A User’s Guide to the Bartitsu Society Website 2.0

The original Bartitsu Society website – www.bartitsu.org – was established by James Marwood in October of 2008, and that site served as the premiere online resource for the contemporary Bartitsu revival until it suffered a catastrophic technical failure in April of 2019.

The recovery, restoration and reconstruction process was a laborious task, but by January of 2021 the great majority of the items posted on Bartitsu.org between 2008-2019, including all of the significant technical and historical articles, had been reconstituted at www.bartitsusociety.com.

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

This event highlighted the fragility of electronic media and inspired the production of a third volume of the Bartitsu Compendium, in order to further preserve the best of the research presented here since the publication of the second volume in 2008. The Bartitsu Compendium, Volume III was published in December of 2022.

We hope you enjoy the Bartitsu Society website 2.0!

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“The Police (of the Future)”, 1886

The letter to the editor of the Daily Chronicle that inspired this cartoon referred to the advantages of wicker-work shields (which actually were in use by some police departments during the late 1880s) and noted that the quarterstaff should be studded with nails to prevent it from being seized by opponents. The fireworks and squibs, electric rattle, shocking wires, water tank etc. were embellishments by the cartoonist.

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Light Unarmed Sparring

Some more light, speculative Bartitsu-style unarmed sparring from the Highland Broadsword Society. Note the savate inflections and the moment of standing grappling.

Sans kicks, an edited compilation of key moments from a bout at vintage fisticuffs.

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“Bartitsu” in Street Fighter 6

The incursion of Edward Barton-Wright’s New Art of Self Defence into modern pop-culture continues via the new Street Fighter 6 fighting game, in which the main villain, known as “JP”, is portrayed as a Bartitsu expert.

This isn’t the first time Bartitsu has been incorporated into a video game – that happened back in 2013 when the game Urban Rivals introduced a dapper Bartitsu-trained flamingo character named Flint, and again in 2016 when the Mortal Kombat franchise added a highly stylized version of Bartitsu cane fighting to the arsenal of Drunken Kung Fu stylist Bo Rai Cho.

JP’s “Bartitsu” bears a similarly tangential relationship to the real fighting style, not least because JP also possesses magical or psionic powers that enable him to do significant damage without ever getting close to his opponents. That said, his kicking attacks are reasonable approximations of both high and low savate kicks, some of his cane attacks are at least in the real-world ballpark and he occasionally pulls off a jujutsu-like throw. It’s even possible that his idiosyncratic kneeling defensive posture may have been loosely inspired by actual Vigny cane fighting techniques:

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Historical Pugilism

These bouts of light, technical pugilism sparring are also a good approximation of Bartitsu boxing as alluded to and partially described, but unfortunately never detailed, by E.W. Barton-Wright. Note especially the use of “chopper” (hammerfist) punches and destructive elbow guards.

For further technical details on the speculative reconstruction of Bartitsu boxing, see The Bartitsu Compendium, Volume III.

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“Mrs. Pankhurst’s Bodyguard: On the Trail of ‘Kitty’ Marshall and the Met Police ‘Cats'”

Self-defence historian Emelyne Godfrey’s long-awaited new book is now available from Barnes and Noble and other booksellers.

Some of the most extraordinary narratives of the radical women’s suffrage movement are those of the Bodyguard – a secret society of martial arts-trained women who protected fugitive suffragettes from arrest and assault.  Notorious in their day, their story was largely forgotten during the cultural chaos of the First World War, only recently re-emerging into popular awareness.

Drawing substantially from bodyguard Kitty Marshall’s unpublished memoir Suffragette Escapes and Adventures, Emelyne Godfrey skilfully conveys their many escapades of evasion, deception and – when necessary – confrontation with much more powerful opponents: 

Kitty Willoughby Marshall broke with convention. In 1901, she daringly divorced her husband and joined the WSPU, campaigning for women’s suffrage. She married Arthur Marshall and the couple soon became a powerhouse team in the movement, Arthur defending the suffragettes in court while Kitty, trained in ju-jitsu and a member of the elite team ‘the Bodyguard’, helped her close friend Mrs Pankhurst evade the clutches of the authorities under the Cat and Mouse Act. All this took place under the watchful eye of the Metropolitan Police and Special Branch detective Ralph Kitchener, who frequently came into contact with the Marshalls in his work trailing suffragette ‘mice’. This gripping new book by Dr Emelyne Godfrey follows events on both sides as the ‘cats’ hunted the ‘mice’, making extensive use of unpublished material and unseen images.

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Antique English jujutsu gi discovered

Thanks to David Brough for passing along these images of an extremely rare antique English jujutsu gi, which was discovered inside a suitcase in an English antiques shop. The suitcase also contained a 4th-edition copy of the Text-Book of Ju-Jitsu, As Practised in Japan, by former Bartitsu Club instructor Sadakazu Uyenishi, Bruce Sutherland’s book Ju-Jitsu Self Defence, a rubber practice knife and a collection of correspondence courses sold by The Kodokwan Ju Jitsu Association run by H. Johnston, who was based in South Africa.

Photos courtesy of Gary Harper:

The short-sleeved jacket is entirely typical of jujutsu gi of this period.
The Health and Strength League was a society devoted to both nationalism and physical culture, active from roughly 1906 through the 1930s.
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Dr. Emelyne Godfrey Reviews The Bartitsu Compendium, Volume III

Boasting over 600 pages, the long-awaited third edition of the Bartitsu Compendium is a real treat, being an exploration of Bartitsu yesterday and today, ideal for both new students of martial arts as well as the general reader. This anthology is aimed at anyone who wants to know why attitudes to crime and violence altered throughout the nineteenth century and why some forms of physical culture went out of fashion while others gained in popularity.

It was delightful to see a rare childhood photograph of Edward Barton Wright (who would later legally change his surname to Barton-Wright), the engineer who raised public awareness of Japanese martial arts in Britain. Featured alongside his brother, he is dressed in the fashionable 1860s Zouave-style jacket and suit combination. It seems as if this tousle-haired little boy is humouring the photographer with a cheeky smile, his mind likely on interesting subjects. As my son of around the same age put it, he looks like he ‘wants to go off to build steam trains’. When it comes to the section of the book on Barton-Wright’s professional and personal life, it is clear how contributors around the world have given their support to the project, leading to some surprising discoveries about Barton-Wright.

Tony Wolf navigates the reader through the technical aspects of Bartitsu and explains, for instance, the differences between singlestick play (associated with Sherlock Holmes) and Pierre Vigny’s art of self defence with the gentleman’s walking cane. It was interesting to read that the jujutsu sacrifice throw as demonstrated during Barton-Wright’s performances was so novel because to fall upon one’s back was associated with defeat in nineteenth century English wrestling. Also, the Compendium details the various ways in which Bartitsu stick fighting was distinct from comparable systems, such as the active use of the non-weapon hand and arm.

There are articles on Enola Holmes, Honor Blackman and the jujutsuffragettes. In fact, we get a rare glimpse into Edith Garrud’s Golden Square dojo taken in 1911 and see some surprising stills from the film, Jujitsu Downs the Footpads, believed to have been lost. Alongside pieces on personal protection with the umbrella, we encounter knuckleduster jewellery, pneumatic boxing wear and Amazon self-defence against Hitler’s army – this article reminded me of Edith Garrud who reportedly told interviewer Godfrey Winn that she stood in her garden, shaking her fist at the bombers. On a lighter note, the “Velo-Boxe” cartoons always end in a chuckle, no matter how often I’ve looked at them. What added to the excitement of reading was the way that within their categories, these articles were ordered in a looser manner – one never knew what was around the next corner.

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Announcing The Bartitsu Compendium, Volume III

Published 120 years after the Bartitsu School of Arms in London closed its doors for the last time and marking the 20th anniversary of the modern Bartitsu revival movement, the Bartitsu Compendium, Volume III is now available from Amazon.

Over six hundred pages in length and profusely illustrated with rare historical images, Volume III represents the cutting edge of current knowledge on Edward Barton-Wright’s “New Art of Self Defence”.

The book is divided into four sections:

Pierre Vigny demonstrates walking stick self defence.

Drawing from two decades of intensive research, The Bartitsu Story is the first truly comprehensive, long-form social history narrative of the rise and fall of Edward Barton-Wright’s “New Art of Self Defence”.

This 160+ page essay includes previously unrevealed aspects of Edward Barton-Wright’s biography as well as in-depth analysis of the evolution of Bartitsu as a martial art.

A women's self defence demonstration.

The Antagonistics Anthology compiles the 50 best historical articles from the Bartitsu.org site (now BartitsuSociety.com) in addition to a collection of new articles of diverse interest to Bartitsu enthusiasts, including:

  • Behind the Scenes of Jiu-Jitsu Downs the Footpads, or, The Lady Athlete – A Pioneering Martial Arts Movie Shot in 1907
  • “Making the ‘Knock-Out’ Safe”: Innovations in Boxing Safety Equipment (1895-1913)
  • The Gentlemanly Arts of Self-Defence on the Small Screen
Pierre Vigny demonstrates "Bartitsu boxing".

Techniques and Tactics highlights the key “style points” that distinguished Bartitsu from other self defence systems at the turn of the 20th century, with entries including:

  • “Not at All Like the Guards Taught in Schools”: Bartitsu Tactics of Unarmed Defence
  • Style Points: Key Techniques and Tactics of Vigny Stick Fighting
  • Captain Frederick Laing’s “Practices” & “Examples” of Bartitsu Stick Fighting, Illustrated
A modern Bartitsu demonstration.

The final section, Revival and Legacy, offers a look back at the first 20 years of the Bartitsu revival via the activities of the Bartitsu Society and the impact of Barton-Wright’s “New Art” art on modern pop-culture, with entries on diverse topics such as:

  • “Engaging Toughs” – Bartitsu Sparring
  • Why Bartitsu is for Everyone
  • Creating “Suffrajitsu: Mrs. Pankhurst’s Amazons”

“What Bartitsu Was and What it Can Be”, by Tony Wolf

I first proposed the ideas of “canonical” and “neo”-Bartitsu back in the very early days of the Bartitsu revival, circa 2003. The canon included all the materials presented under the Bartitsu banner by Edward Barton-Wright and his associates at the turn of the 20th century, whereas neo-Bartitsu comprised “Bartitsu as we know it was and as it can be”.

These conceptual approaches were necessary because, unlike many other historical martial arts revivalists, Bartitsu enthusiasts did not have a full technical catalogue to work from. Barton-Wright had offered detailed instructions in some areas but only cryptic clues and hints in others. Thus, the Bartitsu revival was a historical mystery box; a matter of piecing together hard-won evidence, gathered from antique book stores and obscure newspaper archives over the course of many years, before pressure-testing our discoveries in the gym.

The first volume of the Bartitsu Compendium (2005) presented the canon and the second volume (2008) offered further resources for revivalists via a curated cross-reference of works produced by former Bartitsu Club instructors and their first generation of students, dating into the early 1920s.

Volume III draws from the past 20 years of intensive research towards authoritatively answering the question of “what Bartitsu was” as well as indicating “what it can be” on that basis, arguing that Barton-Wright’s “New Art” was – simultaneously – a method of cross-training between several systems of circa 1900 antagonistics and a unique martial arts style in its own right. That style deserves careful attention and development by current and future Bartitsu revivalists, towards continuing the experimental work-in-progress that originally ended in 1902.

This volume also extends the theme of Bartitsu as a window into social history. If Barton-Wright’s “New Art” was a stone dropped into the pond of London society at the turn of the 20th century, then the ripples extended out into popular culture (everything from music hall ballyhoo to the Sherlock Holmes stories) and into social movements including “Orientalism”, physical culture, feminism and the moral panic over the so-called “Hooligan menace”. Looking back over the first 20 years of the Bartitsu revival offers a surprising perspective on how history repeats itself.

Posted in Antagonistics, Baritsu, Bartitsu School of Arms, Biography, Boxing, Canonical Bartitsu, E. W. Barton-Wright, Editorial, Edwardiana, Fencing, Fiction, Hooliganism, Humour, In Memoriam, Instruction, Interviews, Jiujitsu, Mysteries, Physical Culture, Pop-culture, Reviews, Savate, Seminars, Sherlock Holmes, Sparring, Suffrajitsu, Vigny stick fighting, Wrestling | Comments Off on Announcing The Bartitsu Compendium, Volume III

Antagonistic Action in “Enola Holmes 2”

During the climactic scenes of Enola Holmes 2, Sherlock Holmes (Henry Cavill) and the Viscount Tewkesbury (Louis Partridge) exert their antagonistic prowess against a cadre of crooked coppers in a music hall, while the titular heroine (Millie Bobby Brown) does battle high above the stage.

Although Sherlock isn’t the featured combatant in this scene, his combination of walking stick fighting, jujutsu (or a throw, at least) and fisticuffs is a decent rendition of “baritsu” as a fictional analogue for Bartitsu.

Earlier in the story, Enola, her mother Eudoria (Helena Bonham Carter) and jujutsuffragette trainer Edith (Susan Wokoma) took on the same villains in a woodland glen:

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The Bartitsu Compendium, Volume 3 Now at Proofing Stage

At well over 600 pages – approximately the size of Volumes 1 (2005) and 2 (2008) combined – the third volume of the Bartitsu Compendium is a hefty tome. One print copy now exists for proofing purposes; all being well, we’ll announce the official publication date soon.

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