Announcing the Bartitsu Club of Chicago

Located in Chicago’s Ravenswood neighborhood, the Bartitsu Club of Chicago offers regular, progressive training in the “lost martial art of Sherlock Holmes”.

History

At the end of the Victorian era, E. W. Barton-Wright combined jiujitsu, kickboxing and stick fighting into the “New Art of Self Defence” known as Bartitsu.  Promoted via exhibitions, magazine articles and challenge contests, Barton-Wright’s New Art was offered as a means by which ladies and gentlemen could beat street hooligans and ruffians at their own game.

Thus, the Bartitsu School of Arms and Physical Culture in London became the headquarters of a radical experiment in martial arts and fitness cross-training. It was also a place to see and be seen; famous actors and actresses, soldiers, athletes and aristocrats eagerly enrolled to learn the secrets of Bartitsu.

In early 1902, for reasons that remain a historical mystery, the London Bartitsu Club closed down.  Barton-Wright’s art was almost forgotten thereafter, except for a single, cryptic reference in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Adventure of the Empty House, wherein it was revealed as the method by which Sherlock Holmes had defeated Professor Moriarty in their fatal battle at Reichenbach Falls.

Our premise and approach

Bartitsu was abandoned as a work-in-progress one hundred and ten years ago, but what if Barton-Wright’s School of Arms had continued to thrive?  In collaboration with other Bartitsu clubs and study groups throughout the world, the Bartitsu Club of Chicago is proud to pick up where he left off, reviving and continuing the experiment into the new millennium.

E.W. Barton-Wright recorded the basics of his “New Art” via lectures, interviews and detailed articles, which form the nucleus of “canonical Bartitsu”.  These methods are practiced as a form of living history preservation and also as a common technical and tactical “language” among modern practitioners.

“Neo-Bartitsu” complements and augments the canon towards an evolving, creative revival as a system of recreational martial arts cross-training with a 19th century “twist”.

Our venue

Forteza Fitness, Physical Culture and Martial Arts (4437 North Ravenswood Ave., Chicago, IL 60640) is the ideal venue for reviving Bartitsu.  Directly inspired by Barton-Wright’s School of Arms, Forteza features a unique late-19th century theme; brick walls and a high timber ceiling enclosing 5000 square feet of training space, including a “gymuseum” of functional antique exercise apparatus.

Our classes

Bartitsu classes at Forteza run from 6.30-8.00 pm on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. The price for the six-week introductory course (two classes per week) is $125.00.

A typical class includes calisthenic warm-ups, specialized movement drills, study of the canonical sequences and neo-Bartitsu “combat improvisation” training.  Participants should wear comfortable exercise clothing and bring a change of shoes for the class.

Contact info@fortezafitness.com to book your place in the first ongoing Bartitsu course in Chicago.

Our instructor

New Zealand citizen and Chicago resident Tony Wolf is one of the founders of the international Bartitsu Society.  A highly experienced martial arts instructor, he has taught Bartitsu intensives in England, Ireland, Italy, Australia, Canada and throughout the USA.  Tony also edited the two volumes of the Bartitsu Compendium (2005 and 2008) and co-produced/directed the feature documentary Bartitsu: The Lost Martial Art of Sherlock Holmes (2010).

Bartitsu Club of New York City

The Bartitsu Club of New York City is a newly-formed training group dedicated to the study and revival of this Victorian art of self-defense. The Club meets once a month in Central Park for approximately 1 1/2 hours of Bartitsu training consisting of Vigny cane, savate, ‘scientific’ pugilism, and Ju Jutsu. For more information, contact violetvernet@gmail.com.

June 2011 meeting
Sunday, June 19, 2:00pm – 3:30pm
Daniel Webster Monument, Central Park
West 72nd Street
New York, NY
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New Beginners’ Class In Farnborough, UK

On March 21st I’ll be starting a 6 week beginners’ course in Modern Bartitsu. Details can be found here.The course will run every Sunday for 6 weeks, and will cover the basics of punching, kicking, grappling and stick work, as well as some skills for dealing with aggressive behaviour and looking at the historical context of the art.

Bartitsu intensive at ISMAC 2009

A quick report on the Bartitsu intensive at the tenth International Swordfighting and Martial Arts Convention, held at the Detroit Westin hotel between May 21-25, 2009.

The Bartitsu course was divided into two three-hour classes held on days 2 and 3 of the conference, and was well attended on both days (14 participants.)

We started with a precis discussion of E.W. Barton-Wright, the Bartitsu Club era and the Sherlock Holmes connection.  The participants then proceeded into a fairly quick study of the three themes of alignment control, initiative control and adaptability, using as examples the left-lead off and counters from scientific boxing, the coup de pied bas and chasse bas kicks of savate and two canonical jiujitsu defence sequences. The rest of this session covered a representative sample of canonical Bartitsu walking cane defence sequences, focusing on the straight or ball-handled cane.

Day 2 began with a discussion of Edith Garrud and the “Jiujitsuffragettes”,
progressed into a selection of crook-handled cane defences and then into the “twist” and “segue” exercises, as detailed in Volume II of the Bartitsu Compendium, applied to many of the canonical sequences that  had ben practiced up til then.  The “defenders” were challenged to spontaneously adapt their set-play defences in response to their first intention being defeated by the “attacker”, leading towards controlled, self defence oriented sparring scenarios.

During this class I was honoured to be joined by Mark Donnelly who has been teaching Bartitsu in England for a number of years. Mark and I had never worked together before, and I am very happy to report that he is a great asset to the international Bartitsu community; an excellent instructor, historian and martial artist. He has recently moved to the US and I’m looking forward to more collaborations with him in the future.

Bartitsu instructors Mark Donnelly (left) and Tony Wolf (right)
Bartitsu instructors Mark Donnelly (left) and Tony Wolf (right)

“Is Bartitsu practiced today?”

This is probably the #1 question asked of the Bartitsu Society.  Fortunately, the short answer is “yes”, but this may require some explanation.

Between 2002-2005 the Bartitsu Society was largely devoted to learning as much as possible about Bartitsu from the historical point of view.  We tracked down long-forgotten books and magazine articles in obscure library archives and most of our efforts were towards collating, preserving and sharing this information.

After the publication of Volume 1 of the Bartitsu Compendium in 2005, members of the Society began offering seminar classes in various aspects of Bartitsu.  These classes were held at martial arts and stage combat conferences in Canada, the USA, Italy, Germany and the UK.

Today, your options for learning Bartitsu include attending seminars or joining any of several informal study groups or  regular Bartitsu classes.  These include:

The Academie Duello historical fencing and stage combat school in Vancouver, Canada offers occasional Bartitsu seminars with instructor David McCormick.

The Alabama Bartitsu Society, which is planned as a Bartitsu study group.

The  International Swordfighting and Martial Arts Convention (Detroit, Michigan) regularly features Bartitsu intensives taught by Tony Wolf.

The Gallowglass Academy (Rockford, Illinois) offers occasional Bartitsu seminars.

The Cumann Bhata Dayton (Ohio) Western martial arts club offers Bartitsu classes on the first Monday of each month.

The 2009 Western Martial Arts Weekend conference (Racine, WI) will feature a Bartitsu seminar intensive taught by Tony Wolf.

The Gemeiner Academy of European Combat Arts (Gold Coast, Australia) offers regular training in Vigny/Lang stick fighting and associated skills.

The Houston School of Defense offers regular classes in walking stick defense and plans to extend into training in other aspects of the Bartitsu and Neo-Bartitsu curricula.

The Zwaardkring historical fencing club offers one two-hour Bartitsu practice session per month and the Judoclub Shizen Hontai plans to offer a weekly Bartitsu study group.  Both clubs are in Veldhoven, Netherlands.