In December of 2017 we were pleased to publish an article confirming former Bartitsu Club member Percy Rolt as the “missing link” between the Bartitsu Club and Indian Police Superintendant Herbert Gordon Lang’s 1923 book “The ‘Walking Stick’ Method of Self-Defence”.
Originally published in 1912, the following article details the training offered at Percy Rolt’s Hove gymnasium, which was where Rolt had originally trained Lang in the Vigny style of stick fighting.
Of special interest is that the list of disciplines taught at the Hove gym encompassed the entire range of antagonistics that Rolt had practiced at the Bartitsu Club circa 1900-1902, even including the “ancient swordplay” Rolt had learned from Captain Alfred Hutton, the Bartitsu Club fencing master. This strongly implies that the Hove gym was, along with Pierre Vigny’s London-based School of Arms, one of the few locations in England where “Bartitsu” continued to be practiced, albeit not by that name.
The article also seems to confirm that Rolt took over the management of the the Hove gym in late 1912, and we know that Lang trained in a combination of stick fighting and jiujitsu there between May of 1920 and September of 1921. Allowing that we don’t know whether Rolt taught Vigny stick fighting etc. as a regular subject, or whether he may have revived its practice due to Lang’s specialist interest, that timeline does open up the intriguing possibility of a “Bartitsu survival” that lasted far longer than the activity of Barton-Wright’s original club in Shaftesbury Avenue.
“Mens sana in corpore sano,” may be a hackneyed quotation, but no one will venture to question its wisdom. To attain the physical, less than the mental ideal, proper instruction and guidance are necessary, and nowhere can this be better obtained than the Gymnasium, Holland-road, which under the experienced and successful direction of Mr. Percy S. Rolt.
At this admirable institution, which is equipped on thoroughly up-to-date and scientific lines, a system of exercises is pursued, which, while keeping the pupils interested and amused, develops both their physical and mental powers. Every movement is performed with some definite object, and one could go through course without gaining greatly in health, presence of mind, confidence and individuality. The public classes begin next week, and are arranged to suit children, youths, and young ladies, while special classes are also held and private lessons given for spinal curvatures and other deformities.
The subjects taught include musical drills of all kinds, Swedish exercises, Swedish gymnastics, La Savate (French boxing), ancient sword play, American ball punching. Cadets Corps military drill, shooting, cycling, fencing, boxing, wrestling, Japanese self-defence, single stick, walking stick defence, hockey, swimming, football, tennis, and net or basket ball.
Associated with Mr. Rolt is Miss Ethel West, who gives lessons in every type of ball-room and fancy dancing, deportment, calisthenics, and breathing exercises. Miss West is well-known in connection with the very successful “Mid Summer Night’s Dream” entertainment, recently performed at the Royal Pavilion, in conjunction with the Brighton Municipal Orchestra.
Mr. Rolt has many testimonials from headmasters, medical men. Army officers, etc., all speaking in the highest terms of the excellence of his system. The late Colonel Onslow, recognized expert, stated at the competition in 1910, that he had never seen many young people do such advanced and scientific work in such perfect style.