“As Active as a Wild Cat” (Dublin Daily Express – 17 March, 1899)

  • Originally published on the Bartitsu.org site on Monday, 19th December 2016

“Bartitsu.”  We have not had time to visit the National Library or T.C.D. in order to look up the derivation of this uncanny word, but we are assured that it is the world-old method of self-defence rediscovered — the science by which the Celtic heroes achieved their marvellous feats – and that Mr. Barton-Wright is its latter-day exponent. It is very simple, according to him, and should take in this country of paradoxes, for it is the art of conquering an adversary by yielding, and not resisting. He illustrated it on Monday evening the Bath Club, London, and we extract the following details from a graphic description in the “World.”

Mr. Wright, we are told, is small and supple, with hands as small and delicate as a woman’s, but he is as active as a wild cat. After making his bow to the spectators he summoned a friendly corpus vile out of the audience on which to make the necessary experiments. The Vile Body was a large muscular man who looked as if he could take Mr. Wright up in one hand and put him on the top of book-case; and yet under those small white hands with the sensitive tapering fingers the big man was absolutely helpless. All his weight told against himself; the strength he put out was his undoing.

The Vile Body was invited take Mr. Wright by the lapels of his coat and push him away. Mr. Wright resisted for instant, just to get his adversary to put out his whole strength, then suddenly yielded and fell upon his back. This brought the other over, only to find Mr. Wright’s foot in the pit his stomach, which sent him flying over the head of his small opponent.

In the same way Mr. Wright illustrated “how put man out of the room.” If you try push the man out, he will push back at you; also, if you pull him towards you, he will instinctively pull away.  Therefore, Mr. Wright pulls his adversary gently, the other pulls away, and before he knows anything more Mr. Wright has him by the wrist and the upper arm in such a lock that if he tries to use the other arm, the held one would be broken: and, as Mr. Wright quaintly adds, “he presently leaves the room!”

Endless are these grips, which are all based anatomical knowledge, and which no amount muscular power will enable a man to resist. But “Bartitsu” does not simply mean attack. It also includes that difficult part of defence which enables you to turn your passing defeat to advantage to yourself, and to dismay for your triumphing opponent.

The art of falling has been truly reduced to a science by Mr. Wright. How to fall when thrown clear over your adversary’s head, so as to “pick him while passing over his head in the air and bring him down”, he being underneath and you on the top of his surprised person when you both reach the ground: how to bring down, while falling, the man who has tripped you, and thus provide yourself with something soft to fall upon; all are made simple.

The Vile Body submitted to be demonstrated upon with admirable equanimity and humour. Mr. Wright threw him; twisted his arm inside out; pitched him over his head; sat on his chest; showed us, in a most alluring way, how charmingly easy it is strangle man with the lapel and collar of his own coat, and tripped his legs from under him with a one-two parry of the right foot. His whole demonstration proves that, in Mr. Barton-Wright’s hands, man is open to muscular conviction, and that intelligence can always get the better of brute force. A knowledge of this art would be invaluable our police; but is it a sine qua non that they should active as wild cats?

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