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.

“A Few Practical Hints on Self Defence” (1900)

A longtime wrestling, boxing and general “antagonistics” enthusiast, Percy Longhurst’s precise connection with Bartitsu is a matter of some speculation.

He was among the audience at some of E.W Barton-Wright’s early self defence exhibitions in London (1898-99) and actually volunteered to try his considerable wrestling skill against one of the newly-arrived Japanese jiujitsuka; by his own account, Longhurst put up a game defence but was quickly defeated, apparently with some sort of arm-lock. Circumstantial evidence suggests that he was likely among the original members of Barton-Wright’s Bartitsu Club, as he later credited a particular throwing technique to Barton-Wright; he was definitely a student of Yukio Tani’s and Sadakazu Uyenishi’s, but the chronology is not clear.

Longhurst was a prolific writer on all manner of athletic topics. His commentaries on, for example, the disadvantage of European wrestlers being required to fight under Barton-Wright’s submission grappling rules during the latter’s music hall challenge performances, and his balanced and realistic take on the “boxing vs. jiujitsu” controversy of 1906-7, reveal a canny and pragmatic approach to personal combat. Longhurst’s book “Jiu-Jitsu and Other Methods of Self Defence“, likewise, offered a very Bartitsu-like combination of wrestling, jiujitsu, boxing, kicking and stick fighting techniques, and is, in fact, the closest thing to a “Bartitsu manual” to have come out of England in the early 20th century.

Longhurst’s article “A Few Practical Hints on Self Defence” (reproduced below) was originally published in Sandow’s Magazine of Physical Culture between January and June of 1900. It presages “Jiujitsu and Other Methods of Self Defence” in several ways and is also notable for including a veiled reference to the Afro-Brazilian martial art of capoeira (!)

Click on the images below to see them in full size.

Along with his colleagues William Garrud, W. Bruce Sutherland and Percy Bickerdike, Longhurst later became a founding member of the British Jiujitsu Society, and he continued to write on judo, jiujitsu and self defence topics throughout the early-mid 20th century.

A Bartitsu display from 1901

A report on a Bartitsu demonstration at E.W. Barton-Wright’s Academy of Arms and Physical Culture, from the Illustrated London News, November 30, 1901.

The Art of Self Defence

The various methods of self defence adopted by followers of the “Bartitsu” system were demonstrated at their School of Arms on Nov. 23, when they were opposed by English and Continental wrestlers and boxers. Great interest was aroused by the contest between a professional wrestler in the Cornish and Devonshire style and Uyenishi, champion light-weight wrestler of Osaka. The Japanese won each of the three throws. A professional boxer defended himself against the school’s “savate”, with an indecisive result.

The Bartitsu method of wrestling was illustrated and demonstrations were given of the use of a walking stick as a defensive weapon. Four members of the audience were then invited to attempt to strangle one of the two Japanese by means of a rod placed across his throat. Needless to say, their efforts were unavailing.

Bartitsu exhibition at Starfest

A snapshot from a lighthearted Bartitsu display by the Victorian Antagonistics League at the recent Starfest pop-culture/entertainment convention in Denver, Colorado:

“Belabour Him As You See Fit”: Steampunk Self-Defense”

Chastise blackguards! Repel ruffians! When your steam-powered radium gun fails you, upon what must you rely? Why, Bartitsu, of course — the only mixed-martial art of the Steampunk era. Employ walking stick, umbrella, and scientific boxing skills, blended with jiu-jutsu from the mysterious East, and savate from the less-fashionable quarters of Paris. With suitably bold maneuvers you might buy yourself time for the airship to arrive and spirit you and your companions to safety.

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.

“New” historical Bartitsu technique discovered

The Bartitsu Society conceptually divides practical Bartitsu into two related areas. Canonical Bartitsu is the art as we know it was; the specific self defence techniques detailed by E.W. Barton-Wright and his colleagues between 1899 and 1902. Neo, or modern Bartitsu is both “Bartitsu was it may have been” and “Bartitsu as it can be today”; it describes our modern attempts to continue the mixed martial arts experiment begun by Barton-Wright in 1899.

Most of what we know of canonical Bartitsu is drawn from a series of four articles by E.W. Barton-Wright, originally published in the London-based Pearson’s Magazine. “The New Art of Self Defence” was published in two parts during March and April of 1899, and “Self Defence with a Walking Stick” appeared in January and February of 1901. After being re-discovered in the British Library archives by the late judo historian Richard Bowen, these articles were first broadcast via the Electronic Journals of Martial Arts and Sciences website in the year 2000.

Pearson’s was a popular journal and was also published in an American edition. Recently-discovered copies of the US issues for March and June of 1899, which included slightly modified re-prints of Barton-Wright’s first two articles, have revealed the following “new” information on Bartitsu.

Note.—Mr. E. Barton-Wright, the author of this article and of its companion to be published next month, is shortly to visit this country in order to introduce a system of self-defence which would seem to render anyone acquainted with it practically impregnable against all forms of attack, however dangerous and unexpected they may be.

In fact, as far as we know, Barton-Wright did not introduce Bartitsu to the United States, though it is diverting to imagine what might have happened if he had.

The following image is a “header” used for the March article, significant in that it offers a portrait-style photograph of Barton-Wright himself. This is only the second such photograph ever discovered by the Bartitsu Society.

The June article header offers a handsome Art Nouveau effect:

Most intriguing, though, is that the June article from the US edition includes a previously unknown addition to the canon of classical Bartitsu techniques. We can only speculate as to why this technique was not included in the original, and now widely-known, articles from the British edition. Perhaps it was omitted for reasons of space, or perhaps the photographs supplied to were of inadequate quality; it is the only technique in the June article not to have been illustrated.

No. 1.—One of many Means of Defence when a Man Strikes at You Low or Below the Belt.

Should an assailant strike at your wind or heart with his right fist, step backward with your right foot, and in doing so place your right hand over your heart, with the palm outward, and grasp his wrist by placing your left hand over his wrist (the placing of the right hand over the heart is only a precautionary measure in case you miss catching his wrist when he leads off at your body).

As soon as you feel you have hold of his wrist, pull it towards you with a slight outward motion leftways, take a step forward with your right foot, placing it behind his right leg, and seize him by the throat, pressing your thumb into his tonsil or just under the back of the ear, which is extremely painful.

Then with a sharp leftward pull with the left hand, and a thrust or a push leftward with the right hand (keeping your right calf or the side of your knee tightly behind his right knee), you throw him on his back; retain your hold on his throat and ear, and dropping upon the right knee you pull his arm towards you so that his elbow is just across your thigh. With the slightest pressure you could break his arm. At the same time you extend your right arm vigorously and press your thumb well into the cavity under the ear, which will cause great pain, preventing him from getting up.

Alert readers will note that, contrary to what is suggested by the title, this technique does not in fact deal with a defence against a low, below the belt attack, but rather with countering a punch to the torso. The simplest explanation may be that the US Pearson’s editor became confused and incorrectly matched one heading with another technical description; if so, then there may have been at least one more canonical technique (the defence against a “low strike”), in Barton-Wright’s original submission.

The game is afoot to track down the April, 1899 edition of Pearson’s Magazine (US edition), which might include more “new” Bartitsu material.