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.

Bartitsu and more at CombatCon 2012

Dedicated to the intersection of Western martial arts with pop-culture, the CombatCon 2012 event will take place between July 6-8 at the Tuscany Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Instructor Tony Wolf will be teaching a two-hour introduction to E.W. Barton-Wright’s “Victorian mixed martial art”, concentrating on the art of blending between techniques and styles as may be required by the needs of the moment. He will also host a special screening of, and Q&A session in connection with the documentary Bartitsu: The Lost Martial Art of Sherlock Holmes.

Other 19th century antagonistics classes at CombatCon 2012 include:

Bowies, Brawling and Cane: Fighting in the Old West
The Game of Little Papers
Gentlemen’s Pugilism: A Brutal Art in Refined Society
Advanced Dueling Sabre
Navaja: The Original Folding Bowie
The Footpad & The Cane

… and more besides, not to mention classes in fighting zombies and duelling with longswords, lightsabres and Klingon bat’leths!

There will also be a full programme of panels and demonstrations covering a huge range of martial arts, fight choreography and pop-culture genre topics.

CombatCon 2012 – where history and fantasy meet!

Counting down to CombatCon …

A full list of CombatCon martial arts classes, demonstrations and panel discussions is now available online here.

Events and activities of special interest to Bartitsu/19th century “antagonistics” enthusiasts will include:

Manly Arts of Self Defense

In the late 19th Century certain activities were often classified as “manly arts”. This class will look at three of them: singlestick, pugilism and wrestling. The instructors will work together to show the similarities in a short presentation to begin. Then participants will choose between singlestick with Maestro Paul Macdonald, pugilism with Tim Ruzicki or wrestling with Ken Pfrenger. The class will culminate in a demonstration of these arts.

Class Length: 2 Hours

Instructors: Ken Pfrenger, Maestro Paul Macdonald, Tim Ruzicki

Bartitsu: The Martial Art of Sherlock Holmes

In the year 1899, Edward William Barton-Wright founded Bartitsu as a process of cross-training between walking stick fighting, boxing, kicking and jiujitsu. It was the first eclectic self-defence system blending Asian and European combat styles, intended to beat hooligans and street gangsters at their own game.

This introductory class will focus on classical Bartitsu defenses against an unarmed attacker via the use of jiujitsu and stickfighting, with a look at “combat improvisation”.

Please bring a crook-handled walking stick or strong 36″ dowel, with any edges smoothed away.

Class Length: 1 Hour

Instructor: Tony Wolf

19th Century Defense Against Thugs

Demo by: Tom Badillo and the Botta Secreta Demo Team

Catch-as-catch-can wrestling

Demo by: Ken Pfrenger & Dan Kanagie

Sword Feats

Demo by: Maestro John Sullins

Radaellian sabre

Calling all duelists, airship pirates, mechanized cavalry troopers, and others fond of carrying a sabre, come learn to do more than pose with that fine weapon! In this class we will learn a simple set of actions that will serve you well in your adventures. We will learn attacks, defense, counter attacks, as well as a number of special actions to get you out of those sticky situations you keep finding yourself in.
Equipment- If you want to practice with full contact, then thick padded protection for the hand, torso, upper legs, groin, weapon arm, neck and shoulder protection, cup, chest protectors, are required. If you want to practice without contact then thick clothing is required. A curved sabre is highly recommended, a straight bladed weapon will not be able to do many of the actions we will be studying.

Class Length: 1 Hour

Instructor: Maestro John Sullins

1904 Singlestick

The year is 1904 and Singlestick is the fourth fencing weapon at the Games of the III Olympiad, held in St. Louis, Missouri, United States of America. We will explore this expression of the martial sport as we have researched its use during the late 1890’s through 1910. Here is a sample video of our recreation.

Fantasy: Calling all sky pirates and Airship captains . . .
We will explore singlestick as a safe training weapon for your crews to learn how to defend and protect their airship. The wooden waster called the singlestick was also used as a training weapon on board naval ships when the officers wished to train their crews against boarding actions. “No need to blunt the cutlasses, Captain, when we have these perfectly good singlesticks. Save the steel for the pirates” cried the Master of Arms on the Airship Kalakaua.


Full fencing kit is recommended: Mask, gorget, fencing jacket, chest protector, left and right handed gloves, shin and elbow pads, and personal male and female protective gear. Required equipment, Mask, padded jacket, glove for weapon hand.

Class Length: 1 Hour

Instructor: Tom Badillo

Speak softly and carry a big stick …

The stick has been used as a training tool for different weapons as well as a weapon in its own right.

Participants can choose to study Garrote Larense stick and Machete fighting of Venezuela with Professor Bruno Cruicchi, Stick fencing with Maestro Jeannette Acosta-Martinez, Quarterstaff with Maestro Paul Macdonald or Bartitsu walking stick defence with Tony Wolf.

Class Length: 2 Hours

Instructors: Professor Bruno Cruicchi, Maestro Jeannette Acosta Martinez, Maestro Paul Macdonald, Tony Wolf

Creating your Steampunk universe

We will explore a process whereby an individual may construct their own personal storyline and context within the Steampunk world through story development, character creation, technological assessment, and the integration of actual places, people and wonders of the real world in which we live. The adventures of Major Vostok and the founding of the Pacifica Air Fleet will be used to illustrate how to create a niche for your character that fits into the surreal world of Steampunk fashion and technology.

Panel will include: Chris Villa and Tadao Tomomatsu.

Panel Length: 1 Hour

Film festival screening: Bartitsu – The Lost Martial Art of Sherlock Holmes

A documentary shot in Switzerland, Italy, the USA, and the UK that reveals the fascinating history, rediscovery and modern revival of the original mixed martial art, Bartitsu.

Theory and Practice of the Navaja

The instructional objective of the Theory and Practice of the Navaja workshop is to provide participants with a practical overview of the cultural knife arts of Andalusian Spain. The weapon that will be focused on is the navaja sevillana, a folding clasp-knife whose blade is believed to be the inspiration for the bowie knife that evolved in the American Southwest (a region originally populated by Spanish colonists).

Participants will be exposed to a hands-on familiarity with a dozen variations of Spanish fighting knives, including navajas (clasp-knives), puñales (stiletti), and salvavirgo (chastity knives). They will also learn the tactical rudiments of tirar la navaja, the methods of knife-play that evolved in Spain, including grips, guards, basic attacks, basic counter, and dexterity drills.

NOTE: Practice navajas will be provided for the class. There will also be trainers and navaja books available for purchase.

Victorian cane

Class Length: 1 Hour

As the ratio of police officer to general population of Victorian London was about 6000 to 1, it was wise for a Victorian of station to carry some sort of weapon for protection. Carrying a sword was no longer in fashion so, his or her walking stick or cane or parasol, a very common fashion accessory was the de facto choice of weapon.

“The stick is an excellent weapon, and in the hands of a good spadroon swordsman especially, wherefore I have frequently urged you to extend you fencing lessons . . . to spadroon . . . a straight sword, lighter than a Highland broadsword, and made to cut and thrust . . . fencing with a spadroon is a combination of Highland broadsword practice with that of a small sword.” Baron de Berenger page 57 – Defensive Gymnastics.


We will be exploring the tactical and strategic concepts and tactics for personal defense from the book Defensive Gymnastics by Lt. Col. Charles Random, the Baron de Berenger. This work was published in 1832, three years before Victoria was crowned Queen.

Present day:

How we, in the 21st century, can benefit from these early 19th discussions of situational awareness and fundamentals of personal defense.

One example: from page 47: “Wanton Assaults, either to gratify vulgar insolence, or to lead to a quarrel, perhaps to facilitate robbery, are practiced mostly under the guile of assumed intoxication. When you see a fellow staggering towards you whether really drunk or pretending inebriety, give him all the room you can; take no notice of anything he may say or do, not stop even to look but proceed on as if you had not even seen him.“


A simple cane or hook/crook cane that will with stand impact of cutting drills.

Class Length: 1 Hour

Instructor: Tom Badillo

19th century/Steampunk martial arts at CombatCon

A partial class list is now on-line for Combat Con Las Vegas.

There are four ways to look at the classes based on how you study Western Martial Arts. You can view the classes along with their short descriptions or you can look at the list via System/Style or via Weapon. Lastly, each instructor’s bio page lists their classes at the bottom.

The 19th century/Steampunk classes listed so far include Manly Arts of Self Defence (singlestick, pugilism and wrestling), Bartitsu: The Martial Art of Sherlock Holmes, Radellian Sabre, Victorian Cane, Singlestick and Repelling boarders against Sky Pirates.

From the organisers:

Nearly half of the classes are online right now and the organisers will be adding more soon, so be sure to check back often. Attendees will be able to choose between more intensive 2 hr classes or a variety of one hour classes. There’s a lot to do at Combat Con so choosing between the classes and the exciting Panels, Activities and Demonstrations will be difficult! Please go to the CombatCon website to register and to see a draft schedule layout under the WMA tab.

There are still many more classes coming, along with the list of Demonstrations, Panels and Activities. More details will appear on the CombatCon website soon.

Of course, there is also much to do in the evenings. After dinner there will be tournaments, free fencing, movies, games and that’s all without leaving the hotel After all, you’re in Las Vegas!

To celebrate the class list online there is a 10% discount until April 5th, so use WMA2011 in the Promo Box and get your registration in now!