“The Gentle Art of Chucking-Out and Midnight Murder”

  • Originally published on the Bartitsu.org site on Monday, 27th July 2015

From “The Truth”, March 16, 1899:

"Fencing and Bartitsu at the Bath Club" - from the Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News.  Captain Alfred Hutton and W.H. Grenfell demonstrate rapier and dagger fencing, while E.W. Barton-Wright displays Japanese unarmed combat.

Very interesting indeed was the display of Elizabethan sword-play at the Bath Club last week. Messrs. Fraser, Johnson, Cooke, Gate, and the President, Mr. Grenfell, Captains Hutton and Matthey, all showed pretty play with swords, rapiers, and cloaks. The President’s leave-taking before he descended into the arena, or rather on to the bridge of sighs, for the platform is over the centre of the swimming bath, was most pathetic. A two-handed sword broke clean in half. Where was it made? In Germany? There was a large crowd of spectators, and such exhibitions should popularise sword-play.

But the chief attraction was the lecture and display by Mr. Barton-Wright, of the noble science of Bartitsu. It might be described vulgarly as the gentle art of chucking-out (1) and midnight murder. Unfortunately, Mr. Barton-Wright had been chucked out by a cab the day before, and could not, therefore, give a full display. He generously invited all members present as his guests to a public display at the St. James’s Hall. However, despite a bad knee, he was able to show some of the interesting methods of this system of overpowering an opponent. Limbs can be broken at a moment’s notice, and strangulation can be induced in a few seconds. Of course, nothing so ghastly happens-an opponent wisely surrenders. But the method is invaluable for political meetings. Certified Bartitsuers should command a high price at election times (2).

The full display and lecture should certainly be well worth seeing. The lecturer should try to deliver his remarks more slowly. His enunciation is too rapid at times. Owing to his accident he had to shorten his display, and so Dr. Higgens and Instructor Drake had a few lively rounds with gloves, and some pretty trick swimming was added.

(1) – The expression “chucking-out” referred to the occupation and activities of what we would now think of as bouncers or door supervisors.  Subsequent newspaper reports suggest that E.W. Barton-Wright took strong exception to the association of Bartitsu with “chucking-out”, presumably because he was attempting to promote it as self-defence for members of the “educated classes”.

(2) – “Chuckers-out” were in particular demand re. ejecting hecklers from political rallies.

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