Dr. Emelyne Godfrey has reviewed Wendy Rouse’s history of the women’s self-defence movement in the USA for the academic journal Martial Arts Studies. Dr. Godfrey’s review is available as a free, downloadable PDF via this link.
Dr. Emelyne Godfrey has reviewed Wendy Rouse’s history of the women’s self-defence movement in the USA for the academic journal Martial Arts Studies. Dr. Godfrey’s review is available as a free, downloadable PDF via this link.
Disclosure – the Weapon Store forwarded samples of this product for review purposes.
As the practice of “revived” Western martial arts becomes better established, an increasing number of manufacturers are developing professionally-produced training equipment specific to this niche market. So it is that the U.K.-based Weapon Store has introduced its Empire line of equipment for the practice of historical fencing and pugilism.
The Broughton pugilism gloves are appropriately named for prize fighter Jack Broughton, the English champion pugilist circa 1734-1740. Broughton’s innovations included formulating a set of seven rules for the prize ring as well as a codified system of scientific defence including the skill of “hitting away” (striking on the retreat). Broughton is also credited with the development of the first boxing gloves, called “mufflers”, designed to “effectually secure (his students) from the inconveniency of black eyes, broken jaws and bloody noses.”
The Empire – Broughton gloves are very conveniently packaged in a drawstring bag of calico or similar material, which also includes a pair of natural-fibre handwraps and a printed page of information about Jack Broughton’s boxing career. The right-out-of-the-box impression is that a great deal of thought and care has been put into the aesthetics of the whole package; although this type of glove is a modern invention, the natural materials and colours of the bag and handwraps and the tan-coloured leather of the gloves themselves are all plausibly “old school” and “old world”. This is a thoughtful touch for practitioners of historic martial arts, who may otherwise have to make do with less aesthetically appropriate equipment.
As with any new leather product, a “breaking in” period is required. Although comfortable over open or semi-clenched hands, the gloves are initially stiff enough that forming a tight fist is difficult. After stretching and absorbing sweat during several training sessions, they conform to a functional semi-clenched shape and the leather naturally darkens, which further enhances their aesthetic appeal.
Specific to Bartitsu training via the Bartitsu Club of Chicago, the Broughton gloves have thus far held up admirably to bag-work, pad-work, light sparring and jujitsu/wrestling/free-grappling drills (including wrist locks). The smooth leather piping offers no risk of abrading other trainees’ skin during serious grappling. After four months of regular weekly training sessions, the stitching and padding are holding up well.
Refreshingly, the gloves offer enough mobility to comfortably grip the thick cloth of judo/jujitsu gi jackets, and do not significantly interfere with dexterity even during Indian club manipulation exercises (which is, obviously, above and beyond their brief). Similarly, although the Broughton gloves are not intended for weapon fighting, they have also demonstrated value in safely absorbing incidental impact and eliminating abrasions to the covered portions of the hand during semi-improvised sick fighting drills.
The Weapon Store plans to bring out two further gloves designed for historic pugilism and related skills; the “Molyneux”, a 16 oz. heavy duty boxing glove, and the “Barton-Wright”, a very simple protector with a completely open hand to allow full freedom of movement while still offering a degree of protection when striking with the closed fist.
A guest post by Allen Reed, reporting on his recent Bartitsu seminar at the Gallowglass Academy in Leaf River, Illinois.
On Saturday, February 11th, five new Bartitsuka gathered at Gallowglass Academy to find out more about the art of Bartitsu. Four out of the five had previous Oriental martial arts experience. The other student had previously taken my classes on Bowie knife and tomahawk.
I started with the standard precis of the history of Bartitsu and how it got to where we are today. We then started in on 19th century pugilism. I like to start with pugilism as I find it provides a good warm up and starts building a sense of body movement and contact.
We covered the standard left lead and right rear punches both in slow motion and then with focus mitts so everyone got to actually feel how powerful the punches can be. We then covered defenses against these punches. First the standard blocks with the opposite arms and then the Jack Slack elbow block. From the Slack guard I showed how to counter with a “chopper” to the nose of the opponent. We then returned to standard blocks and worked on using the elbow and hammer fist as a counter strike.
We then moved to the two savate kicks I include in my Bartitsu teachings, the coup de pied bas and chasse bas (both front foot and rear foot versions). First we worked them slowly using each other to see how they can be used against knee, shin and foot. I then had each student use the kicks with full force against a kick shield. We then went back and worked on combinations of kicks and punches in slow motion on each other, using “pushing” force to examine how each strike impacts an opponent’s posture and balance.
During the discussion of pugilism I showed how the pugilistic left foot and arm forward stance can be modified for modern self defense with the “fence” stance of both hands open in front of you to provide a physical and psychological barrier to an attacker. Yet the hands up in front also allow for powerful strikes.
This brought us to lunch time. During the lunch break I discussed the modern legal ramifications of using force in a self defense situation.
After lunch we put the mats down and worked on how to do break falls. Two of the participants had experience with falling before but the other three had not. I then started work on the back heel throw from pugilism which is close to the throws that Barton-Wright uses in many of the jujutsu techniques.
This then moved into doing jujutsu from the Canon. Since we had been doing the back heel throw I first taught the defense from a face strike that is blocked and you end up tripping the attacker up with a rear throw (back heel.) We then did a failure drill of allowing the attacker to block the “back hander” strike so the defender had to do some other strikes to set up for the throw or take the attacker down another way.
We then worked on the defense from a one handed lapel grasp, since this is pretty much the same defense as the face strike but we did the grasp with the left had so everyone could learn that these techniques can be done on both sides. The failure drill for this technique was that the attacker steps back with his left foot so you can not get the trip on the first attempt.
The final technique we worked on from this series of throws was the belt grab or reaching for the pocket watch defense. I switched this to a neo-Bartitsu grab on the wrist since none of us wear swords or carry pocket watches very often. For this I showed the pain compliance grab at the throat version showing how this can also be used as a choke.
Next I taught the “How to Escort a Man Out of the Room” with the figure four lock on the elbow. We then worked on a neo-Bartitsu version using the same arm lock for a knife defense.
With that I thought it was time to start work on the Vigny cane techniques. I explained how Vigny advocated using a walking stick with a heavy ball on the end but that I liked to use a crook handled cane for modern defense since it is legal any where you go and does not stand out as much as a walking stick does in our modern world.
First we worked on Guard by Distance. We started by doing the Canonical technique slowly to get the feel for the move. I then had one of the partners in each pair put on a focus mitt on their “cane” hand so the defender could actually strike with power to the incoming hand. After seeing how powerful the blow to the hand could be we switched to a neo-Bartisu move with the attacker wearing a hockey glove while armed with a knife. So again the defender could strike with some power while facing a more realistic modern attack.
For the failure drill I had the neo-Bartitsu attacker with the knife decide if the strike to the hand was hard enough to disarm them and if not the defender had to follow up with other strikes with the cane.
We then worked on the first of B-W’s defenses using a light stick against a man with a heavy stick where again the idea is to trip the attacker up. First we covered the Canonical technique and then switched to a more modern neo-Bartisu “heavy stick” of a baseball bat. We then worked on how to do the same basic technique but using the crook cane to hook the knee or ankle of the attacker.
I then showed the technique of hooking an unarmed attacker at the neck and pulling his head into a knee strike.
As a prelude to doing a series of failure drills against an unarmed attacker I went back and showed how to use the head control movements that B-W uses in the jujutsu techniques. For the Canonical technique we used the two handed lapel grab. We then did a series of failure drills where the defender with the cane has the cane grabbed or taken away by the offender.
The grand finale of the day was everyone put on some head protection and we did individual drills with everyone rotating through being attacker and defender one at a time so they had the mat space all to themselves. After the first series I stood by as coach and second attacker who came with a baseball bat in case any defender got too tied up with their offender.
After it was all over we did a quick after-action review. Everyone said they enjoyed themselves and learned new things. In particular they liked the failure drill since their previous martial arts training had never included that kind of follow up in case the first plan did not work.
January – Emelyne Godfrey’s book Masculinity, Crime and Self Defence in Victorian Literature hits the shelves. Bartitsu is given a shout-out in a new television superhero series, The Cape. We also receive our first glimpse of “baritsu” action from Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. Bartitsu demos and seminars are offered in Pilot Point, Alaska and in Spino d’Adda, Italy. We help vote for female jujitsu pioneer Edith Garrud to be commemorated with a street plaque.
February – Alex Kiermayer presents a well-received Bartitsu seminar at the annual Dreynevent historical martial arts conference in Vienna. Chris Amendola‘s Bartitsu classes get underway again in Houston and Robert Reinberger makes a copy of William Garrud’s Combined Self Defence available online. Wellington, New Zealand hosts the world premiere of a new play, The Hooligan and the Lady, a dramatised biography of Edwardian-era jujitsu and self defence advocate Florence LeMar.
March – We receive a green light to proceed with the memorial wall display at Westminster Library. Jujitsu pioneer Edith Garrud gathers enough votes to be among the historical figures to be honoured with a street plaque in the London borough of Islington. Announcement of three separate media projects based on the premise that Arthur Conan Doyle and Harry Houdini teamed up as detectives. March 27th heralds the long-awaited release of the feature-length documentary, Bartitsu: The Lost Martial Art of Sherlock Holmes. Terry Kroenung and friends perform a Bartitsu demo. at the Anomalycon steampunk event in Denver.
April – Bartitsu instructor Stefan Dieke is interviewed by reporter Nico Rau for a story on Bartitsu featured on Germany’s DRadio Wissen. Instructor Allen Reed teaches a Bartitsu seminar at the Oklahoma Steampunk Exhibition.
May – Instructor Tom Badillo teaches a Bartitsu seminar at the Gaslight Gathering in San Diego. Ran Braun teaches a baritsu-inspired seminar for the Red Crow Stunt Team in Reggio Emilia, Italy and Mark Donnelly offers three classes at the Steampunk World’s Fair convention in New Jersey. The first ever Bartitsu lecture and demonstration is offered in Zagreb, Croatia.
June – A new Bartitsu study group is formed in Battersea, London. Allen Reed offers a class and demonstration at the 1900 Chautauqua at Rockford, Illinois. A new interview with Bartitsu Forum founder and novelist Will Thomas appears online. An extensive article on Bartitsu is featured in the German magazine, Schwert & Klinge. The Bartitsu Club of Tallahassee, Florida creates a new web page.
July – The new trailer for Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows promises a great deal of exciting baritsu action. Publication of the book 100 Years of Judo in Great Britain, written by the late scholar of British judo and Bartitsu history, Richard Bowen. Mark Donnelly teaches a seminar for a recently founded Bartitsu study group, the Bartitsu Club of New York City. Tony Wolf teaches Bartitsu seminars and presents a public screening of the Lost Martial Art documentary at CombatCon (Las Vegas, Nevada).
August – Bartitsu fight scenes are featured in the Mercury Player Theatre’s production, You’ve Ruined a Perfectly Good Mystery. 10th anniversary of the Bartitsu Society’s official online communication venue, the Bartitsu Forum. The 1st annual international Bartitsu School of Arms and Physical Culture conference is held in London – a resounding success!
September – Bartitsu receives an extensive write-up in Holland’s Volkskrant newspaper. The Lost Martial Art of Sherlock Holmes DVD becomes available via Amazon.com. At the 2011 WMAW Western martial arts conference (Racine, Wisconsin), instructor Tony Wolf offers Bartitsu seminars and a demonstration as part of a 19th century style Assault at Arms display.
October – Phil Crawley commences a new antagonistics course via the Black Boar Swordsmanship School in Fife, Scotland. A new interview with Bartitsu founder E.W. Barton-Wright is discovered. A second trailer for Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is released.
November – Allen Reed teaches Bartitsu at the TeslaCon steampunk event in Madison, Wisconsin. The Barton-Wright/Alfred Hutton Alliance for Historically Accurate Hoplology and Antagonistics (Seattle, Washington) goes public.
December – DVDs of Bartitsu: The Lost Martial Art of Sherlock Holmes go on sale via the Freelance Academy Press, coinciding with the long-awaited release of Game of Shadows, which does indeed include plenty of baritsu action. Announcement of a new Western martial arts and physical culture school (Chicago, IL), to feature Bartitsu instruction from Tony Wolf. Phil Crawley releases his new translation of Emile Andre’s The Art of Self Defence in the Street With or Without Weapons.
Due warning: this review contains minor plot spoilers.
A Game of Shadows is afoot all over Europe in the blockbuster sequel to Guy Ritchie’s 2009 hit movie, Sherlock Holmes. The plot is very loosely based on events described (and, significantly, implied) in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s short story The Final Problem, in which Sherlock Holmes famously confronts his arch-nemesis, the diabolical criminal mastermind Professor James Moriarty.
Since many other critics have already offered thorough reviews of the film as a whole, and since this is Bartitsu.org, this commentary will focus specifically on the movie’s martial arts content; Holmes’ fictional “baritsu” fighting style being taken as an analogue of E.W. Barton-Wright’s Bartitsu. For full disclosure, the Bartitsu Society donated copies of both volumes of the Bartitsu Compendium to the production team for the 2009 movie.
Game of Shadows offers no less than five significant hand-to-hand fight sequences, three being especially elaborate. All are expertly choreographed by a team led by fight director Richard Ryan (see our exclusive interview with Richard here). Sherlock Holmes is portrayed as an excellent combatant with a tachypsychic ability to virtually meditate in the midst of chaos. Holmes is never made to seem invulnerable, however; he takes plenty of damage during the course of the story. The fight scenes are also exceptionally well shot and edited for maximum impact and enjoyment; it really helps when the director (Ritchie) is also a martial arts enthusiast (Brazilian jujitsu and judo), with an enthusiast’s eye for technical detail.
Robert Downey, Jr. (Sherlock Holmes) is himself a passionate student of the martial arts, specifically Wing Chun kung fu. Stylistically, there is comparatively little to call between Wing Chun and the transitional London Prize Ring/early Queensberry Rules method of English boxing, which was likely what Conan Doyle had in mind for Holmes and which was incorporated into Bartitsu by Barton-Wright. Both styles emphasise linear punching with vertical fists and protecting the central line of the body via skillful defence, including both percussive blocks and deflective parries. The two styles are so technically similar that it has even been speculated that Wing Chun may have been influenced by bare-knuckle boxing via European travellers visiting China – an intriguing, but unprovable theory.
Holmes’ “baritsu” pugilism strikes a nice balance between Asian and European fisticuffs; his defence is more mobile than is typical of pure Wing Chun, including numerous ducks, while his strikes are more diverse than was legal in British boxing, including nukite (spear-hand) and tegatana (knife-hand) blows as well as orthodox punches. His tactic of distracting opponents with thrown objects, established in the first movie and reminiscent of Barton-Wright’s overcoat trick, makes a welcome return.
There is also considerable stylistic cross-over between the low kicks of Asian martial arts and those of savate, or la boxe Française, the French method of kickboxing. Although savate is never mentioned in the Holmes canon, it is absolutely plausible that that the polymathic detective should be familiar with this method of foot-fighting, which was widely popular in France during the late 19th century and had even been exhibited in London several times. It is worth noting that E.W. Barton-Wright carefully distinguished the style of kicking taught at his school from the orthodox techniques of la boxe Française. This is assumed to have been a reaction against the stylised, academic/gymnastic style that was then popular in middle-class Parisian salles de savate.
In Game of Shadows, Sherlock Holmes makes frequent use of low kicks blended with fisticuffs, including swinging/chopping kicks (the coups de pied bas of savate) to the shin against two separate opponents and stamping front thrust kicks to the thighs of various other enemies. At least once, he also employs a skipping side kick (savate’s chasse median) to spectacular effect. Both pugilism (augmented by atemi-waza) and kicking are featured especially in the movie’s first fight sequence, in which Holmes is accosted by a group of four hired gangsters.
Perhaps the most overt stylistic nod to Bartitsu per se, however, takes place during the movie’s longest action set-piece, a furiously kinetic brawl (primarily) between Holmes and an acrobatic Cossack assassin, which rages throughout, out of and then back into an opulent and rather decadent gentlemen’s club. Even the athletic Holmes is just barely able to keep up with the Cossack’s parkourian agility, but the Great Detective’s triumph is assured by his inventive, high-impact close-combat via crook-handled umbrella, blended with wrenching jujitsu throws, locks and takedowns – the combined effect very strongly reminiscent of Barton-Wright’s classic essays on The New Art of Self Defence and Self Defence with a Walking Stick.
Each of the film’s fight sequences highlights Holmes’ idiosyncratic melding of techniques from different fighting styles and his astounding powers of combative improvisation, both, again, aspects of Barton-Wright’s ideal of Bartitsu as a method of cross-training. On the subject of improvisation, Barton-Wright noted:
It is quite unnecessary to try and get your opponent into any particular position, as this system embraces every possible eventuality and your defence and counter-attack must be based entirely upon the actions of your opponent.
Several critics have complained that Holmes’ unique perceptive ability, which approaches a kind of psychic precognition, is over-used in this film. Dubbed “Holmes-o-vision” by Guy Ritchie and memorably debuted in the 2009 original, this cinematic device is, in fact, used three times during fight sequences, but is twice cleverly subverted in surprising and gratifying ways.
Finally, the less said about Holmes’ inevitable confrontation with the suavely menacing Professor Moriarty (Jared Harris) at Reichenbach Falls, the better; not because it’s anything less than superb, but because it would be churlish to even begin to give that game away. Suffice it to say that it’s not what you expect …
In all, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows simultaneously offers a terrific cinematic rendition of Holmes’ “baritsu” and, within the conventions of action choreography, a genuinely plausible representation of Barton-Wright’s Bartitsu.
This review is specific to Volume 1 of a two-part series of books by the late judoka and historian Richard Bowen (1926-2005), whose extensive private collection of judo/jujitsu books and ephemera now forms the Bowen Collection at Bath University.
The “Reclaiming of its true spirit” subtitle is curious, in that aside from a few scattered editorial comments, the book does not actually address reclaiming judo’s “true spirit”. Rather, Volume 1 of 100 Years of Judo in Great Britain offers a very thorough history of the early 20th century personalities and politics of jujitsu and judo in the UK, with generous asides exploring Japanese martial arts in the USA and elsewhere during the same period.
Bowen was obviously a devoted and very careful scholar, with long-term access to rare archives, diaries etc. in addition to in-depth first-hand knowledge of the subject and many of its principal figures. Specific to Bartitsu, he performed pioneering research into the lives of Bartitsu founder E.W. Barton-Wright, music hall challenge wrestlers Yukio Tani and Sadakazu Uyenishi and strongman/jujitsu promoter William “Apollo” Bankier, amongst many other notables. 100 Years of Judo in Great Britain cites and offers extensive quotes from numerous c1900 newspaper articles, etc. that promise to open new doors for contemporary Bartitsu researchers. Also, students of Brazilian jujitsu/MMA history will be interested to read about Mitsuyo “Conde Koma” Maeda’s early experiences as a challenge wrestler in London.
Perhaps unavoidably, given that the book was published posthumously, some sections are obviously better polished than others. Frustratingly at times, there are no chapter headings, contents pages nor index, though there are almost 100 pages of carefully annotated end-notes. The proof-reading also leaves quite a lot to be desired. Ultimately, though, these are minor quibbles in comparison with the absolute wealth of knowledge and detail to be found in this book. It is a unique and very valuable contribution to martial arts scholarship.
Reviews are coming in for the new documentary (available here) and they are good …
Bartitsu: The Lost Martial Art of Sherlock Holmes 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: read the full review here.
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: read the full review here.
Sleek and engaging … fascinating … a superbly watchable piece of martial arts history …
– Bullshido.net martial arts movie reviews: read the full review here.
It is quite unnecessary to try and get your opponent in any particular position, as the system embraces every possible eventuality, and your defence and counter attack must be entirely based upon the tactics of your opponent. – E.W. Barton-Wright, 1899
Barton-Wright’s precept of adaptability was the central theme of the Bartitsu intensive held at the 2010 International Swordfighting and Martial Arts Convention between September 3-6. The Bartitsu course comprised three two-hour long classes, commencing at 9.00 each morning of the event, and was taught by Tony Wolf.
Day 1 began with a precis of Bartitsu history and then moved into biomechanics exercises, concentrating on the image of the standing human body as an isosceles triangle and exploring the limits of triangular stability. Participants started with solo movements and then experimented with various pushing and pulling techniques to de-stabilise their partners, following Barton-Wright’s first and second principles; “to disturb the equilibrium of your assailant” and “to surprise him before he has a chance to use his strength”.
These exercises were then extended into a basic boxing sequence (parry left lead off, counter with left and straight right combination) in which slow “pressing” contact was made, then adding in a low chopping kick to either the lead or rear ankle/shin. To this sequence was then added the third principle of “straining joints” via leverage against the head and neck, elbows etc., with the choice of joint lock or de-stabilising hold depending on the partner’s physical position following the punches and the kick.
Day 2 commenced with a recap of the (kick)boxing work and then segued into a selection of the canonical Bartitsu stickfighting sequences. Again, the emphasis was on freely applying Barton-Wright’s “three principles” in response to the opponent’s spontaneous defensive and/or counter-offensive actions, as a “bridge” between set-plays and free sparring.
Day 3 also began with a brief (kick)boxing based review, followed by a close examination of two of the canonical jiujitsu paired kata from the tactical and dynamic points of view. The classical set-plays were then “twisted” on the assumption that the opponent muscled through or otherwise interrupted the set sequence of events, the defender’s challenge being to ride with the interruption and spontaneously apply the imbalancing, surprise and joint-locking principles to regain the initiative. There was a digression at one point into a specific newaza (ground grappling) submission lock as an example of maintaining control should the thrown opponent pull the defender down with them.
A heads-up and thumbs-up for the BBC’s new series updating Sherlock Holmes for the 21st century.
According to the official website:
Co-created by Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, Sherlock stars Benedict Cumberbatch as the new Sherlock Holmes and Martin Freeman as his loyal friend, Doctor John Watson. Rupert Graves plays Inspector Lestrade.
The iconic details from Conan Doyle’s original books remain – they live at the same address of 221b Baker Street, have the same names and, somewhere out there, Moriarty is waiting for them.
Steven Moffat says: “Conan Doyle’s stories were never about frock coats and gas light; they’re about brilliant detection, dreadful villains and blood-curdling crimes – and frankly, to hell with the crinoline. Other detectives have cases, Sherlock Holmes has adventures, and that’s what matters.”
The first three ninety-minute episodes of what seems certain to become a long-running series screened in the UK over the past three weeks and are available online in various formats. The series is recommended especially for its deft conjuring of a slightly fantastical but recognisable modern London. Episodes two and three, The Blind Banker and The Great Game, feature some exciting fight scenes. No word yet on the origins or nature of the contemporary Holmes’ baritsu skills …
Here is Allen Reed’s report on a Bartitsu seminar he gave recently at the Gallowglass Academy in Leaf River, Illinois:
The seminar at Gallowglass Academy on Saturday went well. I had seven students turn out for the class, four gentlemen, two members of the constabulary and a lady.
I started with a short discussion of the history of Bartitsu then we did Farmer Burns’ warm up set and went right into the pugilism section of the seminar. Most of the pugilism techniques I took from Allanson-Winn but I also included other strikes and some techniques from Owen Swift’s book on pugilism.
After lunch we started on the canonical jujutsu. portion of the day. I did show how to use the two techniques for removing someone from your room for self defense.
When we finished with the jujutsu we segued into Vigny’s cane. Again, we covered canonical cane techniques and did some modifications to make them a little more street applicable.
The last part of the day, with help from my fellow law enforcement officers, I discussed modern self defense law and then had all of the students work through their own use of Bartitsu techniques for modern self defense.
Everyone left expressing their satisfaction at attending the seminar.
… and here is a review from attendee Dan Maloy:
Saturday I drove to Leaf River, IL, to attend the Bartitsu seminar at the Gallowglass Academy. For those not familiar, Bartitsu is a martial art developed in late 19th century England. It combines Jujitsu, savate, pugilism, and modifications of the cane-fighting techniques already in use in Edwardian England.
At the seminar, Bartitsu was presented within its cultural context. By this I mean that by and large the instructor, Allen Reed, taught the techniques as they would have been taught by Barton-Wright. I’m quite glad that he did this as it allowed some new perspectives on skills that I’ve already gained, and gave some much-needed context to some of the contemporary fighting manuals I have.
The seminar started with an examination of 19th/early-20th century pugilism, concentrating largely on the basic techniques. While the dodge, slip, and cross-punches were largely familiar to me from previous training with boxing, the jab used in Bartitsu was entirely new. Anyone who has seen some of the older boxing manuals, back when bare-knuckle boxing was the norm, has probably noted the odd stance taken by the boxers: the leading arm extended far out and holding a very upright and stiff posture. Indeed, this image has been much caricatured, used to make anyone adopting it look like a rank amateur or someone with terrible training. Finding out the actual use of that stance, where the leading jab landed more like a sword lunge than a modern punch, gave me some interesting ideas I fully intend to test on my students in the weeks and months to come. The technique has a surprising amount of power, though I am not sure of its recovery time. I’m sure I’ll have more to say as I try it out within the context of my own art.
After the pugilism we moved on to Barton-Wright’s jujitsu techniques. These were largely throws, with very little joint manipulation used. Throughout this part of the seminar, Allen took great pains to point out that inserts (“discommodes” he called them, using the vernacular of the historical period) were essential whenever entering into a throw or lock. Though the techniques were familiar to me there were again some small points that were different, mostly having to do with hand/arm placement during throws, that I look forward to trying out.
After lunch we moved on to the walking-stick defense portion of the class. Bartitsu uses a very high guard, almost comically high by today’s standards. According to Allen this was intended to keep the combatant’s hand out of the window of combat, while still leaving the stick in a strong position to both attack and defend. He said that many of the other cane arts of the time were largely exported from saber techniques, but that they failed to account for the lack of a guard/basket-hilt to protect the hand. Barton-Wright tried to address this in Bartitsu by having the hand wielding the cane held over the head.
I cannot say that I would use any of the cane techniques in my own teaching, at least not without some heavy modification to account for both the shorter sticks used in arnis and for the century of refinement that stick techniques have undergone since Bartitsu’s heyday. Still, the instruction was excellent and I had a great time learning and practicing the techniques.