The Garter Stiletto (1911)

From the March 1911 edition of Popular Mechanics magazine:

Deprived of pockets in which she might carry firearms, and public sentiment imposing on her the use of more subtle weapons than the club or swordstick, which she would find hard to conceal, modern invention has added another weapon to the hatpin for women of fashion.

The device is the garter stiletto, a long, sharp, vicious weapon that fits snugly in a sheath attached to the garter. The slender steel blade is so thin and so narrow that it would not attract more attention than a hatpin, and could be wielded with more deadly effect, in the case of necessity.

Congratulations to Daniel Pope …

… who has won the Bartitsu documentary DVD artwork contest. Mr. Pope’s entry clearly demonstrates the unusual and eclectic nature of Bartitsu as an “Edwardian mixed martial art” and links to the Sherlock Holmes mythos, also communicating a sense of historical mystery within a pleasing overall design.

Thanks again to all our entrants; your creative talents are much appreciated.

We look forward to unveiling Mr. Pope’s design as the release date for the documentary DVD draws near.

Mlle. Dazie’s “Jiu-Jitsu Dance”

In the decade after E.W. Barton-Wright introduced the practice of Japanese martial arts to the Western world, Western pop-culture responded in some creative and unusual ways. Here is Mademoiselle Dazie (also known as le Domino Rouge and la Belle Dazie), partnered by “Prince Tokio”, in their Jiu-Jitsu Dance from the Ziegfeld Follies of 1907.

Bartitsu Club of Vancouver

A special guest post from David McCormick, instructor of the new Bartitsu Club of Vancouver, who is due congratulations for his success!

The first month of the Bartitsu Club of Vancouver has been an unmitigated success. I would not have expected such a turnout of students in a debut course. This is thanks in no small part to Academie Duello, the school of Western Martial Arts of which we are a part. Most of our Bartitsuka are already regular students of Rapier and the other disciplines at the Academie, and the reach of Duello’s influence in the media helped bolster support. In the end, we have a core group of eight or so, with some weeks having as many as thirteen participants. But enough about our numbers… What did we do?


Each class is a two-hour session that starts with a general warm up, with some awareness and balance exercises, for the first 20 minutes, followed by a review segment for 30 minutes, including lesson recap and partner drills. Next, we move on to the meat of the class: 30 minutes of new material, which is followed by 20 minutes in which we combine the old lessons with the new techniques. The final 20 minutes we spend sparring, with special emphasis on that week’s system. For example, if the main lesson was boxing, the sparring segment will be in the form of a boxing match, whereas if the main lesson was cane, we do stick-fighting.

Our general format is to separate Bartitsu into its four major components: Boxing, Savate, Jujitsu and Cane. Each class, we study two of these components in our two-hour session. The first is a review of the previous week, and the second is new material for the other weapon. Then, we combine the two for tactics that work together.

Weekly Run-Down

In week 1 (21 August, 2010), we looked at Cane and Boxing. This was an introduction to each, in which we examined basic stances and essential strikes.

In week 2 (28 August, 2010), we reviewed Boxing and learned the basic kicks of Savate.

In week 3 (4 September, 2010), we reviewed Savate and returned to Cane for some new techniques, including pre-emptive strikes. We combined this with Savate by using the stick as a feint for a kick, and a kick as a feint for a stick.

And then the lovely new equipment arrived! We have boxing head-gear, sparring gloves and shin-protectors, and new mats for the floor that cover a huge area. We also have padded escrima sticks for cane sparring.

In week 4 (11 September, 2010), we reviewed Cane and finally got to the basics of Jujitsu. We spent some time getting used to break-falls, and then went on to the Back-Heel throw. We combined the two disciplines by using the pre-emptive stick technique into the back-heel throw, and variations on that theme.

In week 5 (18 September, 2010), we reviewed Jujitsu and returned to Boxing. We learned some in-fighting hooks and uppercuts, and we combined that with Jujitsu when we moved into chancery and the cross-buttock throw. That week’s sparring was very exciting as we really explored freeform boxing.

Special Event: Umbrella

On 25 September, we held a four-hour Umbrella Self-Defence Workshop in the place of the Bartitsu class. What a turn-out! Some of our regular Bartitsu members were there, and thanks to media coverage and our tireless marketing team, we had fifteen members of the public fill our space. We had to turn away people at the door, who will hopefully join us the next time we run it in November.

Coming Up

This weekend is the start of October, when we’ll have a demonstration at V-Con, the Vancouver science fiction convention. Since this year’s theme is steampunk, I’m sure Bartitsu will be very popular. If you happen to be there, our demo is at 6pm on Saturday.

“Father Frank’s trick”

Text from “The French Scotland Yard: About the Paris Detective and his Work” by Alder Anderson and H. de Noussanne; The London Magazine, Volume 9, 1903.

Has the reader ever heard of “the trick of Father Francis?” Or as it is in its French dress, “le coup du Pere Francois”? Whether he has or not, let him offer up a devout prayer that it may never be practically demonstrated to him on his own person. To the industrious antiquarian must be left the task of discovering exactly who “Father Francis” was; the trick to which he stands sponsor will, nonetheless, remain one of the most effectual methods known to he Paris representative of the London “hooligan”, of disabling a belated bourgeois, who looks as if he might be the temporary custodian of a heavy purse, a well-lined pocket book, a gold watch or any of the hundred and one trifles for which the soul of the hooligan of every country hungers.

Properly executed, the “trick of Father Francis” is not inartistic, and though painful to the victim, seldom proves fatal. Any person whose steps lead him Pariswards may see the interesting youth of the French metropolis who select the dry moat of the fortifications as their playground, practicing this trick and others in sheer wantonness among themselves. All that is required for the purpose is a large silk handkerchief.

A former professor of the art has been good enough to describe for the readers of the London Magazine his modus operandi. It would be a pity to attempt to improve on the naive precision of his style. Here, then, is a faithful transcription, in English, of his lesson.

“Take a strong silk muffler (scarf), which you should wear very loosely round the neck. You should have (at least) one accomplice, who follows you at a distance of about a dozen paces. Select a belated wayfarer of substantial appearance, and walk in the same direction as he is going, and, as nearly as you can, on a level with him without arousing his suspicions. Should the street be well lighted or you have reason to suspect that anyone may be observing you, be particularly careful to appear utterly indifferent, both to the man you are following and to your accomplice.

Sooner or later, you will traverse some dark, deserted thoroughfare. Here you must arrange to be a few steps in advance. You stop in an unconcerned manner, as if to light a cigarette, and your man comes up level, and finally passes you.

You then quickly drop the match, take a firm grip of each end of the muffler and swing it over your own head and over the head of your man, so that it goes under his chin. At the same instant you half turn round, bend slightly forward, and by so doing lift the bourgeois off the ground by the neck. He is half suffocated and has no time to utter the least exclamation. Your accomplice, meanwhile, has run up, and while you keep a firm hold of the muffler, at once explores all the pockets of the choking and helpless victim. If necessary, he can give the bourgeois a blow on the head to keep him quiet. The whole operation is over in a few seconds. It is rarely necessary to kill the victim, who may be just left senseless on the ground where he falls.”

In spite of all their precautions, Father Francis tricksters are occasionally caught red-handed by the guardians of the law. They then, commonly, resort to the “head trick,” which consists in charging at the policeman with lowered head. A blow thus delivered in the pit of the stomach is usually all but fatal. The police are carefully instructed how to parry this form of attack by stepping quickly aside at the last moment, felling the aggressor by a heavy blow on the nape of the neck as he passes. An alternative is for the policeman to stand on one leg and check the rush of the oncoming “ram” with the raised knee of the other leg, giving a heavy blow on the head with the fist at the same time.

Umbrella self defence intro. at the Academie Duello

Learn to fend off ruffians and rapscallions with Vancouver’s most common weather-based accoutrement.

In this 4-hour workshop (Saturday, September 25 – 3:00pm to 7:00pm), participants will learn the art of self-defense with an umbrella or cane. Based on the Bartitsu system developed in turn of the century Victorian England, stick fighting is a practical, easily applied system of self-defense for any gentleman or lady.

This workshop is suitable for participants of any fitness level.
$60 (15% off for members)

You can sign up online here.

Bartitsu documentary referenced in Postimees magazine

The forthcoming documentary Bartitsu: the Lost Martial Art of Sherlock Holmes has been referenced in a feature article profiling co-producer Ran A. Braun and his wife, Aile Asszonyi, published in the Estonian Postimees Magazine.

In memoriam: E.W. Barton-Wright (8 Nov. 1860 – 13 Sept. 1951)

Today marks the 59th anniversary of the death of Bartitsu founder Edward William Barton-Wright.

Born in Bangalore, India, he was the third of six children of railway engineer William Barton Wright and his wife, Janet. Edward travelled widely as a youth, matriculating in France and Germany and then operating mining concessions in Spain, Egypt and Portugal. After studying jiujitsu in Japan for approximately three years, he returned to London and opened his Bartitsu School of Arms and Physical Culture in 1899.

The Bartitsu Club era was a relatively prosperous and happy time for Barton-Wright, but it was short-lived. By 1902, for reasons that are still unknown to us, the Club had ceased operating as a martial arts school. The instructors that Barton-Wright had gathered dispersed, and he himself spent the rest of his career working as a physical therapist.

Barton-Wright’s life was punctuated by genuine innovations and bold plans, but plagued by financial and legal problems. A bankruptcy suit brought by a disgruntled former employee in 1910 seems to have dealt his professional life a crippling blow. From 1938 onwards, his therapeutic clinic was in his own home, a small flat in the London suburb of Surbiton.

Despite having quite literally pioneered the teaching of the Japanese martial arts in the West, E.W. Barton-Wright died in obscurity and in virtual poverty; a forgotten eccentric. To the very last, though, he remained proud of his art of Bartitsu. In a 1950 interview with Gunji Koizumi, the founder of the London Budokwai judo club, Barton-Wright recalled:

I have always been interested in the arts of self-defence. And I learned various methods, including boxing, wrestling, fencing, savate, the use of the stiletto under recognised masters, and by engaging regular ‘roughs’ I trained myself until I was satisfied in practical application. Then when I went to Japan, during my three years’ sojourn there, I studied Ju-jutsu under a local teacher in Kobe who specialised in the Kata form of instruction. I then met Prof. J. Kano, who gave me some lessons. On my return to England I founded an institution at which one could learn under specialised instructors all forms of sports and combative arts. For Ju-jutsu teachers, I asked my friends in Japan and Prof. Kano to select and to send … I then worked out a system of self-defence by combining the best of all the arts I learned and called it Bartitsu.

It was not until the 1990s that scholars began to realise E. W. Barton-Wright’s historical significance in the martial arts, not least being his radical innovation of Bartitsu as a method of cross-training between Asian and European fighting styles. The influence of Bruce Lee’s Jeet Kune Do and the massive popularity of Mixed Martial Arts clearly vindicate Barton-Wright’s vision. Sadly, he was simply eighty years ahead of his time.

Barton-Wright was interred at Kingston Cemetery in Surbiton. For those who may wish to pay their respects, the relevant details are:

Section E (Consecrated), Grave no. 3012A

Note that, due to his having died in poverty, he was buried in a communal grave. A local ordinance forbids the placing of individual grave markers (gravestones) on these sites, because it is impossible to determine exactly where an individual is buried. Flowers may be left at the base of a tree growing from the grave.