“La Jaguarina” honoured by US Fencing Association

Cause for some celebration; the wonderful Ella Hattan, a.k.a. la Jaguarina, has been inducted into the US Fencing Association’s Hall of Fame.

Ella was a fascinating 19th century character, a student of the equally colourful “Sword Prince”, Col. Thomas Hoyer Monstery. Of humble Midwestern origins, she completely re-invented herself as “La Jaguarina, Champion Amazon of the Age” and set about challenging male champions in the bizarre sport of equestrian sabre fencing. She also ran a physical culture school and worked as an actress and model.

Essentially, Jaguarina was a real-life Victorian-era American super hero. Rumour has it that her biography is presently in the works. …

Bartitsu Club Israel

Announcing the formation of Bartitsu Club Israel, a collaboration between Ran Arthur Braun (Israel/Italy) and Noah Gross (Israel/USA, Co-Founder of “ACT – Armed Combat and Tactics”.)

Training sessions are planned for Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa with courses given in both Hebrew and English. There will be an introductory class offered on the 13th of March in Tel Aviv.

For background information on the historical links between the Vigny method of stick fighting and close-combat training in Israel, please see Noah’s article, The Walking Stick in Madatory Palestine and Israel.

Contact Noahsarc3960@gmail.com for details.

“The Gentle Art of Ju-Ju-Tsu” (1907)

This article, originally written by G.G. Chatterton and published in vol. 84 of Chambers’s Journal in 1907, provides a glimpse into the Golden Square School of Jujutsu. Founded by former Bartitsu Club instructor Sadakazu Uyenishi, the Golden Square School was also the early base on Gunji Koizumi, who went on to found the London Budokwai, now the oldest martial arts school in Europe.

JU-JU-TSU—translated literally, ‘The Gentle Art’—the wonderful science deduced by patient study of the source of things, and unravelling of their reason, and consequent mastery of their knowledge, that is so essentially Japanese. It has already been exploited with approbation by medical and other authorities on physical culture; but still, perhaps a few remarks, without claiming to be profound, after a visit to its school may prove not devoid of interest.

You need pass through but a couple of streets that lead directly off the seething thoroughfares of Regent Street and Piccadilly Circus to find yourself in Golden Square, one of the quiet, green oases which here and there in London take you by surprise, and in it the Japanese School of Self Defence has now established its headquarters. And thither we went to watch the teaching of the science upon which years of a life may be spent with ever-growing interest, since it claims that there is always something to be learnt—a perfected science of self-defence, wherein brute-force takes a back seat, and size, weight, and strength surrender their importance. For the Japanese, having probed to the heart of things, can prove how the essence of self-defence is knowledge of how to overcome by yielding to an attack instead of resisting, by using the strength of your assailant in place of your own, and, getting him at an anatomical disadvantage, as they so admirably phrase it, by then applying the skilled leverage which so infallibly can maim and disable.

The school is under the supervision of its instructor-in-chief, Professor Raku Uyenishi, premier ju-ju-tsu exponent. But as he was professionally visiting Paris we were received with smiling welcome by Professor Koizumi, and courteously given advantageous seats; and, as he was engaged upon instruction on our arrival, we had an immediate opportunity of watching the science of the ‘gentle art.’

Our first impressions were belying to the title. Fearful and wonderful were the resounding slapping noises as master and pupil fell upon the
shining mats beneath them—mats made in Japan, over two inches thick and stuffed with hay under a surface of woven rice-straw, which are spread over the entire floor; slap-slap striking the ear with unnerving effect upon spectator and would-be learner, until one saw the combatants leap up again with never hurt or jar, the Japanese laughing softly through his gambols. For to fall with immunity is the skill of ju-ju-tsu, and takes the beginner in its craft months to master.

The pupil upon whose lesson we happened to arrive was no novice, but had been over three years studying, and was as well clever at his game; and yet with what smiling ease did Koizumi, so much the smaller of the two, vanquish him! At times he tossed him right over his shoulder—a curious sensation this at first experience, we are told; on the floor he was ever the man uppermost, and whether recumbent or erect he kept scoring the points by establishing the ‘lock.’ A ‘lock’ or point is scored by rendering an adversary helpless, holding him in such a way that the least resistance can be responded to by a pressure which, if continued, would entail exquisite pain and possibly serious injury. In ju-ju-tsu a lock is acknowledged by a slap on the handiest substance, human or otherwise, and the combatants arise and start afresh.

The lesson finished, after many resounding falls and endless locks declared, the pupil retired to the enjoyment of a hot shower-bath, and Professor Koizumi kindly gave us a display of falls broken into harmlessness, throwing himself down backwards, forwards, sideways, as if flung with violence, to leap up easy and unshaken.

The pupil is first taught to break a fall on his back, and next to break one on his head, saving himself by learning to come down first on his hands outspread and relaxed—the hands which make the slapping noises on the mats. The gist of breaking falls in ju-ju-tsu is keeping all the muscles relaxed for them —nothing may be rigid, or as it were in protest; and the seat of balance—and knowledge of balance is a portion of its science—comes from the waist, not from the shoulders. Knees are kept always bent, the feet move quickly, and, as in boxing, the gaze is fixed on the opponent’s eyes.

The pupil is provided with a costume identical with that of the instructors: a Japanese jacket with loose, short sleeves, which leaves bare the chest and wraps across in double-breasted fashion, and is girdled with a strong band round the waist; drawers like bathing-drawers, and legs and feet bare; and the English tyro will find that his toes catch in the fine straw-work of the mats, the unaccustomed big-toe sometimes catching with unpleasant effects.

Inflexible rules find no place in the ‘gentle art,’ etiquette typically Japanese alone governing its friendly practice. This etiquette ordains that combatants courteously shake hands before and after a contest, and prohibits the infliction of any unseemly indignity on an opponent, at the same time allowing ample scope for placing him at an anatomical disadvantage.

So as to know how to inflict these anatomical disadvantages, bones and muscles are given careful study—where pressure exerted sideways can break or dislocate, and where lie sensitive parts pressure against which can force the assailant to desist. Prominently sensitive parts lie about the elbow — can one not imagine desistance enforced by skilled elaboration of ‘funny-bone’ tortures ? — and in the back of the calf of the leg ; and pressure beneath the chin, forcing backwards the opponent’s head, lays him at your mercy for throttling.

Quickness and agility, resource, simultaneous thought and action, must be acquired by those who would master the science of ju-jutsu, in which even partial proficiency would form a valuable equipment; and the English aspirant must cast aside his stubborn English principles to conform to those discovered for him so excellently by the Japanese. Different they may be—for are not most Japanese principles diametrically different from English ones? In the simple craft of threading a needle there seems to lie a keynote suggestive of their whole scheme of opposition. The English girl is taught to pass her thread through the eye of her needle, the Japanese one to pass the eye of her needle over her thread.

Englishwomen learn ju-ju-tsu, and as the ‘gentle art’ unfolded its power before us we fell to wondering what might have been the end had the suffragettes mastered it before their great display in the House of Commons. When, with lamentable lack of manly chivalry, screams and kicks were set at nought and overborne, ju-ju-tsu would have aided the maltreated ladies. Instead of being ignobly carried out shrieking, with arms round the policeman’s neck, the baffled suffragette might still further have defied the law, and, grasping his chin to his anatomical disadvantage, have quietly throttled him in his brutal progress. Instead of being dragged down from her lofty position as she gained it, she might have broken or dislocated arms that thwarted her, and the whole lobby of the House might have been held up by ladies triumphing in victory, and proving by their example in thus supporting the law and order of their country how admirably they were adapted for being granted a vote in its management. Then, when they had obtained their rights, ladies endowed with votes and as well a knowledge of the ‘gentle art’. But we shuddered away from the imagination.

More pleasing was it to watch the merry little Japanese instructors chatting so gaily amongst themselves or with their pupils, and to exchange a few more words with Professor Koizumi, who, in an interlude before taking on another pupil, had appeared clad in a dark-blue kimono, with matting sandals on his feet and a Japanese book in his hand. Then we left him to his reading, and he took farewell of us with smiling courtesy.

Bartitsu in Martial Arts Illustrated

Earlier, we mentioned that the UK’s leading martial arts magazine Martial Arts Illustrated have published an article on Bartitsu. Thanks to the kindness of the author Nick Collins and the publisher Bob Sykes you can now read the article here. Thanks also go to Bartitsu Society member Terry Butler, whose work made this available.

Note that copyright for the original article resides with Nick Collins and the published version with MAI.

Bartitsu at the San Francisco Edwardian Ball

On January 22nd and 23rd, nine gentlemen and suffragettes from the Botta Secreta historical martial arts school performed a Bartitsu exhibition at the Edwardian Ball, a SteamPunk event held in San Francisco’s Regency Ballroom.

The audience, almost all sporting the latest in neo-Victorian finery, was wowed by an action-packed ten minute antagonistic extravaganza combining Vigny stick fighting, pugilism, wrestling, savate, jiujitsu, singlestick fencing and navaja knife combat in the Spanish tradition.

The display (narrated by “E.W. Barton-Wright” himself!) has also introduced a new catchphrase to San Franciscan SteamPunks: “Belabour him as you see fit!” was the battle-cry of the night.

“Keep diving with your stick between peoples’ legs, upsetting them right and left,” – E.W. Barton-Wright, 1901

“About Martial Arts, E.W. Barton-Wright and Yukio Tani”

Marcus Rowland’s short article About Martial Arts, E.W. Barton-Wright and Yukio Tani was first published in Valkyrie magazine in 1996, and accompanied a CD-Rom which included all five of the articles E.W. Barton-Wright had written for Pearson’s Magazine between 1899-1901. As such, Rowland’s article appeared at the very beginning of “modern” Bartitsu scholarship, several years before copies of Barton-Wright’s articles were broadcast online via the EJMAS website.

Since the original publication of Mr. Rowland’s essay, the Bartitsu Society has undertaken considerable further historical research on Bartitsu and on Barton-Wright himself, and offers the following comments and corrections:

Barton-Wright worked in Japan from 1891 to 1899, and towards the end of this period he trained under the sensei Yukio Tani, then aged nineteen. When he returned to Britain, he persuaded Tani and his older brother to accompany him, with the aim of setting up a martial arts school in London. Why they agreed is unclear; while Tani was obviously very talented, he was also very young to be a sensei, and it seems possible that there were simply few opportunities for him in Japan. The picture shows Barton-Wright with a bearded Japanese martial artist, possibly Tani or his older brother.

Barton-Wright actually lived in Japan for approximately three years, between 1895 and 1897. There is no evidence to suggest that he met Yukio Tani while resident in Japan; his major martial arts training there appears to have been in Kobe, at the Shinden-Fudo Ryu jiujitsu dojo of sensei Terajima Kuniichiro. Barton-Wright also claimed to have taken some lessons with professor Jigoro Kano, the founder of Kodokan judo, but nothing more is known of that connection except that Barton-Wright apparently later corresponded with Kano “and other friends in Japan” towards arranging for some jiujitsu instructors to work at the Bartitsu Club in London.

The identity of Barton-Wright’s demonstration partner in the photographs for his “New Art of Self Defence” articles remains a mystery, but it is certainly not Yukio Tani, nor Tani’s elder brother.

Bartitsu was never very popular, possibly because Barton-Wright’s changes deterred sportsmen with an interest in authentic Ju Jitsu and its associated ceremonies, and the dojo closed within a few months.

The Bartitsu Club was active for a little over two years, between late 1899 and early 1902 and in fact, a number of athletes did train at the Club. It is also worth noting that no-one else in England during this period actually knew what “authentic jiujjitsu” was, and that there is nothing to suggest that anything other than “authentic jiujitsu” was taught at the Club. Barton-Wright’s concept of Bartitsu essentially involved cross-training between the various martial arts and combat sports taught at the Club, thus including jiujitsu, fisticuffs, kicking and Vigny stick fighting; a crucial point that has eluded many critics between the early 1900s and the present day.

He next tried to make money by putting on Ju Jitsu displays on the music hall stage; Tani’s brother promptly denounced this abuse of the art and returned to Japan.

Barton-Wright had publicised Bartitsu via lecture/demonstrations on music hall stages since 1899, well before any of the Japanese fighters had arrived in London. Of the original group of three (Yukio Tani, his elder brother who is only known to us by his initial, K, and their associate S. Yamamoto), K. Tani and Yamamoto taught at the Bartitsu Club and participated in exhibitions for a short period before returning to Japan. No-one is certain why they left England, though their departure aroused some controversy at the time. Barton-Wright’s version of the story was that, through a mis-communication, K. Tani and Yamamoto had not realised that they would be required to exhibit jiujitsu in the music halls. Yukio Tani evidently had no problem with that arrangement and became a popular “star turn” in the halls throughout and for many years after the Bartitsu Club era.

How To Pose as a Strong Man (January 1899) shows some simple tricks based largely on martial arts concepts of leverage. It was not written to publicise Bartitsu, but does illustrate Barton-Wright’s opportunistic approach; it seems unlikely that a more dedicated student would have written it.

Barton-Wright was evidently fascinated by the mechanics and psychology of these types of leverage stunts, and his article was actually written as an exposé of the tricks employed by athlete/entertainers such as the “Georgia Magnet”, who often claimed that their performances displayed supernatural powers of “electricity” or “animal magnetism”. This is comparable to the modern practice of exhibiting similar feats as demonstrations of ki or chi power. It’s difficult to see how Barton-Wright’s article can be viewed as being opportunistic, or as demonstrating a lack of dedication; if anything, it suggests an advanced understanding of body mechanics that could only have augmented his martial arts skills.

Portland Bartitsu seminar

The Academia Duellatoria historical fencing school in the Portland, Oregon suburb of Milwaukie, will be hosting a two-day Bartitsu seminar with guest instructor Tony Wolf on March 20-21, 2010.

The seminar will focus on the self defence applications of Bartitsu and the skill of spontaneously transitioning between techniques and styles as required by the needs of the moment.

The registration form PDF is available here.

Bartitsu seminar in Eugene, Oregon

Maestro Sean Hayes will be hosting a two-day Bartitsu seminar with Tony Wolf at the Northwest Academy of Arms on Saturday, March 13 and Sunday, March 14, 2010.

Both days will begin with training in the Wolf System, an integrated progression of competitive and co-operative combat biomechanics exercises. These challenging exercises foster the balance, improvisational ability, physical confidence and related skills that are fundamental to the study of any martial art.

The classes will then segue into the study of both canonical and neo-Bartitsu. The canonical material is based on E.W. Barton-Wright’s classic 1900 articles, “The New Art of Self Defence” and “Self Defence with a Walking Stick” and provides a platform for training in neo-Bartitsu, continuing Barton-Wright’s experiments in cross-training between jiujitsu, fisticuffs, low kicking and the Vigny system of walking stick fighting.

When: Saturday March 13 and Sunday March 14, 2010 at the Academy. 9 am to 5 pm each day, with lunch from 12 – 1 pm.

Space is limited!

Where: The Northwest Academy of Arms, Eugene, Oregon

Cost: Two Days – $75 One Day – $50 At the Door – add $20

Lunch: $12 additional for cold cuts, good bread, apples, coffee and tea ($8 for one day)

Equipment: Suitable exercise clothing, including shoes (we have a textured wooden floor). Sturdy cane (crook handle preferred), or strong, smooth dowel approx. 36″ long. We will have some training canes for a minimal cost at the seminar.

Fencing masks, boxing gloves and judogi jackets are useful, but are
not required. The Academy has some masks for loan, but bring your own if you can.

Water bottle (refills from on-site fountain).

Registration form PDF: Downloadable here.