A User’s Guide to the Bartitsu Society Website 2.0

Welcome back to the Bartitsu Society website!

Since a catastrophic technical failure of the original Bartitsu.org site in April of 2019, we have been working behind the scenes to recover and restore the site, primarily via the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine.

The restoration process has been laborious but we’ve now recovered and/or reconstructed the great majority of the items posted on Bartitsu.org between 2008-2019, including all of the significant technical and historical articles.

During the reconstruction the archived posts unavoidably became chronologically disordered. Most of them now begin with a note recording the date when they were originally posted.

We’d also like to draw your attention to the significantly expanded Categories menu. This feature will allow you to quickly and easily locate posts within a wide range of themes, supplementing the ever-useful search box.

This event has highlighted the fragility of electronic media and plans are afoot to produce a third volume of the Bartitsu Compendium, to be made available in printed as well as e-book formats, in order to further preserve the best of the research presented here since the publication of the second volume in 2008.

In the meantime, we hope you enjoy the Bartitsu Society website 2.0!

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“Moving Pictures” of Savate and la Canne

If Bartitsu Club instructor Pierre Vigny had seen this film footage, he’d probably have shaken his head at much of it. At the turn of the 20th century, Vigny was among a minority of savate instructors advocating for a reformation of the rules and conventions governing the sport, which, if widely adopted, would have pushed competitive savate closer to the full-contact model of professional boxing. He was also a maverick when it come to la canne, having devised his own, self-defence-oriented version of the style that eliminated many of the fencing-based guards shown in the second film.

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The Bartitsu and Suffrajitsu Stories as Rendered by Teenagers

It’s satisfying to see the torches of interest in Bartitsu and Suffrajitsu being taken up by (much) younger enthusiasts. Here are three recent video documents on aspects of Edwardian-era antagonistics, by researcher/presenters who had yet to be born when the Bartitsu revival got underway in the early 2000s.

A well-researched video presentation on Bartitsu by Davi Gabriel, Luca Holanda, José Enzo e João Victor da Silva as part of the physical education studies course in Parnamirim (Rio Grande do Norte), Brazil.

Cora Price presents her first place-winning (and highly accurate) account of Suffrajitsu history for the National History Day Utah 2021 Junior Individual Documentary competition.

Pembroke Hill School student Erin Lowe presents her (again, very accurate) 2017 National History Day Gold Medal winning performance of the Suffrajitsu story at the Harry S. Truman Library in Independence, Missouri.

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The Soft Art: Ju-Jitsu (The Sketch, March 22 1905)

Edwardian journalists, handicapped by the lack of standardised spelling of Japanese words in English, did the best they could via phonetics. “Tarro Myaki’s” name is properly rendered at Taro Miyake, and he was prominent among the second wave of Japanese jujutsuka to visit England during the very early 20th century.

This recently-discovered photo-feature from The Sketch magazine shows Miyake demonstrating several basic jujutsu waza.

Tarro Myaki, who is champion of the world, and who is shown in these photographs, beat Yukio Tani at the end of last year and has recently been wrestling with Joe Carroll. He is 23, weighs 11 and 1/2 stone and is 5’8″ in height.

A number of police constables are already being initiated into the mysteries of Ju-jitsu, and the military authorities have visited Tarro Myaki’s school with a view to having the “soft art” taught to the Army and Navy.

(1.) Should his enemy attack him by catching him by the neck, the exponent of Ju-jitsu pushes up his adversary’s right arm, and pulls at the sleeve of the left, at the same time swinging round sharply with his left foot (4.) Until the position here shown is obtained. The attacker is then cross-buttocked, and thus made ready to receive an arm-lock or a neck-hold.

(2.) To attain this common arm-lock, the Ju-jitsu user places his right leg lightly over his opponent’s neck, in order to prevent him rising, and, pressing his left firmly against his adversary’s body, seizes his arm, and holds it with the thumb upwards. He then presses on the limb, using his thigh as a fulcrum, and is thus able break it should he be forced to do so.

(3.) The arm-lock here illustrated is somewhat similar that shown Photograph 2, in this case the pressure is even greater, and is put on by the leg and foot.

(1.) When he wishes to throw a man who is holding him round the waist from behind, the exponent of Ju-jitsu first strikes his opponent’s hand sharply on the knuckles, thus causing him to release his grip. He then seizes his adversary’s right hand (2.) And, without moving his right leg, carries his left round, at the same time putting on the arm-lock (U-de-na-ta) here shown.

(3.) The arrest of a man is a comparatively simple matter if he is held in the way here illustrated. The upward pressure placed upon the upper part of the prisoner’s arm would dislocate the limb if its owner did not move forward. (4.) Should anyone attempt to catch hold of his collar with his right hand, the practiser of Ju-jitsu defends himself by placing his left hand under his opponent’s wrist, thereby guarding himself, and at the same time throwing his right hand under the upper part of his adversary’s arm. He then locks his fingers and forces backward, throwing his man or breaking his arm if resistance is offered.

Photographs by the Biograph Studio.

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E.W. Barton-Wright’s Bartitsu in the Sherlock Holmes Collection

  • Originally posted on the Bartitsu.org site on Saturday, 30th June 2012

On Thursday, June 28th, 2012 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 canon. 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. The text reads:

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 in connection with the unveiling.

Posted in Academia, Baritsu, E. W. Barton-Wright, Exhibitions, Fiction, Pop-culture, Sherlock Holmes | Comments Off on E.W. Barton-Wright’s Bartitsu in the Sherlock Holmes Collection

Self-Defence with a Cane (1928)

This short article from the Motherwell Times of July 27th, 1928 remarks upon a visit to London by Herbert Gordon Lang, who perpetuated and modified the Vigny method of stick fighting.

Lang had originally learned the art from former Bartitsu Club member Percy Rolt during an extended training visit to Rolt’s Hove gymnasium, thereafter incorporating some techniques from the West Indian stick fighting art of bois. As a Police Superintendant in India, Lang taught his combined method to police trainees and also wrote the book The Walking Stick Method of Self Defence (1923).

There is in London at present a slightly-built man who would not feel very alarmed if he suddenly saw three burly hooligans rushing at him with knives in their hands.

His light malacca cane would whistle through the air three or four times. There would be cries of pain, and his assailants would be incapacitated.

This man, who can walk about the world with so much confidence, is Mr. H. G Lang, a district superintendant of police in the Bombay Presidency, India. He has recently introduced into the Indian police force a method of self-defence with a light walking-stick, believed to be of Continental origin, which has been found very effective.

Mr. Lang told a reporter that by this method a young girl could disable a powerful man with even a short umbrella. He said: – All that you need know is the vulnerable parts of a person’s body, and the means of delivering the blow. A sharp, slashing blow on the side of a man’s neck may easily kill him. A rap on his hand will make it useless. A mild blow on the inner side of the knee has made it impossible for a man to walk properly for months.

The ordinary untrained person defending himself with a walking-stick would strike down on his assailant’s head or shoulders. This is a “dead” blow which cannot be quickly repeated, while the stick can easily be caught by the other person. Glancing cuts to the side of a man’s neck can be delivered with lightning rapidity, and the stick cannot be caught. Even a man about to fire a revolver from close range could be diabled with a slash to the hand or the face.

I have found that my knowledge of this method of self-defence has given me the feeling of the greatest confidence. On one occasion in India I saw a powerful built lunatic coming toward me. I did not feel alarmed and decided just where to strike. As it happened, he did not actually attack me.

Mr. Lang has written a fascinating book describing the different strokes and guards. In this reference is made to the “Riot Enclosure” in which the Indian police are trained to deal with mobs. It consists of circular arrangement of posts with sacks and boards irregularly placed to represent a mob.

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“The King’s Man” Trailer Promises a Melange of Gentlemanly Mayhem

Delayed several times due to the pandemic, The King’s Man – a prequel to the popular Kingsman series – is currently set for release in December of 2021. As this trailer demonstrates, alongside copious sword, knife and gun-play, the suave Duke of Oxford (Ralph Fiennes) is adept at close-combat with both umbrellas and crook-handled walking sticks.

The Duke is actually the second secret agent character in Fiennes’ career to possess that very specialised talent; he also played the unflappable John Steed in the otherwise regrettable 1998 movie adaptation of The Avengers (the classic ’60s British TV series, not the Marvel superhero franchise).

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“Charley Smiler” Suffrajitsu Footage Added to “No Man Shall Protect Us” Documentary

The “Suffrajitsu” scene from the recently rediscovered 1911 movie Charley Smiler Takes Up Ju-jitsu has been edited into the 2018 documentary No Man Shall Protect Us, which illuminates the role of the secret society of martial arts-trained female bodyguards who defended the leaders of the radical suffragette movement.

The documentary also includes a short section on Bartitsu as well as interview-style re-enactments with suffragette jujutsu trainer Edith Garrud, played by actress Lynne Baker.

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Academic Boxing 101 with Tommy Joe Moore

The prolific Tommy Joe Moore offers a concise lesson in basic academic boxing, in an aggregative style that represents the baseline of gentlemanly fisticuffs circa 1900.

In combination with the destructive guards advocated by Edward Barton-Wright and Pierre Vigny, these punches form the first line of defence and counter-offence for the unarmed Bartitsu practitioner, before leading into jujutsu as may be required. As Barton-Wright put it:

In order to ensure, as far as it is possible, immunity against injury in cowardly attacks or quarrels, one must understand boxing in order to thoroughly appreciate the danger and rapidity of a well-directed blow, and the particular parts of the body which are scientifically attacked. The same, of course, applies to the use of the foot or the stick.

He continued:

Ju-do and Ju-jitsu were not designed as primary means of attack and defence against a boxer or a man who kicks you, but are only supposed to be used after coming to close quarters, and in order to get to close quarters it is absolutely necessary to understand boxing and the use of the foot.

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More on the Bartitsu Club’s 1902 Exhibition at Oxford

Our 2017 article on the Bartitsu Club’s “grand tour” of exhibitions during early-mid 1902 included several detailed reports on the event staged at the Oxford Town Hall. One of those reports offered the intriguing detail that a Mr. Whittle, who was the university’s heavyweight boxing champion, had undertaken a bout with the Japanese champions. It was, however, unclear whether this had actually been a “boxing vs. jujutsu” contest – which would have been an extraordinary novelty in 1902 – or whether the athletic Whittle had simply agreed to try his hand at competing under jujutsu rules.

The following report from the Oxford Journal of Saturday, March 1st 1902 appears to confirm the latter scenario:

JAPANESE WRESTLING AT THE TOWN HALL.

An entertainment which was both instructive and interesting was given in the Town on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings. The attendance was decidedly disappointing, while one or two events which had been anxiously awaited, vis, the Bartitsu defence with an ordinary walking stick and the Savate v. Boxing contest, had to be omitted owing to the indisposition of the contestants.

Nevertheless, the exhibitions given seemed to be thoroughly enjoyed and met with hearty appreciation from an audience largely composed of ‘Varsity men. Mr. Barton -Wright, the founder of the system, offered £20 to anyone who could defeat his champions, who have recently been engaged at the London Empire, where they defeated all comers, no matter how strong or big. That is the great point about this particular method. As Mr. Wright, founder and proprietor of the Bartitsu Academy of Arms and Physical Culture, said in his opening remarks, to be successful a man need not necessarily be strong or heavy. A child who had his head screwed on the right way stood much chance as the strongest man in the world, an assertion which was proved by subsequent events, when Mr. Whittle, the amateur heavyweight boxing champion of the ‘Varsity, ascended the platform and attempted to throw one of the Japanese champions, but was thrown by the Jap. after a severe bout.

The first item on the programme was an exhibition of the secret art of Japanese self-defence. Mr. Wright explained that this form of defence had never been allowed to be shown in Japan, much less in Europe, and this was the first time the men had ever appeared in public. In Japan the only person s allowed to learn were members of rich families and Government officials. As the champions made their appearance they were given a hearty reception. They are both young, Uyeniski (sic – should read Uyenishi) being 22 years old and Tani 21, and weigh about 9 stone. The former is the light-weight champion of Japan and Tani the boy champion of Tokio.

Each advanced to the end of the platform, and then walked towards one another, Uyeniski attacking and Tani defending. When at close quarters the former made a thrust with his hand and caught hold of his opponent’s hair and grappled with him. By a dexterous movement, which requires to be seen to be properly understood, Tani freed himself and threw the champion to the accompaniment of hearty applause. It is certainly gratifying to know that even the strength of a Sandow can be successfully resisted by a light-weight knowing this method.

Another of the many instances in which the method is useful is in the event of an attack from behind with some blunt instrument while seated on a chair.

In the next item four strong men were invited to ascend the platform and strangle one of the wrestlers. Tani then lay at full length on the platform with a pole across his throat. On each end of the pole were two strong men, including Mr. Hugh Wyld, the O.U.A.C. secretary, and Mr. Whittle. At a signal the four men put all their weight on to the stick, but in less time than it takes to tell it Tani had got rid of his burden and was free, leaving the four men still bearing on the pole. The two youthful champions wrestled in Japanese style, in which the clothes are made use of to obtain holds end grip. The advantage, it was explained, of this style over any other was that it is absolutely natural and most practical. Weight and strength, as in the self-defence, only play a minor part everything depending on skill.

Another interesting bout was that between the champion heavy-weight Cornish and Devon wrestler and Uyeniski, the latter throwing his opponent three times. Tani then gave an exhibition of falling in dangerous positions without being hurt, and the entertainment concluded with a 925 catch-as-catch-can contest for the championship of England, which was to have been between William Clark (professional champion of the South of England) versus A. Cherpillod (Bartitsu instructor and champion of the world). Clark being unable to appear owing to vaccination, Zara, the Swiss champion, was brought down at short notice. The bout lasted an hour and was fiercely contested, but in the end neither wrestler had been successful in securing a throw and a draw was the award. The champion’s also gave a wrestling bout as used by Swiss shepherds. This lasted for a quarter-of-an-hour and again no throws were recorded. The entertainment lasted for about two hours.

The “Swiss shepherd” style referred to was almost certainly schwingen, at which Cherpillod was an acknowledged expert in addition to his accomplishments in catch-as-catch-can.

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American Jiu-Jitsu in the “Walled City”

The following passage is excerpted from “The Walled City: a Story of the Criminal Insane”, written by Edward Huntington Williams and originally published in 1913. It describes an apparently un-named, but at least partially codified system of self defence and escort/restraint holds covertly developed by workers in American psychiatric hospitals during the 19th century.

The Japanese are credited with originating the much-heralded art of “jiu jitsu.” But long before the word that stands for joint twisting, nerve-squeezing, and muscle-pulling was known in this country, a system of similar, if less elaborate, disabling methods was known to practically every veteran keeper in all the Walled Cities of the country.

Without some such effective system— some system of self-defense that gave them a distinct advantage over their charges—it would have been difficult for the attendants of half a century ago to have kept some of the more violent cases within bounds, since striking with the closed hand was forbidden the attendants, altho no such restriction was placed upon their charges. And so ingenious keepers, some time early in the history of asylums, studied out an elaborate system of what we should now call “jiu jitsu,” and this was surreptitiously communicated to colleagues all over the country from Atlantic to Pacific. Surreptitiously, since if it had been made public it would have been vigorously supprest by the authorities, no matter how useful it might be, in deference to public opinion already hypersensitive to the subject of “asylum abuses.” But in point of fact, this same system of “American jiu jitsu,” if it may be so called, was sometimes a merciful as well as an effective way of handling excited and ungovernable patients.

One of its chief merits, from the attendant’s point of view, was the fact that it could be used without detection by any but an initiated onlooker. This was of inestimable value when patients were being escorted through places outside the walls of the City. At such times Citizens are likely to become excited, or take advantage of their surroundings and the sympathy of the gaping crowds, which is almost invariably with the captive, no matter how black a criminal he may be. Under these circumstances, should he become unruly, and be handled roughly by the attendant, even in self-defense, that officer would more than likely be set upon and mobbed by the onlookers. On the other hand, no one would be likely to offer more than verbal interference if the officer seemed merely to be holding his charge firmly.

Knowing this, the attendant, orientated in “jiu jitsu,” could take his patient by the arm, to all appearances simply holding his wrist with one hand and grasping his upper arm just above the elbow with the other, and guide him where he pleased without much trouble. For unknown to the spectators, the keeper’s fingers, resting apparently innocently upon his charge’s elbow, really covered a large nerve trunk on the inner side of the elbow joint, where the slightest contraction of his fingers could be made to produce a sensation that would bring any but the most unruly Citizen under control.

This was simply one of the multiform methods of controlling patients, a score of other “jiu jitsu” twists and locks being known and used on occasion. None of these methods were countenanced by any of the officers in control of any institution; and, in truth, a large number of the officers never even suspected their existence, although the attendants sometimes used them under the very noses of their superior officers, without detection, or without injury to the patient. And when the much advertised Japanese jiu jitsu took the country by storm as a novelty a few years ago these veteran attendants had their little laugh all to themselves. It wasn’t so much of a novelty to them as to the generality of people.

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