“An Englishman’s discretion …”

Jujutsu can not escape the mania of would-be inventions and discoveries. In the formation of the various schools of defence, undoubtedly there has been much eclectic work done. Several methods of attack and defense are borrowed from various schools and then combined into one. It is probable that some schools distinguish themselves mainly by name.

(Footnote) – Barton-Wright did this, although not by Japanese, but by an Englishman’s discretion; the Shinden Fudo school (style), at which I, as well as he learned in Kobe with Terajima, he called “Bartitsu” in the United Kingdom.

The school, whose basics I learned under Terajima Kunichiro, is called Shinden Fudo Ryu, which freely translates as, “Divine School of the Unshakable Heart”.

My teacher was first taught in the art of Ju Jutsu by Yata Onseisai, in Shimagawara in Miyako (Kyoto), now almost 50 years ago. I already pointed out that Bartitsu is nothing else than Shinden Fudo Ryu.

These passages are quoted from the article “Jujutsu, de Zachte Kunst”, originally published in issue # 69 of a Dutch journal, “De Gids”, in the year 1905. The author, Herman ten Kate (1858-1931) had met E.W. Barton-Wright on a steamship between Batavia and Singapore, and both men trained at the same Shinden Fudo Ryu dojo in Kobe circa 1896. Incidentally, this was apparently not the same SFR that is today associated with the Bujinkan lineage.

Ten Kate subsequently read Barton-Wright’s “New Art of Self Defence” articles, which had been published in Pearson’s Magazine in March and April of 1899. In the introduction to his second article, Barton-Wright had written:

Readers of the March Number will remember that I described therein a few of the three hundred methods of attack and counter attack that comprise my New Art of Self-Defence, to which I have given the name – “Bartitsu.”

It’s evident from Ten Kate’s article that he had taken some umbrage at this, apparently concluding that Barton-Wright was an opportunist who had simply appropriated Shinden Fudo Ryu jiujitsu and then had the gall to re-name it after himself.

This strongly suggests that Ten Kate had not seen any of the subsequent articles written by and about Barton-Wright in the English media. Those articles clearly demonstrate that Bartitsu was, in fact, intended as an eclectic combination of several different martial arts and combat sports, including jiujitsu as well as other methods:

Bartitsu has been devised with a view to impart to peacefully disposed men the science of defending themselves against ruffians or bullies, and comprises not only boxing but also the use of the stick, feet, and a very tricky and clever style of Japanese wrestling, in which weight and strength play only a very minor part.

(“The Bartitsu Club”, article in “Black and White Budget” magazine, December 1900)

When he spoke of Bar-titsu, he therefore meant real self-defence in every form, and not in one particular branch. Under “Bar-titsu” he comprised boxing, or the use of the fist as a hitting medium, the use of the feet both in an offensive and defensive sense, the use of the walking-stick as a means of self-defence in such a way as to make it practically impossible to be hit upon the fingers. Ju-do and Ju-jitsu, which were secret styles of Japanese wrestling, he would call close-play as applied to self-defence.

(“Ju-jitsu and Ju-do” – lecture by B-W for the Japan Society of London, published in “Transactions of the Japan Society,” 1902, v. 5, pp. 261-264.)

In the hundred-odd years since Ten Kate wrote his article for De Gids, the same false conclusion has been reached by a number of jiujitsu-oriented researchers. For example, Ralph Judson’s 1958 article The Mystery of Baritsu likewise missed the significance of Bartitsu as an eclectic, cross-cultural martial art, describing it simply as “a number of selected methods of ju-jutsu, adapted to European needs and costume”.

Simultaneously, throughout the early and mid-20th century, Barton-Wright was marginalised in the introductions to books on judo, which typically credited him with having introduced Japanese martial arts to England and with having been Yukio Tani’s manager, but failed to acknowledge Bartitsu as having been more than a re-branded jiujitsu. The same misapprehension occasionally appears in current Internet forum discussions about Barton-Wright and Bartitsu.

It was not until the post-Jeet Kune Do 1990s, when Richard Bowen and then Graham Noble began to look deeper into the history, that the full significance of Bartitsu as an “Edwardian MMA” began to emerge. By devising a form of martial arts cross-training between Asian and European fighting styles, Barton-Wright had actually anticipated, by about seven decades, what is arguably the single defining characteristic of the modern international martial arts movement.

Credit where it is due …

The Bare Knuckle Boxing Hall of Fame

Located in the town of Belfast, New York, the Bare Knuckle Boxing Hall of Fame is situated in the training barns in which William Muldoon trained the great John L. Sullivan for his epic 75-round World Title fight against Jake Kilrain in 1889.

This remarkable site has been restored as a museum and Hall of Fame commemorating the sports of wrestling and bare-knuckle pugilism. According to ESPN.com:

What remains are the painstakingly restored barns (…) that house the gloves, medicine balls, plaques, rings, weights and other paraphernalia that define the world of boxing. Many of the pieces were used by Sullivan as he trained for the championship fight.

Rooms include a lounge — what Sullivan called his “room of repose,” complete with ornate woodwork in the ceiling — in which the fighter cooled down from exercising and which still contains Muldoon’s chair and some of his books. The barn also contains an upstairs space used by Muldoon and Sullivan for wrestling (…) Visitors are welcomed by a life-sized white marble statue of Sullivan in the front yard.

Some videos showing the process of reconstructing the training barns into a museum:

Congratulations to the organisers for rescuing and restoring this priceless piece of combat sports history.

Wrestling Wizard Of Iceland Defies All Highwaymen

From the New York Tribune, April 4, 1920:

Johannes Josefsson, Who Fights With His Feet in Ringling’s Circus, Craves Meeting With Bandits

A certain degree of timidity is excusable in almost any person, owing to the increase of thuggery and crime in this city. But there is one man in town who not only refuses to quake when in dark and dangerous byways, but who actually craves the excitement that might go with a brush with a hold-up man.

Johannes Josefsson, the Icelandic wrestling wizard, is the intrepid one, and he has thrilled or will thrill you as one of the star attractions with the combined Ringling Brothers-Barnum & Bailey Circus at Madison Square Garden.

Josefsson thinks with his feet, and can reduce a robust athlete to a frayed-out wreck in the twinkling of an eye by mauling him with his heel and toe. He is so confident of his skill with his feet that he would meet Georges Carpentier and Jack Dempsey in the same ring and would guarantee to toss them both off without drawing a long breath.

However, neither Jack nor Georges being a “feet fighter,” this ambition of Johannes’s life will have to go unsatisfied.

To get back to the Icelander’s indifference to the lurking highwayman or his gang. One has only to see the blond giant of the North in action to realize how much out of luck a fool outlaw would be to tackle him. The glima, the native word for this form of wrestling expert would simply “pile up” his adversary with one or two dexterous kicks and then dance an old fashioned breakdown on the hapless thug’s neck.

Josefsson explained his art yesterday in his dressing room just before his exhibition.

“There is not a man in the world who can subdue a clever glima exponent,” he said, “unless he does it with glima. It is simply the art of using one’s feet and legs instead of one hands. I finish five men at every performance, and, let me tell you, their attack on me is not staged the same way every day. They are continually trying new “stunts” to get me, but it never takes more than two minutes to stop them all.”

“Have you ever met a boxer?” the Icelander was asked.

“Yes,” he replied. “I have fought many. Roche, of France, a heavyweight, was unable to stay more than eighty five seconds with me, and a Belgian heavyweight, whose name I have forgotten, was still easier.”

Josefsson is a catch-as-catch-can wrestler of no mean ability himself,
and he claims a victory over one of the Zbyszko brothers at Lodz, Poland. This bout lasted forty-seven minutes and was ended by Josefsson getting a toe-hold on his opponent. But perhaps the most notable victory In his record was scored by Josefsson in a “grudge bout” with Ota Gawa, a jiu-jitsu expert, in this city in April, 1913.

Josefsson is thirty-eight years old and is the undefeated glima champion of Iceland.

Vigny/Lang stick fighting in Israel

Thanks to Israeli martial artist and martial arts historian Noah Gross for this rare footage of veteran Kapap instructor Yehezkel Avneri demonstrating basic stick fighting techniques.

As explained in this article, during the 1940s the Kapap walking stick method was developed from Indian Police Superintendant H.G. Lang’s 1923 book, The Walking Stick Method of Self Defence.

Lang’s method, in turn, was substantially based on the system devised by Pierre Vigny and taught both at the Bartitsu Club and in Vigny’s own academy circa 1900-1914.


“Masculinity, Crime and Self Defence in Victorian Literature”

Masculinity, Crime and Self Defence in Victorian Literature is the title of Bartitsu Society associate Emelyne Godfrey’s new book, now available for pre-publication orders via the Macmillan website, Amazon and other booksellers.

Ms. Godfrey’s previous antagonistics-related projects have included entries in Dictionary of Nineteenth-Century Journalism in Great Britain and Ireland, the two-volume Martial Arts of the World encyclopedia set and the article Sherlock Holmes and the Mystery of Bartitsu for History Today magazine. She has also lectured on the subjects of crime and self defence in the Victorian era and is among the interviewees for our forthcoming documentary, Bartitsu: the Lost Martial Art of Sherlock Holmes.

According to the publishers:

This book considers crime fighting from the seldom explored viewpoint of the civilian city-goer. While rates of violent crime were generally declining, the period from the ‘garotting’ (strangling) panics of the 1850s to the First World War was characterized by a cultural fascination with physical threat and personal protection. As masculine violence became less tolerated, literary giants such as Anthony Trollope and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle began to ask themselves which methods the pedestrian should employ in this new age. From the pistol duel to the Whitechapel Murders, the self-defence scenario provided an avenue through which contrasting visions of masculinity could be explored. Here, not only literary sources but artefacts tell some bizarre stories. Why was the truncheon-like stick known as the ‘life-preserver’ so dangerous, and what exactly was Sherlock Holmes’ mysterious skill, ‘baritsu’?

The contents include:

List of Illustrations
Note on the Text and Abbreviations
Foreign Crimes Hit British Shores
The Ticket-Of-Leave Man
Tooled Up: The Pedestrian’s Armoury
Threats From Below And Above
Lord Chiltern And Mr Kennedy
Phineas Redux
Exotic Enemies
Urban Knights In The London Streets
Foreign Friends

Congratulations to Emy Godfrey and we’re looking forward to her book, which will surely be a fascinating and informative academic excursion through the mean streets of Victorian England.

Bartitsu fashion

ViolentlyBeautiful.com has recently posted a gallery of Bartitsu-inspired subversive fashion photography images. To quote from the blog:

The images contained within this site are artistic photography and all models are over the age of 18 at the time of shooting. Due to the nature of the subject matter of some of the photographs, they are not suitable for younger audiences or those of a sensitive disposition (consider yourself warned!).


Bartitsu is a ‘gentlemen’s martial art’ from the the early part of the 20th century. If you would like more information about it, check out www.bartitsu.org

Thanks for the shout-out, and for surprising us with a novel artistic twist on our own theme.