Who Was the Bartitsu Club’s Mysterious “Instructor Hubert”?

  • Originally published on the Bartitsu.org site on Friday, 1st September 2017
The Bartitsu Club instructor known only as “Hubert” demonstrates the Front Guard of Vigny stick fighting.

The roster of instructors at E.W. Barton-Wright’s Bartitsu School of Arms included Pierre Vigny (savate and walking stick defence), Yukio Tani and Sadakazu Uyenishi (jiujitsu), Armand Cherpillod (wrestling and physical culture), Captain Alfred Hutton (fencing) and Kate Behnke (calisthenics and breathing exercises).

An anonymous feature article on the Bartitsu Club appearing in the Black and White Budget magazine of December, 1900, however, introduces a seventh instructor, named only as “Hubert”.  Hubert is also shown in two of the photographs illustrating that article, partnering Vigny in demonstrating boxing/savate and stick fighting techniques.

While the Black and White Budget feature is the only known source that directly refers to Hubert, he may have been obliquely referred to in an article from The Sketch of April, 1901.  The author of Defence Against “Hooligans”: Bartitsu Methods in London writes that:

The Bartitsu Club, through its Professors, over whom Mr. Barton-Wright keeps an admonishing eye, guarantees you against all danger. In one corner is M. Vigny, the World’s Champion with the single-stick: the Champion who is the acknowledged master of savate trains his pupils in another.

Given that most sources list Vigny himself as the Club’s savate instructor, it’s possible that Hubert was still teaching savate there in April, 1901.

Research suggests that this mystery instructor may well have been Hubert Desruelles, a young former student of Parisian savate master Charles Charlemont.  The best evidence lies in comparing these two pictures, the first showing “Hubert” boxing with Vigny in 1900:

… and the second showing Hubert Desruelles in 1910:

Although not conclusive, the physical resemblance is striking.

Along with his brother Jean, Hubert Desruelles was active in French savate and boxing circles during the early 20th century, and the brothers ran their own savate academies in Lille and Robaix from circa 1900 – 1914.  Given his infrequent appearance in Bartitsu-related media, it may be that Hubert joined the Bartitsu Club staff on a temporary and/or casual basis during a visit to London.

Sadly, the athletic career of Hubert Desruelles – who had once held the title of French champion at the English style of boxing – was cut short when he was badly wounded in both arms during the First World War.

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