Since a catastrophic technical failure of the original Bartitsu.org site in April of 2019, we have been working behind the scenes to recover and restore the site, primarily via the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine.
The restoration process has been laborious but we’ve now recovered the great majority of the nearly 1000 items posted on Bartitsu.org between 2008-2019, including all of the significant technical and historical articles.
For the time being, please pardon our dust; correcting internal links is an ongoing process and we’ll amend this post as and when that’s completed.
During the reconstruction the posts have unavoidably become chronologically disordered. Most of them now begin with a note recording the date when they were originally posted.
We’d also like to draw your attention to the new and significantly expanded Categories menu on the right-hand side of the page. This feature will allow you to quickly and easily locate posts within a wide range of themes, supplementing the ever-useful search box.
This event has highlighted the fragility of electronic media and plans are afoot to produce a third volume of the Bartitsu Compendium, to be made available in printed as well as e-book formats, in order to further preserve the best of the research presented here since the publication of the second volume in 2008.
In the meantime, we hope you enjoy the Bartitsu Society website 2.0!
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To celebrate the revival of the Bartitsu Society website, here’s a newly-discovered and unusually thorough article demonstrating some of Madame Marguerite Vigny’s umbrella self-defence system.Mme. Vigny’s style was adapted from her husband Pierre’s method, which addressed the use of umbrellas as well as gentlemanly walking canes as weapons of self-protection.
Notably, the last section of this article offers the most detailed demonstration ever found of the Vigny system’s signature counter to an attack with a heavily-buckled belt swung as a flail.This technique was alluded to or partially illustrated in other sources, but is here presented in full for the first time in 117 years.
Does everybody know what a hooligan is? Probably. But, in case there is some who have not heard the name, it may be as well to state briefly what it means. Well, hooligan is the distinctive title given to young London roughs who waylay and rob unsuspecting passersby in some secluded street where help is not likely to be promptly forthcoming.
Occasionally the hooligan hunts in packs or gangs of from three upwards; and his robberies, unlike those of the ordinary pickpocket, are almost invariably accompanied by violence, the favorite weapon being a stout belt, heavy with buckles.
The name hooligan originated with the leaders of a notorious gang of roughs which made its appearance in the East End some a few years ago.
Now we can start comfortably.
There is a certain young gentleman and inhabitant of Houndsditch, rejoicing in the name of Alf Smith, over whose disposition has lately come, a sudden and extraordinary change.
Three months ago Mr. Smith was the terror of his neighborhood – more like a wild beast than a man, he had never done an honest days work in his life; subsisting entirely on the products of that form of robbery known as hooliganism. Now, Mr. Smith is very nearly a model character. He works hard all day, and amuses himself soberly of an evening. One peculiar characteristic he has also developed which must be mentioned – the site of a lady in a quiet street carrying an umbrella fills him with a sudden terror, he trembles violently, and crosses the road promptly.
This is how it all came about.
One evening Alf was lurking in a doorway on Berners Street, fingering a heavy leathern belt started with nails and brasswork. The pavements were deserted, the night was foggy – Mr. Smith was in his element.
An evil smile crept over his face as presently he observed a lady come out of a house a short distance below him, and advance rapidly in his direction.
Now, unfortunately for poor Alf, the house from whence this lady appeared was number 18 – number 18, at which a certain Professor Vigny is wont to instruct ladies in the methods of self-defense here shown; whilst the lady advancing toward Mr. Smith was one of Professor Vigny’s most apt pupils. But all of this poor, deluded Alf knew nothing.
He crouched back in the shadows of the wall. The lady passed him. In her hand Mr. Smith gleefully observed a purse.
“Lucky for her, “said Mr. Smith to himself. “I won’t hit her . I’ll just grab her purse and scoot.”
Out from his hiding place he slipped, grabbed her purse with a dexterity born of long practice – and turned to “scoot.”
Well, he “scooted” precisely one step, and at the next moment he found himself lying flat on his face, having fallen with considerable violence, as the result of his leg being deftly “crooked” by his assailant’s umbrella.
Mr. Smith was too annoyed for words! Springing to his feet, he rushed in savagely at the lady – received the point of her umbrella full in the throat, threw up his arms at the shock, felt his leg crooked again, and fell with a crash – backwards this time!
Imagine his feelings! In all the course of his 23 years Alf had never heard of such brutal treatment – much less met with it! The thing was an outrage!
Up he scrambled, savage madness in his bloodshot eyes; unclasped the murderous belt from around his waist, and delivered, with the full swing of his arm, one of those blows which had laid so many persons senseless and bleeding at his feet – but not this person!
With lightning quickness the belt was caught as it descended; down on the unhappy Alf’s head came of the handle of that hateful umbrella with a force causing him to relinquish his hold with a cry, and then – well, what followed then only the lady could tell you. To poor Alf it was nothing but a hideous nightmare of blows , and digs, and tripping and shoves, till finally he lay gasping and half senseless on the pavement, nearly stunned by a sharp blow on the temple delivered with the handle of the umbrella.
Then the lady sauntered off. Mr. Smith, picking himself up and feeling himself all over very tenderly, in order to try to find an unwounded spot, limped painfully off in the opposite direction – a reformed character. Never again, he vowed, would he attempt any form of street robbery. The game was not good enough, now that the victim might very well be able to take a hand in it also.
Whilst the thing was a one-sided form of pleasure, giving a little excitement, considerable gain, and practically no risk, it was alright and very simple and delightful.
But now it was no longer one-sided – well, clearly, it wasn’t worth it. Your true hooligan, you see, has no heart for a fair fight, and, accordingly, from that moment Mr. Smith definitely abandoned his former pursuits and settled down to a quieter and less risky mode of life.
So much for poor Alf!
But Mr. Smith has his counterparts by the hundred all over England, whilst such hooligan – tamers as the lady he met are very few and far between. Yet, imagine want confidence and self-reliance the ability to use this system of self-defense must impart to a lady.
No longer need the fair readers of the Royal fear to walk certain streets in their neighborhood; which, though “much quicker,” have always to be avoided on account of their unenviable reputation. No longer, either, need these ladies be dependent on their male friends before indulging in a long country walk.
All that is required is a short study of the accompanying photographs, a crook handled umbrella or stick – and there you are! Though, of course, much greater proficiency in the art is to be attained by attending at the school in Berners Street.
Furthermore, it may be said that strength is by no means a necessity for the proper carrying out of these methods of self-defense. The most delicate woman – provided she has the use of her limbs and her eyes – is as well fitted to make use of them as our remote more muscular and athletic sisters.
It is not, of course, to be imagine that the only methods of attack favored by hooligans and the like are those shown in the photographs accompanying this article – and hence the exact motions of self-defence they’re employed are by no means invariably possible or suitable.
But the system on which the whole scheme is built up is entirely reliable and may be adapted to meet any form of assault with the greatest success. in the hands of a skillful person a stick or umbrella may be a terribly effective weapon.
Take, for example, the “lunge” shown in pictures number four and five (below). Here the umbrella is – or may be – used to inflict a thrust almost equal and it’s stopping power to that of a sword. The weight of the whole body is concentrated with tremendous force behind the sharp, stabbing blow which will be delivered , and the shock to the assailant is one before which he must reel helplessly; whilst, if the point entered the eye, the result could not be other than fatal.
It is, in fact, this use of the point which makes the umbrella so deadly a weapon.
A shower of aimless blows at one’s assailant would be of a very little use. But the points – that is entirely a different affair! And it is quite safe to say that no hooligan, having once met it, could ever risk encountering it again.
Assane Diop (Omar Sy) – a disguised master thief on a righteous mission, whose playbook is inspired by the legendary gentleman-burglar Arsene Lupin – takes on multiple opponents in this scene from the action/drama series Lupin.
Bartitsu aficionados will appreciate the use of several techniques verbatim from the canon, including the hook around the neck, a hook to the ankle takedown and the famous “bayonette”.
It is always most desirable to try to entice your adversary to deliver a certain blow, and so place yourself at a great advantage by being prepared to guard it, and to deliver your counter-blow.
– E.W. Barton-Wright, Self-Defence With a Walking Stick (1901)
The Vigny method of stick fighting is notable for its variety of invitations, or guard positions that close off certain lines of attack while deliberately exposing a particular target so as to provoke an opponent’s attack to that target. Of the twenty-two set-plays detailed in E.W. Barton-Wright’s stick fighting essays, thirteen make use of the tactic of invitation from a wide range of guards. The remainder all employ variations of feinting and preemptive striking.
This article highlights the various applications of “baiting” within the canonical Bartitsu stick repertoire and underscores the practical utility of fighting tactically and ambidextrously.
The Double-Handed Guard
The unmodified double-handed guard invites an attack to the body, or it may be adjusted to bait the opponent into attacking the defender’s lead hand or head.
The Front (Right) Guard and variations
By slightly lifting the front guard so that it doesn’t directly threaten the opponent’s face, the defender invites an attack to the midsection.
This lowered version of the front guard, sometimes mistaken for an orthodox fencing-style guard in tierce or quarte, is intended to bait the opponent into attacking the head or face.
This low rear version of the front guard dramatically reduces the visual threat of the cane and invites an attack to the head.
Widening the front guard also invites an attack to the head.
The Rear (Left) Guard and variants
The defender baits an attack to his left hand, setting the opponent up for a “guard by distance” counter-attack to the head.
By widening the rear guard and extending his head forward, the defender baits a head attack, preparing the “guard by distance” as a counter-strike to the attacker’s weapon hand.
By dramatically lowering the cane while guarding his torso with his left arm, the defender invites the attacker’s left lead punch to the head.
Guards and invitations in action
Notice the wide range of guard positions and tactical invitations in this Bartitsu stickfighting free-play session from the Alte Kampfkunst school.
Originally published on the Bartitsu.org site on Wednesday, 3rd September 2008
Robert Downey, Jr., who is to star in an upcoming Sherlock Holmes feature film being directed by Guy Ritchie, was quoted in Premiere Magazine as saying:
“We’re both martial arts enthusiasts and historically, in the real origin stories of Sherlock Holmes, he’s kind of a bad-ass and a bare-knuckle boxer and studies the rare art of baritsu [fictional martial art created by Doyle for the final Holmes story, 1901’s The Adventure Of The Empty House]. If you look baritsu up, they can’t even really tell you what it is, so it gives us a lot of leeway.”
“Baritsu”, of course, was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s misspelling of Bartitsu. Since Mr. Downey is a Wing Chun kung fu enthusiast and director Ritchie is a brown belt in Brazilian jiujitsu, their cinematic version of Holmes’ martial art may well pack quite a punch …
Originally posted on the Bartitsu.org site on Thursday, 25th September 2008
This footage was recorded at the International Swordfighting and Martial Arts Conference in Michigan, USA, between July 12-15, 2007. It features a series of mostly canonical Bartitsu unarmed combat and cane demonstrations by myself, with Kirk Lawson assisting.
The theme of the seminar was to use a small selection of canonical and some neo-Bartitsu techniques and sequences to explore two major principles:
1) alignment control, or using your own weight and skeletal structure to disrupt the opponent’s balance and 2) initiative control, either by inviting a particular attack or by executing a pre-emptive attack to control the opponent’s options and movement.
Thus, we were primarily using these sequences as academic examples of certain technical and tactical options, rather than as self defence or competition sequences per se.
The defence between 00.56 and 01.00 is a neo-Bartitsu improvisation combining a number of techniques (palm-heels, a trachea grab, low stamping kick etc.) to reinforce the theme of controlling the opponent’s balance and skeletal alignment.
Thanks to Bartitsu Society member Chris Amendola for editing the footage.
Originally published on the Bartitsu.org site on Monday, 27th October 2008
Next weekend James Marwood will be teaching a short Bartitsu class at the Swordfish event in Gothenburg. There’s a fair bit of interest, including this (translated) quote from a Swedish MMA magazine:
Bartitsu is particularly exciting, because had it not been for the books about Sherlock Holmes, we would most likely not know anything about the first time western martial arts where mixed with Japanese jiu-jiutsu,” explains, Annika Corneliusson, head of GHFS.
Sherlock Holmes and the suffragettes Sir Arthur Conan Doyle mentions “Baritsu” in one of his books, when the famous detective tells of his knowledge in self defense. Bartitsu, which is the real name, was created as a hybrid between jiu-jiutsu, western wrestling, boxing, savate (French kickboxing) and cane fighting by the English engineer Edward William Barton-Wright, who had spent a few years working with railways in Japan. Now these techniques are taught for the first time in Sweden by self defence instructor James Marwood from London, UK.
“This is actually a very important part of the European history, not just because of Sherlock Holmes, but also because the suffragette movement trained Bartitsu to be able to defend themselves against attacks by the police,” says Annika Corneliusson.
Originally published on the Bartitsu.org site on Wednesday, 5th November 2008
Popular science fiction author Neal Stephenson’s comments on Bartitsu, from a recent interview with the UK Daily Telegraph:
“So we’d mostly been doing longsword, in my little group,” says Stephenson. Ropes of muscle on his forearms attest to this, as do the pictures online of a Stephenson-designed spring-loaded practice sword that flexes on impact to soften a blow. “But we became interested in cane-fighting, which was taught in London a hundred years ago or so as part of this school of Bartitsu, founded by EW Barton-Wright, a railway engineer who’d picked up ju-jitsu in Japan. And he brought in a Swiss guy called Vigny who’d taken informal methods of walking-stick-fu and codified them into a system called la canne: he taught the part of the curriculum which involved fighting with walking sticks.”
No way, I say.
“Yeah. There’s a whole curriculum over fighting with bicycles. Pictures of an Edwardian lady in a floor-length dress and a huge hat with flowers, riding primly down a country lane, and when a ruffian comes out she uses some trick with the bicycle to flatten him and rides off. It’s great stuff. The bicycles we’re not sure how to approach, but we’ve created a little assembly line to make rattan canes, with a knob on the end. But there’s, you know, how to use a bicycle pump as a weapon. How to defend yourself with a parasol. Crazy.”