On Sunday, March 11th of 2012, members of the Bartitsu Club of Chicago took part in the first ever “antagonisticathlon” event hosted by the Forteza Fitness and Martial Arts studio in Ravenswood, Chicago. This was their graduation from the recent six-week introductory Bartitsu training course.
During the late 19th century, the word “antagonistics” meant all manner of combat sports and self defence skills. Antagonisticathlon participants represent Victorian-era adventurers fighting their way through a gauntlet of obstacles and ne’er-do-wells, inspired by Sherlock Holmes’ escape from Professor Moriarty’s assassins in The Final Problem:
My dear Watson, Professor Moriarty is not a man who lets the grass grow under his feet. I went out about mid-day to transact some business in Oxford Street. As I passed the corner which leads from Bentinck Street on to the Welbeck Street crossing a two-horse van furiously driven whizzed round and was on me like a flash. I sprang for the foot-path and saved myself by the fraction of a second. The van dashed round by Marylebone Lane and was gone in an instant.
I kept to the pavement after that, Watson, but as I walked down Vere Street a brick came down from the roof of one of the houses, and was shattered to fragments at my feet. I called the police and had the place examined. There were slates and bricks piled up on the roof preparatory to some repairs, and they would have me believe that the wind had toppled over one of these. Of course I knew better, but I could prove nothing.
I took a cab after that and reached my brother’s rooms in Pall Mall, where I spent the day. Now I have come round to you, and on my way I was attacked by a rough with a bludgeon. I knocked him down, and the police have him in custody; but I can tell you with the most absolute confidence that no possible connection will ever be traced between the gentleman upon whose front teeth I have barked my knuckles and the retiring mathematical coach, who is, I dare say, working out problems upon a black-board ten miles away. You will not wonder, Watson, that my first act on entering your rooms was to close your shutters, and that I have been compelled to ask your permission to leave the house by some less conspicuous exit than the front door.
The “stations” of the antagonisticathlon (not all shown in the video compilation) included:
Charging shoulder tackle to punching bag (“knocking an assassin out the window and into the Thames”)
Precision cane thrusts through suspended rings
Overcoat and cane vs. dagger-wielding assassin
Weight-lifting on antique pulley-weight apparatus
“Death Alley”; cane vs. three stick-wielding assassins
“Rowing across the Thames” on antique rowing machine
“Rescuing Dr. Watson”
Cane vs. stick combat
Shoulder roll and hat toss to finish
A short “video impression” of the June 22nd Bartitsu seminar at the new (and still under development) Forteza Fitness and Martial Arts studio in Ravenswood, Chicago.
Instructor Tony Wolf led a group of about thirty eager participants through a combination of canonical and neo-Bartitsu drills, concentrating on blending fisticuffs, jujitsu and walking stick defense according to E.W. Barton-Wright’s precept of adaptability:
It is quite unnecessary to try and get your opponent into any particular position, as this system embraces every possible eventuality and your defence and counter-attack must be based entirely upon the actions of your opponent.
Also visible in the clip above are some items from the Forteza “gymuseum”, including original late-19th century posters, antique cast-iron dumbbells, wooden Indian clubs and an 1880s rowing machine.