Some “new” and unusual snippets of Bartitsu history

According to an item in the Morning Leader of Tuesday, 29 November 1898, the entertainments for an upcoming charity bazaar were scheduled to include:

Mr. E. W. Barton- Wright (who) will on Friday and Saturday give a demonstration of Bartitsu, the new art of self defence and show some Japanese wrestling. He will also explain and expose the simplicity with which certain well-known feats of strength are performed.

Although Barton-Wright gave a number of jujutsu demonstrations during late 1898, this is the first and only known report of his demonstrating “feats of strength”. Those feats were almost certainly among those he described in his Pearson’s Magazine article “How to Pose as a Strong Man,” which was published two months after the charity event.

The Leader of Thursday, 29 June 1899 included the following short article, which is the only known example of Barton-Wright himself promoting the Bartitsu Club prior to its opening:


“Bartitsu,” be it known, is the art of self-defence, and a club is being formed where this art in all its phases will be practised.

“It will be purely a sports club,” explained Mr. Barton-Wright to a Morning Leader representative, “where men and women, girls and boys, can be instructed in fencing, sabre play, la savate, boxing, and Bartitsu.”

The club will be somewhere in Piccadilly. One special feature will be the instruction of members, especially lady members, in the art of defending themselves with a walking stick

“As you know, I have given exhibitions of Japanese wrestling, which art I am now teaching to certain well-known society leaders. But for the Bartitsu Club, which is to be a limited company, I am going over to Japan to secure some of the best instructors in certain of Japanese wrestling. I have lived and travelled in nearly every country on the globe and this is the most perfect form of self-defence. It is one that, with a little study, can be acquired by women equally as well as men and once learnt is never forgotten. Classes will be arranged, and instruction given privately. We are expecting a full complement of members from the beginning.”

The Hampshire Post and Southsea Observer of Friday, 24 March 1899 adds a hitherto unknown third verse to the “Bartitsu” poem quoted in several other newspapers around that time:

What’s the new Bartitsu?

Well, a fellow gits you

By the wrist,

and with a twist,

on the floor he sits you.

Into knots he knits you,

Every joint he splits you.

Winds your coat

Around your throat,

Throttling into fits you.

When at length he quits you,

Wondering whether it’s you,

With a broom

They clear the room,

That’s the new Bartitsu!

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“The Brutal World Of Bare-Knuckle Boxing In Victorian Britain”

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Bartitsu and early British jujitsu with Tony Wolf

Martial arts podcasters Gavin Davies and David Brough interview Tony Wolf on the past and future of Bartitsu, with a bonus pro-wrestling anecdote.

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The Bartitsu Compendium, Volume III reviewed by the Martial History Team

After buying and surveying the first two volumes in this series, I had to buy volume III when it arrived in 2022. My copy of The Bartitsu Compendium, Volume 3: What Bartitsu Was and What it Can Be is a massive paperback measuring 8 5/16 inches by 11 11/16 inches, with 630 (!) black and white pages, in print-on-demand format. I wish I could have just bought PDFs of all three of these books!

This volume presents four parts: a “narrative social history” (pp 11-163), a collection of articles previously on the Web (pp 164-442), techniques and tactics (pp 443-545), and “20 years of revival” (pp 546-626). 

This book represents an amazing accomplishment by the author and his colleagues. They lost a lot of online content due to technical issues, but recovered and published that material here. I am a fan of publishing blog and related information in formats like this as an insurance policy against technical failures and “Web or link rot.”

I noted in the text the claim that Barton-Wright (1860-1951) apparently trained Shinden Fudo Ryu jujutsu for about 3 years with Terajima Kuniichiro and “took some lessons” with Kano starting around 1895, when the pair were each about 35 years old.

Here are a few sample pages for flavor:

If you are interested in Bartitsu, you need this book.

Posted in Academia, Antagonistics, Bartitsu School of Arms, Canonical Bartitsu, E. W. Barton-Wright, Reviews | Comments Off on The Bartitsu Compendium, Volume III reviewed by the Martial History Team

“What is the mysterious Western martial art Bartitsu, used by Sherlock Holmes?”

Martial artist Niimi Satoshi offers some creative interpretations of neo-Bartitsu techniques.

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“The Police (of the Future)”, 1886

The letter to the editor of the Daily Chronicle that inspired this cartoon referred to the advantages of wicker-work shields (which actually were in use by some police departments during the late 1880s) and noted that the quarterstaff should be studded with nails to prevent it from being seized by opponents. The fireworks and squibs, electric rattle, shocking wires, water tank etc. were embellishments by the cartoonist.

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Light Unarmed Sparring

Some more light, speculative Bartitsu-style unarmed sparring from the Highland Broadsword Society. Note the savate inflections and the moment of standing grappling.

Milling the fists and destructive elbow blocks are characteristic of the “secret style of boxing” believed to have been developed by Barton-Wright and Vigny.

Sans kicks, an edited compilation of key moments from a bout at vintage fisticuffs.

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“Bartitsu” in Street Fighter 6

The incursion of Edward Barton-Wright’s New Art of Self Defence into modern pop-culture continues via the new Street Fighter 6 fighting game, in which the main villain, known as “JP”, is portrayed as a Bartitsu expert.

This isn’t the first time Bartitsu has been incorporated into a video game – that happened back in 2013 when the game Urban Rivals introduced a dapper Bartitsu-trained flamingo character named Flint, and again in 2016 when the Mortal Kombat franchise added a highly stylized version of Bartitsu cane fighting to the arsenal of Drunken Kung Fu stylist Bo Rai Cho.

JP’s “Bartitsu” bears a similarly tangential relationship to the real fighting style, not least because JP also possesses magical or psionic powers that enable him to do significant damage without ever getting close to his opponents. That said, his kicking attacks are reasonable approximations of both high and low savate kicks, some of his cane attacks are at least in the real-world ballpark and he occasionally pulls off a jujutsu-like throw. It’s even possible that his idiosyncratic kneeling defensive posture may have been loosely inspired by actual Vigny cane fighting techniques:

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Historical Pugilism

These bouts of light, technical pugilism sparring are also a good approximation of Bartitsu boxing as alluded to and partially described, but unfortunately never detailed, by E.W. Barton-Wright. Note especially the use of “chopper” (hammerfist) punches and destructive elbow guards.

For further technical details on the speculative reconstruction of Bartitsu boxing, see The Bartitsu Compendium, Volume III.

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“Mrs. Pankhurst’s Bodyguard: On the Trail of ‘Kitty’ Marshall and the Met Police ‘Cats'”

Self-defence historian Emelyne Godfrey’s long-awaited new book is now available from Barnes and Noble and other booksellers.

Some of the most extraordinary narratives of the radical women’s suffrage movement are those of the Bodyguard – a secret society of martial arts-trained women who protected fugitive suffragettes from arrest and assault.  Notorious in their day, their story was largely forgotten during the cultural chaos of the First World War, only recently re-emerging into popular awareness.

Drawing substantially from bodyguard Kitty Marshall’s unpublished memoir Suffragette Escapes and Adventures, Emelyne Godfrey skilfully conveys their many escapades of evasion, deception and – when necessary – confrontation with much more powerful opponents: 

Kitty Willoughby Marshall broke with convention. In 1901, she daringly divorced her husband and joined the WSPU, campaigning for women’s suffrage. She married Arthur Marshall and the couple soon became a powerhouse team in the movement, Arthur defending the suffragettes in court while Kitty, trained in ju-jitsu and a member of the elite team ‘the Bodyguard’, helped her close friend Mrs Pankhurst evade the clutches of the authorities under the Cat and Mouse Act. All this took place under the watchful eye of the Metropolitan Police and Special Branch detective Ralph Kitchener, who frequently came into contact with the Marshalls in his work trailing suffragette ‘mice’. This gripping new book by Dr Emelyne Godfrey follows events on both sides as the ‘cats’ hunted the ‘mice’, making extensive use of unpublished material and unseen images.

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