“Bartitsu in the American Context”

  • Originally published on the Bartitsu.org site on Tuesday, 24th April 2018

The excellent Kung Fu Tea blog offers this well-researched post towards answering a question posed by Dr. Emelyne Godfrey in reviewing Wendy Rouse’s book Her Own Hero: The Origins of the Women’s Self Defense Movement. Specifically, how was E. W. Barton-Wright’s eclectic art of Bartitsu received in the United States?

Although E.W. Barton-Wright’s seminal Bartitsu articles were published in the US editions of Pearson’s Magazine, further references to Bartitsu in the American media were scattershot and Barton-Wright’s martial art certainly didn’t impact US popular culture to anything like the extent that it did in the UK. Likewise, although Barton-Wright mentioned a plan to tour his system through the United States, that never came to pass. The closest thing to an “American Bartitsu” during the early 20th century was probably the mysterious Latson System of Self Defense, of which there are few records other than a short series of articles that were probably written by the ill-fated Dr. Latson himself, but published posthumously.

It can be argued, though, that Barton-Wright’s articles did newly popularise illustrated self-defence features in newspapers and magazines, which had previously been rare but which became quite common during the first decade of the 1900s.

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