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.
Announcing the long-awaited DVD release of the first feature documentary on Bartitsu, the “gentlemanly art of self defence”!
At the end of the Victorian era, E.W. Barton-Wright founded Bartitsu as a pioneering “mixed martial art” combining jiujitsu, kickboxing and self defence with a walking stick. It was also the means by which Sherlock Holmes was said to have defeated his arch-nemesis, the evil Professor Moriarty, in their famous battle at Reichenbach Waterfall.
This groundbreaking documentary was shot on location in Italy, Switzerland, England and the USA. Through numerous interviews, animations, re-enactment sequences, rare archival film footage and historical images, it explores the history, rediscovery and modern revival of Bartitsu.
Please visit the Freelance Academy Press website to view a new preview trailer and photo gallery, read an article about Bartitsu and the documentary production, and to place your DVD order!
A special preview of our upcoming feature-length documentary exploring the cultural history, rediscovery and modern revival of E.W. Barton-Wright’s “New Art of Self Defence”.
Founded in London in 1899, Bartitsu was an early example of a mixed martial art, combining boxing, jiujitsu, savate and self defence with a walking stick. After a brief heyday, it was all but forgotten throughout the 20th century except for a single cryptic reference in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes story, “the Adventure of the Empty House”.
Shot on location in Italy, Switzerland, England and the USA, “Bartitsu: the Lost Martial Art of Sherlock Holmes” is presented by Tony Wolf and features interviews with Dr. Emelyne Godfrey, Harry Cook, Graham Noble, Will Thomas, Mark Donnelly and Neal Stephenson.
Watch this site for updates!
Preview trailer credits
Ran Arthur Braun
Bartitsu Club Italia – Broken Art: Paolo Paparella & Angelica A. Pedatella
Cletarte – Gaetano Guglietta & Filomena Longo
Digital Room Srl
Adi Bar (piano)
Roni Cohen (cello)
Abney Park (“Airship Pirate” and “Sleep Isabella”)
“So we’d mostly been doing longsword, in my little group,” says Stephenson. Ropes of muscle on his forearms attest to this, as do the pictures online of a Stephenson-designed spring-loaded practice sword that flexes on impact to soften a blow. “But we became interested in cane-fighting, which was taught in London a hundred years ago or so as part of this school of Bartitsu, founded by EW Barton-Wright, a railway engineer who’d picked up ju-jitsu in Japan. And he brought in a Swiss guy called Vigny who’d taken informal methods of walking-stick-fu and codified them into a system called la canne: he taught the part of the curriculum which involved fighting with walking sticks.”
No way, I say.
“Yeah. There’s a whole curriculum over fighting with bicycles. Pictures of an Edwardian lady in a floor-length dress and a huge hat with flowers, riding primly down a country lane, and when a ruffian comes out she uses some trick with the bicycle to flatten him and rides off. It’s great stuff. The bicycles we’re not sure how to approach, but we’ve created a little assembly line to make rattan canes, with a knob on the end. But there’s, you know, how to use a bicycle pump as a weapon. How to defend yourself with a parasol. Crazy.”