Bartitsu information in Italian/Bartitsu informazioni in lingua italiana

Roberto Munter has generously made available an extensive Bartitsu PDF for Italian readers.

The first third of the document presents a thorough history of Bartitsu as well as sections on la Belle Epoque, physical culture, the street gangs of London and Paris and the Suffragette movement.

The booklet also includes complete Italian translations of the New Art of Self Defence and Self-Defence with a Walking Stick by E.W. Barton-Wright, two articles about Pierre Vigny’s system and Self Protection on a Cycle by Marcus Tindal.

You can download the PDF by clicking this link.

Roberto Munter ha messo a disposizione dei lettori italiani un ampio documento PDF sul Bartitsu. La prima parte espone una storia completa del Bartitsu e delle sezioni su La Belle Epoque, la cultura fisica, le bande di strada di Londra e Parigi e il movimento delle suffragette.

Il libretto include anche le traduzioni complete in italiano de La Nuova Arte della difesa personale e L’autodifesa con un bastone da passeggio, di E.W. Barton-Wright, due articoli sul sistema di Pierre Vigny e Auto-difesa con la bicicletta di Marcus Tindal.

È possibile scaricare il PDF cliccando su questo link.

“Sherlock Holmes and the Mystery of the Jujitsu Suffragette”

The Weaver Hall Museum in Cheshire, U.K. will be hosting this event between 2.00 – 5.00 on Saturday, Jan. 26th.  According to the organisers:

In 1899 a young woman and her husband go to see a demonstration by one Edward Barton-Wright, the first jujutsu instructor in Europe.

But how does she then become implicated in brawling between campaigners for the Women’s Vote and the police?

And what is the connection to the great fictional detective, Sherlock Holmes and his escape from the Reichenbach Falls?

We’ll be unfolding the legend of Edith Garrud, and taking a very physical look at how the Victorians combined English boxing, Japanese grappling and walking stick fencing, with the use of whatever came to hand, from umbrellas to bicycles, to create an early mixed martial art for street defence.

More on the event via their Facebook page.

“Japanese Wrestling” (27 October, 1898)

A report from the Morning Post newspaper on one of E.W. Barton-Wright’s early jiujitsu demonstrations in London.

Mr. Barton-Wright’s demonstration of Japanese wrestling at the St. James’s Hall last evening was a source of much entertainment and scarcely less surprise. This method of self-defence depends entirely on science and very little on strength, and it was Mr. Barton- Wright’s object to show that it enables a man not naturally strong easily to overcome a powerful adversary. He was opposed by Mr. Chipchase, the middle-weight Cumberland and Westmoreland Amateur Champion, whom he threw several times, apparently without much effort.

It was explained that the Japanese method is based on the principle of yielding to the adversary until his muscles are at an unnatural strain, when he is at once at the mercy of an accomplished wrestler. It is evident, however, that if great strength is not necessary, extreme quickness is absolutely essential for the successful practice of the Japanese system, some of Mr. Barton-Wright’s throws having been executed with such rapidity that it was impossible for the eye to follow the movements that brought them about.

Among the most remarkable of his demonstration, was his counter to the Cumberland and Westmoreland overhead throw. Allowing Mr. Chipchase to throw him in this fashion, he caught him by the head while in the air and threw him as he fell.

The counter to the cross-buttock throw was another remarkable achievement, and Mr. Barton-Wright, while lying on the ground, also threw his opponent with his feet. In submitting to the neck throw, though falling first, he pulled his adversary down after him into a position of complete helplessness.

It is noteworthy that in all the throws Mr. Barton-Wright accomplished he placed his opponent in such a position that he was completely at his mercy, and Mr. Chipchase had several times to call out to be released from a painful situation. In these positions Mr. Barton-Wright showed that he could easily strangle his opponent, or break one of his limbs, while he was incapable of resistance.

He demonstrated several ways of meeting an attack and overthrowing the aggressor, and he also exemplified the art of falling without injury and in such a way as to face his antagonist.

That the science of anatomy plays a considerable part in this kind of wrestling was proved by Mr. Barton-Wright, when apparently at his opponent’s mercy, overcoming him by touching a nerve in his arm. Examples of various other styles of wrestling were given, and the entertainment altogether afforded much satisfaction to the audience.

The Amazons of Edwardian London; martial arts-trained Suffragette Bodyguards

A familiar street scene in early 20th century London; police constables arrest a Suffragette protestor.

We have not yet made ourselves a match for the police, and we have got to do it. The police know jiu-jitsu. I advise you to learn jiu-jitsu. Women should practice it as well as men.

Don’t come to meetings without sticks in future, men and women alike. It is worth while really striking. It is no use pretending. We have got to fight.

– Suffragette leader Sylvia Pankhurst, quoted in the New York Times on August 12th, 1913.

By 1913, the sociopolitical battle that was the British women’s suffrage movement had reached a boiling point. Faced with the practice of hunger striking by jailed Suffragette leaders, the government responded with the so-called “Cat and Mouse Act“; an unprecedented amendment to the law that allowed prisons to deal with starving prisoners without resorting to the highly controversial methods of forced feeding. Under the new Act, a starving suffragette could be released from jail, allowed time on the outside to recover her health, and then be re-arrested on the original charge.

To keep their leaders free as long as possible, as well as to protect them against run of the mill assaults by irate defenders of the status quo, the Women’s Social and Political Union created a secret society known as The Bodyguard. Numbering 25 or 30 athletic and dedicated women, the Bodyguard was charged with providing security at Suffragette rallies throughout the UK.

A satirical cartoon from Punch Magazine.

The Bodyguard took their duties seriously and, following Sylvia Pankhurst’s advice, started training in the Japanese martial art of jujitsu, which had been introduced to London some 15 years previously by Edward William Barton-Wright, the founder of the eccentric and eclectic self defence art of Bartitsu. They were trained in a succession of secret locations by Edith Garrud, who was among the very first professional jujitsu instructors in the Western world. Journalists, delighted by this colourful wrinkle in an already juicy story, quickly dubbed the Bodyguard the “jujitsuffragettes”.

Along with their practical duties, the Bodyguard also became something of a symbolic rallying point as the Suffrage movement became ever more radical. They served an important role as agents of propaganda, ensuring that women’s suffrage stories stayed in the newspaper headlines; a necessary and valuable tactic towards winning over hearts and minds.

Edith Garrud demonstrates a jujitsu armlock.

Many colourful stories are told of the adventures of the Bodyguard. After one window-smashing protest, Edith Garrud reminisced, she led a group of suffragettes fleeing the police through the back-alleys of London to her dojo (martial arts school), where the fugitives hid their weapons in trapdoors hidden under the mats. By the time the “bobbies” came knocking at the door, they found only a group of young women innocently practicing jujitsu.

Although vastly outnumbered by the police, the Bodyguard accomplished several truly impressive victories. On the night of February 10th, 1914, Suffragette leader Mrs. Emmeline Pankhurst (Sylvia’s mother and a fugitive under the Cat and Mouse Act) was scheduled to give a speech to the public in Camden Square. By 8.00 that evening, the Square was filled with both pro- and anti-suffrage citizens and with a large contingent of police constables. Mrs. Pankhurst appeared on a balcony high above the Square and, pulling up the veil of her hat, delivered a rousing address, finishing by taunting the police and the government:

I have reached London tonight in spite of armies of police. I am here tonight, and not a man is going to protect me, because this is a woman’s fight, and we are going to protect ourselves! I am coming out amongst you in a few minutes and I challenge the government to re-arrest me!

When the tiny, veiled woman did emerge at street level, escorted by members of the Bodyguard, the police quickly swept in. Bodyguard Katharine Willoughby Marshall rallied the crowd: “It’s Mrs. Pankhurst, friends! Don’t let her be arrested!” The crowd surged forward but the police pounced first. When the constables pulled out their truncheons, the Bodyguard responded in kind, drawing hardwood Indian clubs (bowling-pin shaped clubs intended for exercise classes) from the bustles of their long dresses.  There was a short, bloody fight, but the police managed to seize their target. She was struck on the head and thrown to the ground, where several men held her down with their full body weight, causing her to pass out due to asphyxiation. Six policemen then lifted her unconscious body to shoulder height and began to push their way through the roiling crowd, as Katherine Marshall called out again, “Help Mrs. Pankhurst!”

The Bodyguard continued to batter the police as they made their way towards the nearby Ladbroke Grove station, at which point, bruised and exhausted, they discovered that the veiled women they had captured was a decoy; the real Mrs. Pankhurst was long gone, having simply waited out the excitement in the balconied house at Camden Square before being spirited away by the Bodyguard and a “smart woman driver”.

By far the most dramatic event in the history of the Bodyguard, though, took place about a month later. The “Battle of Glasgow” occurred at a Suffragette meeting at St. Andrew’s Hall in Glasgow, Scotland. As Mrs. Pankhurst had written in a letter to her friend Ethel Smyth:

Whatever happens will hit the Government. If I get away they will again be laughed at, and if I am taken the people will be roused. The fools hurt themselves every time.

The Bodyguard had travelled up from London by train, spending an uncomfortable night in a third-class carriage before booking into a local hotel under the guise of a theatrical troupe.

On the evening of March 9th, St Andrew’s Hall was packed to capacity with a crowd largely sympathetic to the Suffragettes’ cause. The Bodyguard carefully surveyed the crowd from their vantage point, a semi-circle of chairs set up on the stage directly behind the speaker’s podium. Garlands of white and purple flowers decorated the edge of the stage and banners bearing the Suffragette mottoes, “Deeds Not Words” and “Votes for Women” were strung high above them.

The Glasgow police had taken no chances, surrounding the entire hall with a cordon and also stationing 50 constables in the basement. The atmosphere was tense, even more so when the appointed hour of 8.00 came and went with no sign of Mrs. Pankhurst. Many members of the audience doubted that she could possibly break through the cordon, no matter how many Bodyguards she might have to help her. Thus, when she suddenly appeared on the stage, the effect was like magic; though, as with the most apparently sophisticated illusions, the principle was simple misdirection. After spreading a rumour that she would attempt to breach the cordon, she had in fact arrived at the hall early and in disguise, paid for her ticket like any other member of the public, and taken a seat close to the platform.

I have kept my promise and in spite of his Majesty’s Government I am here tonight.

Very few people in this audience, very few people in this country, know how much of the nation’s money is being spent to silence women. But the wit and ingenuity of women is overcoming the power and money of the Government!

My text is – equal justice for men and women, equal political justice, equal legal justice, equal industrial justice and equal social justice!

That was as far as she got before being interrupted by the heavy tread of police boots, as the squadron in the basement made their way upstairs to the hall. Just as the helmeted head of the lead constable, a giant of a man, appeared in the doorway, Janie Allen, a Scottish Bodyguard who was wearing an elegant black evening gown, stood up from her seat, drew a pistol and fired it straight at his chest. There was a deafening blast and the constable fell back into his colleagues, believing that he had been shot – but in fact, the pistol was loaded with blanks.

As the startled and angry police struggled to climb past the panicked giant in the doorway, the Bodyguard pulled out their Indian clubs and took up a defensive formation around Mrs. Pankhurst, who continued to speak over the commotion. The police finally broke through onto the stage and a fearsome fight took place; 25 women armed with Indian clubs and jujitsu vs. 50 truncheon-wielding police constables. The audience began to jeer and boo at the police, drowning out the speech they had come to hear.

Pandemonium now reigned in the hall. Several plain-clothes detectives, who had been hiding in the crowd, attempted to blindside the Bodyguard by climbing onto the platform, but were repelled by a barrier of barbed wire that had been hidden in the floral garlands decorating the edge of the stage. Old ladies then stood up and belaboured the detectives with their umbrellas. Chairs and tables were overturned as the combatants on the stage swung and jabbed, grappled and fell. Gert Harding, the Canadian woman who was the tactical leader of the Bodyguard, was not allowed to risk arrest by being caught with a weapon and was therefore unarmed when a constable raised his truncheon at her. She later recalled being surprised when he seemed to change his mind at the last instant and, instead, threw her into a pile of toppled chairs.

Eventually, the constables overwhelmed the Bodyguard resistance and hauled Mrs. Pankhurst off to a waiting police cab, her clothes torn to shreds during the struggle. The audience was outraged, particularly when the detectives attempted to break up the meeting, and angrily shouted them down; the meeting was, in fact, legal and they carried on with it, hearing speeches by other Suffragette leaders. Afterwards the crowd marched to the Central Police Station in St. Andrew’s Square, forming a mob of protestors that was estimated to include some 4,000 people, chanting their support for Mrs. Pankhurst until they were dispersed by police on foot and horseback.

The “Battle of Glasgow” changed the course of the Suffrage movement. As Mrs. Pankhurst had predicted, her arrest at St. Andrew’s Hall roused her supporters to a new pitch. The next day, a Suffragette named Mary Richardson protested the arrest by taking a meat cleaver to the Rokeby Venus, a famous and very valuable painting hanging in London’s National Art Gallery, later saying:

I have tried to destroy the picture of the most beautiful woman in mythological history as a protest against the Government for destroying Mrs. Pankhurst, who is the most beautiful character in modern history.

Thereafter, the Suffragettes’ protests by arson and vandalism became more frequent and much more destructive, provoking a backlash both from within the WSPU and from the general public as well. The Bodyguard continued their duties, however, including an infamous street fight with the police outside Buckingham Palace on May 21 that left one constable knocked unconscious and many people injured.

The outbreak of the First World War, though, put an end to the Bodyguard and to most radical Suffragette activity, as Mrs. Pankhurst decided that “votes for women” would be meaningless if England was conquered by Germany. Instead, she urged her supporters to throw their strengths and skills into supporting the government for the duration of the crisis, including many activities that were formerly considered to be strictly “men’s work”.

In March of 1918, the Representation of the People Act was passed, granting voting rights to some eight million British women.

Edith Garrud (aged 94, in the year 1966) demonstrates a jujitsu wrist lock on reporter Godfrey Winn.


Further reading:

Edith Garrud: the Suffragette who knew jujutsu

With All Her Might: The Life of Gertrude Harding, Militant Suffragette

Barton-Wright’s Bartitsu in the Sherlock Holmes Collection

On Thursday, June 28th, a wall display commemorating Bartitsu founder E.W. Barton-Wright was unveiled as part of the Sherlock Holmes Collection at Marylebone Library in London. The display consists of a large framed print of Sidney Paget’s illustration of Sherlock Holmes’ “baritsu” struggle with Professor Moriarty, and a companion print offering a summary of Barton-Wright’s Bartitsu and its connection with the Holmes mythos. The display was designed by Tony Wolf and was donated to the Collection on behalf of the Bartitsu Society, towards the mission of memorialising Barton-Wright’s life and achievements.

Above: Emelyne Godfrey, author of the book Masculinity, Crime and Self Defence in Victorian Literature outside Marylebone Library.

Above: David Jones of the Sherlock Holmes Society strikes a pose inspired by Paget’s famous illustration. You can click on the picture to enlarge it and see the detail of the display.

Above: Bartitsu instructors James Marwood (left) and George Stokoe demonstrate the Bartitsu method of self defence with a walking stick as part of Mr. Marwood’s lecture/demonstration.

Bartitsu founder featured in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

Edward William Barton-Wright, the founder of Bartitsu, has been commemorated with an entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, the standard work of reference on notable figures from British history.

E.W. Barton-Wright commemorated at the Marylebone Library (London)

The Martial Arts of Sherlock Holmes

The Bartitsu Society has donated a wall display commemorating E.W. Barton-Wright to the Sherlock Holmes Collection at Marylebone Library in London.

The display includes a reproduction of Sidney Paget’s famous illustration of Holmes’ “baritsu” battle with Professor Moriarty at the Reichenbach Falls, and also an illustrated outline of E.W. Barton-Wright’s art of Bartitsu.

Instructors James Marwood and George Stokoe will giving a talk and demonstration to mark the unveiling of the memorial on June 28th.

The presentation is free but members of the public should contact (020) 7641 1300 or email to book their place.

The formidable W.H. Grenfell; 1st Baron Desborough and President of the Bartitsu Club

A short video demonstrating the athletic, historical and cultural significance of William Henry Grenfell, the 1st Baron Desborough, who is soon to be commemorated with a Sporting Legacy exhibition staged at his former home, Taplow Court, in Buckinghamshire, England.

The 6’5″ sportsman, aristocrat and parliamentarian was a larger than life figure in more ways than one.  The grounds of Taplow Court had yielded one of the most important Anglo-Saxon archaeological finds of the late 19th century, and the mansion itself was the salon of the clique of prominent politicians and intellectuals known at “The Souls“.

Among Grenfell’s many achievements as an Olympic athlete, adventurer and patron of numerous causes, he had been named as the President of the Bartitsu Club in Soho.  In fact, he provided one of the earliest references to that Club in an interview for the London Daily Mail during June of 1899:

“The idea,” said Mr. Grenfell, to a “Daily Mail” representative, “is to establish an athletic class for people of good standing, and it seemed to us best to establish it in the form of a club, so as to be able to exclude undesirable persons. So members will be able to come themselves, and to send their children and the ladies of their family for instruction with every assurance that they will be running no risk of objectionable associations.”

“Is Bartitsu, then, a sport for women and children?”

”Oh, we are not going to confine ourselves to Japanese wrestling. Athletic exercises of many kinds and physical culture will be taught, but with this difference, that physical culture will be taught in a new form, which will make it interesting.”

“And this new art of self-defence?”

”Bartitsu; that will be taught as part of the general scheme of physical culture. And you know it is very desirable to teach people how to protect themselves against violence.”

It is highly likely that Grenfell, along with his colleague Sir Cosmo Duff Gordon, first became aware of E.W. Barton-Wright’s “New Art of Self Defence” when Barton-Wright performed an exhibition at the famous Bath Club.  Grenfell was, at that time, the President of the latter Club as well – in fact, he held presidencies in numerous social and sporting institutions.  His enthusiastic patronage must have been a great boon to Barton-Wright, who always intended the Bartitsu Club to appeal to a wealthy clientele.  In the highly class-conscious London of 1900, the backing of a man like Grenfell was a prerequisite to respectability; however, it was not enough to sustain such a novel venture as the Bartitsu Club, which closed in early 1902.

William Grenfell was also instrumental in staging the 1908 London Olympiad, serving as the President of the Olympic Association and guiding the nascent Games through both triumph and tragedy.

The great tragedy of Grenfell’s private life, though, was that all three of his sons died young; Julian and Gerald were killed mere months apart in the chaos of the First World War, and Ivo died in a car accident in 1926.  Thus, when William himself died in 1945, the Barony of Desborough became extinct.