Bartitsu at WMAW 2009

Between September 9-13, the beautiful 19th century campus of the DeKoven Center (Racine, Wisconsin) was the venue for the 10th annual Western Martial Arts Weekend conference. This was the first year that Bartitsu was included in the WMAW lineup.

The conference was sold out some months in advance, having attracted a record-breaking 160 participants from 6 countries. As we enjoyed perfect weather every day, almost all of the classes took place under the oak trees on the DeKoven Center lawns, with 4 classes of (typically) 40 students each training in a panoply of Western martial arts disciplines. Students were able to choose classes from four “tracks” including Fundamentals, Medieval Martial Arts, Renaissance and Early Modern Martial Arts and Close-Quarters Combat.

The 3-hour Bartitsu seminar took place on the morning of Day 4 and began with a precis of the cultural history of Bartitsu. The three major “themes” of this seminar were initiative control via pre-emptive striking/feinting and invitation, alignment control via efficient biomechanics and the process of martial improvisation.

We began with a series of basic exercises in alignment – using one’s own posture and skeletal structure, represented as a triangle, to control a partner’s triangle to the point of imbalance. These exercises were then formalised into a selection of basic boxing and savate techniques and into some examples of canonical jiujitsu kata.

The neo-Bartitsu process of “twisting” canonical sequences into improvisational exercises was then applied to the kata, and subsequently to a series of Bartitsu stick fighting set-plays. Participants were challenged to spontaneously recover the initiative after “something goes wrong” with the set-play (for example, the opponent defeats a particular technique; how to flow with the disruption and re-establish control of the fight?)

I was very happy with the students’ progress and particularly enjoyed working with some fellow Bartitsu practitioners from clubs in Seattle and San Francisco, who also asked for an informal private lesson.

In all, WMAW 2009 bodes very well for the continued growth of interest and enthusiasm for Bartitsu in the wider Western martial arts community.

Bartitsu: Steampunk martial art!


A new article by John Reppion, “Baritsu, Bartitsu and the Jujutsuffragettes” is featured in the 6th issue of Steampunk Magazine. The hardcopy version of the magazine is also available here.

Mr. Reppion’s article is an entertaining and informative look at Bartitsu history and links to the Sherlock Holmes adventures and the women’s suffrage movement in the early years of the 20th century – recommended reading.

Bartitsu Italia tour summary

I have just returned from a very busy two-week tour of Italy, teaching Bartitsu and stage combat master-classes and preparing for an exciting new project: a Bartitsu documentary!

I would like to begin by thanking my hosts, especially Bartitsu Italia and the Cletarte cultural organisation, for their tireless and expert support. From arranging hotel accommodation and sight-seeing expeditions to dinners and press conferences, they were a delight to work with and I hope to visit them again soon.

The three-day masterclass series in Rome was a great success, with a wonderfully enthusiastic body of students representing the gamut of martial arts and stage combat experience. It was held in a new (in parts, still under construction) sports and exercise facility in the heart of the city.

Day one was devoted to learning about the cultural history and basic principles of Bartitsu: the biomechanical and tactical precepts that underlie Barton-Wright’s fusion of boxing, jiujitsu, savate and stick fighting, and the process of applying neo-Bartitsu drills to many of Barton-Wright’s canonical self defence sequences.

The second day was largely given over to the application of Bartitsu to stage combat and stunt fighting, and day three was devoted to neo-Bartitsu as self defence. The Rome seminars generated nine hours of professionally shot high-def video footage.

The Greco Academy, Rome
The Greco Academy, Rome

While in Rome I was also privileged to be able to visit the fencing school of Maestro Renzo Musumeci Greco, which has been run continually as a sala d’armi by members of the Maestro’s family since the 1870s.

After flying to the lovely resort town of Amantea in Calabria (Southern Italy), we spent an intensive three days filming re-enactments and other footage for the Bartitsu documentary, including (by special and unusual permission) some scenes at the Palazzo delle Clarisse.

Interview for Calabrian television
Interview for Calabrian television
Priamar Fortress
Priamar Fortress

The final stop was in Savona, where I adjudicated a stage combat and historical fencing tournament at the magnificent Priamar fortress and taught a four-hour Bartitsu seminar for tournament participants. Again, their enthusiasm (and good-natured tolerance for my feeble attempts at spoken Italian) was much appreciated.

Finally, notes of personal thanks to Ran, Aile, Rocco, Jerome, Paolo, Angelica, Filomena, Gaetano, Luca, Daniele, Alessandro, Michele and Giuseppe. Grazie mille.

“Manly Arts Day” at Hampton Historic Site

Manly Arts

Bartitsu lessons will feature at the Hampton National Historic Site’s “Manly Arts” day (Maryland, USA). This event will showcase the range of martial arts and combat sports available to gentlemen of the 18th and 19th centuries.

With instructors including Steve Huff and Mark Donnelly, attendees will be in for a fun, educational day of “antagonistics”.

Edith Garrud: the Suffragette who knew jujutsu

Cover sample

Announcing the publication of a new book for teenage readers, or indeed for any reader interested in the true story of Edith Garrud, who taught jujutsu to the secret Bodyguard society of the English women’s suffrage movement.

Edith and her husband William were among the first generation of English jujutsu instructors, having learned the art from Bartitsu Club instructor Sadakazu Uyenishi and other notables.

The book details Edith Garrud’s life and career as a self defence instructor in Edwardian London and the adventures of the jujutsu-trained Bodyguard society, known as the Jujutsuffragettes, in protecting their leaders from arrest and assault. My hope is that it will inspire some young people, especially girls, both to stand up for what they believe in and also to enroll in martial arts training.

Suggested for readers aged 12 and older; includes 29 illustrations.

To view a free PDF preview and to order online, please visit the virtual bookstore.

Bartitsu in Italy

A reminder that I will be teaching a series of intensive Bartitsu seminars in Rome (August 28-30) and Cosenza (Calabria – September 2-4). These seminars will cover both canonical and neo-forms of Bartitsu, focusing on:

* combat body mechanics and tactics based on E.W. Barton-Wright’s Bartitsu precepts

* improvisation and the ability to spontaneously blend boxing, savate, jiujitsu and stick fighting

* the cultural history of Bartitsu as the first “fusion” martial art combining Asian and European fighting styles

Cane pose (2)

For more information, please visit the Bartitsu Italia website.

Western Martial Arts Illustrated magazine

Western Martial Arts Illustrated is a professional quality print magazine dedicated to the entire field of Western martial arts.

Of particular interest to Bartitsu enthusiasts, past issues have included detailed articles on Bartitsu, bare-knuckle pugilism, Jean Joseph Renaud’s defense dans la rue and personalities such as Colonel Thomas Hoyer Monstery, the Sword Prince.

Individual and group subscriptions are available here.

“Self Protection on a Cycle” at ISMAC

bicycle 2

No-one is sure whether Marcus Tindal’s 1901 article, “Self-protection on a Cycle”, was ever intended to be taken seriously. It may well have been a direct parody of E.W. Barton-Wright’s articles on “Self Defence with a Walking Stick” for Pearson’s Magazine.

Nevertheless, participants at May’s International Swordfighting and Martial Arts Conference in Detroit, Michigan, were given a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to put some of Mr. Tindal’s lessons into practice in a special seminar taught by Tony Wolf.

Bicycle 1

With special thanks to Bartitsu Society member Tom Badillo, who volunteered the use of his FIST impact suit for this class, and to the Art of Combat volunteer who wore it …

The Bartitsu Forum

Established in August of 2002 by mystery author Will Thomas, the Bartitsu Forum is an active and positive venue for online discussion of all things Bartitsuvian.

Typical discussion topics include:

* the early history of European jiujitsu

* the eclectic Japanese/European self defence methods developed between 1899 and the early 1920s, and the lives of their founders and practitioners

* street gangsterism, the suffragette movement, “physical culture” exercise programmes and other Victorian and Edwardian-era social phenomena, as related to the martial arts

* the practical revival of Bartitsu as a martial art and combat sport.

Hope to see you there!

A “new” Bartitsu article: “Ju-Jitsu and Ju-do”

This article was originally published in the New Zealand “Auckland Star” newspaper on April 11, 1901.

The article was written shortly after E.W. Barton-Wright’s successful lecture and demonstration for the Japan Society.



“Ju-Jitsu and Ju-do – the Japanese Art of Self-Defence from a British Athletic Point of View” is the title of a lecture by Mr Barton-Wright, in London, recently.

Mr Barton-Wright, as readers of “Pearson’s Magazine” are aware, is the inventor of Bartitsu, a system of self-defence combining walking-stick play, boxing, wrestling, kicking — in short, all possible forms of defence. The master of Bartitsu, it is said, can hold his own in any combat, from a street “scrap” with a New Cut Hooligan to a stabbing match with an Italian desperado. Indeed, Mr Barton-Wright claims that, at close range, he could disable a man with a revolver before the latter could “draw.”

The lecture was illustrated by practical demonstrations by the author and by his two Japanese wrestlers, the strong men Yamamoto and Tani.

“Yamamoto is returning to Japan,” said Mr Barton-Wright to an “Express” representative, “and I have a thirteen-stone man coming over, whose order is not so particular. The public will have an opportunity of seeing him and Tani wrestle. Tani only weighs eight stone, but I will back him to throw any wrestler living up to thirteen stone — five stone more than himself. My thirteen-stone man – I will back against all-comers. If you like, Tani will show you a little Japanese wrestling.”


Tani and Yamamoto sat lovingly by the stove, but, on a word from Mr Barton-Wright, Tani shed his European clothes and stepped to the wrestling mattress, a. Japanese wrestler in his buff. Two brown legs, a little body in a loose white tunic, and two quick, black eyes, bright in a swarthy face — that was Tani, champion boy wrestler of Japan.

The visitor took off his coat and boots, but forebore from baring his legs. “Divert Mr Tani’s mind of any idea, that I am a wrestling champion in disguise,” he said. “Tell him this is a purely academic wrestle. If he’s going to illustrate anything in the spine-breaking or leg-fracturing way, let him illustrate on Mr Yamamoto.”

“Tani, play light,” said Mr Barton-Wright in Japanese and the Homeric struggle began. The visitor crouched; Tani crouched. The visitor patted Tani on the arm, after the manner of the music-hall wrestler; Tani did nothing. Then, without warning, the visitor hurtled through the air, clean over Tani’s head. A swan might have envied the grace of that flight. He fell on his back, beautifully spread-eageled. First fail to Japan. A lightning cross-buttock and an inexplicable back-heel concluded the illustrations so far as the visitor was concerned.

Then Tani and Yamamoto strove together, and all that could be seen was a mad confusion of brown legs and white bodies.

“Nothing human on legs would stand a chance with these men,” said Mr Barton-Wright, proudly.

M. Pierre Vigny. the Swiss professor of stick play, had just finished a walking-stick bout with a pupil.

“I will back M. Vigny,” said Mr Barton-Wright, “against any man in a contest of all-round defence and offence, each using only his natural weapons. M. Vigny shall take on the best boxer in England, and the boxer can hit below the belt, wrestle — do anything he likes— and M. Vigny shall beat him.”