“New” Canonical Bartitsu Technique Discovered

  • Originally published on the Bartitsu.org site on Friday, 16th April 2010

The Bartitsu Society conceptually divides practical Bartitsu into two related areas. Canonical Bartitsu is the art as we know it was; the specific self defence techniques detailed by E.W. Barton-Wright and his colleagues between 1899 and 1902. Neo, or modern Bartitsu is both “Bartitsu was it may have been” and “Bartitsu as it can be today”; it describes our modern attempts to continue the mixed martial arts experiment begun by Barton-Wright in 1899.

Most of what we know of canonical Bartitsu is drawn from a series of four articles by E.W. Barton-Wright, originally published in the London-based Pearson’s Magazine. “The New Art of Self Defence” was published in two parts during March and April of 1899, and “Self Defence with a Walking Stick” appeared in January and February of 1901. After being re-discovered in the British Library archives by the late judo historian Richard Bowen, these articles were first broadcast via the Electronic Journals of Martial Arts and Sciences website in the year 2000.

Pearson’s was a popular journal and was also published in an American edition. Recently-discovered copies of the US issues for March and June of 1899, which included slightly modified re-prints of Barton-Wright’s first two articles, have revealed the following “new” information on Bartitsu.

Note.—Mr. E. Barton-Wright, the author of this article and of its companion to be published next month, is shortly to visit this country in order to introduce a system of self-defence which would seem to render anyone acquainted with it practically impregnable against all forms of attack, however dangerous and unexpected they may be.

In fact, as far as we know, Barton-Wright did not introduce Bartitsu to the United States, though it is diverting to imagine what might have happened if he had.

The following image is a “header” used for the March article, significant in that it offers a portrait-style photograph of Barton-Wright himself. This is only the second such photograph ever discovered by the Bartitsu Society.

The June article header offers a handsome Art Nouveau effect:

Most intriguing, though, is that the June article from the US edition includes a previously unknown addition to the canon of classical Bartitsu techniques. We can only speculate as to why this technique was not included in the original, and now widely-known, articles from the British edition. Perhaps it was omitted for reasons of space, or perhaps the photographs supplied to were of inadequate quality; it is the only technique in the June article not to have been illustrated.

No. 1.—One of many Means of Defence when a Man Strikes at You Low or Below the Belt.

Should an assailant strike at your wind or heart with his right fist, step backward with your right foot, and in doing so place your right hand over your heart, with the palm outward, and grasp his wrist by placing your left hand over his wrist (the placing of the right hand over the heart is only a precautionary measure in case you miss catching his wrist when he leads off at your body).

As soon as you feel you have hold of his wrist, pull it towards you with a slight outward motion leftways, take a step forward with your right foot, placing it behind his right leg, and seize him by the throat, pressing your thumb into his tonsil or just under the back of the ear, which is extremely painful.

Then with a sharp leftward pull with the left hand, and a thrust or a push leftward with the right hand (keeping your right calf or the side of your knee tightly behind his right knee), you throw him on his back; retain your hold on his throat and ear, and dropping upon the right knee you pull his arm towards you so that his elbow is just across your thigh. With the slightest pressure you could break his arm. At the same time you extend your right arm vigorously and press your thumb well into the cavity under the ear, which will cause great pain, preventing him from getting up.

Alert readers will note that, contrary to what is suggested by the title, this technique does not in fact deal with a defence against a low, below the belt attack, but rather with countering a punch to the torso. The simplest explanation may be that the US Pearson’s editor became confused and incorrectly matched one heading with another technical description; if so, then there may have been at least one more canonical technique (the defence against a “low strike”), in Barton-Wright’s original submission.

The game is afoot to track down the April, 1899 edition of Pearson’s Magazine (US edition), which might include more “new” Bartitsu material.

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Amalia True’s Parasol of Fury: Did Late Victorian-Era Women Really Use Weaponized Umbrellas?

In the alternate history of Joss Whedon’s new TV series The Nevers, a mysterious event in the skies over London during 1896 leaves a minority of the population endowed with bizarre, apparently supernatural powers. Three years later, the sociopolitical establishment has come to view this newly potent underclass – known collectively as “the Touched”, whose members are mostly women, immigrants and so-called “deviants” – as a potential threat to the status quo.

As we join the story, the Touched are slowly gathering around the dynamic team of Amalia True (Laura Donnelly) and Penance Adair (Ann Skelly), who manage a refuge/community known as the Orphanage. Mrs. True and Miss Adair are, themselves, in possession of supernatural endowments; Penance’s ability to perceive potential energies translates into a genius-level skill at mechanical invention, whereas Amalia experiences “ripples” of the time continuum, affording her flashes of insight into future events.

Amalia True is also a startlingly gifted hand-to-hand fighter, though her ability in that sphere is yet to be explained within the story. In the first episode she makes adroit use of a weaponised parasol reminiscent of the combat umbrellas used by Kingsman agents; it’s not only sturdy enough to deal devastating blows when swung as a club, but it also comes equipped with an electrical charge powerful enough to render opponents unconscious and an elaborate mechanical “knuckle duster” built into the handle:

Mrs. True’s parasol does have some historical precedent, albeit just a few years after 1899, when the action of The Nevers is primarily set. Notably, during the Parisian Apache (street gangster) panic of the very early 20th century, there arose a middle-class fad for combat-ready walking canes equipped with concealed guns and blades. At about the same time, Marguerite Vigny – the wife of former Bartitsu Club instructor Pierre Vigny – was teaching her unique adaptation of her husband’s stick fighting system specifically as a means of self-protection for ladies, who customarily carried umbrellas and parasols rather than gentlemanly canes.

Madame Vigny

Finally, members of the Suffragette Bodyguard society as fictionalised in the 2015 graphic novel trilogy Suffrajitsu: Mrs. Pankhurst’s Amazons also employ reinforced combat parasols, nicknamed “Sanderson Specials”:

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Jiujitsu versus Boxing in Paris: When Yukio Tani Took On Marc Gaucher

As detailed in the second volume of the Bartitsu Compendium, the year 1906 saw a vehement “boxing versus jiujitsu” debate played out in the pages of some British sporting journals. Many participants were essentially armchair quarterbacks, including a number who argued to the effect that manly English fisticuffs ought to prevail in any such encounter, by simple virtue of being manly and English. Others, however, debated from a more purely practical point of view.

Although the consensus was that a contest of this nature would be difficult to arrange (and might actually be illegal under Edwardian English law, being interpreted as “brawling in a public place”), none of the debaters seem to have been aware that former Bartitsu Club instructor Yukio Tani had actually taken on boxer Marc Gaucher in Paris earlier that same year. Although the Tani/Gaucher contest was quite widely reported via the French athletic media, it seems to have received only a single notice in England by way of The Sporting Life, whose Monday, January 22 issue reported that Tani had fought Gaucher two days earlier.

The combat had taken place at the Bostock Hippodrome in Paris and was fought according to stipulations devised by Gaucher himself, to the effect that:

1. The contest shall comprise ten two-minute rounds, with breaks of one minute.

2. If Yukio Tani cannot make me submit within these ten rounds, I should be declared the winner.

3. Dislocations of the fingers and attacks to the eyes or genitals shall be forbidden; punches are only allowed above the belt and only the normal grips of Jiu-Jitsu shall be permitted.

4. I shall wear eight ounce gloves.

As with the much more famous November, 1905 savate vs. jiujitsu encounter between “Re-Nie” (Ernest Regnier) and Georges Dubois, which had likewise taken place in Paris, the Tani/Gaucher contest was somewhat anticlimactic. During the first two-minute round, both men sparred cautiously and nothing was gained. The second round opened with a bit more action as Gaucher threw some punches, including a right hand that caught Tani on the side of his head, but Tani then found his opportunity to break through Gaucher’s guard and, after a momentary standing struggle, took his opponent to the mat. Moments later Gaucher was forced to submit to Tani’s strangle-hold, and so Tani was declared the winner.

The details of the Tani/Gaucher contest would probably not have surprised anyone with a close practical knowledge of the relative advantages of boxing and jiujitsu circa 1906. As Edward Barton-Wright had noted back in 1901:

Ju-do and Ju-jitsu were not designed as primary means of attack and defence against a boxer or a man who kicks you, but are only supposed to be used after coming to close quarters, and in order to get to close quarters it is absolutely necessary to understand boxing and the use of the foot.

The critique that Japanese unarmed combat was not necessarily equipped to defend against boxing punches was valid, as was the widely-held consensus that a boxer would stand little chance of defending against jiujitsu throws and submission holds should the jiujitsuka manage to penetrate his guard and “get to close quarters”. This is clearly why Barton-Wright and then others, including William Bankier, William Garrud and Percy Longhurst all argued for an intelligent fusion of both styles for purposes of self-defence. Barton-Wright himself had attempted to coach Tani in boxing – possibly with an eye towards arranging a similar bout – but he reported that Tani showed “little aptitude for the sport”.

It’s worth noting that, two years after his fight with Marc Gaucher, Tani did, in fact, compete in a similar contest on British soil, but by that time the boxing vs. jiujitsu debate had calmed down and the combat attracted little notice in the press.

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“Suffragettes to Learn the Art of Jiu-Jitsu” (1909)

These photographs of Edith Garrud in action were originally published in the Daily Mirror of April 13, 1909. At that time, Garrud was inaugurating her “Suffragettes Self-Defence Club” as a separate concern from the Golden Square School of Jujitsu, where she taught along with her husband, William.

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“Charley Smiler Takes Up Ju-Jitsu” (1911): a Unique Filmic Glimpse Back Into British Jujitsu and Suffrajitsu History!

A number of short silent films featuring jujutsu were produced and/or screened in London during the very early 20th century. The intriguing list of titles includes:

  • THE ART OF JU-JITSU (documentary, 1912)
  • SELF DEFENCE (1913)

Unfortunately, aside from their titles and scattered items of production information, these films have defied re-discovery other than The Art of Ju-jitsu documentary of 1912. It’s entirely possible that many of the others may have been lost forever. Recently, however, two major scenes from Charley Smiler Takes Up Ju-Jitsu were found as part of a 1950s-vintage TV compilation of early silent comedies, in which they had been edited together and re-titled Ju-Jitsu-Itus!

Little is known about the original film’s production except that it was directed by David Aylott as part of a series of slapstick comedy shorts starring Fred Evans as “Charley Smiler”. A contemporary and childhood friend of Charlie Chaplin’s, Evans was a highly popular performer during the early 1900s.

Charley Smiler Takes Up Ju-Jitsu was originally released on August 10th of 1911 and then re-released in 1915. Here’s a description of the plot, from The Bioscope of August 3, 1911:

Smiler is one of a number of people who gather outside a booth, inside which a troupe of wrestlers is performing. He is so impressed by the skill of the performers that he seizes a fellow member of the audience and tries to throw him, only himself to be roughly handled by one of the Japs, who pitches him out of the tent.

Smiler begins to practise on others the falls he has been so painfully acquainted with. A pair of lovers are given introduction to the art, and the man takes a flight over Smiler’s shoulder, as does a fisher, who finds himself pitched head first into the water. In a country farmer Smiler meets more than his match, and has such a rough time that he limps away with his liking for ju-jitsu all but cured, though a bout with a tailor’s dummy revives him a little, and he is still further exhilarated by the ease with which he topples over a long row of bobbies.

The next person he runs across, however, knows a little more about ju-jitsu than he does, and though she is only a slight girl, throws him over her shoulder with the greatest of ease.

Although only the opening and closing scenes were preserved in the 1950s compilation, by lucky chance those two scenes are most likely to be of significance to modern viewers with an interest in the early history of jujutsu in the Western world.

Here are the scenes:

At the time this film was produced there was only one full-time martial arts dojo operating in London – the Golden Square School of Jujitsu, which had been founded by former Bartitsu Club instructor Sadakazu Uyenishi in 1903, just about one year after the Bartitsu Club had closed down. Uyenishi himself had demonstrated his art in some film footage shot by the Gaumont Company in 1905 (you can see it reanimated here). When Uyenishi returned to Japan in 1907, management of the Golden Square School passed to his senior students, the husband and wife team of William and Edith Garrud.

Although it’s impossible to be certain, it’s at least likely that the various “stunt performers” featured in Charley Smiler Takes Up Ju-Jitsu were members of the Golden Square dojo. The two gi-clad “booth wrestlers” in the opening scene look like jujutsuka play-acting for the camera, rather than like slapstick actors imitating jujutsu. As a highly trained music hall tumbler, Smiler (Evans) himself was clearly capable of taking his own falls throughout the film.

Most intriguing, though, is the possibility that the jujitsuffragette “Miss U.I. Throwe”, who teaches Charley an object lesson at the end, may also have been a Garrud student, or may even have been played by Edith Garrud herself. She had started teaching a suffragettes-only self-defence club in 1909, and in 1913 she was famously recruited to train the clandestine WSPU Bodyguard; the team of security specialists who defended outlaw suffragettes from assault and arrest.

There are only a few clear photographs of Edith Garrud circa 1911 and the visual quality of the Charley Smiler film isn’t good enough to be able to positively identify “Miss Throwe”, but Edith would have been more than qualified to essay this role – not least because she had previously starred in Ju-jitsu Downs the Footpads, or, the Lady Athlete (1907) – and there is a definite resemblance. While “Miss Throwe” is clearly shorter than Evans, though, it may be that she’s taller than 4’11”, which was Edith Garrud’s reported height.

Regardless of who played “Miss U.I. Throwe”, the jujitsuffragette footage in Charley Smiler is, by some 15 years, the earliest known moving imagery of a woman demonstrating jujutsu and is literally the only film known to exist of “suffrajitsu” in action during the early 20th century.

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Walking Stick Sparring in Chile

Members of the Santiago Stickfighters club exhibit their Integrated Method of stick-fighting, inspired largely by a combination of the Vigny/Bartitsu and Bonafont methods.

The sparring canes are made of a hard polymer composite material, tipped with rubber ball handles.

This non-contact exhibition sparring clip demonstrates the characteristic speed, ambidexterity and versatility of the Integrated Method.

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Taro Miyake Exhibits Jujutsu vs. Boxing (1909)

Taro Miyake (seated second from left in the front row) poses with antagonistic athletes in Paris.

Although it was fairly common for Japanese jujutsuka to engage with Western boxers on the stages of Edwardian London’s music halls, the boxers normally simply wrestled according to jujutsu rules. Occasionally, however, a true mixed-styles bout did take place, as when former Bartitsu Club instructor Yukio Tani took on the pugilist known as Young Joseph or as in this instance, recorded in the Birkenhead News of August 25th, 1909, when Tani’s compatriot Taro Miyake exhibited his jujutsu skills against the boxer Charlie Knock.

The Miyake/Knock “turn” was, however, expressly announced as an exhibition, and it was noted that they would not attempt to hurt each other, so the actual performance was clearly more in the nature of a light sparring contest for demonstration purposes rather than a serious match. They repeated the exhibition at a number of music halls during August and September of 1909.

Noting as usual that the term “Jap” was not used pejoratively in Edwardian English and also that Taro Miyake’s name was frequently rendered by English journalists as “Tarro Myaki”.


A programme of quite exceptional excellence is submitted to patrons of this fine hall this week. From beginning to end the entertainment is of the highest class, and not a dull moment is experienced throughout.

The “top of the bill” is occupied by Tarro Myaki, the celebrated Japanese exponent of the Ju-Jitsu system of self-defence, who not only give a remarkable exposition of the science, but shows how he would defend himself against the attack of a skilled boxer. The representative of boxing is no less a person than Charlie Knock, the welterweight champion of England and the winner of many battles in the ring, so that it will be seen that the Jap has a foeman worthy of his steel.

On Monday evening Myaki endured a good deal of punishment, but brought each of three bouts to a close by throwing the boxer and rendering him helpless by the application of one or other of the “grips” or “holds”, practiced by the Ju-Jitsu expert. The demonstration was much appreciated.

Earlier in the evening a perhaps even more remarkable display of the value of a knowledge of Ju-Jitsu was given by Miss Clarice, the lady champion, who dealt effectually with a realistic looking ruffian impersonated by her partner Euzen, the “soldier juggler,” whose performance, by the way, was one of the features of the night’s entertainment. Every “attack” was foiled with consummate ease, and when the rough, baffled at every turn, produced first a cudgel, then a knife, and finally a revolver, he was even more severely dealt with. There can be no question that a knowledge of the Ju-Jitsu method of defending oneself is extremely valuable, and that the art is well worth the trouble of acquiring.

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“London Athletic Academy Where Ladies Learn Jujitsu” (1908)

When Edward Barton-Wright ceased promoting the Japanese martial arts in England, the cause was taken up by the music hall strongman William Bankier, known professionally as “Apollo, the Scottish Hercules”. This series of photographs shows female students at his Great Newport Street academy being trained by Phoebe Roberts (shown standing at the far right). Miss Roberts was, along with Edith Garrud and Emily (Diana) Watts, one of the first female jujitsu instructors in the Western world.

During the very early 1900s the English media was generally supportive of women learning jujitsu as self-defence and for exercise, but there was a notable change in attitude some six years after this photograph was taken. When Edith Garrud began training members of the radical suffragette Bodyguard team in martial arts, the mainstream media reaction veered markedly towards a kind of hostile condescension.

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“In the Ju Jitsu Hall” (1911)

These cartoons from the June 17, 1911 issue of the Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News illustrate Japanese martial arts displays in the “Ju Jitsu Hall” of London’s Coronation Exhibition. The same venue had also hosted martial arts displays about a year previously, during the Japan-British Exhibition.

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Le Coup du Père François Flipbook Animation (circa 1897-98)

“Uncle Frank’s trick” was anecdotally attributed to a “philosophical Apache”, who reasoned that it was better tactics to temporarily disable a mugging victim without endangering their life.

During the early years of the 20th century, the trick attained a degree of pop-culture infamy as part of the “Apache chic” craze. It was frequently showcased in self-defence manuals of the period – along with various counters – and in the media, including this flip-book produced by Leon Beaulieu.

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