“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.

Sherlock Holmes movie update

Since our early September update, the Bartitsu Society has been in contact with the upcoming Sherlock Holmes movie production and has donated copies of both volumes of the Bartitsu Compendium to the project.  Of course, this does not mean that what appears in the movie fight scenes will be verbatim Bartitsu, but it’s nice to know that the fight team has access to authentic historical sources for use as inspiration.

"Sherlock Holmes" director Guy Ritchie (left) is also a Brazilian Jiujitsu enthusiast.

Guy Ritchie (left) practicing Brazilian Jiujitsu

In an October 7 interview with aintitcool.com, director Guy Ritchie said:

I like the idea that (Holmes is) as visceral as he is intellectual.  It’s true to the origins of the narrative.  He was a martial artist.  He did something called Bartitsu, which wasn’t necessarily exposed or utilized in other productions.  So we’ve made more of a meal out of that. He’s an intellectual action man, which is pretty consistent with his origins.

Basic Bartitsu demo. at ISMAC ’07

This footage was recorded at the International Swordfighting and Martial Arts Conference in Michigan, USA, between July 12-15, 2007.  It features a series of mostly canonical Bartitsu unarmed combat and cane demonstrations by myself, with Kirk Lawson assisting.

The theme of the seminar was to use a small selection of canonical and some neo-Bartitsu techniques and sequences to explore two major principles:

1) alignment control, or using your own weight and skeletal structure to disrupt the opponent’s balance and 2) initiative control, either by inviting a particular attack or by executing a pre-emptive attack to control the opponent’s options and movement.

Thus, we were primarily using these sequences as academic examples of certain technical and tactical options, rather than as self defence or competition sequences per se.

The defence between 00.56 and 01.00 is a neo-Bartitsu improvisation combining a number of techniques (palm-heels, a trachea grab, low stamping kick etc.) to reinforce the theme of controlling the opponent’s balance and skeletal alignment.

Thanks to Bartitsu Society member Chris Amendola for editing the footage.


Bartitsu Promotional Clip from Chris Amendola on Vimeo.