ve met and he further impressed me by not only wishing to fence using his Vigny, Cunningham and, I think, Lang cane understandings but also asked to fence against both the longsword and sword and buckler. Obviously, these are fencing systems that were never meant or designed to face each other and that only speaks to Chris’ good HEMA attitude. We also indulged him by playing at baton vs. baton with he and I going extra rounds we were having so much fun! The best part is Chris clearly is a man of mentionable skill, tactical understanding, and the ability to adapt. His unfamiliar, to us, methods definitely presented our gang with some new challenges and I suspect that he in turn found a few (but hopefully exciting) hurdles from our crowd. Bruises were shared all round, as it should be! Chris has a unique over/under/over strike combination that is faster than anyone I’ve yet to meet in a one handed weapon and he has a very dynamic and mobile style of fencing. He also put his money where his mouth is by capably demonstrating the unique ‘inverted overhand’ strike when fencing which was particularly fun to observe in addition to presenting some interesting challenges.

In short, it is my opinion that Chris Amendola is an excellent representative for Bartitsu as a functioning martial art. I think he poses great potential for growing this art, has a great attitude towards sharing, exchanging, training, and HEMA in general. And on top of it all, he’s a heck of a nice guy. If you get the chance, don’t miss an opportunity to train with Chris! I’m certainly looking forward to working with him in the future.

Bartitsu demo. at the Frazier Museum

A Bartitsu demonstration was presented recently at the Frazier International History Museum (829 West Main Street, Louisville, Kentucky, USA).  Based on a format developed for a similar demonstration by members of the British Royal Armouries interpretation team in 2001, the Frazier demo. was performed by actors playing the roles of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. James Watson.

Swordfish

Next weekend I am teaching a short Bartitsu class at the Swordfish event in Gothenburg. There’s a fair bit of interest, including this article in a Swedish MMA magazine.

Here it is in English, courtesy of Tony Wolf

Bartitsu is particularly exciting, because had it not been for the
books about Sherlock Holmes, we would most likely not know anything about
the first time western martial arts where mixed with Japanese
jiu-jiutsu,” explains, Annika Corneliusson, head of GHFS.

Sherlock Holmes and the suffragettes
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle mentions “Baritsu” in one of his books, when the
famous detective tells of his knowledge in self defense. Bartitsu, which
is the real name, was created as a hybrid between jiu-jiutsu, western
wrestling, boxing, savate (French kickboxing) and cane fighting by the
english engineer Edward William Barton-Wright, who had spent a few years
working with railways in Japan. Now these techniques are taught for the
first time in Sweden by self defence instructor James Marwood from
London, UK.

“This is actually a very important part of the European history, not
just because of Sherlock Holmes, but also because the suffragette
movement trained Bartitsu to be able to defend themselves against
attacks by the police,” says Annika Corneliusson.

Sherlock Holmes movie update

Since our early September update, the Bartitsu Society has been in contact with the upcoming Sherlock Holmes movie production and has donated copies of both volumes of the Bartitsu Compendium to the project.  Of course, this does not mean that what appears in the movie fight scenes will be verbatim Bartitsu, but it’s nice to know that the fight team has access to authentic historical sources for use as inspiration.

"Sherlock Holmes" director Guy Ritchie (left) is also a Brazilian Jiujitsu enthusiast.

Guy Ritchie (left) practicing Brazilian Jiujitsu

In an October 7 interview with aintitcool.com, director Guy Ritchie said:

I like the idea that (Holmes is) as visceral as he is intellectual.  It’s true to the origins of the narrative.  He was a martial artist.  He did something called Bartitsu, which wasn’t necessarily exposed or utilized in other productions.  So we’ve made more of a meal out of that. He’s an intellectual action man, which is pretty consistent with his origins.

Basic Bartitsu demo. at ISMAC ’07

This footage was recorded at the International Swordfighting and Martial Arts Conference in Michigan, USA, between July 12-15, 2007.  It features a series of mostly canonical Bartitsu unarmed combat and cane demonstrations by myself, with Kirk Lawson assisting.

The theme of the seminar was to use a small selection of canonical and some neo-Bartitsu techniques and sequences to explore two major principles:

1) alignment control, or using your own weight and skeletal structure to disrupt the opponent’s balance and 2) initiative control, either by inviting a particular attack or by executing a pre-emptive attack to control the opponent’s options and movement.

Thus, we were primarily using these sequences as academic examples of certain technical and tactical options, rather than as self defence or competition sequences per se.

The defence between 00.56 and 01.00 is a neo-Bartitsu improvisation combining a number of techniques (palm-heels, a trachea grab, low stamping kick etc.) to reinforce the theme of controlling the opponent’s balance and skeletal alignment.

Thanks to Bartitsu Society member Chris Amendola for editing the footage.


Bartitsu Promotional Clip from Chris Amendola on Vimeo.

“Baritsu” to feature in new Sherlock Holmes movie

Robert Downey, Jr., who is to star in an upcoming Sherlock Holmes feature film being directed by Guy Ritchie, was quoted in Premiere Magazine as saying:

“We’re both martial arts enthusiasts and historically, in the real origin stories of Sherlock Holmes, he’s kind of a bad-ass and a bare-knuckle boxer and studies the rare art of baritsu [fictional martial art created by Doyle for the final Holmes story, 1901’s The Adventure Of The Empty House]. If you look baritsu up, they can’t even really tell you what it is, so it gives us a lot of leeway.”

“Baritsu”, of course, was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s misspelling of Bartitsu.  Since Mr. Downey is a Wing Chun kung fu enthusiast and director Ritchie is a brown belt in Brazilian jiujitsu, their cinematic version of Holmes’ martial art may well pack quite a punch …

Bartitsu at Swordfish 2008

The Gothenburg Historical Fencing Society is hosting it’s 3rd annual Swordfish event, bringing together instructors in Western Martial Arts from across Europe. For the first time this will include a Bartitsu class taught by me, James Marwood. As far as I know this is also the first time Bartitsu will have been taught in Sweden. The previous events hosted by the GHFS have been very well received and I am looking forward to training with these guys.