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.

“Steam Century Mystery” exhibition

Thanks to Antina Richards-Pennock for this picture from the Steam Century Mystery event at the Midway Village Museum in Rockford, Illinois. Allen Reed (left) and his associates from the Gallowglass Academy performed a Bartitsu exhibition as part of the festivities.

WMAC Bartitsu seminar footage

Some clips from Chris Amendola’s walking stick defence seminar at the recent Western Martial Arts Coalition conference in Houston, Texas. Chris demonstrates a series of canonical Bartitsu techniques including the “Guard by Distance”, “Closing With Opponents Under Unequal Conditions” and some takedowns, including neo-Bartitsu variations on the canonical techniques put forth by E.W. Barton-Wright and Pierre Vigny in the original source material.

Bartitsu seminars in Vancouver

A report from Devon Boorman of the Academie Duello in Vancouver, Canada, detailing the recent Bartitsu seminars held there:

Day 1

This weekend’s Bartitsu seminar, lead by Tony Wolf, started up today and I must report it’s been a lot of fun and a good and thorough mental and physical workout.

The workshop started with Tony setting the stage with a short lecture on the life and times of Barton-Wright and where our historical basis from the art has been unearthed. From there we got on our feet and began to explore the underpinning arts of the system.

First we started with bare knuckle boxing entries, basic attacks, and plays from the inside or clinch. After that we played with some of the low line kicks employed to destabilize the opponent.

As Bartitsu uses boxing techniques to facilitate entry into throws and holds, this first section lead well into jujitsu. We explored several take downs and then worked on combining the bare knuckled and jujitsu techniques together.

The final conclusion of the day was the cane fighting everyone had been looking forward to. We explored many of the techniques found in the turn of the century Pearson’s Magazine article, where Bartitsu was first revealed to the broader public. We then worked on blending these with the boxing and jujitsu from earlier in the day in many cases abandoning the cane altogether to employ boxing techniques or jujitsu submissions.

One if the aspects I enjoyed most was the method of full contact flow exercises Tony employed to help us explore the principles of the art. We would start with a given technique and then have our opponent foil it in some way such as throwing an unexpected attack or seizing our cane, etc. We would then have to flow into an alternate technique, or several, to complete the goal of destabilizing and submitting our opponent. This really helped us not get stuck trying to force a given technique and instead allowed us to explore how all the techniques support one another.

From having done a fair bit of exploration into Bartitsu and boxing before, this approach offered some real added value and insight. Thanks Tony! Looking forward to day 2!

Day 2

Day 2 of the Bartitsu workshop commenced this morning at 10am and was definitely a full day at 7 hours of instruction with a 1 hour lunch
break in the middle. Today we explored each aspect of the Bartitsu
system, again blending any given canonical technique from the manuals
with the principals and various forms of the art, i.e. boxing, jujitsu,
and cane fighting.

Tony did an excellent job of demonstrating various routes that a given
technique might take if it were foiled by an opponent and then
emphasizing the creative exploration of principles through free form
flow exercises.

Some of the highlights today included using the cane in two hands, both bayonet style but also in a doubled grip at the base (like a sword). We used it thus to face large clubs or longer ranged weapons, but then through the flow exercises we frequently abandoned our cane to enter into boxing and jujitsu.

Another highlight of the day was working on submission techniques and
many different forms of belaboring the opponent to end a particular
engagement. This allowed us to get very close to sparring and
conclusion while staying within the system itself.

All in all this was a terrific workshop and I think we’re already
looking forward to having Tony back. For our part we’re going to be
starting up a regular Bartitsu club as part of our offerings at Duello
so we can continue to explore Bartitsu and share it with those who
weren’t able to make it out to Tony’s visit this time around.

Thanks Tony and thanks to everyone who came out and made his visit
possible!