“… he goes down all the same”

  • Originally published on the Bartitsu.org site on Saturday, 17th June 2017

A parallel is drawn between the no-holds-barred ethos of Bartitsu and the military tactics of the Boer War in this article from the St James’s Gazette of 18 January, 1900.

Our army leaders might draw excellent moral from that Japanese “noble art self-defence” just imported, for which a London school is about to started. It disregards the traditional rules of boxing and of wrestling (in which many foreigners think us absurdly conservative), and fits the student for an altercation with, say, a Turkish assassin or an armed Hooligan.

We are fighting with what has occasionally shown itself, however brave, to be a Hooligan army. It may be as courageous to marchup to the cannon’s mouth in quarter column, or to wear a shining sword and despise cover, as to wait for a kick a la savate without guarding.

A general can explain that he was cut up, not by the regulation field gun, but by grossly unscientific guns of position, as a wrestler, that he was put down by an agonizing “lock” instead of a fair throw — but he goes down all the same. The Boer mounted infantry may be unsuited to a big European war, and the Hooligan’s knife to a professional boxing-match (and even a novelty therein), but both have their uses.

We are not, of course, arguing in favour of shelling either the white flag or the Red Cross. But fighting, after all, vulgar and rough-and-ready though it be, is the chief end of military training, not circus riding or playing conjuring tricks with the rifle. Not even showing how fearless we are.

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