Fun and games at the London Bath Club

The famous Bath Club features significantly in the history of Bartitsu.  Founded at #34 Dover Street in 1894, the Club was named for its large indoor swimming pool – a great novelty at the time.  The pool featured several diving boards and a “Newman’s water-chute” for sliding, as well as a flying trapeze and a set of “travelling rings” suspended from the ceiling, challenging the most athletic Club members to traverse the length of the pool without getting wet.

The Club building was also equipped with a fencing salon and a gymnasium as well as steam-rooms, showers, an opulent dining room and “overnight rooms”.  A comparatively progressive institution, membership was available to both men and women; the latter had their own dedicated entrance, a gesture which might be read either as condescension or as extravagant courtesy, or possibly both at once.

In March of 1899 the Bath Club was the venue for one of E.W. Barton-Wright’s jiujitsu demonstrations.  He later noted that he had been awarded a membership in the Club due to his feat of defeating seven larger men within three minutes at a previous display.  The Bath Club demonstration was, notably, the first time Barton-Wright had collaborated with the famed historical fencing revivalist, Captain Alfred Hutton, who later joined the teaching staff at Barton-Wright’s own Bartitsu Club.

This event may well also have been Barton-Wright’s introduction to Hutton’s rapier-and-dagger fencing partner, William Grenfell, the 1st Baron Desborough.  A notable athlete and a prolific public servant, Grenfell was the president of the Bath Club and he was to go on to become the president of the Bartitsu Club. Sir Cosmo Duff Gordon was another famous Bath Club member who subsequently also joined the Bartitsu Club.

The Bath Club was the venue for several other unusual sporting displays, including a peculiar spectacle organised by Alfred Hutton two months after the Bartitsu display. “Water tilting” was a one-off revival of a type of aquatic jousting, which had apparently been amongst Henry VIII’s favourite sports.  According to a newspaper report:

A large and gaily dressed assemblage watched the pair of old-fashioned-looking warriors tilt at one another in the waters of the bath, one of them holding a long spear (with padded point) and a stout leather buckler, the other paddling behind him in the cranky craft, which only just held both when both were evenly balanced. The two shallow boats put out from their respective ends at the word ‘Go,’ and one pair were soon struggling in the water, amidst the merriment of the audience.

The new sport of water polo was also a great attraction:

In 1910, the Club hosted an exhibition of a “novel and exciting aero-swimming game” in which competitors equipped with elaborate kite-like gliders leaped off one of the diving platforms, endeavouring to soar a short distance before their flight came to an inevitably wet end:

A report on the 2011 Bartitsu School of Arms (London)

The 2011 (and inaugural) Bartitsu School of Arms symposium was held over the weekend of August 27-28 in London, England. The symposium represented a landmark in the revival of E.W. Barton-Wright’s “New Art of Self Defence”, founded 110 years ago in the same city. 18 participants attended the event, including Bartitsu enthusiasts from the USA and Germany as well as throughout the U.K.

The theme of the 2011 School of Arms was to continue Barton-Wright’s radical experiments in cross-training between various martial arts and combat sports, which were abandoned as a work-in-progress when the original Bartitsu Club closed down under mysterious circumstances in early 1902.

The event began on Friday evening outside the doors of the Shaftesbury Best Western Hotel, the building that once housed Barton-Wright’s club. At precisely the time the group gathered, sheltering from a torrential downpour, the clouds parted and the sun shone through, which was generally taken as a good omen. The group then made its way to the back bar of the Salisbury inn, a classic late-Victorian London pub.

Training began at 9.00 a.m. on Saturday morning at our venue, the ground floor of a Victorian era warehouse in Bermondsey, which roughly made up in 19th century ambiance what it lacked in amenities. The large, white-walled space was divided into 10′ squares by a grid of iron pillars, with enormous wooden beams in the ceiling and a sturdy old wooden floor. A wall display featured a portrait of E.W. Barton-Wright, rare photographs taken inside the original Bartitsu Club and other inspirational images. Rubber-tipped rattan training canes were propped against the pillars and one section of the floor was covered with thick rubber jigsaw mats.

Mornings began with various warm-up exercises, including American wrestler and physical culturist “Farmer” Burns’ upper-body routine. The remainder of the mornings were spent alternating between circuit training, in which small groups rotated between instructors teaching 5-10 minute mini-lessons/drills in savate kicking, boxing, jujitsu and stick fighting, and team-taught sessions in which pairs of participants experimented with self defence scenarios incorporating elements of each of the lessons they’d just learned. The aim was to practice Bartitsu as a holistic art, smoothly transitioning between techniques, styles and ranges as required by the needs of the moment.

After the lunch break, the afternoon sessions featured longer, whole-group classes in each of the specialist subject areas, taught by James Marwood, Tony Wolf, Allen Reed, Stefan Dieke and George Stokoe. These classes covered practical self defence, neo-Bartitsu drills inspired by the canonical stick fighting and unarmed combat sequences, fencing theory applied to Vigny stick fighting and tactical kicking.

The final session on both days was allocated to “break-out” time, a chance for participants and instructors to explore areas of special interest in a less formal environment. In one corner a group would be debating and demonstrating the “garotting” attack of 19th century muggers, in another a pair of stick fighters would be sparring and a submission grappling match would be taking place on the mats.

Evening events included drinks and socialising at the Sherlock Holmes pub on the banks of the Thames and a meal at Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, a pub and restaurant dating back to the 1700s that was once the haunt of Charles Dickens and, later, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

The 2011 Bartitsu School of Arms was a great success and plans are already underway to make it an annual event.

Bartitsu School of Arms and Physical Culture: London 2011

A reminder that the 2011 Bartitsu School of Arms will be taking place in London, U.K. between August 26-28. This event will be the first opportunity in over one hundred years to study with multiple instructors from different countries towards the (re)development of E.W. Barton-Wright’s “New Art of Self Defence”.

The 2011 School of Arms teaching team includes James Marwood, Tony Wolf, Allen Reed, George Stokoe and Stefan Dieke.

Each day will begin with a team-taught warm-up session drawing from the Edwardian physical culture tradition. Inspired by the model of the original Bartitsu School of Arms (circa 1900), the teaching team is developing an innovative daily training programme including whole-group classes, small group circuit training/cross-training formats and “breakout” sessions covering areas of special interest. Each participant will leave with an enhanced appreciation for the depth and breadth of Barton-Wright’s “New Art”.

Participants are invited to meet for orientation and socialising on the evening of Friday, August 26th and to relax after training on Saturday over a meal at the Sherlock Holmes pub and restaurant. A second dinner at the Sherlock Holmes will be held on Sunday night, for those participants whose schedules allow it.

For all details and to book your place at this historic event, please see the 2011 Bartitsu School of Arms page.

We hope to see you in London!

Battersea Bartitsu (London, UK)

Announcing a new Bartitsu study group based in Battersea, S.W. London. Training is free and interested parties should contact the organisers for details.

Week A (alternate weeks from 19.06.11): “Canonical Bartitsu”

  • Stretching and work with Indian Clubs
  • Canonical Bartitsu – the jiujitsu-based sequences published in Pearson’s Magazine
  • Supplementary jiujitsu techniques from Wm. Garrud’s Complete Jiujitsuan
  • Defense dans la Rue
  • Pugilism (fisticuffs)
  • Sparring
  • Week B (alternate weeks from 26.06.11): Vigny Canne plus Grappling

  • Stretching and work with Indian Clubs
  • Vigny Canne
  • “Closing manoeuvres”, originally published as sequences e.g. “How to Overcome the Advantage of an Assailant who Attacks You with a Stout Stick when You are carrying only a Light cane.” Basically, how to get in close without being hit and apply locks, throws, etc.
  • Grappling, working from Banned From Boxing! by Kirk Lawson.
  • All participants will need to start with is some form of hand protection for padwork like hand wraps and/or light boxer’s bagwork gloves or MMA gloves. Spare canes are available for participants to use.