The grave of Captain Alfred Hutton

Thanks to some excellent detective work by members of the Schola Forum, the grave and memorial tablet of former Bartitsu Club instructor Captain Alfred Hutton has been located in Astbury Churchyard, Cheshire, UK.

Hutton was amongst the foremost authorities on swordsmanship in late-Victorian England, writing many books on the subject and serving as a founder and President of the Amateur Fencing Association from 1895 onwards. He was also one of the original revivalists of historical (Elizabethan-era) martial arts such as the use of the two-handed sword, rapier and dagger and sword and handbuckler.

He collaborated with Bartitsu founder E.W. Barton-Wright during several exhibitions and then joined the Bartitsu Club as both a fencing instructor and board member, later describing the Club as “the headquarters of ancient swordplay in England”. Hutton also learned basic jiujitsu and the Vigny method of self defence with a walking stick from his fellow instructors.

Captain Hutton died on December 18th of the year 1910.

Those wishing to pay their respects can view his memorial tablet in the chancel of St. Mary’s Church:

Across the road you will see a stepped entrance to the graveyard. Go up these steps and follow the path (you will pass an ancient tree); you will have the Church on your right. Hutton’s grave is about ten metres along the church wall, and 5 metres into the graveyard. Use the pictures below for reference.

Although it appears that the stone cross has toppled onto the boulder, it is in fact designed that way; the cross fits snugly into a carved notch in the boulder. The inscription, which is covered by turf to protect it from the elements, reads:

“OA 392 – In Affectionate Memory of / ALFRED HUTTON late King’s Dragoon Guards & Last Surviving Son of HENRY WILLIAM HUTTON of Beverley / Hold thou Thy Cross Before My Closing Eyes / Born March 10th 1839. Died December 18th 1910, Aged 71 Years.”

The graves of Captain Hutton’s sister, Harriott (died 18th January 1906), another sister, Marianne Eleanor (died 31st January 1908 aged 95), his mother, Marianne (died 19th January 1879, aged 87) are close to his grave.

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.

“Ancient Swordplay: the Revival of Elizabethan Fencing in Victorian London”

During the final decades of the 19th century, a cabal of fencers and historians led by Captain Alfred Hutton and his colleague, the writer Egerton Castle, undertook a systematic study and practical revival of combat with long-outmoded weapons such as the rapier and dagger, sword and buckler and two-handed sword. Their efforts presaged the current revival of historical fencing, a rapidly growing movement that directly parallels the modern renaissance of E.W. Barton-Wright’s Bartitsu.

The book Ancient Swordplay details the origins, colourful heyday and ultimate decline of this unusual late-Victorian revival movement. Highlights include reports on many historical fencing exhibitions throughout the 1880s and ’90s, Hutton’s and Castle’s work as theatrical fight choreographers (who paid strict attention to historical accuracy) and Hutton’s determined efforts to revolutionise military sabre fencing with an infusion of “ancient swordplay”, especially that of the Elizabethan English master, George Silver.

Of particular interest to Bartitsu enthusiasts, Ancient Swordplay includes a chapter on Captain Hutton’s collaborations with E.W. Barton-Wright. In his book The Sword and the Centuries (1902), Hutton was moved to note that “the fence of the case of rapiers, as of all the other Elizabethan weapons, is much in vogue at the present time at the Bartitsu Club, now the headquarters of ancient swordplay in this country.”

For all their efforts, though, the Hutton/Castle revival did not directly survive their own generation. The final chapters examine the reasons why, coming to a conclusion that may surprise modern readers, and attempt to trace their legacy into the following decades of the 20th century.

Including numerous rare illustrations and a foreword by author Neal Stephenson, Ancient Swordplay is available now from the Freelance Academy Press website or . For a thorough historical context and commentary, please also see the new article Renaissance Swordplay, Victorian-style on the Freelancer blog.

Open house at Forteza Fitness and Martial Arts

An “open house” afternoon featuring demonstrations of Bartitsu, historical fencing and MBC self defence will be held at the new Forteza Fitness and Martial Arts studio in Ravenswood, Chicago between 12.00-4.00 on Sunday, March 4th.

Guests will get a further “sneak peek” at the Forteza studio along with the chance to take free fitness evaluations, try out the studio’s “gymuseum” of antique exercise equipment or just enjoy a glass of wine, snacks and stimulating conversation.

Further information is available at the Forteza Fitness Facebook page.


View Larger Map

More from Forteza Fitness, Physical Culture and Martial Arts

The new Forteza Fitness, Physical Culture & Martial Arts center in Chicago’s Ravenswood area is a unique 5000 sq. ft., c.1900 facility, with classes  in historical swordplay, 19th century antagonistics and ‘old school’ fitness training.

Beginning in late January 2012, Forteza Fitness, Physical Culture & Martial Arts will offer:

* a fitness studio combining functional fitness training with modern nutritional counseling

* 19th century “physical culture” – workouts using calisthenics, Indian clubs, medicine balls, therapeutic gymnastics, body-weight exercises and games designed to create natural strength and grace with athletic performance

* the Midwest’s only full-time school for the study of traditional Western martial arts including historical swordplay – the art of the longsword, rapier, arming sword, as well as Bartitsu – the martial art made famous by  Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s beloved character, Sherlock Holmes

* classes with Chicagoland’s only licensed instructor in Martial Blade Concepts (MBC) self-defense – a nationally renowned system of hand, stick and knife defense designed for modern people with limited training time

* a “Gymuseum” of antique exercise equipment and 19th century prints portraying combat sport athletes in training

* an international center for education on the rich, sophisticated martial traditions of Western Civilization

* an innovative, eclectic series of workshops, lectures and unique social events.

New to historical swordfighting? Forteza Fitness, Physical Culture & Martial Arts will offer the Chicago Swordplay Guild’s ever-popular introductory classes in the medieval longsword and the Renaissance rapier! The C.S.G. will also continue to provide Introductory Classes at the Chicago Park District-Pulaski Park location as part of the CPD Arts Partners Program.

The website is coming soon; in the meantime you can contact the organizers for updates on classes, seminars and special events!

Victorian Antagonistics and more at the Black Boar Swordsmanship School (Edinburgh)

Black Boar North Edinburgh: First Class at 7pm, June 30th.

Black Boar Swordsmanship School’s North Edinburgh Chapter will have its opening session from 7pm to 9pm at the Calton Centre, Montgomery Street, Edinburgh. This opening session is completely free to attend by anybody of the age of 18 and over. It shall include an introduction to historical swordsmanship and the styles taught within the school followed by an introductory lesson in Smallsword.

The session is open to anybody interested in learning about historical swordsmanship over the age of 18. No previous experience is necessary.

Equipment is available to borrow for new students so the only things you need are clothes suitable for physical activity. Our venue also asks that all students wear non marking soft shoes, such as a clean pair of trainers, to protect the floor.

Black Boar North Edinburgh

Black Boar North Edinburgh is a new chapter of the Black Boar Swordsmanship School that has been running successfully for 2 years in Fife. The school is run by Ian Macintyre, a BFHS Certified Instructor, and historical fencer of 13 years experience. Ian is assisted by school Provost, Phil Crawley, who has over 2 decades of experience in European sword arts.

The North Edinburgh Chapter will follow the Black Boar curriculum of Military Sabre of the Leith School, Victorian Antagonistics and Smallsword of the early French style. The first course shall be in Smallsword from June 2011 and the third term will focus on Victorian walking stick systems:

Walking Stick – Cunningham / Bartitsu / Macintyre/ Rickeard

This style is as much of a street defence art as a duelling art and is based upon a number of styles from the late 19th and early 20th century, particularly the work of Cunningham. Walking stick in this style provides a sound foundation for principals, footwork and body mechanics that students will be able to apply to many other styles. It is also a very accessible art and a lot of fun.

Equipment required

* A wooden walking stick of approx 3 feet length
* A fencing jacket with body padding or a padded jacket
* A 1600N fencing mask
* Sturdy gloves, such as cricket gloves
* Forearm protection

The school will meet every Thursday from 7pm to 9pm at the Calton Centre. The Calton Centre has recently been fully refurbished and contains changing rooms, lockers and showers. It is convenient for public transport from London Road and Elm Row to most parts of the city and is only 10 minutes walk from Waverly Station.

For more information please see this site or look for The Black Boar Swordsmanship School’s page on Facebook.

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!

Bartitsu and historical fencing

“The fence of the case of rapiers, as of all the other Elizabethan weapons, is much in vogue at the present time at the Bartitsu Club, now the headquarters of ancient swordplay in this country …”
– Captain Alfred Hutton, “The Sword and the Centuries” (1902)

Alfred Hutton was at the centre of the late-Victorian revival of “ancient swordplay”, or historical fencing styles including the use of the raper and dagger, sword and handbuckler and two-handed sword. Beginning in the 1880s he had tutored a small but enthusiastic group of students, most initially in their young teens, via a boys’ club attached to the School of Arms of the London Rifle Brigade.

Hutton and his colleague, the novelist Egerton Castle, organised a number of historical fencing exhibitions during the 1890s. By 1900 Hutton’s cadre of Elizabethan swordsmen had performed throughout the city of London and had even been invited to demonstrate their skills at a grand “Festival of Historical Swordplay” in Belgium.

Shortly after E.W. Barton-Wright returned to London from Japan and started promoting his new Bartitsu method, he joined Hutton on the lecture/demonstration circuit. Mixed Bartitsu and historical fencing exhibitions were held, most notably at the exclusive Bath Club and at a fund-raising event for Guy’s Hospital.

Hutton joined a number of notables, including politicians and minor nobility, in supporting Barton-Wright’s desire to establish a permanent training academy. When B-W opened his Bartitsu Club in Soho, Hutton began holding historical fencing classes there as well. His students included some prominent London actors, who studied historical fencing for use in stage combat, as well as young men from the L.R.B. School of Arms. Hutton also served on the Club’s Committee, which approved or declined applications from would-be Bartitsu Club members.

Given Barton-Wright’s emphasis on Bartitsu as practical self defence, it’s unlikely that historical fencing per se was considered to be a formal part of the Bartitsu curriculum. It is evident, however, that informal cross-training did take place; Hutton offered a glowing review of Pierre Vigny’s method of self defence with a walking stick, and even demonstrated that method during a 1902 newspaper interview. It’s also likely that he took some jiujitsu lessons at the Club, either with Barton-Wright or with instructors Yukio Tani or Sadakazu Uyenishi. Hutton produced a monograph on jiujitsu techniques for schoolboys and later offered a jiujitsu-based class in humane control and restraint techniques for doctors working in London psychiatric hospitals.

Sadly, the untimely closure of the Bartitsu Club seems to have brought an end to the collaborations between Barton-Wright and Hutton. But during the year 1901, when the Club was a hive of activity, one might have signed up for classes in recreational rapier or longsword fencing alongside jiujitsu, boxing, wrestling and walking stick defence. It must have been quite the scene.