The Bartitsu Club of Chicago

Our premise and approach

Bartitsu was effectively abandoned as a work-in-progress over one hundred and ten years ago, but what if E.W. Barton-Wright’s London School of Arms had continued to thrive?  In collaboration with other Bartitsu clubs and study groups throughout the world, the Bartitsu Club of Chicago is proud to pick up where he left off, reviving and continuing the experiment into the new millennium.

E.W. Barton-Wright recorded the basics of his “New Art” via lectures, interviews, demonstrations and detailed articles, which form the nucleus of “canonical Bartitsu”.  These methods are practiced as a form of living history preservation and also as a common technical and tactical “language” among modern practitioners.  “Neo-Bartitsu” training complements and augments the canon towards an evolving, creative revival as a system of recreational martial arts cross-training with a distinct 19th century twist.

Our venue

Forteza Fitness, Physical Culture and Martial Arts (4437 North Ravenswood Ave., Chicago, IL 60640) is the ideal venue for reviving Bartitsu.  Directly inspired by Barton-Wright’s School of Arms, Forteza features a unique late-Victorian theme; brick walls and a high timber ceiling enclose 5000 square feet of training space, including our “gymuseum” of functional antique exercise apparatus.

We share the Forteza studio with groups including the Chicago Swordplay Guild and the Asylum Stunt Team as well as a variety of personal training, fitness and self defense classes.

Free street parking is almost always available on Ravenswood and Forteza is only a two minute walk from the Montrose Brown Line station.

Our classes

Bartitsu classes at Forteza run from 6.30-8.00 on Thursday evenings (“combat lab” cross-training skill drills and sparring).

Thursday night classes are currently closed to new participants but private classes or introductory seminars can be arranged by contacting

A typical Bartitsu class includes calisthenics, specialized movement drills, study of several of the canonical sequences and neo-Bartitsu “combat improvisation” training, including various types of sparring. Our training is skill-centered rather than technique-centered; everyone does the same drills and exercises, with beginners performing simpler versions and more advanced students doing more complex and challenging versions.

Training is moderately strenuous and you should contact us in advance (email if you have any physical challenges that might affect your safety or athletic performance during the class. As a Bartitsu Club of Chicago member, you are also welcome to use our “gymuseum” collection of antique exercise equipment.

Bartitsu Club of Chicago classes are friendly, active and positive, with elements of circa 1900 formality.  Swearing is strongly discouraged and all participants are expected to behave courteously.

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