Another Video Lesson from “Bartitsu: Historical Self-Defence with a Walking Stick”

This segment from Bartitsu: Historische Selbstverteidigung mit dem Spazierstock nach Pierre Vigny demonstrates some of the fundamental angles and targets used in basic striking drills.

The full series of video lessons is now available in the German language and an English-subtitled version is expected to become available soon.

“A New School of Self-Defence” (1902)

From The Referee of 21 September 1902:

I have been asked to notice the New School of Self Defence and Salle D’Escrime, opened at 18, Berners-street, Oxford-street, and the system of umbrella or stick play illustrated by Professor Pierre Vigny and disciples. Though unable to respond in person to the invitation given to be present at an assault held on Thursday of last week, I can do what is asked, for at various times I have assisted—as a spectator—at such displays.

Certainly the school does make good case for the articles’ usefulness, both in offence and self-defence, when expertly handled; but the art is scarcely new, though carrying much variety. Anyone well versed in single-stick can, of course, easily adapt anything in the nature of a stick for purposes of self-defence, which naturally includes carrying the war into the enemy’s quarters; but to my mind better possibilities are contained in being armed with a stout blackthorn, not to mention “my friend Captain Kennedy.”

At the same time, I have seen in street rows some awfully effective play made with a strong umbrella—a truly terrible weapon in the hands of a clever fencer indifferent as to what damage he might inflict. I wouldn’t like to go for anyone that way, save in extremity. Give such a one room to start —say, with his back against wall, and the foe in front, and he can do tremendous execution, almost murderous.

Once in an election riot I saw an old Army man, set upon by roughs, send his assailants down, man after man, at each lunge. Over they went, struck full on the chest, and no one came for a second dose. How much he hurt them goodness knows—seriously, most of them, I expect.

Boxe Française Historique: a Reconstruction of Classical Savate Sparring

The recent HEMAC historical martial arts conference in Dijon, France included this fascinating reconstruction of 19th century Boxe Française – Savate sparring by members of the Fédération Française des Arts Martiaux Historiques Européens.

The aim of this sparring match was to faithfully reproduce the techniques presented in the treatises of Charlemont, Leboucher and other savate masters who taught the French art of unarmed combat from the beginning of the 19th century through the middle of the 20th.

For comparison, see this 1896 film of savate practitioners in action:

Note that this type of stylised, light-contact sparring reflects the desire of some professional instructors during the late 19th century to separate French kickboxing from its rowdy, back-alley origins. Instructors such as the Charlemonts wished to promote French kickboxing as a relatively genteel combat game and as a method of physical culture, suitable for middle-class patrons of commercial salles de savate. Inevitably, that rather academic and courteous style drew criticism from other quarters, especially from self defence-oriented instructors and from would-be professional athletes, who advocated for a hard-hitting version of the sport influenced by the no-nonsense ethos of English and American boxing.

Light-contact, academic sparring persists as the “savate assaut” option in modern Boxe Française – Savate, contrasted with the full-contact “savate combat”.

Call for Participants and Instructors: Bartitsucon 2018

Tommy Joe Moore (left, above) of the Bartitsu Lab in Warwickshire, UK is inviting expressions of interest from Bartitsu enthusiasts and instructors for the upcoming Bartitsucon 2018 event, to be held on November 10-11.

Interested parties can learn more about the event and contact Mr. Moore via this link.

Video Lessons from “Bartitsu: Historical Self Defence With a Walking Stick”

Here are two free sample lessons from the new training video Bartitsu – Historische Selbstverteidigung mit dem Spazierstock nach Pierre Vigny, produced by and featuring Bartitsu instructor Alex Kiermayer. Note that the instructional video series is currently only available in the German language, but that an English-subtitled version is expected to become available soon.

“Prof. Vigny’s Fencing School” (1903)

Former Bartitsu Club instructor Pierre Vigny (left) and his wife and associate instructor Marguerite (second from left) pose for a publicity picture featured in the November, 1903 edition of Health and Strength Magazine.

Marguerite displays the “hook around the neck” technique with her umbrella handle, a characteristic manoeuvre from both her husband’s self-defence system and her own method.  Meanwhile, Pierre assumes a lowered version of the Rear Guard with his cane as he prepares to take on the hooligan shown to the far right, who is wielding a belt.  A potential follow-up technique is shown below, from the “Art of Stick Defence”  article in the August 1, 1903 Illustrated London News:

“The Man They Cannot Hang” vs. Sadakazu Uyenishi

In common with most athlete/showmen of his time and place, John Clempert (1878-1940) was not averse to spinning some tall tales about his past exploits. He claimed, among other things, to have served as an enforcer in the Russian Army and to have escaped three times from the confines of a transportation van after having been exiled to Siberia for a political infraction.

Clempert arrived in England circa 1899 and quickly began to establish a reputation as an itinerant strongman, escape artist and wrestler on the music hall circuit. Inevitably his trajectory crossed that of E.W. Barton-Wright and his jiujitsu champions, Tani and Uyenishi, who were likewise gaining fame in the music halls.

At that time, Clempert’s signature feat was as “The Man They Cannot Hang”; a stunt which apparently involved hanging by his knees beneath a trapeze suspended over the stage, only then to release his hold on the trapeze and drop some 15 feet, his descent halted by a noose looped around his neck. Whether or not there was some showbiz trickery associated with this stunt, photographs clearly show that Clempert’s neck muscles were, in fact, unusually well-developed.

Swiss grappler Armand Cherpillod was, along with Tani and Uyenishi, employed by Barton-Wright as a challenge wrestler and instructor on behalf of the Bartitsu School of Arms. In his 1933 autobiography, Cherpillod – who seems to have had consistent difficulty in recalling personal names – offered an exciting account of “Klemsky’s” bout with “Yanichi” (Sadakazu Uyenishi):

As quick as a flash, the Japanese leaped onto the Russian and seized him by the collar of the jacket, one hand on each side of his neck, by crossing the wrists, and learnedly exerted the famous pressure on the carotid arteries, which brings choking, and even unconsciousness. The hold did not seem to have any effect on the Russian, who simply smiled at the audience.

Astonished by this resistance, the Japanese wrestler’s eyes gleamed with malice. He rolled across the ground past the Russian while preserving his hold and, to increase the force of the pressure on the neck, planted his two feet in the pit of Klemsky’s stomach. This tightened the grip so extremely that a net of blood escaped from the mouth of Klemsky and sprinkled his face. It was only then that Yanichi [Uyenishi] released his hold and let fall beside him the apparently lifeless body of the Russian.

The public believed that Klemsky had died. They howled their anger and their disapproval of Yanichi. This latter, triumphant, appeared to be insensitive to the hostile remonstrations of the public. He went to sit down on the sidelines, beside his compatriot, in the manner of the tailors at work, by crossing his legs beneath him.

While the spectators redoubled their cries, our two Japanese entered into an animated conversation and even laughed together, contemplating the victim who did not give any sign of life. Suddenly, one of them rose, as if driven by a spring, and approached Klemsky. He leaned on the body of the Russian and gave some sort of vibration or massage to the cardiac area, which revived the victim gradually.

Then, to the great astonishment of the audience who were now gasping, Klemsky opened his eyes and asked where he was. This seemed magical, and even more than before, Jiu-jitsu appeared to be a most mysterious form of fighting.

When someone asked Klemsky for his impression of the event, he said that while losing consciousness, he had heard the sound of bells.

This account is especially interesting in that it’s one of the few records of a Bartitsu Club champion actually rendering a wrestling opponent unconscious, and one of the very first records of kuatsu (Japanese manual resuscitation techniques) in any non-Japanese media.

Clempert himself later recalled his encounter with Uyenishi in a letter published in the October 17th issue of The Encore:

The first time I ever met anybody under 12 stone was when I took on one of Mr. Barton-Wright’s Japs at the Empire. Beat him in the first five seconds in Greco-Roman style, putting him fairly on his back. He felt as though he was a baby. After that he put me to sleep – not from his strength, but by some sort of magnetism he used. I did not feel any pain. I do not know exactly understand what sort of wrestlers they are. According to my idea, they are not wrestlers but magicians.

I challenge them on the following conditions; Greco-Roman, catch-as-catch-can style or Straps. I put down five pounds if I don’t beat one of them within 10 minutes. But if they want to wrestle in their own way, which is called “self-defence”, I will undertake to defend myself in my own way. This means I shall try to disable my opponent before he can disable me. Some money must be staked, as it is their own style of wrestling. I will not take any responsibility about accidents. Of course, this kind of contest would have to take place where there are no ladies, such as at Wonderland or a sporting club.

Yours truly, John Clempert

Despite this bold challenge, there seems to be no further record of John Clempert taking on a jiujitsu-trained opponent.

In February of 1903, Clempert suffered a serious injury while performing his hanging stunt and was taken to hospital suffering from a “concussion of the spinal cord”. He recovered, but seems to have retired that stunt from his repertoire, thereafter continuing his career as a wrestler and an escape artist in the manner of Harry Houdini. Circa 1909, he also produced a pitchbook, the gloriously-titled Thrilling Episodes of John Clempert, The Shining Star of the Realms of Mystery.

Houdini, however, did not suffer imitators gladly and put legal pressure on Clempert to stop performing several escapes that were a little too directly inspired by Houdini’s own. Clempert apologised and promised to desist, although he did briefly come out of retirement after Houdini’s untimely death in 1926.

An Update on Alex Kiermayer’s Bartitsu Stickfighting Instructional Video

German Bartitsu instructor Alex Kiermayer has collaborated with in producing this new instructional video series on the art of Vigny stick fighting, as incorporated into the original Bartitsu curriculum at the turn of the 20th century.

The series runs to 2 hours and 53 minutes and the German-narrated version is now available as a streaming download via Vimeo and on DVD via this site.

Subtitled English-language versions will soon be available – watch this space for details!

Terence Hill Wields a Mean Cane

Bud Spencer Bartitsu Tribute

A Tribute to a Friend from Nova Scrimia UK – Bartitsu Bristol… a great Italian Actor and Sportsman.. enjoy some Bartitsu Style fighting from the Duo! Farewell #BudSpencer

Geplaatst door Nova Scrimia UK – Bartitsu Bristol op donderdag 30 juni 2016

Readers of a certain vintage may fondly recall the Terence Hill/Bud Spencer buddy comedies of the 1970s, which were best known for their paper-thin plots and gleefully inventive fight scenes.  In this scene, the hulking brawler Spencer does what he does best, while the agile, fast-talking Hill discovers a new slapstick weapon in the form of the gentlemanly cane.