- Originally published on the Bartitsu.org site on Sunday, 22nd April 2018
The international historical European martial arts and stage combat communities mourn the recent passing of John Waller, who was a modern pioneer in both fields.
Possessed of a life-long fascination with arms and armour, Mr. Waller founded the Medieval Society in 1963 and, a few years later, he also became a founding member of the Society of British Fight Directors. His long association with the Royal Armouries Museum likewise began during the late 1960s, when he owned an antiques and archery shop adjacent to the Museum, which was then housed in the Tower of London.
As a stage combat instructor, John Waller was responsible for training generations of young actors via the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, Arts Educational School and the Drama Studio.
During the 1970s and ’80s he was involved in the production of a number of educational videos by and for the Royal Armouries, notably including Masters of Defence which was among the first videos to present historical European fighting styles as martial arts in their own right. He also served as the fight director for numerous plays, films, TV series and commercials.
When the Royal Armouries moved from the Tower of London to its new, purpose built facility in Leeds during the early 1990s, Mr. Waller also relocated and went on to become the Museum’s Director of Interpretation, training the fight demonstration team in the performance of numerous historical combat styles. In 2002 the R.A. Museum became the site of the first public Bartitsu demonstrations in a century, based on the then-recently republished “Self-Defence With a Walking Stick” articles by E.W. Barton-Wright.
Mr. Waller was proud to have met the Queen when she visited the Royal Armouries on three occasions. He retired in 2006 but continued to serve as a consultant for the Museum and, in 2009, was featured in the HEMA documentary Reclaiming the Blade.
Our condolences to Mr. Waller’s friends and family at this difficult time.