Houston Meet-Up

Scott Brown, a swordsmanship instructor in Houston recently met up with the Bartitsu Society’s Chris Amendola, and provided this report

Through recommendations from James Marwood and Alex Kiermeyer I recently made contact with a local Gentleman here in the Houston area named Chris Amendola, a Bartitsu specialist with a mentionable Eastern martial arts background.

Chris was kind enough to come by the training hall yesterday and offer an introductory workshop and lecture on E.W. Barton Wrights ‘mixed martial arts’ self defence system. I am extremely happy to report that he did a very fine job of not only giving a fairly thorough, if concise, overview of the system but also accommodating to the significantly wide variety of skill levels of the attending participants. While he did discuss some of the jujitsu elements of Bartitsu he was kind enough to focus the workshop on the Vigny cane aspects, covering a classification of techniques he termed “Guard by Distance”, making special emphasis on the very interesting Bartitsu ‘hanging guard’ (my term). Chris did a great job of keeping the class interesting and moving along as he demonstrated what I would consider to be a graspable number of defensive and offensive techniques, variations, and a number of counters to these. Personally, I was exceptionally pleased that he was able to take a number of our more experienced fencers out of their comfort zone by emphasizing Bartitsu’s rather unique ‘inverted overhand strike’ (my term) which is executed with some very interesting voiding footwork (nearly a demi-volta of sorts).

I am also happy to report that not only does Chris have a good ability to identify context and circumstance but also how they very importantly relate to fencing/fighting. He very capably demonstrated a number of tactical based decision making scenarios and almost nonchalantly discussed how they interplay with his interpretations of the plays in the Bartitsu system. I confess this was a pleasant surprise and excited me to know that such an informed and talented fellow is very nearly here in my own back yard. Additionally, he did a great job of being honest when he wasn’t sure about something when subjected to the customary grueling questions put forth by some of our gang and very admirably put serious thought into his responses, producing viable and coherent arguments only moments later. Very respectable in my book.

On the practical side, Chris was not only willing to fence but eager as anyone I’ve met and he further impressed me by not only wishing to fence using his Vigny, Cunningham and, I think, Lang cane understandings but also asked to fence against both the longsword and sword and buckler. Obviously, these are fencing systems that were never meant or designed to face each other and that only speaks to Chris’ good HEMA attitude. We also indulged him by playing at baton vs. baton with he and I going extra rounds we were having so much fun! The best part is Chris clearly is a man of mentionable skill, tactical understanding, and the ability to adapt. His unfamiliar, to us, methods definitely presented our gang with some new challenges and I suspect that he in turn found a few (but hopefully exciting) hurdles from our crowd. Bruises were shared all round, as it should be! Chris has a unique over/under/over strike combination that is faster than anyone I’ve yet to meet in a one handed weapon and he has a very dynamic and mobile style of fencing. He also put his money where his mouth is by capably demonstrating the unique ‘inverted overhand’ strike when fencing which was particularly fun to observe in addition to presenting some interesting challenges.

In short, it is my opinion that Chris Amendola is an excellent representative for Bartitsu as a functioning martial art. I think he poses great potential for growing this art, has a great attitude towards sharing, exchanging, training, and HEMA in general. And on top of it all, he’s a heck of a nice guy. If you get the chance, don’t miss an opportunity to train with Chris! I’m certainly looking forward to working with him in the future.

“Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” fight scenes

As an experienced boxer, stick fighter and expert in “baritsu”, Sherlock Holmes came close to E.W. Barton-Wright’s ideal of Bartitsu.  Click on the text links below to watch some fight sequences from the classic 1984 – 1994 Granada Television series, starring Jeremy Brett as Holmes.

Holmes attempts to fend off two attackers with his cane

Holmes demonstrates the gentlemanly art of fisticuffs

Holmes employs “baritsu” to defeat Professor Moriarty

“Is Bartitsu practiced today?”

This is probably the #1 question asked of the Bartitsu Society.  Fortunately, the short answer is “yes”, but this may require some explanation.

Between 2002-2005 the Bartitsu Society was largely devoted to learning as much as possible about Bartitsu from the historical point of view.  We tracked down long-forgotten books and magazine articles in obscure library archives and most of our efforts were towards collating, preserving and sharing this information.

After the publication of Volume 1 of the Bartitsu Compendium in 2005, members of the Society began offering seminar classes in various aspects of Bartitsu.  These classes were held at martial arts and stage combat conferences in Canada, the USA, Italy, Germany and the UK.

Today, your options for learning Bartitsu include attending seminars or joining any of several informal study groups or  regular Bartitsu classes.  These include:

The Academie Duello historical fencing and stage combat school in Vancouver, Canada offers occasional Bartitsu seminars with instructor David McCormick.

The Alabama Bartitsu Society, which is planned as a Bartitsu study group.

The  International Swordfighting and Martial Arts Convention (Detroit, Michigan) regularly features Bartitsu intensives taught by Tony Wolf.

The Gallowglass Academy (Rockford, Illinois) offers occasional Bartitsu seminars.

The Cumann Bhata Dayton (Ohio) Western martial arts club offers Bartitsu classes on the first Monday of each month.

The 2009 Western Martial Arts Weekend conference (Racine, WI) will feature a Bartitsu seminar intensive taught by Tony Wolf.

The Gemeiner Academy of European Combat Arts (Gold Coast, Australia) offers regular training in Vigny/Lang stick fighting and associated skills.

The Houston School of Defense offers regular classes in walking stick defense and plans to extend into training in other aspects of the Bartitsu and Neo-Bartitsu curricula.

The Zwaardkring historical fencing club offers one two-hour Bartitsu practice session per month and the Judoclub Shizen Hontai plans to offer a weekly Bartitsu study group.  Both clubs are in Veldhoven, Netherlands.

Bartitsu demo. at the Frazier Museum

A Bartitsu demonstration was presented recently at the Frazier International History Museum (829 West Main Street, Louisville, Kentucky, USA).  Based on a format developed for a similar demonstration by members of the British Royal Armouries interpretation team in 2001, the Frazier demo. was performed by actors playing the roles of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. James Watson.

Science fiction author Neal Stephenson on Bartitsu

Popular science fiction author Neal Stephenson‘s comments on Bartitsu, from a recent interview with the UK Daily Telegraph:

“So we’d mostly been doing longsword, in my little group,” says Stephenson. Ropes of muscle on his forearms attest to this, as do the pictures online of a Stephenson-designed spring-loaded practice sword that flexes on impact to soften a blow. “But we became interested in cane-fighting, which was taught in London a hundred years ago or so as part of this school of Bartitsu, founded by EW Barton-Wright, a railway engineer who’d picked up ju-jitsu in Japan. And he brought in a Swiss guy called Vigny who’d taken informal methods of walking-stick-fu and codified them into a system called la canne: he taught the part of the curriculum which involved fighting with walking sticks.”

No way, I say.

“Yeah. There’s a whole curriculum over fighting with bicycles. Pictures of an Edwardian lady in a floor-length dress and a huge hat with flowers, riding primly down a country lane, and when a ruffian comes out she uses some trick with the bicycle to flatten him and rides off. It’s great stuff. The bicycles we’re not sure how to approach, but we’ve created a little assembly line to make rattan canes, with a knob on the end. But there’s, you know, how to use a bicycle pump as a weapon. How to defend yourself with a parasol. Crazy.”

Swordfish

Next weekend I am teaching a short Bartitsu class at the Swordfish event in Gothenburg. There’s a fair bit of interest, including this article in a Swedish MMA magazine.

Here it is in English, courtesy of Tony Wolf

Bartitsu is particularly exciting, because had it not been for the
books about Sherlock Holmes, we would most likely not know anything about
the first time western martial arts where mixed with Japanese
jiu-jiutsu,” explains, Annika Corneliusson, head of GHFS.

Sherlock Holmes and the suffragettes
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle mentions “Baritsu” in one of his books, when the
famous detective tells of his knowledge in self defense. Bartitsu, which
is the real name, was created as a hybrid between jiu-jiutsu, western
wrestling, boxing, savate (French kickboxing) and cane fighting by the
english engineer Edward William Barton-Wright, who had spent a few years
working with railways in Japan. Now these techniques are taught for the
first time in Sweden by self defence instructor James Marwood from
London, UK.

“This is actually a very important part of the European history, not
just because of Sherlock Holmes, but also because the suffragette
movement trained Bartitsu to be able to defend themselves against
attacks by the police,” says Annika Corneliusson.