E.W. Barton-Wright’s birthday

  • Originally published on the Bartitsu.org site on Sunday, 9th November 2008

November 8th marks the 148th anniversary of the birth of E.W. Barton-Wright, the founder of Bartitsu.  He was born in Bangalore, India in the year 1860, the son of William Barton Wright, locomotive Superintendant of Madras Railways, and Janet Wright.


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Bartitsu demo. at the Frazier Museum

  • Originally published on the Bartitsu.org site on Friday, 23rd January 2009

A Bartitsu demonstration was presented recently at the Frazier International History Museum (829 West Main Street, Louisville, Kentucky, USA).  Based on a format developed for a similar demonstration by members of the British Royal Armouries interpretation team in 2001, the Frazier demo. was performed by actors playing the roles of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson.

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First fight-related pic. from new movie?

  • Originally published on the Bartitsu.org site on Friday, 23rd January 2009

This image from the upcoming Sherlock Holmes movie shows a bloodied Holmes (Robert Downey, Jr.)  standing in what may be a dog-fighting arena.  Bare-knuckle boxing, perhaps?

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“Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” fight scenes

  • Originally published on the Bartitsu.org site on Thursday, 29th January 2009

As an experienced stick fighter, boxer and expert in “baritsu”, Sherlock Holmes came close to E.W. Barton-Wright’s ideal of Bartitsu.  Here’s a selection of fight sequences from the classic 1984 – 1994 Granada Television series The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes, starring Jeremy Brett as Holmes:

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Houston Meet-Up

  • Originally published on the Bartitsu.org site on Tuesday, 17th March 2009

Scott Brown, a swordsmanship instructor in Houston recently met up with the Bartitsu Society’s Chris Amendola, and provided this report

Through recommendations from James Marwood and Alex Kiermeyer I recently made contact with a local Gentleman here in the Houston area named Chris Amendola, a Bartitsu specialist with a mentionable Eastern martial arts background.

Chris was kind enough to come by the training hall yesterday and offer an introductory workshop and lecture on E.W. Barton Wrights ‘mixed martial arts’ self defence system. I am extremely happy to report that he did a very fine job of not only giving a fairly thorough, if concise, overview of the system but also accommodating to the significantly wide variety of skill levels of the attending participants. While he did discuss some of the jujitsu elements of Bartitsu he was kind enough to focus the workshop on the Vigny cane aspects, covering a classification of techniques he termed “Guard by Distance”, making special emphasis on the very interesting Bartitsu ‘hanging guard’ (my term). Chris did a great job of keeping the class interesting and moving along as he demonstrated what I would consider to be a graspable number of defensive and offensive techniques, variations, and a number of counters to these. Personally, I was exceptionally pleased that he was able to take a number of our more experienced fencers out of their comfort zone by emphasizing Bartitsu’s rather unique ‘inverted overhand strike’ (my term) which is executed with some very interesting voiding footwork (nearly a demi-volta of sorts).

I am also happy to report that not only does Chris have a good ability to identify context and circumstance but also how they very importantly relate to fencing/fighting. He very capably demonstrated a number of tactical based decision making scenarios and almost nonchalantly discussed how they interplay with his interpretations of the plays in the Bartitsu system. I confess this was a pleasant surprise and excited me to know that such an informed and talented fellow is very nearly here in my own back yard. Additionally, he did a great job of being honest when he wasn’t sure about something when subjected to the customary grueling questions put forth by some of our gang and very admirably put serious thought into his responses, producing viable and coherent arguments only moments later. Very respectable in my book.

On the practical side, Chris was not only willing to fence but eager as anyone I’ve met and he further impressed me by not only wishing to fence using his Vigny, Cunningham and, I think, Lang cane understandings but also asked to fence against both the longsword and sword and buckler. Obviously, these are fencing systems that were never meant or designed to face each other and that only speaks to Chris’ good HEMA attitude. We also indulged him by playing at baton vs. baton with he and I going extra rounds we were having so much fun! The best part is Chris clearly is a man of mentionable skill, tactical understanding, and the ability to adapt. His unfamiliar, to us, methods definitely presented our gang with some new challenges and I suspect that he in turn found a few (but hopefully exciting) hurdles from our crowd. Bruises were shared all round, as it should be! Chris has a unique over/under/over strike combination that is faster than anyone I’ve yet to meet in a one handed weapon and he has a very dynamic and mobile style of fencing. He also put his money where his mouth is by capably demonstrating the unique ‘inverted overhand’ strike when fencing which was particularly fun to observe in addition to presenting some interesting challenges.

In short, it is my opinion that Chris Amendola is an excellent representative for Bartitsu as a functioning martial art. I think he poses great potential for growing this art, has a great attitude towards sharing, exchanging, training, and HEMA in general. And on top of it all, he’s a heck of a nice guy. If you get the chance, don’t miss an opportunity to train with Chris! I’m certainly looking forward to working with him in the future.

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Dr. Emelyne Godfrey Writes on Bartitsu

  • Originally published on the Bartitsu.org site on Friday, 24th April 2009

Noted Bartitsu historian Emelyne Godfrey has written an article for History Today. It can be read in their online edition here. She will also be giving a talk at the upcoming conference ‘Arthur Conan Doyle and Sherlock Holmes: Their Cultural Afterlives’ at the University of Hull on the 4th of July 2009.

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Members of the Original Bartitsu Club

  • Originally published on the Bartitsu.org site on Sunday, 26th April 2009

Although E.W. Barton-Wright’s martial arts school was only open for a few years, it attracted some notable members and students.

Sir Cosmo Duff Gordon was a keen fencer who also studied Swiss wrestling at the Club, under the tutelage of Armand Cherpillod.  Gordon later achieved notoriety as one of the few adult male survivors of the sinking of the RMS Titanic; he was charged with having bribed the lifeboat crew members not to rescue others from the water, though his defence was that he was grateful to them and was trying to reward their courage.

Captain Alfred Hutton taught historical fencing classes at the Bartitsu Club and also appears to have studied jiujitsu there.  Along with his colleague, the novelist Egerton Castle, Hutton was largely responsible for reviving the practice of competitive fencing in England during the late 19th century, and their studies of “ancient swordplay” – the use of the rapier and dagger, two-handed sword, etc. – presaged the modern Historical European Martial Arts movement by the best part of a century.

Captain (later Sir) Ernest George Stenson Cooke and Captain Frank Herbert Whittow were members of both the Bartitsu Club and of Hutton’s training group at the London Rifle Brigade’s School of Arms.  They participated in numerous martial arts exhibitions, including several that combined Bartitsu with historical fencing, at the turn of the 20th century.

Captain F.C. Laing was a keen Bartitsu student who cross-trained in jiujitsu and Vigny stick fighting while on leave from the Army.  Returning to active duty in India, Laing wrote an article describing his training and detailing a number of Vigny/Bartitsu walking stick defence techniques.

William Henry Grenfell, the 1st Baron Desborough, was described by a contemporary as being “the very pattern and model of an English sporting gentleman.”  A fencer, big-game hunter and mountaineer, he swam the rapids at Niagara Falls twice, climbed the Matterhorn three times, rowed across the English Channel and was the amateur punting champion of the upper Thames.  Bartitsu would probably have counted amongst his milder pursuits.

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“Introductory Bartitsu” DVD review

  • Originally published on the Bartitsu.org site on Tuesday, 28th April 2009
Introductory Bartitsu

“Introductory Bartitsu” is a new instructional DVD by Allen Reed of the Gallowglass Academy.

Allen begins with an accurate precis of Bartitsu history and then takes viewers through American catch-as-catch-can wrestler Farmer Burns’ warmup routine, focusing on isometric and calisthenic exercises.

The next section introduces basic jiujitsu ukemi techniques (side, front and rear breakfalls) and this is followed by an introduction to some of Barton-Wright’s atemi-waza (striking techniques) as detailed in his Pearson’s Magazine articles.

Subsequent sections take us through many of the jiujitsu techniques demonstrated in B-W’s “New Art of Self Defence” articles, with occasional neo-Bartitsu variations based on Allen’s background in Miyama-ryu jiujitsu and Paracombatives; a complementary section on throwing and counter-throwing from classic pugilism; basic boxing, drawing largely from “Boxing” by R.G. Allanson-Winn; two fundamental low kicks drawn from the savate repertoire and a thorough sampling of the Vigny/Bartitsu cane fighting techniques from B-W’s “Self Defence with a Walking Stick” articles.

The presentation is simple and straightforward, as a progression of individual techniques demonstrated from both sides, often several times.  Allen explains the techniques as they are being demonstrated by himself and his assistant Chris Vail.  The video and sound quality is clear.

In sum, this 1 hour, 33 minute DVD from Gallowglass is a concise, no-frills introduction to largely canonical Bartitsu techniques.  It should be of particular use to beginners, especially those working from volume I of the Bartitsu Compendium.

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Bartitsu fight scene in “Sherlock Holmes” (2009)

  • Originally published on the Bartitsu.org site on Wednesday, 6th May 2009
Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey, Jr.) fends off two ruffians.
Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey, Jr.) fends off two ruffians.

According to USA Today:

“It’s a kind of Japanese street fighting,” explains director Guy Ritchie.  “It uses walking sticks, bowler hats, choke holds to put people to sleep – any means possible.”  The form of martial arts was invented in England in the late 1800s and was mentioned by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (he used the term “baritsu”) in one of his stories.

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Not Your Grandfather’s Sherlock Holmes …

  • Originally published on the Bartitsu.org site on Tuesday, 19th May 2009

The first official trailer for the upcoming Holmes movie, evidently calculated to outrage purists and attract the attention of a younger audience.

Holmes’ “baritsu” is not identical to E.W. Barton-Wright’s Bartitsu, but still, the trailer shows us bare-knuckle boxing, stick fighting, a jiujitsu-like throw and a savate-like kick.  By establishing the equation of “Victorian London” and “martial arts”, the new movie risks making Bartitsu cool ..

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