Bartitsu Mini-Documentary on the “Celebrity Antiques Road Trip”

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 children’s charity Children in Need, which funds a wide range of projects helping children and disadvantaged young people throughout the UK.

“Drunk History (US)” Drunkenly Explains Suffrajitsu

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 Ket Dennings (2 Broke Girls) as Gert Harding.

We’ve previously (and pedantically) detailed some of the show’s more radical departures from what actually happened in history, but it’s an entertaining 5.5 minutes and it’s nice that the full episode has now been made freely available.

Yukio Tani vs. the Masked Wrestler (April, 1909)

Still popular today in Mexican and Japanese pro-wrestling circles, the “masked wrestler” gimmick originated in Paris during the year 1867.  The original “Lutteur Masqué” was rumoured to be an athletic aristocrat who kept his identity secret so as not to bring shame upon his family.

The same story and gimmick was reported to have re-appeared about ten years later in  Bucharest.  In that instance, the masked circus wrestler was rumoured to be none other than “Prince Stourdja of Moldavia”, grappling incognito; it was also reported that a riot nearly ensued when a careless circus employee let slip the masked man’s real identity as a humble, but muscular, clown and roustabout.

“The True Masked Wrestler”.

Although the mask gimmick remained a rarity,  it entered the zeitgeist to the extent that a masked wrestler character appeared in a 1903 English stage melodrama titled The Village Blacksmith, a play that would remain popular on the provincial circuit for some years to come.

In March of 1909, dramatic newspaper announcements heralded the arrival of a new “Masked Man” (M.M.) who intended to challenge former Bartitsu Club instructor Yukio Tani to a match under jiujitsu rules. The allegedly Continental grappler was speculated to be a disguised Aleksander Aberg, Frank Gotch or even the great Hackenschmidt himself, and was said to have previously challenged the famed Stanislaus Zbyszko.

At this point it’s worth noting that very limited credence can be given to anonymous newspaper reports about the activities of masked wrestlers, perhaps especially when they coincide with tours of a popular melodrama likewise featuring a M.M.  That said, The Sporting Life did its due diligence in covering the M.M./Tani challenge, especially after the two parties met at the Sporting Life office to discuss terms for the match.

Noting as usual that the term “Jap” was not used pejoratively during the very early 20th century, here follows the Sporting Life report on that meeting, from their March 26th, 1909 issue:

“A man of good family, who is traveling all over Europe for the sake of ‘taking down’ some of those wrestlers who think so much of themselves,” is the character of the notorious Man with the Mask, who has struggled with Zybysko in Vienna, and who has been mistaken for Hackenschmidt, Gotch and  Aberg. This description was given to us by Herr Neiman, the M.M.’s manager, who according to promise came to the St. Bride Street office of the Sporting Life yesterday afternoon, .

Mr. J Harrison, Tani’s manager, and Mr. Adam King had already arrived, and Herr Neiman was at once asked what he had to propose. Herr Neiman said he was in London with the M.M. for the purpose of wrestling and beating Tani, and he would deposit with the Sporting Life now £100 or £200 as a side stake in a match with Tani. The M.M. had some holds that Tani had never even dreamed of, and with these he would best the Jap.

The editor of the Sporting Life said that he hoped that no attempt would be made to play this hoary Continental trick on the long-suffering supporters of wrestling in England. The Sporting Life would not accept any money for a match in the mountebank style of wrestling, and it would strongly advise Tani, who had a good reputation in England, to steer clear of any trickery such as a man in a mask suggested. The Sporting life hoped that the man would take off his mask and tackle Tani, and only because of that hope had it allowed the man to meet in St. Bride Street.

Mr. Harrison said he could say nothing of (illegible), except that Tani would very willingly wrestle the M.M. on the ordinary terms – £20 if he stood for 15 minutes and £100 if he beat Tani, but the wrestler must be without a mask.

Herr Neiman then declared threateningly that if Tani not make a match the M.M. would find out where he was and follow him all over the country.

Mr. Harrison, amused, said he would give Herr Neiman Tani’s address, and he was further assured that a bluff of that kind would avail him nothing.

Herr Neiman said the man would not take off his mask for a million pounds, and someone suggested that it would not be safe to offer 10. Mr. Harrison said that if this man wanted to wrestle Tani with a sack over his head, Tani would wrestle him with a hammer in his hand.

We suggested that if the man would not take off his mask, he should as promised wrestle in private, but Herr Neiman declared that the M.M. had never yet wrestled in private and he did not want to start.

Wherefore we are forced to the conclusion that he is after a “gate”.

There being no prospect of unmasking this wonderful wrestler, the meeting was abortive and we shall hear the next news of the masked man from the provinces, where Tani will be performing next week.

All that we were able to glean of the wrestler who affects the mask was that he is a white man , stands about 5’8″ or 5’9″ and weighs between 13 1/2 stone and 14 stone . He wrestles (his manager says) as a hobby and he comes from so good a family that he does not want anyone to know him.

It’s evident, however, that either the colourful wrangling over terms was part of the show, or that actual terms were decided privately, because Tani and the Masked Man did compete in several jiujitsu matches during April of 1909.   The first contest took place in Newcastle on Saturday, April 1st, and was duly (and somewhat disapprovingly) described in the next day’s issue of the Sporting Life:

Wrestling has quite suddenly become interesting, if some aspects of it are not particularly edifying. We have some mountebank tricks at Newcastle-upon-Tyne where we find Yukio Tani, notwithstanding the advice we gave him last week, wrestling the man who conceals his identity, and saves his noble family from the disgrace of wrestling, behind a mask. We are astonished that Tani should mix himself up with mountebank business of this kind.

We have been informed that the man in the mask is really an official of a foreign government, and a good amateur, and that those are the reasons why he is literally keeping it dark. We cannot congratulate the continent on its amateurs. This masked man, we are further informed, is wrestling purely for the sport. He must indeed be a keen sportsman if he follows his Zybysko from Vienna to Lodz and from Lodz to St. Petersburg, and, having taken the measures of the (illegible) to England and hurries up to Newcastle- upon-Tyne after Tani, who in private, report says, once brought the mighty Zybysko low.

The masked wrestler of continental fame appeared in a match against Yukio Tani, the famous jujitsu wrestler, at the Pavilion Theatre, Newcastle, last night, and stayed at the stipulated 15 minutes against the Japanese with ease. In fact, the unknown forced matters at a terrific pace for practically the whole time, exhibiting tremendous strength and evading Tani’s frequent attempts at leg holds over the neck. The masked man is undoubtedly an accomplished wrestler, though lacking in knowledge of the Japanese style, and is a splendidly developed athlete.

The Sporting Life’s skepticism re. the masked wrestler schtick was undoubtedly justified – among other things, even if the stories about the M.M. pursuing Zybysko all over Europe were true, there would be no practical way of ascertaining whether he was the same M.M. who was currently challenging Yukio Tani.  However – assuming that the actual match was a legitimate contest of skill – he must indeed have been a proficient grappler, because few wrestlers were able to last the stipulated time against Tani in his prime.

Their next recorded clash took place in the nearby town of Gateshead on the 10th of April:

On Saturday, at the Metropole Theatre, Gateshead, Yukio Tani, the famous ju-jitsu wrestler, met the “Masked Man” for £lOO a-side, in a contest under ju-jitsu rules. The “Masked Man”, since his first appearance in this country, has excited considerable curiosity, and on this occasion removed his mask for the first time.  He had had two previous unfinished contests with the Jap, and the conditions for the third meeting were a wrestle to a finish.

The “Masked Man,” though uncovered, had not had his identity revealed, though it is understood that he is a German, and has achieved considerable distinction as champion wrestler. He scales 14st. 91bs., against the Japanese wrestler’s 9st.

There was a large audience, and the umpire was Mr. Collingridge, of Newcastle. On the last occasion the pair met, the Masked Man was on the aggressive for the most part of the bout, but this time the Jap went on other tactics, and at once led off. He got his man down first, and very soon tried his favourite arm-lock, but he was not strong enough to use it to effect. The first ten minutes of the contest saw Tani doing most of the work, but his heavy opponent was playing a waiting game, and ultimately took a turn at forcing the work.

When the German got his hold he held his light opponent with apparent case, but Tani was much too clever in avoiding awkward holds, and slipped out of them when seemed to be in a bad way.  He tried his arm lock as a  counter-move to the German, but the latter was always safe in relying upon his strength to get out of trouble. After about 30 minutes of keen wrestling, the Jap looked like giving his opponent the head press, but after several attempts he was unable to muster strength enough to turn his opponent’s body over.

After a breather, on the conclusion of half an hour’s exciting work, Tani assumed the offensive, and got a strangle hold, which he was unable to use, however, to much advantage. The German took up the fighting, and for few minutes forced the pace. Tani, waiting his opportunity, however, got a verdict before most people expected it, for, at the close of nearly eight minutes’ wrestling,  he secured a neck lock, which gained him a well-deserved victory. The time of the contest was 37 minutes and 45 seconds. Tani was warmly applauded on the verdict.

Mr. Collingridge, the Newcastle-based umpire, was almost certainly W.H. Collingridge, who was himself a jiujitsu student and then instructor, as well as the author of Tricks of Self Defence (1914).

Despite the journalist’s comment suggesting that this was the third meeting between the M.M. and Tani, there seem to be no records of a bout between the Newcastle match and this one in Gateshead.  In any case, the M.M.’s unmasking for this encounter may well have been part of the terms reached between the two promotions. 

The mysterious hooded grappler’s actual identity was never publicly confirmed and has now been lost to history.

“No Man Shall Protect Us” Suffragette Bodyguard Documentary Reviewed by Dr. Emelyne Godfrey

Directed by Tony and Kathrynne Wolf, No Man Shall Protect Us: The Hidden History of the Suffragette Bodyguards (2018), written by Tony Wolf, offers a lucid and rousing yet sensitively balanced account of the role of the role of martial arts in the campaign of the Women’s Social and Political Union. The documentary, which is backgrounded by evocative piano music and songs of the era, looks back across the late-Victorian era to the 1900s, considering Edward William Barton-Wright’s introduction of jujitsu to Britain and its emergence in mainstream popular culture. The story is nicely accompanied by a wide range of contemporary photography, film and illustrations.

Much of action is set in the months following the passing of the Prisoners (Temporary Discharge for Ill-health) Act, 1913 under which suffragettes could be released from jail to recover sufficiently (watched by the police) in order to be recaptured and see out the remainder of their sentences. The Act signalled a cycle of releases and rearrests, the government toying with the released prisoners as a cat would taunt a mouse. Mrs Pankhurst was the most famous of mouse of all and she needed special protection: her team of jujitsu-trained supporters, known simply as ‘The Bodyguard’.

Lizzie Bourne, who is an experienced voiceover artist, presents to camera and, with her measured style of narration, sets the keynote to this documentary. Her gentle tone acts as a counterpoint to Debra Ann Miller’s fiery Mrs Pankhurst and Lynne Baker’s compelling yet intimidating jujitsu instructor Mrs Garrud. Excerpts from the play The Good Fight give a sense of the shape of the confrontations between the Bodyguard and the police – whom Mrs Pankhurst called ‘tools of the government’ – as well as offer an insight into how the story of the Bodyguard is celebrated today. The confrontation scenes also underline Tony’s argument that the Bodyguard fought two battles, ‘one at street level and the other as cogs in a well-oiled suffragette propaganda machine’.

The actors have been well selected. I particularly liked Scottie Caldwell’s depiction of Gertrude Harding, who gives us her account as she pours a cup of tea, a copy of The Suffragette in front of her. It’s a scene which reminds me of Godfrey Winn’s interview with Edith Garrud as well as Brian Harrison’s well-known recordings of suffragettes who drink tea and chat to him over cake about their experiences. There are some lovely details, such Gert and Kathrynne Wolf’s Janie Allen standing behind Mrs Pankhurst, deftly signalling information to each other.

While David Skvarla’s accent is a touch over-lilted, it was pleasing to see Chief Constable James Stephenson charismatically being given a meaningful place in the suffragette story. His perspective was not downplayed here as is so often the case in suffragette history, nor reduced to a faceless police report.

We also see the viewpoint of the government represented. The film which accompanies the Votes for Women exhibition at the Museum of London argues that forcible feeding did not improve the condition of hunger-striking women and even set them back. However, as Tony Wolf points out, prison officials were duty bound to preserve life, otherwise protestors would have died in their care. It was out of this predicament in which the government found itself, not to mention the bad press elicited by forcible feeding, that the Cat and Mouse Act emerged.

The documentary is not only a valuable account of the Bodyguard, with a discussion of modern parallels, but also shows that the ‘Jujutsuffragettes’ are not merely a niche subject within suffragette history. Rather, the documentary invites us to consider the wider symbolic impact of jujitsu on the women’s suffrage campaign. ‘The image of radical suffragettes being helplessly led, carried away or dragged by much larger police constables was central to the popular conception of the suffrage movement,’ Tony says, ‘Therefore, photographs of the petite Edith Garrud, seemingly defeating policemen with deft jujitsu locks, struck a powerfully transgressive chord.’ In that case, perhaps the police were in fact the tools of the suffragettes?

No Man Shall Protect Us is freely available for viewing via this link.

About the reviewer: Since graduating from Birkbeck College, London in 2008, Emelyne now works as a freelance writer specialising in the 19th century. Her books include “Masculinity, Crime and Self-Defence in Victorian Literature: Duelling with Danger” (2010), which looks at crime-fighting from the seldom-explored viewpoint of the civilian city-goer. A sister volume, “Femininity, Crime and Self-Defence in Victorian Literature and Society: From Dagger-Fans to Suffragettes” was published in 2013. 

Emelyne is currently writing her next book, “Kitty and the Cats: Mrs Pankhurst’s Suffragette Bodyguard and the London Police”, which tells the story of Emily Katherine Willoughby Marshall, a member of the ‘Bodyguard’.  She became Emmeline Pankhurst’s close friend and was the chief organiser of her memorial, standing today in Victoria Tower Gardens, Westminster.

Emelyn is a regular contributor to the Times Literary Supplement and History Today, and has appeared on BBC television and radio. She is the current Chairman of the HG Wells Society.

Further information can be found at

The “Great Anglo-Japanese Tournament” at Liverpool’s Adelphi Theatre (April, 1902)

Liverpool’s Adelphi Theatre.

The “last hurrah” of the Bartitsu Club as a corporate entity was the ambitious and largely successful “Great Anglo-Japanese Tournament” tour during early-mid 1902.   We’ve previously detailed these provincial Bartitsu exhibitions at the Oxford Town Hall, the Shorncliffe Army Camp base in Kent and the Mechanics Institute Hall in Nottingham; the Club is also known to have exhibited at Cambridge University during this period.

Recent research has confirmed that the 1902 tour extended as far North as Liverpool, where Edward Barton-Wright et al performed a week-long series of tournament contests and displays at the famed Adelphi Theatre in Christian Street.

As usual, the first notice Liverpudlians had of Barton-Wright’s impending visit came in the form of challenge notices printed in their local newspaper.  Lancashire was, of course, the birthplace of the renowned catch-as-catch-can style of wrestling, and a Liverpool Echo journalist picked the story up, commenting that although they had heard great things about the “New Art of Self Defence” from London, Lancastrians knew a thing or two about the grappling game and would adopt a “wait and see” approach:

Anglo-Japanese wrestling in Liverpool

The Bartitsu self-defense system
An orchid fancier, when he makes an important find or successfully hybridizes, generally perpetuates himself in the nomenclature of the plant. In the field of athletics Mr. Barton Wright seems to have done both, and, applying the first syllable of his own name to the Japanese phrase which is equivalent to our “to the finish”, gives to the world “Bartitsu” as the appropriate name of the system of self-defence for which he claims results that, to those ignorant of anatomy, might seem almost incredible.

Bartitsu in its fullness is described as consisting of a means of self-preservation against hooliganism, which enables a man a very slight build to hold his own against a giant. With the Japanese system of wrestling and its wonderful knowledge of anatomy as a basis, Mr. Barton-Wright has set himself to add to it by calling from other systems of wrestling as well as boxing, singlestick, etc., all that is most applicable to a perfect system of self-defense under all possible circumstances.

We of Liverpool, who in the past decade have seen more of championship wrestling than the rest of the world taken together, aren’t actually inclined to accepting anything regarding matters agonistic on the ipse dixit of any other place. If, however, all that is reported of Bartitsu from the Metropolis is such as we are likely to find it, Liverpool will not be behindhand in its acclamation.

Mr. Barton-Wright’s combination, including two celebrated Japanese wrestlers, who are credited with doing some wonderful things in resistance as well as attack, opens this evening a week’s performance at the Adelphi Theater, Christian Street, which has been very much brightened up for the occasion. These events, which seem to pit the Japanese system of wrestling against our own Lancashire style and to involve other equally interesting considerations, will be awaited with great expectancy.

– Liverpool Echo, 31 March, 1902 

It may be worth noting that “combination”, in this context, implies a team of professional athletes, and that the Echo journalist confused Pierre Vigny’s art of walking stick defence with the sport of singlestick fencing.

Another story appeared in the Echo a few days later (noting, as usual, that the term “Jap” was not pejorative during this period, being rather a simple abbreviation like “Brit” for “British”):

Japanese wrestling in Liverpool

 Forthcoming visit of the Japanese exponents

If the “Japs”, in their enterprising and praiseworthy search after scientific knowledge, have had to borrow extensively from Britain and other Western nationalities, it appears that they are in a position to return the compliment by showing us some valuable “pins” and how best to take care of ourselves when threatened as individuals with personal hostility.

For quite a decade, Liverpool people have had the advantage over other centers, not excluding even the mighty Metropolis, and seeing by far the larger share of the championship Greco-Roman and catch-as-catch-can wrestling matches. On the other hand, in regards to the Bartitsu method of self-defence , regarding which such wonderful reports have for months been appearing in print, London has had the better of us.

At last, however, Mr. Barton-Wright is coming with his lightweight Japanese wrestlers to show what it what extraordinary results man of slight build, but armed with easily learned scientific knowledge, can obtain against heavyweight hooliganism. Mr. Barton-Wright is to open a week’s entertainment of a varied and attractive program on Monday next, in the Adelphi Theater.

The first exhibition, on the evening of March 31st, was received with great acclaim (although later reports suggested that the attendance on that night was low):

The Wonderful Japanese Wrestlers in Liverpool

 The Bartitsu Method of Self-Defence

Last evening, Mr. Barton-Wright and his athletic combination, who have for several months been creating such a furore among sporting circles in London, entered upon a week’s entertainment in the Adelphi Theater, Christian Street. In anticipation of the event, Liverpool people have seen so much of championship wrestling during several years, and are naturally rather chary in giving credence to the wonderful things related of Mr. Barton-Wright’s Japanese wrestlers and his combination generally.

Now that they have had an opportunity of witnessing it for themselves, there is no doubt about the superlative degree with which the verdict would be given. The neatness and lightning quickness with which falls occur in the Japanese practice is something that must be seen to be believed. Their performance consists of three classes of display, commencing with the foiling of sudden attacks by dextrous movement and sudden assumptions of the best wrestling positions with strength momentarily applied in the nick of time.

Following that are several wrestling bouts, in which the falls are obtained with equal dexterity, the feet, which are bare, playing an important and a wonderfully clever part in the struggle. Balance, or rather the sudden deprivation of it, obviously plays a very prominent part in these bouts, which can hardly be called “struggles”, so quickly is the controlling force brought into operation.

They also illustrate how effectually a man lying on his back may defend himself against an aggressor on foot, while giving far more than he receives. Several new counter checks for the cross buttock are also in evidence to the great admiration of the onlooking, and one artiste lying on his back, and held down by a pole across his throat, and kept in the position by the weight of two men on each side, releases himself by sudden exertion, the operation being so deftly performed that the eye can scarcely follow it.

That part of the display would of itself be a very fine entertainment for lovers of really scientific athletics, but several additional turns bear out both the novelty and the excellence of the whole display. The combination comprises a most remarkable exhibition of ball punching by Mr. D. Meier, described as the champion of the world and certainly the best we have seen in Liverpool.

La Savate is a style of boxing very much in evidence in France, but absent from Liverpool for very many years. A very able display of that art of self-defense is given by Pierre Vigny opposed to Wolfe (sic – should read “Woolf”) Bendoff, a well-known heavyweight boxer of decided ability.  Monsieur Vigny also gives an able exposition of the most comfortable and effective use of the walking stick in self-defence.

Not the least important item in the program is the catch-as-catch-can wrestling competition contended for each night with Armand Cherpillod, the celebrated Swiss wrestler. Last night the contest was between him and Charles Green, of Wigan, a well-known heavyweight who was pinned down upon his shoulders after fully 40 minutes industrious wrestling, in which the Swiss put in a kind of leg roll which was new to many of the spectators.

Tonight Cherpillod’s opponent will be the famous Joe Caroll, whose long and exciting struggles with the renowned American, Jack Carkeek, two years ago, are still well remembered. Mr. Sam Nixon officiated as referee last evening, and Mr. T. Walsh as timekeeper.

The Cherpillod/Carroll contest on Tuesday night was effectively a rematch of their famous catch-as-catch-can contest at London’s St. James’s Hall a few months prior.    After training with Tani and Uyenishi, Cherpillod had won the St. James’s Hall challenge match, and so his struggle with Joe Carroll at the Adelphi was the highlight of that evening’s action:

Japanese and European wrestling in Liverpool

Mr. Barton-Wright’s Wonderful Combination
Cherpillod and Joe Caroll in Catch-as-catch Can

 Mr. Barton-Wright’s remarkably clever combination of experts in Japanese and European wrestling, Bartitsu self-defence with a walking stick, boxing, savant, ball punching, etc. was again presented last evening to a highly appreciative Liverpool audience.

The Japanese secret art of wrestling by the two lightweights Japanese champions elicited tokens of unbounded admiration, and occasionally a good deal of laughter, on account of the apparently magical style in which falls were achieved. So suddenly and unexpectedly were they brought about as to elicit the general comment that they were far too quick for the eye to follow them. One noticeable point in regards to either contestant who scored a particular fall was that, however negligently he appears to be standing at the commencement, his attitude at the close of the movement was always the strongest and the most rigid which science could devise for the purpose.

A remarkably interesting item was a catch-as-catch-can contest between Cherpillod, the Swiss champion, and the celebrated Joe Caroll, who, in prospect of a match a month hence with Carkeek, the American heavyweight, found the event a good opportunity for training practice. Seldom have two men apparently more equally matched in skill and the other qualities essential to success been pitted together. Joe Carroll, as candidate for the 10 pounds offered on behalf of the Swiss, was in the position of defender, but he undertook a large share of the attack, and by his phenomenal bridge-making capacity repeatedly escaped from tight corners occurring through Cherpillod’s strong body rolls, half-Nelsons, etc.

Having succeeded in out-staying the 15 minutes, he was hailed as the winner of the 10 pounds offered as a forfeit. As he has accepted a second challenge for this evening, patrons of agonistic prowess may expect to see something in the nature of the object lesson in regard to clever points. Apart from this event, the general program is one which no lover of excellence in athletics should miss the opportunity of seeing them.

The Wednesday night programme ran much the same:

Mr. Barton-Wright’s Japanese Wrestlers

A Local Catch-as-Catch-Can Champion’s Acceptance
A Britisher and a Japanese Wrestler

Last evening’s program in the Liverpool Adelphi Theatre was highly intensified by a second contest between those redoubtable catch-as-catch-can celebrities Joe Carroll of Hindley and Cherpillod, instructor of the Bartitsu School of Arms. The time limit was set at 15 minutes.

Carroll, as the acceptor of the challenge, being nominally on the defensive, was really doing a full share of the aggressive work . In regard to Cherpillod’s body rolls and Carroll’s splendid defense on the bridge, the ballot was pretty much a repetition of that of the previous evening, but with intensified impetuosity and some very fine additional points put in on both sides.

Carroll successfully outstayed the 15 minutes, and, as he is considered a good man to take on upon a similar terms again, the limit for him will be extended to half an hour, with Carroll having the opportunity of earning double forfeit if he can’t obtain a fall within the time.

Mr. Barton-Wright’s general program is one which must really be seen more than once for an intelligent appreciation of Pierre Vigny’s remarkably fine walking stick defence, which leaves no part of the body unprotected for the 10th part of the second; Mr. D. Meier’s magnificent ball punching; M. Vigny’s display of the French savate against an English boxer, and the wonderful exploits of the Japanese wrestlers.

This evening’s bill is fare will not only include a bout between Cherpillod and Charles Green, of Lincoln, but the fulfillment of an acceptance by a local man of a challenge on behalf of one of the Japanese wrestlers. As the opponent in question is Roger Parker, winner of the 11 stone championship and Mr. Cannon’s catch-as-catch-can tournament of two years ago, the event will be of very great interest, as affording the first opportunity we of Liverpool have had of seeing a Britisher opposed to a Jap.

Barton-Wright’s ongoing difficulty in persuading English wrestlers to take on his Japanese grapplers under their own rules seems to have followed the troupe around the country.   Kenneth Duffield’s 1945 memoir Savages and Kings includes an amusingly exaggerated account of his own set-to with Yukio Tani at Cambridge University, in which the diminutive Tani was described and illustrated as if he’d been a sumo wrestler. 

The Liverpudlian catch wrestler Roger Parker was unusually courageous in accepting Barton-Wright’s challenge, though the subsequent match only lasted 90 seconds before Parker tapped out.

The Japanese Wrestlers in Liverpool

The attendance at the Adelphi theater last evening he gave unequivocal testimony to the remarkably rapid progress which Mr. Barton-Wright’s scientific and attractive entertainment has made in the favor of Liverpool patrons of athletics.

A house filled to repletion presented a remarkable contrast to the miserable gathering of the opening evening, which would probably have caused a less enterprising manager to shake the dust of Liverpool from his feet, but which did not deter Mr. Barton-Wright from persevering, knowing that his entertainment was one deserving well a very important section of the public to delight in patronizing athletics conducted with dignity and respectability, and carried on with the idea of selecting the fittest on their merits, and apart from individual or national considerations.

The customary items of ball punching by Meier, boxing and the Savate by Wolf Bendoff and Pierre Vigny, the wonderful defensive manipulation of the walking stick by M. Vigny and the magical science of the Japanese wrestlers were all applauded to the echo.

The piece de resistance of the evening proved to be a half-hour bout between Cherpillod, the wonderfully strong and clever Swiss catch-as-catch-can wrestler, and the celebrated Joe Carroll. It proved to be one of the nimblest and best conducted struggles as seen in Liverpool for many a day. The Swiss was, as usual, remarkably quick and strong in securing body rolls, but Carol was equally effective in his splendid bridge-making defence, and exceedingly quick and nimble in counteractive moves. Neither secured a fall, so that, according to the agreement, Carroll received 5 pounds for having outlasted the time, though he failed in earning a similar sum offered if he could throw the other man.

Cherpillod afterwards tried conclusions with Leo, the South African giant, who made a good defence in resistance of hammer locks and other moves for 13 minutes, but who was eventually disposed of before his allotted 15 minutes.

The Jap wrestler, who had got the better of Roger Parker on the previous evening in a minute and a half, Japanese-style, appeared on the stage in readiness to wrestle him (Parker) in the catch-as-catch-can style on the undertaking to put him down in 15 minutes. Parker failed to appear, but it was announced on his behalf that he would come forward this evening. It is also expected that Tom McInerney will appear as an opponent of Cherpillod on a half hour time limit, and that Ted Reece will also try for a forfeit against the Swiss in the ordinary quarter of an hour.

There is, therefore, every prospect of a very fine program of wrestling events added to the other admirable structures. Mr. Sam Nixon officiates as referee, and Mr. W. Walker as timekeeper. Mr. Barton-Wright announced that he was willing to back Cherpillod for 25 pounds or upwards in his own style against any man in England.

Unfortunately, although the Echo noted again on Saturday afternoon that Cherpillod was scheduled to take on two local opponents, namely Tom McInerney and Ted Reece, and that Roger Parker intended to compete again with either Yukio Tani or Sadakazu Uyenishi, there seem to be no detailed records of the final night’s exhibitions. Research is ongoing …

“Chucker-Out of the Unwanted: Muscular Maude” (1917)

Actress Doris Lytton puts up her dukes as Maude Bray, a supporting character in the 1917 theatrical farce Wanted: a Husband.  Hilarity ensues when one of Maude’s friends advertises for a husband to spark some ideas for her new novel.

Maude – a “strenuous woman” who is well-trained in boxing and jiujitsu – volunteers her services as a “chucker-out” (Edwardian-vintage slang for a bouncer).  At one point in the play she deals handily with a “colonial” would-be suitor who is making a pest of himself:

This was not the first time that the Japanese art of unarmed combat had been associated with “chuckers-out”.  Some reviewers of E.W. Barton-Wright’s early jiujitsu displays commented that they could conceive of no other lawful use of the art, much to Barton-Wright’s indignation.


“The Dwarf of Blood” on Savate (October 29, 1898)

La Savate exhibited at the Alhambra (October 1898).

Colonel Nathaniel Newnham-Davis, who wrote a popular column for the Sporting Life newspaper under the  “Dwarf of Blood” pseudonym, was clearly a connoisseur of antagonistic novelties.  Of all the English journalists who covered the heyday of the Bartitsu Club between 1899 and 1902, Col. Newnham-Davis was perhaps the most enthusiastic and carefully critical.

Written in October of 1898 – at about the same time that Barton-Wright was making his first forays into the London self-defence scene – the following article offers Newnham-Davis’s review of M. Georges d’Armoric’s savate displays at London’s Alhambra Music Hall.  These displays were not especially well-received by their audiences, due partly to the age-old Anglo-French rivalry and partly to the insular English bias against kicking in combat sports, but critics and reviewers generally treated them fairly.  

I have been studying Mons. Georges d’Armoric’s book on the French method of the noble art of self-defence, which begins with a pat on the back to the average Englishman: “He will not,” says Mons. d’Armoric, “stop at the argument points; he will offer practical demonstrations, for who does not think himself a crack in the noble art of self defence and the use of Nature’s weapons ?”

Then Mons. d’Armoric, pleading for “Le Chausson,” goes on to point out, with fine eye to a topical allusion, how good for the Hooligans a little of the noble order of the boot would be.

“Let a good number of these fellows receive their deserts at the hands” – surely it should be feet – “of their would-be victims; let a few get the treatment they delight to inflict upon the unwary and unoffending; let them feel what the weight of a well and scientifically administered Coup de Chausson on the side of the face is like, or the sensation of an ‘upper cut off the knee’ may be; favour your pet elect with more sport, if not yet contented, and add a ‘lead off from the left foot,’ or a ’rounded hit off the right,’ accompanied a fair concentrated arm fist blow, in the ‘mark,’ and your attacker will not ask – nor even wait – for more.”

As a practical exposition of these kindly sentiments Mons. d’Armoric trotted out his professors early this week at a press performance, and they are now whacking each other with canes, butting each other in the stomach, and putting their toes in each other’s ears nightly at the Alhambra. That the savate is useful in street row there can be no doubt, and the question as to whether a foot was only made to stand on when there is a row forward is a question of national taste.

I recall a story of a little row in Julian’s studio in Paris. There was a pugnacious young British student who yearned to make mincemeat of an equally pugnacious French student, and each was encouraged by his compatriots. Suggestions as to a duel with sabres, pistols, or mitrailleuses were put on one side, and it was decided to turn the two men loose in a courtyard with only the weapons that nature had given them.

The Britisher squared up in the customary style, and while he was deciding whether he would knock the Frenchman’s teeth out or put him out of his agony at once by a solar plexus blow, the Frenchman nearly cut one of his ears off with the edge of his bootsole, and then caught him a kick well below the belt; a kick that sent him running round the yard doubled with agony.

When the Britisher was able to face again the Frenchman, who had been doing a pas seul in the centre of the court, he remembered some wrestling tricks he had learned in Cornwall, and, closing with the Frenchman, brought him to ground with a throw meant to hurt. It did hurt the Frenchman – it hurt him so much that his friends came into the yard and carried him out; but the Frenchmen hold to this day that the Britisher fought unfairly, and the Britons can scarcely contain their wrath now when they discuss the Frenchman’s tactics. It was in small way a forerunner of Fashoda.

Some Frenchmen came over here and boxed at the Pelican Club in the old days of its existence in Denman Street. O’Donoghue, I think, was the “bhoy” put up against the best of the Frenchmen, and at first the gentleman from across the channel seemed to be getting very much the best of the deal; but somebody – The Mate, I think – told the Irishman to get to close quarters and keep there, and the character of the fight changed at once. It was on this occasion that Jem Smith, asked why he would not take on one of the Frenchmen, replied that he did not want to be prosecuted for manslaughter.

But this is straying away from the Press view of the “boxeurs.” The stage, set with a palace scene, was decorated with tricolour flags, and Mons. d’Armoric, a genial and excellently mannered Frenchman, described to us in very tolerable English all that was going to take place. The exponents of the noble art a la Francaise were two muscular-looking young Frenchmen, with small moustaches and heads closely clipped, clothed in dark blue armless jerseys and dark blue tights, with a tricoloured sash at the waist.

La canne displayed at the Alhambra.

First they went through the cuts and parries that are recommended for battle with canes. Neither shouted “A bas les Juifs!” nor “Conspuez Brisson!”, “Vive l’Armee!” nor “Vive la Republique!” which are the cries that seem to be inseparable from cane combat in the Paris of today; but after the cuts and guards, and a review exercise or “salute,” differing very little from single-stick exercises as we know them, except that before a cut is made the cane is given a preliminary twist, the two professors commenced a set-to with the canes, their sole protection being masks and a glove on the right hands. They were very quick with cut and parry, but occasionally one caught the other whack which sounded and must have stung.

Then they put on the gloves and went through slowly the various punches, and butts, and kicks, and the parries for them—all very interesting from a scientific athlete’s point of view, but all a little wearying to the layman. This done with, we came to business. The two professors sat down in two chairs, had their arms wiped by two young gentlemen, who in frock coats and faultless ties looked as different as could be to the seconds we are used to on the British platform. Mons. d’Armoric called “Time,” and after the hand-hold, which does duty for a handshake, the two went at it with a will.

Unfortunately they were rather unevenly matched. With their hands they were more or less on an equality, but in foot-play one had undoubtedly the best of the game. One professor did little more than offer to kick the other’s shins, or the worst dislocate his knee, while the better man got in corkscrew kick in the right ear, flicked off a bit of the left eyebrow, disarranged the folds of his opponent’s sash, and hurt his ankle all in one comprehensive chahut.

In the third round the better man got in a kick on his opponent’s right breast that sent him to ground, and as nearly as possible knocked him out.

I believe that Mr. Slater is going to pit, or has pitted, English boxers against the Frenchmen, and it will be interesting to see the result. A man who knows as much about boxing as any amateur in this country was sitting in front of me at this press rehearsal, and his opinion was that Lancashire lad would be the best man to set against a Frenchman, for up North they are handy with feet as well as hands. If the evening show is what was put before us, I should say that the preliminary work is tedious, the actual contest decidedly interesting.

It seems that Mr. Slater’s proposed savate vs. boxing exhibitions didn’t actually happen.  Almost exactly one year later, however, the infamous Charlemont/Driscoll savate vs. boxing challenge match would take place in Paris, setting Anglo-French sporting relations back a considerable distance.

“The Problem of Lancashire Kicking” (January 30, 1880)

Artwork by Anna FC Smith.

When E.W. Barton-Wright introduced Bartitsu at the turn of the 20th century, the English (or, at least, the middle-class London) bias against kicking was well-established.  The reasons for that bias are not, however, well understood.  It may simply have been that the popularity of boxing engendered a general assumption that a “fair fight” was to be fought with fists alone, and thus that any use of the feet in a fight was brutal and “unmanly”.  

Nevertheless, kicking folk-sports are well-documented in several regions of England, some dating back at least as far as the 16th century.   These styles included several variations depending on local custom and time period; some were contests of agility and endurance in which low-kicking was the only legal technique, and others were styles of wrestling that allowed low kicks along with foot-sweeps and trips.  The best-known historical variant today was known as purring and was introduced to the United States during the late 1800s, primarily via Cornish miners; another style is currently practiced as part of the revived Cotswold Olympicks, as seen here:

The anonymous author of the following article from the London Daily News was clearly not aware of the prevalence of English kicking sports. He does, however, offer an interesting description of a Lancashire variant called “puncing”, a term that may well be a cognate of “purring”. 

The moral climate of middle-class England during the 1880s was very much in favour of the “civilising impulse” that had by then suppressed duelling and even pugilism.  Typically of London-based commentary on kick-fighting during this period, the author takes a disapproving tone, conflating the practice of kicking as rough and tumble sport with street assaults by “cornermen” (gangsters) and even with domestic violence.  

We have already commented on the sentence which Lord Justice Brett recently passed upon two Lancashire kickers, and on the circumstances of the crime which provoked that severe but most just punishment. The prevalence of this peculiar form of brutality, however, in Lancashire—or rather in parts of it—is a sufficiently remarkable fact to deserve more attention than that somewhat fitful interest which occasional cases excite.

It is not more than three or four years since a similar outrage first attracted the notice of Londoners and residents of the South of England generally. Although there is unfortunately a good deal of brutality all over England, it cannot said that any particular form of it prevails remarkably in districts other than Lancashire. That “wives are made to be trampled on” is a maxim which is taken literally by ruffianly husbands all over the country as it is uttered metaphorically by enraged and slightly-shrewish wives. Fists, though the scientific use of them is sadly on the decline, are too frequently employed for the purpose, not of self-defence, but offence of a very definite and inexcusable kind.

But the Cornish miner, the Dorsetshire labourer, and the Sussex or Wiltshire shepherd do not usually confine themselves to any special method of avenging themselves against their enemies or giving vent to their feelings.  Even in the “Black Country,” the coal districts of Durham and Northumberland, the manufacturing towns of Yorkshire —though in the first two, at any rate, a sufficiently unpolished code of manners prevails —neither kicking nor any similar practice has been brought the level of fine art.

Lancashire – and not the whole of the county, but only in certain of its large towns—stands alone in the rather unenviable possession of this “specialty.” In the towns in which kicking does most prevail, it is practised on a very much larger scale and with very much more precision than the stranger who merely reads a case now and then would suspect. It may perhaps news to some people that kicking does not come by nature, though a little practice at the game of football soon will convince them of the fact. Neither foot nor hand will strike heavily aud accurately without a considerable amount of education; and, as the foot is as used for fewer purposes than the hand, its unhandiness (if an unavoidable pun may be allowed) is far greater.

The Lancashire kicker therefore practises his unamiable art from early age. But in truth he does not call it— at least in its finer forms—kicking. The proper term is “puncing,” and the highest branch of art is a “run punce.”  It is, indeed, in good running kicks that the great difficulty of the more harmless game consists, and it is not surprising to find that, in the kicking of men and women, the same obstacles to perfection are found.  Practice, however, makes both the Rugby boy and the Lancashire corner-man perfect; the latter, like the former, beginning at a very early age.

It is not to be supposed that the carnivals of brutality which culminate in twenty years’ penal servitude occur constantly, though their occurrence is only too frequent. But lesser opportunities for the practice of the art are probably at least as frequent as opportunities for the display fistic skill were not very many years ago. The alleys and closes of certain Lancashire towns, the corners of the streets, and the doors of the public-houses are frequently the scenes of milder skirmishes, in which this unlovely version of the exercise called in French savate is brought into play.

Fighting footwear; clogs worn in foot-combat matches were often augmented with nail studs and iron plates, producing truly fearsome weapons.

The heavy clogged boot which is usually worn in these districts has sometimes been taken to be a contributory cause of the practice, on the well-known principle of the connection between the means to do ill deeds and the doing of them. It is, course, clear that whether this is so or not, the boots are a very important factor in the question. Moreover, whatever may be thought about the origin or causes, the fact of the existence of the custom is quite unquestioned. It is an extremely local one, and there are Lancashire towns in which it is possible to reside for months and years without seeing or hearing anything of the practice.

But, on the contrary, there are others in which it is rife, and where, if murder is not done frequently, it is only because the “puncer” is a sufficiently skilful and accomplished practitioner to able to inflict grievous bodily harm without running the risk of the last penalty of the law.

If it is asked what the public opinion of the class which chiefly indulges in this brutal pastime is on the subject, the question is not an easy one to answer. Such public opinion on such points is never very easy to get at. But it would seem to the effect that “puncing,” though not exactly a laudable amusement, is at least not more brutal nor revolting than fighting with the fists.  We are not concerned to indulge in any casuistry as to the two exercises. But it may be at least pointed out that even noted bruisers do not generally run amuck through the streets of a town, getting the heads of the casual public into Chancery, and performing the other operations to which the picturesque and metaphorical, though slightly obsolete, terms of the ring are applied.

It takes two to make a fight, in the old sense. In the literal sense, doubtless, it takes two to make the amusement which is the corner-man’s delight. But as in love, in puncing—there is one who punces and another who very unwillingly allows himself to be punced. The highest delight of the puncer, indeed, appears to be to hunt in company, and to toss the victim from boot to boot with a cheerful precision which has something indescribably diabolical about it to those who have not been born and bred to the manner.

The great object of kicking of this kind appears to be the display of skill and the enjoyment of an invigorating pastime, much more than the punishment of injuries or the solace of an irritated temper. Yet, it would appear that in the kicking districts puncing is sometimes regarded by respectable persons as a legitimate, though perhaps extreme, method of showing displeasure. Occasionally in a Lancashire story the villain meets with chastisement in this form, and the agent is not held up to anything like the moral reprobation which would attend the act elsewhere.

Of course, all this shows the need of a very decided reformation of manners; but this reflection, which everybody will agree, leaves untouched the strangeness of the fact that in one district, and in one district alone, of the United Kingdom this peculiar form of brutality has attained something like the proportions and the vitality of an institution. There are no particular elements in the population of the county of Witches which are not present elsewhere. Drunkenness is, unfortunately, by no means confined to Lancashire, and, though the dreary appearance of but too many of her towns might fancifully supposed to roughen the manners of the inhabitants. Yorkshire and Warwickshire, Northumberland and Durham, not mention Glasgow and the towns of the Scotch black country, can fearlessly enter the lists with the blackest town in Lancashire in this respect. The sociologist, who must have a theory, is therefore thrown back upon the boots.

But, whatever may have been the beginning of the practice, whatever may have been the reasons of its continuance and spread, there can be no two opinions about the desirability of its speedily coming to an end. To the antiquary it may possibly be an interesting subject tor investigation and discussion, but to the contemporary historian and student of manners it is anything but satisfactory. There is a certain glib way talking about “relics of barbarism”; but this particular habit, though it is certainly worthy of any barbarism that ever existed, would seem to have grown up in the full civilization of nineteenth-century England.

“Bartitsu vs. Boxing” (July 1901 – May 1902)

Pierre Vigny strikes a pugilistic pose.

Mid-late 1901 was undoubtedly the heyday of the Bartitsu School of Arms, not least because it was during that period that the School’s champions were put to their greatest tests in public competition. Following a series of more-or-less academic displays and several novel style-vs-style challenge matches, both the sporting public and England’s combat champions were eager to see Bartitsu exponents pitted against “name” fighters.

It seems to have been widely accepted that sparring exhibitions of Bartitsu as a complete style -resembling a Dog Brothers gathering, in its combination of stickfighting, kickboxing and submission wrestling – would have been considered “brawling in a public place” under Edwardian English law.

Therefore, the next best option was to hold competitions in the various component styles.  E.W. Barton-Wright was keen to oblige, proffering a series of open challenges via the pages of the Sporting Life, as was the custom then.

While the greatest controversy attended the exotic art of jiujitsu (and whether champions of that style would prevail against expert European wrestlers), Barton-Wright was also eager to locate a worthy boxer to challenge Pierre Vigny.  Therefore, the following notification appeared in the Sporting Life of Wednesday, 10 July 1901:

Mr. E. W. Barton-Wright is anxious to find a good boxer who would willing to oppose one of his men for exhibition work to demonstrate the merits of English boxing against his system of boxing. No boxer under middle-weight need apply, as be that his man shall have no advantage in weight, therefore a heavy-weight would given the preference. Weight of his own man; 11 st. 4 lbs. Apply to the Bartitsu School of Arms and Physical Culture, 67b, Shaftesbury Avenue, W.C.

Barton-Wright’s curious mention of “his system of boxing”, rather than savate per se, was probably an oblique reference to the “secret style of boxing” that he had devised via collaboration with Vigny.  It was likely also due to Barton-Wright’s ongoing reluctance to publicly align Bartitsu with French kickboxing .

Charlemont (savate) vs. Driscoll (boxing).

The timing of the infamous October, 1899 Driscoll/Charlemont fight in Paris had been especially unfortunate from Barton-Wright’s point of view.  The scandal resulting from that fight had generated massive ill-will against the French style among the English sporting public at exactly the time when he was attempting to introduce a “new art of self-defence” that incorporated French martial arts.

Thus, despite Vigny’s status as the Chief Instructor of the Bartitsu Club, Barton-Wright’s public pronouncements had tended to de-emphasise or even disparage savate per se, in favour of promoting their “new and improved” method of kickboxing that was unique to Bartitsu.

Within the week, Barton-Wright’s Sporting Life notice was answered by Professor Newton, a well-known boxing coach and partisan of the English style:

“Bartitsu vs. Boxing”: In answer to Mr. Barton-Wright’s challenge, which appeared the Sporting Life of the 10th last, Professor Newton, who is teacher of and firm believer in the British art of self-defence, has several pupils who have expressed their willingness to compete against Mr. Barton-Wright’s pupils at their respective weights in order to prove which is the better system. If a series of contests can be arranged, Mr. Barton-Wright will oblige by forwarding copy of his rules to the North London School of Arms and Physical Culture, 55, Barnsbury-road, London, N.

Unfortunately, but not uncommonly, nothing seems to have come of this proposed encounter. Beyond the formalities of public notifications in the newspapers,  combat sports challenges were subject to behind-the-scenes negotiations and many never came to fruition, often due to personality clashes, logistical issues or disagreements over terms.

A short time later Vigny did, however, fight the boxer Jem Barry at a Bartitsu Club assault-at-arms event. As reported in the Sporting Life of November 25th:

Two minutes per round. Sharp work right and left. Barry knocked Vigny down after nearly getting the right on the jaw with sufficient force. Vigny got up and kicked right and left. Severe business.

Round 2. Sharp and severe work at close quarters. Both on ground twice, and toppled over in an embrace among the people.

Round 3. Barry led. Vigny had a rough time of it, and they frequently clinched. To the end, a splendid encounter. Vigny kicked and boxed hard. Barry punched with might and main. When time was called, honours were to the advantage of Barry on points.

The results of this hard-fought bout were not widely reported; another journalist said that the fight was inconclusive.

The next prominent boxer to publicly accept Barton-Wright’s challenge was none other than Jerry Driscoll himself.  Shortly after the Vigny/Barry fight, Driscoll wrote the following letter to the editor of The Sportsman (a similar notice appeared in The Sporting Life on the same day):

Sir,—As an Englishman who has beaten the best Savate boxer, viz, feet and hands, against my hands only, I should be pleased to compete against Mr. Barton-Wright’s man, for from £50 aside, upwards, and largest parse. Match to come off early in January. I will also wager a good side bet that I stop Mr. Barton-Wright’s man inside ten rounds, Mr. Barton-Wright’s man to have his feet padded, the same as when he competed against Jim (sic) Barry. I only stipulate that we must have one English and one French judge, and the Sporting Life to appoint referee. No 30-second rounds, nor either man allowed to rest fifteen minutes, was the case when I met Charlemont.

Yours, etc., Jerry Driscoll (Instructor to the principal English amateur boxing clubs). Railway Cottage, Barnes.

Driscoll’s claim to have “beaten the best Savate boxer” would, itself, have been mildly controversial.  Although Driscoll was widely held to have been handily winning the fight until his opponent landed a probably accidental, but definitely illegal groin kick, as a matter of record, Charles Charlemont had won that fight.

Driscoll shortly followed up with another letter:

Seeing Mr. Barton-Wright is on the warpath with his savate instructor, and matching him against our past boxers, I will box his Frenchman ten rounds for £100 aside, National Sporting Club’s rules, any time he chooses make a match. Money ready as soon as Mr Barton-Wright makes an appointment through the columns of the Sporting Life.

… and he raised the stakes again in The Sportsman of February 14th, 1902:

If Barton Wright wishes to match his Frenchman with me, and is not out for advertisement, he will attend the N.S.C. (National Sporting Club) at one o’clock on Saturday next. Vigny can have a match for £lOO or £3OO aside, and as the distance is but of one hundred yards, I hope that Mr. Wright will be on hand.

A similar notice from Driscoll was published in mid-April.  On April 22nd, Vigny replied:

Pierre Vigny, Instructor of the Bartitsu School of Arms, is prepared to box Jerry Driscoll, in the English style, Queensberry Rules, if the National Sporting Club will offer a purse worth competing for. Jerry Driscoll has refused to take Vigny on in the French style.

Two days later:

In answer to Jerry Driscoll’s offer to wager up to £300 that he will beat Vigny in the match to be decided during Coronation Week, Pierre Vigny writes accepting the offer, and is also ready to find the backing for that amount, feeling confident that he will be able to defeat Driscoll inside ten rounds. It Driscoll will make an appointment with his backer the National Sporting Club, Vigny will be pleased meet him, and will be prepared to make the deposit at once.

Driscoll, on April 26th:

In answer to Pierre Vigny, Driscoll says that if Mr. Barton Wright will post £100 at the Sporting Life Office, his (Driscoll’s) backer will wager £300 to £100 that be beats Vigny inside ten rounds, under Queensberry Rules.

Two days later, Driscoll wrote again noting that his backer was  then away on business, but that as soon as he returned, the money for the side-bet would be delivered to The Sportsman office.

Then, on the 29th of May, Barton-Wright re-entered the fray:

Mr. Barton-Wright has written calling attention to the fact that the authorities of a certain club, after offering a purse of £300 for a contest between (Vigny and Driscoll) to decide the merits of boxing versus savate and after getting the consent of both men to this arrangement, have suddenly withdrawn their original offer and now are prepared to give only £lOO. Although both men are most anxious to meet each other, naturally they do not intend engage in a serious contest of this kind without some real inducement. The training expenses would cost about £25, so that the loser would practically get his bare expenses paid be receiving 25 per cent of the purse. Mr. Barton-Wright would therefore be very glad to hear from anybody interested this matter, and who, perhaps with others, will be willing to assist in the financing of same, and so to make this match possible.

The Editor of The Sporting Life also quoted Barton-Wright to the effect that the proposed stakes of £100 were too low to represent the fighting worth of either Vigny or Driscoll, and at that point the proposed challenge seems to have fizzled out.

Ironically, the mysterious reduction of stakes by Driscoll’s backers – as well as Barton-Wright’s insistence that Vigny would not fight for less than a £300 stake – may have allowed the Bartitsu Club to dodge a public relations bullet.

Given his persistent efforts to distance Bartitsu from savate, and from the negative fallout of the 1899 Charlemont/Driscoll fight in particular, Driscoll’s challenges clearly put Barton-Wright in a very difficult PR position.  Regardless of the outcome (and of the Bartitsu Club’s modifications to the techniques and rules of the French style), a Vigny vs. Driscoll fight would inevitably have been perceived as a “rematch” between savate and boxing.  With feelings about the Charlemont/Driscoll fight still raw, English public sentiment would have been overwhelmingly in Jerry Driscoll’s favour, likely casting Vigny, Barton-Wright and Bartitsu as the unpatriotic villains.

Even worse, from Barton-Wright’s point of view, would have been the public perception that he and Vigny were symbolically aligned with Driscoll’s former opponent.  In reality, there was seriously bad blood between the Bartitsu camp and the Charlemont camp.  Barton-Wright had actually used the outcome of the Driscoll/Charlemont fight as ammunition during his acrimonious exchange of letters with Charlemont, thereby morally aligning himself and the Bartitsu Club with Driscoll.

Thus, if the Driscoll/Vigny fight had gone ahead, Barton-Wright would have been forced into an unenviable position.  Even if Vigny had won against Driscoll, in the hyper-partisan social climate of the early 1900s, the “optics” would have been damaging for the Bartitsu School of Arms.

The Bartitsu Club continued to stage assault-at-arms displays in Nottingham, Oxford and other regional locations during early 1902.   Ultimately, Vigny’s regular opponent on that tour was the jobbing heavyweight boxer Woolf Bendoff.  Though Bendoff’s professional record  wasn’t especially impressive, it’s likely that he represented a diplomatic compromise away from the politically fraught possibilities of Pierre Vigny taking on Jerry Driscoll.