“Engaging Toughs” – The Bartitsu Sparring Video Competition

  • Originally published on the Bartitsu.org site on Tuesday, 1st November 2016

… by engaging toughs I trained myself until I was satisfied in practical application.

–  E.W. Barton-Wright, 1950


Announcing the first international Bartitsu sparring video competition, for prizes of up to US$1000!  The contest is open to martial artists and combat athletes of any style(s) and its object is to help fulfil the Bartitsu Society’s mission: “to continue the legacy of martial arts pioneer E.W. Barton-Wright”.

The “New Art of Self Defence”

For a few years at the turn of the 20th century, Barton-Wright’s London “School of Arms and Physical Culture” was the site of the world’s first experiment in cross-training between Asian and European fighting styles:

Under Bartitsu is included boxing, or the use of the fist as a hitting medium, the use of the feet both in an offensive and defensive sense, the use of the walking stick as a means of self-defence. Judo and jujitsu, which are secret styles of Japanese wrestling, (I) would call close play as applied to self-defence.

–  E.W. Barton-Wright, 1901

Barton-Wright’s system was effectively abandoned as a work-in-progress during 1902.  It then remained in obscurity for a century (apart from a cryptic reference in a Sherlock Holmes story) before being revived as a collaborative, on-going project by members of the Bartitsu Society.

Towards that project, we’re now looking to pressure-test the following set of experimental sparring guidelines, which are designed to closely evoke the “Bartitsu style” in hard-fought matches.  These guidelines have been carefully designed to simulate the type of “all-in” fighting suggested by E.W. Barton-Wright’s original writings on Bartitsu, maintaining the spirit and detail of that system as it was evolving at the London Bartitsu Club circa 1901.

Bartitsu Sparring Guidelines

Above - sparring highlights footage from Bartitsu: The Lost Martial Art of Sherlock Holmes and the Bartitsu Club of Chicago.

1) There is no provision for counting points nor declaring winners.  The object of the sparring match is specifically to test and demonstrate the Bartitsu style in action.

2) Bouts may continue up to a nominated time limit and/or to submission, as you prefer.

3) Striking and thrusting with the stick, stick traps and disarms, unarmed striking, takedowns/throws and ground-fighting to submission are all legal. Videos that show examples of most or all of these techniques will be favoured by the adjudicators.

4) Both fighters must wear fencing masks or similar protective face/headgear, hockey gloves or similar protective handgear and groin cups at minimum; more extensive protective equipment is optional.

Gi jackets and belts/sashes are optional (note that Bartitsu does not use belt ranks, so belts and sashes are purely utilitarian and may be of any colour).

5) Contact levels and targets must be commensurate with the type of protective equipment employed – “play hard, play fair, nobody hurt”.

6) Each fighter must begin the match armed with one, approx. 36″ long rattan sparring cane with a rubber ball handle or crook handle.  In the event of disarms, etc., the bout should continue seamlessly into unarmed combat.

Stick fighting guidelines:

1) Guard positions are generally high (the front, rear and double-handed guards as shown in Barton-Wright’s Self Defence with a Walking Stick articles), with lowered or widened variant guards serving as positions of invitation, i.e. “baiting” an attack to a particular target.

Fluid, deceptive ambidexterity of attack, defence and counter-attack from a dynamic range of tactical guards is encouraged.  For examples of stylistically accurate stick fighting guard positions, see this article.

2) There is no use of orthodox fencing-style weapon-to-weapon parries in positions 3 or 4, nor any other weapon-to-weapon parry or block in which the hand is lower than the point of impact between the sticks.  These are contrary to the basic premise of protecting the weapon hand and they significantly alter the fighting style if used in sparring.


Unarmed combat guidelines:

1) Fighters use the classical fisticuffs stance (erect or with a slight backward lean) and the pugilistic mill (circling the fists vertically in deceptive patterns) and/or extended guard position.

2) Predominantly linear punches from the mill and linear, low (predominantly knee/shin level) kicks.

3) The MMA-style double–leg takedown, while very effective, was not a part of the eclectic “British jiujitsu” practiced at the Bartitsu Club, and so is not allowed in Bartitsu-style sparring.

Video Guidelines

You may enter as many videos as you wish.

Entries will be accepted at any time before midnight USA Central Time, February 1, 2017.

Videos may be either static or dynamic (moving) camera set-ups and may include edited and/or raw footage.  A single edited video may include footage from more than one sparring session.

When deciding on framing, editing choices, etc., however, please bear in mind that the object is to display the style clearly and to its best advantage.

Background music should not be used.

Videos must be issued under a Creative Commons licence and must be uploaded to YouTube and/or Vimeo. If you do not wish your video(s) to be publicly searchable on YouTube, we suggest setting the privacy to “Unlisted”.

Links to each video you are entering should be sent to tonywolf(at)gmail.com.

Adjudication and prizes

The adjudicators’ decisions will be based on the levels of historical/stylistic accuracy and martial intent apparent in each video.  Their decisions will be binding and final – no correspondence will be entered into.

If no videos achieve the requisite standards of historical/stylistic accuracy and martial intent, the adjudicators reserve the right to defer awarding any prizes.

The winning entry will receive a single prize of US$1000, sent by PayPal to the entrant’s nominated email address.

The second place winning entry will receive a single prize of US$500, sent by PayPal to the entrant’s nominated email address.

Prize-winning videos and a selection of runners-up will be announced and showcased on the Bartitsu Society website and via Bartitsu-related social media.  At the adjudicators’ discretion, highlights of the prize-winning and runner-up videos may also be re-edited and collated into other videos as exemplars of Bartitsu-style sparring.

This entry was posted in Antagonistics, Boxing, Canonical Bartitsu, Editorial, Instruction, Jiujitsu, Savate, Sparring, Video, Vigny stick fighting. Bookmark the permalink.