The Bartitsu School of Arms 2012 in text, video and images

The second annual Bartitsu School of Arms and Physical Culture was a three-day conference and training seminar held in Chicago between September 7-9, 2012. The event was hosted by the Bartitsu Club of Chicago and based at the Forteza Fitness and Martial Arts studio.

Day 1

Our band of stalwart adventurers met at the Forteza Fitness and Martial Arts studio in Chicago’s Ravenswood neighburhood just before noon, embarking in a small but spirited convoy to La Salle, IL to tour the Hegeler Carus Mansion and its historic gymnasium – normally a two-hour trip. Unfortunately we were delayed by unusually heavy traffic leaving the city, but the Hegeler Carus Mansion staff were kind enough to delay the start of the 2.00 tour to accommodate us. En route, a nascent plan emerged to write a Bartitsu-themed “anthem”, perhaps in the style of a c1900 music hall song. We also met SoA instructor Allen Reed, who lives somewhat near La Salle, at the site.

The mansion tour was fascinating, particularly re. the Hegeler and Carus families’ close connections to events such as the 1893 Columbian Exposition and the spread of Zen Buddhism to the Western world and to the publishing industry via their in-house “Open Court” company. By special permission of the Hegeler Carus Foundation, instructor Tony Wolf was then able to lead an extended, “up close” tour of the famous 1876-vintage gymnasium, which he has been helping to research and re-assemble. Two Bartitsu Club of Chicago members were afterwards inspired to construct their own “teeter ladder” exercise apparatus, which would surely be a unique addition to the Forteza gymuseum; as far as we know, the original teeter ladder in the mansion’s gym is the only surviving example of its type.

Our return to Chicago was significantly delayed by extremely heavy traffic, due in part to a Bruce Springsteen concert, but we were just about able to get everyone fed and at the Lincoln Square Theatre in time for the beginning of Susan Swayne and the Bewildered Bride.

The play is set during the late Victorian era and actually opens with the title character – a no-nonsense, Mary Poppinsish member of the Society of Lady Detectives – making adroit use of jujitsu and then her parasol to fend off various assailants. Further fight scenes showcased everything from smallsword fencing to pugilism in the context of an ostensible Jack the Ripper mystery, but in fact the mysteries to be solved were of a different and more personal nature. All ended happily for the heroines and the audience was left hoping for further adventures with the S.O.L.D.

Day 2

We began the first full training day with a tour of the Forteza Fitness and Martial Arts studio and then a mini-lecture on Bartitsu history. Warm-ups began by simply walking around the space for orientation, then jogging, then jogging backwards, then jogging while throwing an antique leather medicine ball to and fro (nothing like it for breaking the ice).

We continued the warm-up with a series of synergy exercises stressing efficient whole-body movement, unbalancing tactics and elbow/hip alignment.

Next up was a set of two circuit training sessions in which small groups rotated between short classes taught by three instructors; Allen Reed teaching collar-and-elbow wrestling and jujitsu throws, Tony Wolf teaching fisticuffs and Mark Donnelly teaching cane techniques. These sessions were followed by some “integration” training, making the point that Bartitsu really comes to life when the various skills/styles are tested against each other and combined together.

After lunch we reconvened for longer, specialized classes with each instructor. Mark taught a session on umbrella/parasol defense via the “bayonet” grip; Forteza Fitness instructor Keith Jennings taught some catch wrestling holds, takedowns and reversals; Allen presented several canonical Bartitsu/jujitsu kata, and drills arising from opponent resistance; Tony taught “combat improvisation” based on various canonical unarmed and armed set-plays.

Then each instructor in turn was invited to contribute to a combat scenario beginning with cane fighting, segueing through boxing and throwing and ending up on the ground.

The last session of the day was devoted to informal “breakaway” groups and included some spirited cane sparring, pugilism drills, scenario-based cane techniques, free submission grappling and even some Bowie knife work. Serious points to those young enthusiasts who, after a very full day of Bartitsu training, still had enough energy to squeeze in a kettlebell session.

At 7.00 pm we met in the Victorian-themed side room at O’Shaughnessy’s Public House – all dark green velvet, dark polished wood and maroon trimmings – and spent a very pleasant couple of hours eating, drinking and chatting before retiring gratefully, if not necessarily gracefully, to home and rest.

Day 3

The final day of the School of Arms began with an orientation and quick Bartitsu history lesson for the four new (Sunday only) participants. We started the warm-up with forward and backward jogging and medicine ball tossing, then rotated through whole-group exercises/balance games taught by Mark Donnelly, Allen Reed and Tony Wolf, including iterations of wrist wrestling, stick wrestling, stand-off and finger-fencing.

Next we cycled through two circuit training rounds of small group mini-lessons (roughly 15 minutes each), in which Mark concentrated on cane work, Allen on jujitsu throws and Tony on integrating standing grappling with fisticuffs and low kicking.

After lunch each of the instructors taught a longer, 45 minute class for the whole group. Mark focused on the technical and tactical dynamics of parrying and countering with the cane. Allen taught applications of two canonical jujitsu kata vs multiple opponents and Tony gave a session on spontaneously combining three canonical kata/set-plays (two jujitsu, one cane) in response to opponent resistance.

We then set up for the Antagonisticathlon, which proved to be by far the roughest and wildest rendition of that event yet. The combination of stirring Sherlock Holmes and Steampunk music via the PA system and the presence of an audience fed into a quite extraordinary mixture of hard fighting and surreal Victorianesque humour. It was a sight to see.

After the warm-downs, the School of Arms ended on a high note, with thanks to our hosts at Forteza Fitness and Martial Arts for providing the perfect venue for this event, to the instructors and to the brave souls who volunteered as ruffians in the Antagonisticathlon. We then passed out participation certificates and posed for group photos before retiring to O’Shaughnessy’s for drinks and farewells.

Special thanks to the members of the Bartitsu Club of Chicago who volunteered to host and chauffeur out-of-towners, the staff at the Hegeler Carus Mansion and to all the participants, some of whom had traveled considerable distances for the event.

Onwards to the Bartitsu School of Arms 2013 …

6-week Bartitsu course via the Gallowglass Academy

Instructor Allen Reed (pictured left, above) will be starting a regular Bartitsu class at the Gallowglass Academy in Leaf River, IL (25 miles south-west of Rockford, IL) on Monday July 9, 2012 from 7 to 8 PM. The class will meet weekly for six weeks.

Interested parties should contact Mr. Reed at or call 815-973-1615.

Report on a Bartitsu seminar at the Gallowglass Academy

A guest post by Allen Reed, reporting on his recent Bartitsu seminar at the Gallowglass Academy in Leaf River, Illinois.

On Saturday, February 11th, five new Bartitsuka gathered at Gallowglass Academy to find out more about the art of Bartitsu. Four out of the five had previous Oriental martial arts experience. The other student had previously taken my classes on Bowie knife and tomahawk.

I started with the standard precis of the history of Bartitsu and how it got to where we are today. We then started in on 19th century pugilism. I like to start with pugilism as I find it provides a good warm up and starts building a sense of body movement and contact.

We covered the standard left lead and right rear punches both in slow motion and then with focus mitts so everyone got to actually feel how powerful the punches can be. We then covered defenses against these punches. First the standard blocks with the opposite arms and then the Jack Slack elbow block. From the Slack guard I showed how to counter with a “chopper” to the nose of the opponent. We then returned to standard blocks and worked on using the elbow and hammer fist as a counter strike.

We then moved to the two savate kicks I include in my Bartitsu teachings, the coup de pied bas and chasse bas (both front foot and rear foot versions). First we worked them slowly using each other to see how they can be used against knee, shin and foot. I then had each student use the kicks with full force against a kick shield. We then went back and worked on combinations of kicks and punches in slow motion on each other, using “pushing” force to examine how each strike impacts an opponent’s posture and balance.

During the discussion of pugilism I showed how the pugilistic left foot and arm forward stance can be modified for modern self defense with the “fence” stance of both hands open in front of you to provide a physical and psychological barrier to an attacker. Yet the hands up in front also allow for powerful strikes.

This brought us to lunch time. During the lunch break I discussed the modern legal ramifications of using force in a self defense situation.

After lunch we put the mats down and worked on how to do break falls. Two of the participants had experience with falling before but the other three had not. I then started work on the back heel throw from pugilism which is close to the throws that Barton-Wright uses in many of the jujutsu techniques.

This then moved into doing jujutsu from the Canon. Since we had been doing the back heel throw I first taught the defense from a face strike that is blocked and you end up tripping the attacker up with a rear throw (back heel.) We then did a failure drill of allowing the attacker to block the “back hander” strike so the defender had to do some other strikes to set up for the throw or take the attacker down another way.

We then worked on the defense from a one handed lapel grasp, since this is pretty much the same defense as the face strike but we did the grasp with the left had so everyone could learn that these techniques can be done on both sides. The failure drill for this technique was that the attacker steps back with his left foot so you can not get the trip on the first attempt.

The final technique we worked on from this series of throws was the belt grab or reaching for the pocket watch defense. I switched this to a neo-Bartitsu grab on the wrist since none of us wear swords or carry pocket watches very often. For this I showed the pain compliance grab at the throat version showing how this can also be used as a choke.

Next I taught the “How to Escort a Man Out of the Room” with the figure four lock on the elbow. We then worked on a neo-Bartitsu version using the same arm lock for a knife defense.

With that I thought it was time to start work on the Vigny cane techniques. I explained how Vigny advocated using a walking stick with a heavy ball on the end but that I liked to use a crook handled cane for modern defense since it is legal any where you go and does not stand out as much as a walking stick does in our modern world.

First we worked on Guard by Distance. We started by doing the Canonical technique slowly to get the feel for the move. I then had one of the partners in each pair put on a focus mitt on their “cane” hand so the defender could actually strike with power to the incoming hand. After seeing how powerful the blow to the hand could be we switched to a neo-Bartisu move with the attacker wearing a hockey glove while armed with a knife. So again the defender could strike with some power while facing a more realistic modern attack.

For the failure drill I had the neo-Bartitsu attacker with the knife decide if the strike to the hand was hard enough to disarm them and if not the defender had to follow up with other strikes with the cane.

We then worked on the first of B-W’s defenses using a light stick against a man with a heavy stick where again the idea is to trip the attacker up. First we covered the Canonical technique and then switched to a more modern neo-Bartisu “heavy stick” of a baseball bat. We then worked on how to do the same basic technique but using the crook cane to hook the knee or ankle of the attacker.

I then showed the technique of hooking an unarmed attacker at the neck and pulling his head into a knee strike.

As a prelude to doing a series of failure drills against an unarmed attacker I went back and showed how to use the head control movements that B-W uses in the jujutsu techniques. For the Canonical technique we used the two handed lapel grab. We then did a series of failure drills where the defender with the cane has the cane grabbed or taken away by the offender.

The grand finale of the day was everyone put on some head protection and we did individual drills with everyone rotating through being attacker and defender one at a time so they had the mat space all to themselves. After the first series I stood by as coach and second attacker who came with a baseball bat in case any defender got too tied up with their offender.

After it was all over we did a quick after-action review. Everyone said they enjoyed themselves and learned new things. In particular they liked the failure drill since their previous martial arts training had never included that kind of follow up in case the first plan did not work.

Bartitsu at TeslaCon 2011

A report from instructor Allen Reed on his recent introductory Bartitsu seminar at the TeslaCon steampunk convention in Madison, Wisconsin. Allen will also be teaching a Bartitsu workshop in early 2012.

I drove up to Madison, WI Saturday morning (about a 90 minute drive) to teach my Bartitsu class. The class was scheduled for 10 AM and the room filled rapidly with steampunk fans who wanted to learn about Bartitsu. I was very lucky that Bruce and Bonnie Aller, two good friends and fellow WMA students, were there so I could use them as teaching assistants.

I gave a short introduction to Bartitsu and Barton-Wright and then started working on pugilism. We worked on the left lead and right rear punches and then got into blocking a right rear and then countering with a right rear punch. I then had the group work on blocking a right rear with a right elbow and then use a chopper as a counter. I finished the pugilism section by working on blocking a left lead punch as you go out side and punching to the kidney with what Allanson-Winn would call a “contracted arm” hit.

I demonstrated some of the similarities between throws in pugilism and jujutsu and talked about how throws were used for boxing matches vs. for self defense.

We then moved on to working on Vigny cane techniques. I did have some loaner canes but about half the participants still did not have canes so we had to work on these techniques slowly so everyone could share. I first had them work on “Guard by Distance” and then since we had so few canes I had them all finish with “The Best Way to Disable a Man who Tries to Rush You.”

Everyone seemed enthused and interested throughout the class. I gave out quite a number of flyers for the seminar in January and all of the business cards I had brought with me. I also sold three copies of the Bartitsu Compendia and one of my Bartitsu DVDs.

Introductory Bartitsu at the Gallowglass Academy (Leaf River, IL)

Introductory Bartitsu
(the martial art of Sherlock Holmes)
with “Professor” Allen Reed

$50 until July 1; $75 thereafter and at the door
(Kindly bring a sack lunch)

River Valley Complex, 605 S. Main St., Leaf River IL

In 1898, the New Art of Self Defence called Bartitsu was introduced to England by Edward William Barton-Wright. Bartitsu was a combination of savate, jiujitsu, pugilism, and walking stick fighting. Barton-Wright developed Bartitsu to defeat the fearsome street gangs of Edwardian London.

By combining Asian and European fighting styles, Bartitsu may well have been the first Mixed Martial Art. Conan Doyle had Sherlock Holmes use Bartitsu against Professor Moriarty, his mortal enemy, to throw him from the top of Reichenbach waterfall.

This class will provide a practical beginning in this historical system, as well as how to use it for modern self defense.

REQUIREMENTS: Participants should wear comfortable workout clothes, and should bring a sturdy walking stick, cane or 3/4″-1″ diameter dowel rod about 36″ long. If available, bring a fencing mask or closed-face martial arts headgear and heavily padded gloves (hockey style) or equivalent. Gallowglass Academy requires groin protection for men.

Bartitsu class/demo. at the 1900 Chautauqua (Rockford, Illinois)

Instructor Allen Reed (left), in character as a circa 1900 “Professor of Antagonistics”, teaching Bartitsu stick fighting at the 1900 America Chautauqua event at the Midway Village Museum, Rockford, Illinois.

Spectators were invited to take part in Allen’s demonstrations, which took the form of classes in basic pugilism, self defence with a walking stick and jiujitsu escort holds. The classes ideally suited the theme of the Chautauqua, which also featured re-enactments of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, ragtime music and demonstrations of turn-of-the-century sports and crafts. This was possibly the first Bartitsu demonstration in living memory in which penny farthing bicycles were to be seen cruising past in the background.

Bartitsu classes at the 1900 America Chautauqua (Rockford, IL)

Instructor Allen Reed will be teaching Bartitsu classes at the 1900 America Chautauqua. The Chautauqua (June 11-12, Midway Village Museum, Rockford, IL) is set during the year 1900 and will offer numerous educational and entertainment events from that period.

Alongside 1900-era celebrities such as Mark Twain, Buffalo Bill Cody and Annie Oakley, Allen (as a “Professor of Antagonistics” recently returned from studies at the Bartitsu Club in London) will teach the skills of pugilism and self defence with a walking stick:

Prof. Reed is honored to be the first American to bring this new art back to his students in the United States. Prof. Reed will be offering two classes, one in pugilism and one on cane fighting for those attending this year’s Chautauqua. The class on pugilism will help introduce this manly art to all comers. The class on M. Vigny’s cane fighting system will teach how a common walking stick, cane or umbrella can be used for self defense. A few canes and sticks will be available from the instructor, but interested guests are encouraged to provide their own cane or umbrella. Ladies are also encouraged to attend. Classes offered both days of the Chautauqua.

More Bartitsu SteamPunkery

Allen Reed will be teaching classes at the Oklahoma Steampunk Exhibition in April.

Vigny’s Walking Stick Defense

Do you know a rogue and a scoundrel who deserves to be thrashed on the steps of his club? Then this is the class for you. The class will provide a short introduction to the use of the walking stick or cane for self defense. Prof. Reed will have a few loaner canes/sticks for use during the class but recommends bringing your own.

English Bare Knuckle Boxing

Every gentleman and woman should learn to defend themselves with their bare hands against the hooligans and thugs who prowl the streets of our big cities. This class will introduce the student to the basic stance, blows and defenses of English pugilism.

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.