“Self-Defence with a Bicycle” video from the 2017 Dreynevent

A humourous and enlightening demonstration of Self-Defence with a Bicycle, animating the lessons of Marcus Tindal’s eccentric 1901 Pearson’s Magazine article. The demo took place at the recent Dreynevent historical European martial arts workshops in Vienna.

” … the misspelled wrestle Doyle called baritsu”: “Sherlock” writer Mark Gatiss replies in verse to criticism of “The Six Thatchers” fight scene

In response to the newest Sherlock adventure, The Six Thatchers, TV critic Ralph Jones wrote an opinion piece titled Sherlock is slowly and perversely morphing into Bond. This cannot stand. The elaborate fight scene between Sherlock Holmes and the assassin known only as Ayjay was cited as an example of Holmes’ undesirable transmogrification into an “action figure”.

Now Sherlock writer/actor/co-creator Mark Gatiss has followed in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s footsteps by replying to a critic in verse, playfully underlining the fact that the Sherlock Holmes canon includes numerous action scenes:

Here is a critic who says with low blow
Sherlock’s no brain-box but become double-O.
Says the Baker St. boy is no man of action –
whilst ignoring the stories that could have put him in traction.

The Solitary Cyclist sees boxing on show,
The Gloria Scott and The Sign of the Fo’
The Empty House too sees a mention, in time, of Mathews,
who knocked out poor Sherlock’s canine.

As for arts martial, there’s surely a clue
in the misspelled wrestle Doyle called baritsu.
In hurling Moriarty over the torrent
did Sherlock find violence strange and abhorrent?

In shooting down pygmies and Hounds from hell
Did Sherlock on Victorian niceties dwell?
When Gruner’s men got him was Holmes quite compliant
Or did he give good account for The Illustrious Client?

There’s no need to invoke in yarns that still thrill,
Her Majesty’s Secret Servant with licence to kill
From Rathbone through Brett to Cumberbatch dandy
With his fists Mr Holmes has always been handy.

Captain Hutton demonstrates Pierre Vigny’s walking stick defence (London Daily Telegraph, Nov. 20, 1901)

Captain Alfred Hutton was a member of the Bartitsu Club committee and also taught fencing at the Club.  E.W. Barton-Wright encouraged his instructors to learn from each other and Hutton did so enthusiastically, studying jiujitsu with Yukio Tani and Sadakazu Uyenishi and also walking stick defence with Pierre Vigny.

In November of 1901 Hutton was interviewed by a reporter from the Daily Telegraph.  After a discussion of historical fencing techniques and a typically robust critique of the fencing instruction offered by the British army, Hutton addressed and briefly demonstrated the Vigny method to the bemused journalist.

This image is adapted, for purposes of illustration, from Hutton’s chapter on fencing with the Great Stick from “Cold Steel” (1889).

(…) And in a moment the Captain was holding a walking-stick in such a threatening manner that the interview seemed likely to come to an abrupt end.

“You see,” he went on, smiling, “the thing has far more possibilities than you might imagine.  Walking-stick play, as taught by M. Vigny, for instance, is an extremely useful bit of knowledge.  Now try and hit me on the head.”

We tried. As soon as the coals had been picked out of our hair, and the lower portion of our waistcoat had been removed from our collar, the captain cheerfully resumed:

“If you are mobbed, you observe, the great thing is never to raise your hand to strike. Always keep it low. Hold your stick at each end, and thrust the first man on the Mark, the second in the throat, clear a circle round you rapidly, and . . . .”

But the audience had fled. It is not a healthy thing to pretend to be a mob when Captain Hutton displays “a little of the art of self-defence,” and it was to a prostrate form upon a sofa that the captain addressed his last remarks.

Interestingly, Hutton’s description of stick defence vs. a group of attackers is almost a verbatim representation of “How to Use a Walking-Stick as a Weapon in a Crowd”, the fourth sequence in part II of Barton-Wright’s 1901 article on stick defence for Pearson’s Magazine.  The sequence is included below for comparison.

“Self-Defence with a Bicycle” teaser video for the 2017 Dreynevent

A fun taste of the “Self-Defence with a Bicycle” class to be offered at the upcoming Dreynevent 2017 historical martial arts workshop in Vienna.

The video and class draw from Marcus Tindal’s highly eccentric article, “Self-Protection on a Cycle – How you may Best Defend Yourself when Attacked by Modern Highwaymen, Showing how you should Act when Menaced by Footpads, when Chased by another Cyclist, and when Attacked under various other Circumstances; showing, also, how the Cycle may be used as a Weapon”, which appeared alongside E.W. Barton-Wright’s Bartitsu articles in Pearson’s Magazine during 1901.

Frequently and incorrectly assumed by casual readers to be part of the Bartitsu curriculum, Tindal’s bicycle defence techniques were, in fact, probably inspired by this 1901 letter to the editor of the London Bicycle Club Gazette and have no direct connection to Bartitsu at all, apart from the coincidence of when and where they were first published.  Tindal’s article created a bit of a media stir at the time, and in turn inspired yet another article, complete with a different set of photographs, in a 1905 edition of the Italian journal La Sportiva Stampa.

“Self-Protection on a Cycle” also formed the basis of an amusing and educational seminar at the 2009 ISMAC historical martial arts event in Detroit, USA:

“The cumbersome boxing glove superseded” (Punch Magazine, September 4, 1869)


Cartoonist George du Maurier offers a helpful suggestion for boxers.  The caption reads:

Sparring without pain or loss of temper – the cumbersome boxing-glove superseded.

For more on this topic, see The Eccentric Evolution of Boxing Armour.

Geek duchess Felicia Day recommends Bartitsu for fending off llamas

Early in this interview for Chicago’s WBEZ Nerdette podcast, actress and professional nerd Felicia Day namechecks Bartitsu in the context of a discussion on self-defence against llamas. Specifically, she’s referring to her training at Vancouver’s Academie Duello and the Bartitsu classes offered there by David McCormick.