“The Apaches”, a Major New TV Series, Now in Pre-Production

Various outlets are reporting on the upcoming production of The Apaches, a major 8-10 episode TV series from Andre and Maria Jacquemettons, the writer/producer team behind Mad Men.

Set in Paris during the Belle Epoque period at the turn of the 20th century, the planned series will be produced in France but shot in English.  It is described as cross between Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York and Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge.

Although the history of the infamous Parisian street gangs is relatively little-known outside of France today, the early 20th century “Apache chic” craze spread their fashion, dance and slang to a worldwide audience via tabloid journalism and numerous works of lurid fiction.

Comparable to the Scuttlers, Peaky Blinders and Hooligan gangs of England and the Larrikins of Australia and New Zealand, the Apaches were notorious street fighters.  Almost uniquely, however, the French gangsters  also evolved a variety of specialised weapons and mugging techniques that contributed to their media mystique.  Counters to these tricks were featured in numerous French self-defence books and articles during the early 20th century, especially after the introduction of jiujitsu to Paris in 1905.

Un breve documental en español sobre Bartitsu

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.

* Incorporating video demonstrations from the Academie Duello and the Bartitsu Club of New York City.

“Victor Ros” Fights Crime on the Mean Streets of 1890s Madrid

Set in Madrid during the years 1895-6, the Spanish action/drama telenovela Victor Ros is notable for its Bartitsuesque fight scenes, as shown below. Note that the video may take a few seconds to start playing after you’ve clicked on the “play” button.

The 1910 French craze for “secret weapon” walking sticks

By 1910, the mystique of the Parisian “apache” street gangsters had fully piqued the curiosity of the bourgeoisie via works of tabloid journalism and popular fiction. Middle- and upper-class “slummers” eagerly consumed news reports of the most recent apache outrages, attended classes in “la langue verte” (the colourful Montmartre back-alley argot) and elevated the exploits of gangsters such as “the Panther” and “Golden Helmet” to the status of urban folklore.

Above: a postcard satirising the popular image of the apaches of Montmartre.

Manufacturers were quick to jump on the bandwagon, producing clothing and accessories that fed into (and from) the apache craze. Among these were various gimmicked walking sticks containing secret weapons that might, in theory, be employed against apache muggers, who were infamous for wielding a variety of unusual weapons of their own, including knuckle-duster rings and even porcupine armour.

Despite intimations of an ad-hoc arms race between street gangsters and bourgeois gents, most of these weapons were probably, in reality, more often simply shown off as macho accoutrements. An article in The Sphere of 17 December, 1910 displayed the latest trends in anti-apache weapon canes:

The “bayonet stick” featured a spring-loaded blade which popped out of the handle, transforming the cane into a short spear.

The “rifle stick” included a lightweight shoulder stock attachment, presumably to be used when fending off apache muggers from a great distance.

The elegant derby handle of the “revolver and dagger” stick pulled out to reveal a six-shot revolver and a stiletto blade.

A “Suffragette Bartitsu Brawl” video from Fight Rep

Fighting for the vote, the Suffragettes have planted an explosive device. As they attempt to make their escape, a husband sells out his wife’s cause to the special constables …

Hats off to the team at London’s Fight Rep for this Suffrajitsu-inspired tribute to Edwardian ass-kickery, which was rehearsed and shot in a mere eight hours. Bartitsu aficionados will appreciate the use of signature techniques from E.W. Barton-Wright’s Pearson’s Magazine articles and Marguerite Vigny’s (“Miss Sanderson’s”) demonstrations of parasol and umbrella self-defence.

BBC “Timeshift” documentary on the history of the martial arts in Great Britain

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.

“Queensberry Justice”

Over the past ten years or so, the martial arts of Bartitsu and (especially) Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s “baritsu” have been incorporated into numerous Sherlock Holmes pastiche stories. Frequently, Holmes’ antagonistic skills are given but a passing mention, but some storytellers have produced tales in which the Great Detective’s fighting prowess is brought front and centre. Most notable among these is the Fight Card series of boxing-themed Holmes stories, now gathered into an omnibus edition for the first time.

Queensberry Justice collects all three extant Fight Card novelettes – “Work Capitol”, “Blood to the Bone” and “A Congression of Pallbearers” – and also includes no less than three new short stories, detailed introductory essays, cover galleries and more besides. Although the gloved and bare-knuckle styles of boxing take precedence, the stories also feature baritsu, cane fighting and even historical fencing via the mysterious Kernoozers Club!

The Queensberry Justice omnibus is recommended to all fans of the genre and is available here in both print and ebook editions.