“The Cape” to fight crime with “British Bartitsu”

The Cape, a new superhero drama, premieres on Sunday, January 9th. According to advance publicity, the title hero’s mentor, Max Malini, trains him to use his super-powered cape as a weapon, including the use of “British Bartitsu” amongst other martial arts.

The writers were evidently inspired by Bartitsu founder E.W. Barton-Wright’s classic overcoat trick, which was also used to good effect by Dr. John Watson in 2010’s Sherlock Holmes feature film.

Introduction to Bartitsu seminar in Vancouver

The Academie Duello is offering an introductory Bartitsu class on Saturday, January 8th:

“If one gets into a row and plays the game in the recognised style of English fair play – with fists – the opponent will very likely rush in and close, in order to avoid a blow. Then comes the moment for wrestling in the secret Japanese way. Instantly the unwary one is caught and thrown so violently that he is placed hors de combat, without even sufficient strength left to retire unassisted from the field.”
– E.W. Barton-Wright, “Black and White Budget” magazine, December 1900

Learn the mixed martial art of the Victorian English Gentleman. In this four-hour workshop, you’ll acquire the essential Bartitsu skills of Boxing, Jujitsu, Savate and Cane fighting:

-the basic punches of scientific boxing and the first defensive moves of pugilism,

-the first throw from jujitsu and how to land without hurting yourself when thrown,

-the foundations of walking stick self-defence, and the essential kicks of savate.

This Introduction to Bartitsu is a pre-requisite for the ongoing Bartitsu class. We want all newcomers to the weekly class to have some familiarity with the core techniques, and to get some practice in an easy environment where all of the students are learning the skills together.

Saturday, January 8, 2011 1pm-5pm

So, whether you’re interested in studying Bartitsu on an ongoing basis, or if you just want to learn the essential elements, the Introduction to Bartitsu covers the fundamentals. Fun and self-defense without getting your spats dirty!

$60 (15%off for members

* Location: Academie Duello, 412 W. Hastings St., Vancouver

You can sign up online via this link.

Q&A with Emelyne Godfrey, author of “Masculinity, Crime and Self Defence in Victorian Literature”

Masculinity, Crime and Self Defence in Victorian Literature is Bartitsu Society associate Emelyne Godfrey’s new book, which is now available via the Macmillan website, Amazon and other booksellers.

Ms. Godfrey’s previous antagonistics-related projects have included entries in the 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.

Q – Can you describe how you first became interested in the subject of
self defence in the Victorian period?

A – This historical adventure was inspired by a women’s self-defence class that I took when I was an undergraduate student in London. Although we learnt some defensive manoeuvres, the emphasis was on planning ahead and avoiding dangerous situations.

At that time, I was researching the topic of the gentleman-villain for my MA Victorian Studies dissertation. Sherlock Holmes’s nemesis, Professor Moriarty, was one of my subjects. He’s arguably one of the most famous villains in Victorian literature whose evil nature has a riveting superhuman aspect: even after Moriarty’s death, Holmes hears his screams at the Reichenbach Falls. What was also curious was the sheer number of acts of violence in the Holmes stories as well as weapons, from the weird “life-preserver” to the vicious expanding bullet.

I was using a Wordsworth facsimile edition original Strand Magazine Holmes stories, obtained for a mere £3.75. It’s my favourite edition and has friends’ witty alternative captions to the pictures! Whilst reading it, I circled the word “baritsu”, adding a few exclamation marks next to it (I’m sure this is a familiar feeling to Bartitsu Society members).

At that time, I happened upon the EJMAS website, and was fascinated by Tony’s articles and reprints of Barton-Wright’s monographs. A subject and a bunch of questions started to form: How did Victorian men and women respond to threat? What kinds of crimes scared them the most? How popular were alternatives to boxing? And what on earth was a ‘life-preserver’?

Q – What happened next?

A – I was awarded a PhD in English Research on self-defence in Victorian literature. The night before submitting it, there was an earthquake in the UK. They don’t happen here very often but it’s a surreal experience seeing your thesis skimming across the table! Then came the dreaded VIVA interview exam. Fortunately, I had two lovely examiners who asked me lots of questions on Barton-Wright, which was rather good. It was over in a flash and I was very pleased.

Shortly after graduating in 2008, I gave a paper at a Conan Doyle conference at the University of Hull. The experience was somewhat interesting as my glasses had gone astray and to give the talk in a darkened room, wearing blue prescription sunglasses which was all very Ozzy Osbourne. There I met Clive Bloom, the Crime Files series editor for Palgrave and the book took off.

Writing the book wasn’t just a case of rewriting the PhD. Looking back over both, they are very different beasts. Writing a book, you can bring in all kinds of contemporary references and explore the people and events behind the literature.

Q – You’ve broken some new ground in this book …

A – There’s already a lot of information on crime (from poisoning to burglary) and there are books on sports, duelling and boxing during the ‘long nineteenth century’. This book brings together these themes and explores well-established and exciting new work on Victorian masculinity and self-defence in a wider perspective, from the use of weaponry to the employment of the science of physiognomy to read character.

It also draws in little-known topics. For instance, while many Victorian crime specialists have heard of the mid-Victorian garotting (strangling) panics, I have not seen this famous topic discussed with reference to Victorian theatre and it was thrilling to explore this avenue, using hitherto neglected plays from the British Library Manuscript Collection.

Q – Do you have any favourite anecdotes from the process of writing the book?

A – I loved working on it and have many happy memories. I really enjoyed the London launch of the Bartitsu Compendium (2005) where Tony and others gave demonstrations and we all went for a drink afterwards. When I visited the Royal Armouries in Leeds, Rob Temple and Keith Ducklin put on a sensational performance of Bartitsu for me and let me try on one of the helmets they wore during a jousting demonstration. The bizarre garotting plays were treasures and it was equally exciting to find examples of the weapons featured in these works. Some of these are kept at the Metropolitan Police Historical Collection, which is now a small museum, located in West London. It was exciting to meet police historians, and hunt through boxes of artefacts, encountering old helmets, torches and truncheons. The historians and staff are always very welcoming and you have the impression that something intriguing turns up every day. The last time I visited, we were drinking tea and looking through police diaries written during the time of the Whitechapel Murders.

Q – What is your next project?

A – As well as my freelance work, I’m Guest Editing a special edition of the H.G. Wells Society journal on Wells’s controversial 1909 novel, Ann Veronica. I’m also working on a sister book on Victorian women and self-defence so it’s all action-packed!

Umbrella self defence in Vancouver


For many, the Lower Mainland’s wet weather comes with the burden of carrying around an often-cumbersome umbrella. But what if you could turn your weather-based tool into your own personal defence device?

Academie Duello offers an umbrella self-defence workshop that will teach you how to use your wet weather companion to ward off any hooligans.

The course runs several times a year and is based on Bartitsu — a stick-fighting style developed in Victorian England.

David McCormick, who teaches the course, said it’s quite popular.

“It’s very energizing because unlike some martial arts (it’s not) an exhaustive, fatiguing workout. (We) teach skills that are at the same time fun and practical so people can remember what they’ve learned.”

The course, which lasts four hours, costs $60 and is good for most ages and body types, said McCormick.

As for the satisfaction level, McCormick said students are usually laughing when they leave, “and seeing a tool they use everyday in a whole new light.”

For more information on David’s umbrella defence and Bartitsu courses, please visit the Academie Duello’s Bartitsu page.

“Ba-ritsu: a tutorial”

Guy Ritchie, Robert Downey, Jr. and others discuss their interpretation of the martial arts of Sherlock Holmes for their hit 2009 motion picture. See also our interview with Sherlock Holmes fight choreographer Richard Ryan, which goes into further detail regarding cinematic “baritsu”.

Society Women Wrestlers: Ladies’ Craze for Japanese Ju-jitsu

From the Daily Mirror, April 4, 1904

Impressed by the success of the Japanese system of wrestling – the Ju-jitsu — President Roosevelt has ordered it to be adapted in the. Naval Academy, where it is to be practised, in addition to the ordinary athletic exercises.

President Roosevelt is said to be devoted to this style of wrestling, and many American society ladies have taken it up as a new diversion.

But Americans are not alone in their enthusiasm for the new sport. I In England women are taking great interest in Ju-jitsu. Yukio Tani, the great Japanese exponent of the art, who is quite confident of beating his English opponent in the great match for £200 a side, puts in several hours a week instructing the dames and damsels of Mayfair in the noble art of (Japanese) self-defence. Lady Clara Vere de Vere has taken up Ju-jitsu , as the science is called, with vigour, and is rapidly making herself competent to tackle the burliest hooligan who ever donned cap and muffler. The writer on Saturday received the testimony of “Apollo,” the Jap’s manager, on the subject.

The strong man was at breakfast when our reporter called at his cozy flat in Shaftesbury avenue, but he readily consented to talk.

Makes Women Graceful

“Ju-jitsu”, said he, “is particularly adapted for ladies for several reasons. In the first place, no muscular strength is required, for it is all a question of ‘knack’ and quickness. In the second the science, apart from its usefulness as a means of self-defence, induces grace of carriage and develops the’ figure. You see, to be a competent ju-jitsuist you must hold yourself upright. Whereas, in other styles of wrestling, one has to adopt a crouching attitude, which contracts the chest and makes the figure ugly.”

The fad, it appears, commenced when Tani began to take engagements to appear at private houses and give exhibitions’ of wrestling in the Japanese style. Fashionable hostesses began to vote Hungarian fiddlers and Polish tenors altogether out-moded after they had seen the lithe and graceful Jap and his manager give a glimpse of ju-jitsu. Sometimes, at dances, the wrestling-mats were spread on the ball-room floor between waltzes, and looking on at a bout of ju-jitsu gave the dancers a rest. The grace, the quickness, and the absence of violence which are the distinguishing marks of
ju-jitsu fascinated Lady Clara Vere de Vere, and from seeing it done to wanting to do it herself was but a step. Now, Tani has his hands full putting fair and aristocratic aspirants up to the various locks and holds which constitute the Japanese art of self-defence.

Keenness of the Ladies

“A girl,” says the authority, “will learn ju-jitsu in one-third of the time, and with one-half the trouble, compared with a man. For one thing, they are keener about it; and for another, we cannot get the men to take it seriously enough to moderate their drinking, smoking and late hours – all of which are not conducive to excellence in ju-jitsu.

“Again, a girl is more anxious to improve her general physique than the male thing – and there is no doubt that this style of wrestling is a first-class thing for health and beauty.

An ever-present terror to women living in the country is the prowling tramp. But, armed with a knowledge of ju-jitsu, madame or mademoiselle may take her unattended walks abroad, and in the event of an encounter with the ‘hobo,’ may give him the alternative of crying quarter or having an arm broken.”

So fashionable is the new craze becoming that some West End stationers are printing invitation cards with “Wrestling” in the corner where “Dancing” or “Music” was wont to stand.