Umbrella self defence intro. at the Academie Duello

Learn to fend off ruffians and rapscallions with Vancouver’s most common weather-based accoutrement.

In this 4-hour workshop (Saturday, September 25 – 3:00pm to 7:00pm), participants will learn the art of self-defense with an umbrella or cane. Based on the Bartitsu system developed in turn of the century Victorian England, stick fighting is a practical, easily applied system of self-defense for any gentleman or lady.

This workshop is suitable for participants of any fitness level.
$60 (15% off for members)

You can sign up online here.

ISMAC Bartitsu 2010

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.

Fifth annual “Manly Arts Day” at Hampton Historical Site

The Hampton National Historic Site in Maryland will host its fifth “Manly Arts Day” on Sunday, September 19th.

Although historically identified as “Manly Arts,” all are welcome to learn about and participate in exercises and demonstrations of swordsmanship, boxing, and other of skills which were used by men and women to “come home alive” in the 19th Century.

Visitors will be able to view an array of historical weapons and practice period correct techniques in a safe controlled atmosphere. Nineteenth century America was not less dangerous than today. But its dangers were different in several ways. Threats to life, limb and property were typically “up-close and personal”, help was farther away and slower to respond. But people in general were more prepared to act decisively to defend themselves from danger on the field of battle, the field of honor or on the way home from the corner market. The need to be aware and be prepared for a dangerous encounter cut across all class, race, and gender lines. We can learn a lot about our ancestors whether rich man, poor man, beggar man, or thief by considering how they prepared for the kinds of dangers they expected to encounter.

Martial arts for defense and sport were closely tied to the Ridgely family – especially in the early years. Charles Ridgely, the builder of Hampton, and his nephew, the Governor of Maryland, were well-known for prize fighting with fist and cudgel. Subsequent generations served in cavalry units and were necessarily familiar with the use of sabers and other swords.

Guest instructors will be Steve Huff and Mark P. Donnelly, two internationally recognized teachers and historians of Western Martial Arts. They will be assisted by Park Ranger Victor Markland and members of the Mid-Atlantic Society for Historical Swordsmanship.

New ongoing Bartitsu course at the Alte Kampfkunst (Wuppertal, Germany)

Stefan Dieke announces a new, ongoing Bartitsu course to commence in September at the Alte Kampfkunst, his full-time Western martial arts academy in Wuppertal, Germany.

Bartitsu classes will be held every Wednesday from 6.30 to 8.00 pm.

The new course will initially focus on the cane and boxing aspects of E.W. Barton-Wright’s “New Art of Self Defence” and will then extend into the kicking and grappling elements. The course details, etc. are available in German here.

On the 9th and 10th of October Stefan will be teaching a ten-hour, two day introductory seminar on Bartitsu, addressing all four main elements of the art.

Wuppertal, which is world famous for its Edwardian-era sky train, is located between Cologne, Düsseldorf and the Ruhr area.

New Bartitsu course @ Academie Duello

One of the world’s premiere Western martial arts schools, the Academie Duello in Vancouver, Canada, is now offering regular classes in E.W. Barton-Wright’s “New Art of Self Defence”.

There will be purely historical techniques, as well as modern variations for realistic self-defense. Drills are designed for accuracy as well as the ability to think while fighting. To test your skills, part of the class time will feature sparring. This is really the first Western mixed martial art, combining kickboxing with jiujitsu and cane fighting… not for the ring, but for ultimate self-defense.

Click here to read more about the Academie’s Bartitsu programme.

We wish our Canadian colleagues all success in this new venture!

Speculations on Bartitsu (kick)boxing

Update: since the following article was written, the Bartitsu Society has come across this 1901 interview with E.W. Barton-Wright that offers some more information on his conception of “Bartitsu kickboxing”.

E.W. Barton-Wright evidently felt that while both boxing and kicking had their places within Bartitsu, they required substantial modification for use in actual self defence. Unfortunately, he never detailed the nature of his modifications, which leaves this aspect of the Bartitsu curriculum open to speculation based on a set of cryptic hints. This article examines his comments on boxing and kicking and offers some educated guesses about their place in the repertoire.

Barton-Wright was fulsome in his praise of boxing, which was virtually synonymous with the idea of “self defence” in London at the turn of the 20th century. In introducing his radical cross-training concept of Bartitsu, however, he was also careful to point out that even “manly and efficacious” British fisticuffs might not be enough to cope with a determined street attacker who didn’t play by the rules:

If one gets into a row and plays the game in the recognised style of English fair play – with fists – the opponent will very likely rush in and close, in order to avoid a blow. Then comes the moment for wrestling in the secret Japanese way. Instantly the unwary one is caught and thrown so violently that he is placed hors de combat, without even sufficient strength left to retire unassisted from the field. – Barton-Wright, “Black and White Budget” magazine, December 1900

Taken at face value, this comment suggests that the forewarned but unarmed Bartitsu-trained defender would adopt a boxing guard and spar specifically in order to “sucker” their adversary into close quarters. At that point the defender would deploy jiujitsu as a sort of secret weapon. In fact, both of Barton-Wright’s “boxing” scenarios in that article proposed that an unarmed fight might begin with fisticuffs, but would end with jiujitsu:

Again, should it happen that the assailant is a better boxer than oneself, the knowledge of Japanese wrestling will enable one to close and throw him without any risk of getting hurt oneself. – Ibid.

He was less enthusiastic about French kickboxing. While acknowledging that kicking and countering kicks were important aspects of self defence training, he asserted that:

Another branch of Bartitsu is that in which the feet and hands are both employed, which is an adaptation of boxing and Savate. The guards are done in a slightly different style from boxing, being much more numerous as well. The use of the feet is also done quite differently from the French Savate. This latter … is quite useless as a means of self-defence when done in the way Frenchmen employ it. – Ibid.

Another cryptic comment on the subject of kicking in self defence:

Mr. Barton-Wright does not profess to teach his pupils how to kick each other, but merely to know how to be able to return kicks with interest should one be attacked in this manner. – Ibid.

Later, an article in the Pall Mall Gazette also mentioned that the kicking methods adopted at the Bartitsu Club were “somewhat different from the accepted French method.”

In considering Barton-Wright’s comments on savate, it’s worth recalling the traditional Anglo-French rivalry and the middle-class London cultural bias against kicking in self defence as being “un-English”. Also, at a time of very intense nationalism, B-W’s idea that it was socially “permissible” for English gentlemen to learn these foreign skills was still relatively novel and probably not universally accepted. Perhaps B-W deliberately de-emphasised the kicking content of Bartitsu and distanced it from the French method in his articles and lectures as a gesture towards social respectability. Likewise, he may have been attempting to score points by suggesting that the Bartitsu Club was promoting a “new, improved” (even an Anglicised) version of savate.

Both Barton-Wright himself and Bartitsu Club instructor Pierre Vigny were primarily interested in teaching pragmatic self-defence, so it’s likely that neither of them had much time for the balletic, light-contact, high kicking style that was then becoming popular as a bourgeois exercise in Paris. If we take B-W’s comments on kicking literally, then presumably he was simply advocating generic street fighting kicks of no particular national origin.

Several months later, in a lecture for the Japan Society of London, he noted that:

Under Bartitsu is included boxing, or the use of the fist as a hitting medium, the use of the feet both in an offensive and defensive sense, the use of the walking stick as a means of self-defence. Judo and jujitsu, which (are) secret styles of Japanese wrestling, (I) would call close play as applied to self-defence.

In order to ensure as far as it was possible immunity against injury in cowardly attacks or quarrels, (one) must understand boxing in order to thoroughly appreciate the danger and rapidity of a well-directed blow, and the particular parts of the body which were scientifically attacked. The same, of course, applied to the use of the foot or the stick … judo and jiujitsu are not designed as primary means of attack and defence against a boxer or a man who kicks you, but (are) only supposed to be used after coming to close quarters, and in order to get to close quarters, it is absolutely necessary to understand boxing and the use of the foot. – Barton-Wright, “Jiu jitsu and Judo: the Japanese Art of Self Defence from a British Athletic Point of View”, February 1901

And then:

Directly one (sees) a man, one ought to know whether he (is) a man to go for at once, or whether he should be allowed to have first turn and afterwards come in one’s self. – Ibid

This reads as if Barton-Wright was moving towards a more specifically integrated unarmed combat system, perhaps combining the defensive aspects of boxing and savate (guards, slips, parries etc.) with a limited range of punches and kicks. These would be transitional, counter-offensive actions between the preferred ranges of stick fighting and jiujitsu. Thus, again, the unarmed/disarmed Bartitsu practitioner might assume a boxing guard stance and defend/counter according to orthodox Anglo-French styles, but then segue into jiujitsu to actually bring the fight to a close.

Barton-Wright’s articles on “Self Defence with a Walking Stick” include several defence sequences that feature boxing punches and savate kicks, but in each case, the context is the Bartitsu-trained defender countering punching or kicking attacks with his trusty cane. The Black and White Budget article also featured a photograph of Vigny executing what looks like a waist-high front thrust or crescent kick. The implication is that students at the Bartitsu Club might have practiced the basic offensive techniques of boxing and savate partially in order to simulate the types of attacks they might face in the streets; to “role-play” as boxers and savateurs for training purposes.

Barton-Wright’s reference to “more numerous guards”, performed in a “slightly different style” to orthodox boxing, may be significant. It seems highly likely that he and Vigny would have discounted those techniques that relied upon either fighter wearing boxing gloves. If so, they may have been inspired by the older, pre-Queensberry Rules versions of pugilism and savate, which were designed for bare-knuckle fighting and did include a diverse range of guards. Also, Bartitsu defences against unarmed striking attacks were not restricted by the rules of boxing; the counter-attack might be a kick, a punch, a jiujitsu atemi strike, a throw and/or a submission technique.

While the most dangerous stick and jiujitsu techniques could not be fully applied in safe training, via recreational (kick)boxing the Bartitsu practitioner could still attain the sense of timing, distance, contact and unpredictability that can only be honed by unrehearsed sparring.

Due to the speculative nature of canonical Bartitsu (kick)boxing, Bartitsu revivalists tend to take an eclectic approach to their kicking and punching curricula, drawing from various late 19th and early 20th century sources.

Bartitsu at ISMAC 2010

Tony Wolf will be teaching a six-hour Bartitsu seminar at this year’s International Swordfighting and Martial Arts Convention in Detroit, Michigan (September 3-6 2010).

This class will explore three essential combat principles of Bartitsu, the “gentlemanly art of self defence” founded by Edward William Barton-Wright in 1898. Barton-Wright defined these principles as:

(1) to disturb the equilibrium of your assailant; (2) to surprise him before he has time to regain his balance and use his strength; (3) if necessary to subject the joints of any part of his body … to strains which they are anatomically and mechanically unable to resist.

He also noted that:

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.

Drawing from a selection of classical Bartitsu unarmed and walking-stick fighting set-plays, we will take up the challenge implied by Barton-Wright’s precepts of adaptability and improvisation, thereby continuing the “mixed martial arts” experiment that he began in late Victorian London.

Pre-requisites: this class is not suitable for beginners. Intermediate to advanced level martial arts training, preferably including skill in falling techniques, is required.

Equipment: a sturdy crook-handled walking stick or 36 inch dowel with any edges smoothed away; fencing mask or similar face/head protection.

A video montage from the 2009 conference:

See the ISMAC schedule page for details on the many classes to be offered at the conference.

Another “new” canonical Bartitsu technique

From Percy Longhurst’s “JiuJitsu and Other Methods of Self Defence”, 1906 (pp 77-78):

A different defence to a similar attack – one which considerably surprised me when I was first introduced to it by Mr. Barton-Wright several years ago, and which is by no means too much for feminine strength – is that illustrated in Figure 46. The descending hand of the assailant is jerked up, his wrist seized, and the defender simultaneously steps outside the assailant’s advanced leg so that her knee – the leg being bent – is pressed against his bent knee. A sideways and downwards jerk of the captured hand will lay the assaulter on the ground, the whole secret of the move being, of course, the disturbance of the balance.


Considerable confidence and great quickness are required for the satisfactory accomplishment of this throw, and, admittedly, there are better defences which may be used if the assailant has a very great superiority of weight. If the thrower makes a slight backwards kick with her advanced foot at the same moment that she jerks the captured arm round, it will facilitate her assailant’s downfall.

Seminar footage from Eugene, Oregon

Footage from the Bartitsu seminar that took place at the NorthWest Fencing Academy in Eugene, Oregon on March 13-14, 2010.

The Eugene seminar included training in both the “canonical” or classical set-plays of the art and also in neo-Bartitsu drills, which are used as a transition between the set-plays and free-sparring. In these neo-Bartitsu exercises, the “opponent” can spontaneously resist or counter the “defender’s” scripted techniques and the defender is challenged to improvise to regain to control of the fight.

The focus in this seminar was on Bartitsu as a recreational martial art, rather than purely as self defence.

Bartitsu seminar in Eugene, Oregon from Tony Wolf on Vimeo.

Partnering instructor Tony Wolf are David Borland, Provost d’armi (classical Italian fencing) in the black shirt, Matthew Lowes, aikido shodan and certified Systema instructor in the grey shirt and Maestro Sean Hayes (classical Italian fencing) in the white shirt.

Bartitsu seminar at the Gallowglass Academy

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.