Bartitsu class at March WMAC Gathering

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Advance notice that Chris Amendola of the Houston School of Defense will be teaching a three-hour Bartitsu intensive at the upcoming Western Martial Arts Coalition gathering in Houston, Texas.

The March 2010 gathering will also feature a wide range of historical Western martial arts classes including German and Italian longsword fencing, sword and buckler, rapier and unarmed combat.

Further information, including course and schedule details, will be appearing on the WMAC website in the near future.

“First Point of Attack”: The Action of Sherlock Holmes

A sneak preview of the action in the eagerly-awaited Sherlock Holmes movie, courtesy of Slashfilm.com:

SH fight

“It does make considerable difference to me having someone with me on whom I can thoroughly rely.”

In the film, as in the books, both Holmes and Watson know their way around a fight and their skills are frequently tested. Holmes is a skilled martial artist; this propensity links him with both the star and director of “Sherlock Holmes,” as Downey and Ritchie have practiced martial arts for years, and worked together to create Holmes’s distinct fighting style. “Doyle called it Baritsu in the novels, which is tied to a 19th-century hybrid of jujitsu that is actually called Bartitsu, created by Edward William Barton-Wright,” Downey explains. “Jujitsu is Guy’s chosen martial art. Mine is Wing Chun Kung Fu. So, we developed our own combination of martial arts styles for the movie.”

As efficient as he is at neutralizing an enemy in the course of his work, Holmes is also known to blow off steam in a boxing ring at a working class pub called the Punch Bowl. Here, in front a raucous crowd, Holmes takes on a massive boxer named McMurdo, played by David Garrick, in a brutal bare-knuckle fight which showcases the detective’s prowess and physical strength.

“The bare-knuckle boxing ring is the only place where Holmes doesn’t think,” says Downey. “But even there he does think; he thinks about how to win the fight, but doesn’t think about all of these ongoing concerns of life. Interpersonal relations don’t enter into it. It’s just you and your opponent.”

“The Punch Bowl is where Holmes goes to hone his skill, to make mistakes, and test out techniques against very powerful opponents,” comments fight consultant Eric Oram, who for years has trained with Downey in Wing Chun Kung Fu and helped prepare the actor for the fight sequences. “He starts by using the least amount of force in the first half of the fight. It’s only after his opponent crosses the line that he wants to teach him a lesson.”

More out of necessity than choice, Watson too knows his way around a street fight, though he is more of a brawler compared to the fluid combat style of Holmes. “Watson is used to the up-close-and-personal fight-for-your-life stuff,” Downey attests. “He has a much more accessible but no less effective style than Holmes. As a matter of fact, there are often times when Holmes over thinks in order to come up with the best deduction, where Watson will just strike with any tool that’s handy.”

“Watson is a war veteran and used to thinking on his feet,” says stunt coordinator Franklin Henson. “He can throw a wild punch in reaction, and, like a street fighter, he’ll use whatever it takes–his head, knees or elbows–to bring an opponent down.”

Law relished participating in the fight sequences. “When you’re in the hands of someone like Guy, who shoots with such a unique eye, you know you’re not shooting a standard fight scene,” says the actor. “He’s always looking for a new way to reveal the story behind the fight, and he knows exactly what he wants. So it’s good fun.”

Director of photography Philippe Rousselot utilized lighting and camera to make the textures palpable and the fights a truly physical experience. “Guy wants the film to feel to the viewer as if you’re there,” Rousselot states. “A good example is the Punch Bowl fight. It was crucial to bring in every detail, from a miniscule drop of sweat to the effect of each blow on the opponent’s body to the sea of movement and tussling in the crowd.”

Ritchie also used these sequences to deconstruct Holmes’s thinking over the course of a fight. He and Rousselot accomplished this moment-by-moment technique using a high-speed digital camera called the Phantom, which creates an ultra-slow motion effect. “The Phantom takes one second of filming and strings it out over 40 or 50 seconds,” says the director. “The camera takes in a great deal of information in a very short period of time, which is the perfect lens through which to illustrate how Holmes’s mind operates. He is able to condense an enormous amount of information into a fraction of a second.”

For a key action sequence–on a multi-story set representing the half-constructed Tower Bridge–Ritchie rehearsed extensively with the actors, along with Oram and Henson, as well as fight coordinator Richard R. Ryan. “We worked very closely with quite a big stunt team,” notes co-producer Steve Clark-Hall. “They knew Robert’s capabilities, which are considerable, and were able to play to his strengths. Pulling off this degree of high intensity action in these stunt sequences was quite a team effort.”

Ritchie sought a strategic blend of rehearsal and spontaneity to ensure the chaos of fighting was reflected in the sequences. “I made the creative decision to make the film gritty, so I didn’t want things to be too choreographed,” he says. “We discussed everything, but we also made sure to leave room for improvisation. I didn’t want it to look too perfect.”

This sensibility appealed to Rachel McAdams, who had extensive stunt work in the Tower Bridge sequence. “Guy liked to keep things messy and keep the truth within this fantastical world,” she notes. “There’s always the temptation to get too refined when dealing with this period, but Guy made sure it was also rough and tumble and modernized. Doing this movie with Guy taught me to be really quick on my feet and precise, yet always open and flexible.”

Of course, humor was an important ingredient in the action and found its way into all the action scenes. “There needed to be moments of levity and other moments of gravity,” Ritchie offers. “So the funny bits got funnier and the darker bits got darker as we went along.”

Read more: 37 High Resolution Photos From Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes | /Film http://www.slashfilm.com/2009/12/10/37-high-resolution-photos-from-guy-ritchies-sherlock-holmes/#ixzz0ZNJZaqSH

Bartitsu to feature in “Martial Arts Illustrated”

Martial Arts Illustrated magazine, based in the UK but also available internationally, is to run an editorial feature on Bartitsu in its February 2010 edition, on sale 14th January.

The article, written by Nick Collins, will cover the history and the expected revival of interest in Bartitsu in light of the upcoming action-oriented Sherlock Holmes movie.

“Bartitsu: the Martial Art for the Steampunk Set”

Freelance journalist and martial artist Nick Mamatas has produced a tongue-in-cheek article on Bartitsu for issue #39 of Clarkesworld Magazine.

As well as historical research, Mamatas attended a Bartitsu class hosted by the Botta Secreta Productions historical fencing school in San Francisco, who have adopted the apt motto, “the recreation of Bartitsu is its re-creation”.

Upcoming Seminar in Surrey, UK

Take that!

On the 7th of February, the English Martial Arts Academy will be holding a one day event in Haslemere, Surrey. On offer will be English backsword, Italian longsword and Bartitsu. The bartitsu class will focus on the key principles of empty hand and possibly stick, and is designed for beginners and those trained in the martial arts.

The Holmes fans amongst you will know that Conan Doyle settled for a time in this area, and that he is buried just down the road in Minstead, whilst his wife and son are buried in nearby Hindhead Greyshott (Thanks Ian!).

If you would like to know more then leave a comment below, and please mention bartitsu.org when booking.

Edwardian Antagonistics at SWASH 2010

Advance notice of SWASH 2010, the flagship conference event of the British Federation for Historical Swordplay. The 2010 conference will take place on February 20 and 21 and will be held at the magnificent Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds, UK. The programme includes a significant emphasis upon the “antagonistics” (martial arts and combat sports) of the Edwardian period, as well as classes in the swordsmanship of the Medieval, Renaissance and Regency eras.

The Saturday schedule includes a lecture by Bethan Jenkins entitled Apaches, garrotters and roughs, oh my! – Ruffianism panics and their relation to historical defensive arts.

This will be followed by A caution to the gentleman about town – a demonstration of various dastardly night attacks, in which Dr. Milo Thurston, Ian MacIntyre and James Marwood will present various techniques of robbery attributed to the Apaches (Parisian gangsters), based upon the writing of French self defence author Emile Andre.

Muggers in London colour

This presentation will followed by A brief introduction to Edwardian antagonistics – cane, savate, pugilism and ju-jitsu presented by Dr. Milo Thurston, Ian MacIntyre and James Marwood.

On Sunday Mark Donnelly will present a lecture entitled Kernoozers and Antiquarian Antagonistics being an informative discourse regarding Hutton, Castle, Burton, Allanson-Winn, Barton-Wright and the Victorian foundations of contemporary researches.

Surely a conclave not to be missed!