“Bad News for Honest Burglars” (Dundee Evening Telegraph, January 2 1922)

  • Originally published on the Bartitsu.org site on Thursday, 3rd March 2016

Very occasional references have been made, considerably after the fact, to the idea that Bartitsu founder E.W. Barton-Wright may have continued to teach self-defence into the 1920s. According to the best and most detailed research available to the Bartitsu Society, however, there is no concrete evidence as to Barton-Wright’s involvement in that area post-1902, apart from one anomalous newspaper account of his having appeared as a guest timekeeper for a major wrestling match in London during 1908.

Bearing that in mind, this curious 1922 article may be of interest to Bartitsu enthusiasts as it appears to record the work of an anonymous London self defence teacher whose system bears some resemblance to Bartitsu. It’s entirely possible that the “anonymous teacher” was merely a journalistic device – archive searches have failed to locate any further information on this instructor.

Of the members of Barton-Wright’s circle of colleagues during the Bartitsu Club era, only Yukio Tani, William Garrud and Percy Longhurst are known to have still been involved in the London self defence milieu during the early 1920s; of those three men, Longhurst is possibly the most likely candidate given the nature and terminology of the self defence material described here, though he was better known as a writer on the subject than as an instructor.

It’s also possible that, assuming that the “anonymous teacher” was a real person, his system may have been more-or-less inspired by Barton-Wright’s without any direct connection. Still, the obvious similarities of detail, turns of phrase and sentiment between the writings of the “anonymous instructor” and of E.W. Barton-Wright are, at least, diverting.

Of particular note are the references to “300 tricks” of self defence, exactly matching the number Barton-Wright had named in his 1899 Pearson’s Magazine article, “The New Art of Self Defence” (which alluded to “300 different throws, attacks, counters and tricks based on leverage and balance”); and the active combination of jiujitsu with savate (consistently misspelled by the journalist as “savat”), also as per the Bartitsu curriculum (though occasionally encountered in other 1920s self defence material – in the wake of the various military close-combat systems devised for soldiers during the First World War, the convention of combining the best of various disparate systems had become fairly well established).

The idiosyncratic definition of judo as a method by which “nerves in the exposed parts of the body are struck with the outside edge of the hand or the point of the thumb” may be the result of the informant and/or journalist confusing judo with atemi-waza, which actually is the art of striking nerve plexii. To further confuse matters, Kodokan judo founder Jigoro Kano did research and present atemi techniques, but judo itself could not reasonably be described as a striking art.

Noting also that the journalist’s reference to “Ku Atsuf” is clearly a garbled rendition of kuatsu, the Japanese art of resuscitating an unconscious person. Kuatsu was never identified by name in any c1900 Bartitsu source, but Bartitsu Club instructor Sadakazu Uyenishi was described as having used an identifiable kuatsu technique to resuscitate a wrestling opponent that Uyenishi had rendered unconscious with a stranglehold.

No More Inoffensive House-Holders.

300 “K.0.” Tricks.

Ah, those ominous noises at 3 in the night, as of stealthy movements in the house downstairs! Mr. Caudle’s blood curdles at his wife’s suggestion that should get up and tackle the intruder. One little bullet from revolver or one sickening blow from a jemmy would terminate the adventure for him – thinks poor Caudle.

A London teacher of the arts of self-defence, boxing, and fencing says he marvels at this paralysis and terror. Attack, he says, the very thing one should desire from the burglar, the footpad, or the racecourse ruffian — it gives you such chances! All you want is a few tricks – three are enough – and be the attack what it may, with knife, revolver, or life-preserver, you can be master of the situation in a few seconds.

Scientific Kicks

Half the battle is confidence; the toughest rough breathing is often awed by a show of real mastery. The teacher’s choice is a careful mixture of the arts of jiu-jitsu; savat, the French art of scientific kicks; and judo, a higher degree of Japanese self-defence, in which nerves in the exposed parts of the body are struck with the outside edge of the hand or the point of the thumb.

Knowing judo you can release yourselt from any hold, but you must learn at the same time the science of Ku Atsuf if you would practise the cruel art to its full extent, for having severely judoed your man he might die if you didn’t know how to bring him round.

“I teach about 300 tricks”, said the teacher, “and they are a combination of all the dirtiest tricks known to self-defence the world over. To use an expressive term, they are ‘rotten’, but one does not consider any Marquis of Queensberry rules when one is attacked.

A Useful Trio.

“But three good tricks learned thoroughly well are sufficient to give one the whip hand over any ordinary man — and that in the confined space, say, of a passage. I would recommend the hip throw, the back heel, and the chasse. The first two are jiu-jitsu throws which might well lay a man out temporarily; third is a savat kick on the shin or the knee with all the weight of the body behind it. A man thus kicked will not get up a hurry; it hurts.”

Contrary to general belief, the savat kick is done with the side of the foot — never with the toe. And it is delivered in a way that ensures the kicker retention of his balance.

The teacher has one pupil who is 65 years old. “I have sufficient confidence in him to back him to hold his own against any ordinary man,” he says, “no matter how he likes to attack him. Age is no drawback to one constitutionally sound and fairly active.”

“I do not necessarily teach the same set of tricks to each person, but select them according to his constitution and build. If a man is good on his legs there is nothing like savat. Otherwise I would give him a little jiu-jitsu or judo.”

This entry was posted in Antagonistics, E. W. Barton-Wright, Jiujitsu, Savate. Bookmark the permalink.