Report on Bartitsu at CombatCon 2012

The CombatCon Western martial arts/fight choreography/pop-culture conference ran in Las Vegas from July 7-9.

On Friday night Tony Wolf hosted a public screening of the Lost Martial Art of Sherlock Holmes documentary, followed by a Q&A session that ranged from production challenges to in-depth questions about Bartitsu history.

On Saturday morning Tony taught a very successful 2-hour Bartitsu intro seminar that attracted about 45 participants. The seminar covered Bartitsu history in a ten-minute precis and based much of the rest of the training on the synergy exercises being developed at the Bartitsu Club of Chicago, very gradually incorporating boxing, kicking, canonical stick and jujitsu techniques/kata/set-plays, then developed that into segue drills, stressing the idea of “combat improvisation” in the face of the unexpected.

The seminar finished with a short description of the modern revival and the explanation of the non-hierarchical, open-source approach aroused spontaneous applause.

Tony also helped shoot a short video promoting the CLANG video game Kickstarter project, which will showcase authentic combat techniques:

The project passed the $500,000 target late on Saturday night, so the game will definitely be funded.

CLANG: crowdfunding an authentic historical swordfighting video game (with Bartitsu aside)

The Subutai Corporation has launched a Kickstarter campaign towards the production of CLANG, a revolutionary hand to hand combat video game.

Clang is one aspect of the Foreworld project, an epic multi-media historical fiction franchise centered around the martial arts of European history. Quoting Subutai principal Neal Stephenson on the subjects of Victorian-era self defence and physical culture:

It’s an interesting thing,” Stephenson says, “because from a distance 19th-century martial arts looks kind of dorky — it looks like Monty Python. It ties into everything we believe about the Victorians: that they were out of touch with their bodies, that they didn’t really understand medicine very well, and that they were uncomfortable with physical activities. But once you get into it, you find that these people really knew what they were doing in terms of physical culture, in terms of self-defense. Victorians were really serious about staying fit.

Part of what makes this an interesting story is how, in the 19th century, jiujitsu was adopted by women. This guy Barton-Wright brought jiujitsu to London. He came back from Japan and created a club called the Bartitsu Club. He taught the mixed martial art of jiujitsu, bare-knuckle fighting, savate, stick fighting and a few other things. He brought in a couple of teachers from Japan, and would take them around the music halls—have them challenge huge, burly guys and throw them around. This had an unintentional side effect that suffragettes would see these performances, and decide they wanted to learn self-defense: ‘I want to defeat a man!’ Jiujitsu as a ‘husband-tamer’!

We want to do a side-story quest thing about the jiujitsu suffragettes. The image that we’re all dying to get into a full-page spread in a comic book is this lineup of Edwardian women with the flowered hats and the long skirts and the bustles, and they’re all walking eight abreast down a London street, swaggering toward the camera and approaching a bunch of bobbies… if we could get that image in some medium, that would be a good thing.