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Posts Tagged ‘bartitsu’

In his ongoing effort to open the parlor room door to the vigorous martial arts (aka “antagonistics”) world of late Victorian London, our friend and author Tony Wolf has recently blogged offering not a glimpse into the Bartitsu Club of Barton-Wright, not in his words, but those of the ancient swordplay pioneer, Captain Alfred Hutton.

“Before bringing my passing recollections to a close as regards people I have met, and as having been more especially connected with the use of defensive and offensive weapons, I should like to refer to my friend Monsieur Pierre Vigny, a Swiss gentleman, devoted to all athletic exercises, and certainly master of the art of self defence by means of an ordinary walking-stick, a Malacca cane being preferred.  The exercise is most useful in case of attack by footpads, most interesting as a sport, and most exhilarating in a game. It beats single-stick.  However, it would take far too long for me to give further explanations.

There is another new development of athleticism which I strongly advocate, viz., Ju-jitsu, or Japanese wrestling.  I am too old to go in for regular wrestling as it obtains in Japan, easy as it may look, but my good friends Uyenishi and Tani put me up to about eighty kata, or tricks, which even at my age may one day or another come in useful. In modified form the art might be advantageously practised by a small boy when meeting a great hulking bully; indeed, the successful way in which a twelve-year-old friend of mine who knew some tricks of Japanese wrestling floored his parent in my presence was most instructive in spite of its apparent disrespect.

My Japanese friends tell me it is one of the most amusing sights to watch the little native policemen in Japan throwing and capturing huge, stalwart, European sailors who have supped not wisely but too well.”

You can read more about Hutton’s thoughts, and how he later made use of Tani and Uyenishi’s lessons in Captain Hutton writes about his friends at the Bartitsu Club.

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t seems that Sherlock Holmes’ “forgotten” martial art is slowly, but steadily, seeping into the public consciousness!

While Tony Wolf has been busy writing about and documenting Bartitsu history for years, we told you recently about the newly formed Bartitsu Club of Chicago, his experiment in on-going, progressive training in both canonical and neo-bartitsu. The Bartitsu Club is not only the newest member of a growing, informal association of clubs and training groups around the world, but it has found an ideal home at Forteza Fitness, Physical Culture and Martial Arts. Directly inspired by Barton-Wright’s School of Arms, Forteza features a unique late-19th century theme; brick walls and a high timber ceiling enclosing 5000 square feet of training space, including a “gymuseum” of functional antique exercise apparatus.

Only two months into its existence, and the club is already getting some good press. Click on the highlighted text to read the article Martial Arts, Victorian Style: Bartitsu at Forteza Fitness Brings Back the Lost Fighting Art of Sherlock Holmes, by New City journalist Kristen Micek. Another new article on the Bartitsu Club at Forteza Fitness is available here: Blast into the Past.

You can also watch a short video impression of the recent Open House held at Forteza Fitness, Physical Culture and Martial Arts, featuring demonstrations by the Chicago Swordplay Guild, the Bartitsu Club of Chicago and the Asylum Stunt Team.

Meanwhile, Bartitsu is also doing well in its homeland of Britain. It was recently featured in a 3.5 minute segment on Britian’s popular TV magazine, The One Show. The show features an interview with Emelyne Godfrey and a Bartitsu fight scene choreographed by Ran Arthur Braun, performed by Braun, “One Show” co-host Gyles Brandreth and Ajay Jackson and Ashley Patricks:


Finally, but certainly not least, the “jujutsu suffragette” Edith Garrud is back in the news, a mere forty years after her death! Far more than just a “women’s rights” group, the suffragettes were a formidable fighting force – in more ways than one. The leaders of the fight for women’s votes had their own elite bodyguard, trained in jujitsu, to protect them from the police. The suffragettes and their role in the history of Edwardian antagonistics at large, and Bartitsu in particular is documented in Bartitsu: The Lost Martial Art of Sherlock Holmes, and you can both read more about Edith Garrud, who was the jujitsu and self defence trainer of the Suffragette Bodyguard society and see a humorous nod to these ladies from this presentation at last year’s Western Martial Arts Workshop:

All in all, it’s a fine time to be a bartitsuka!

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lthough the pioneering work of Alfred Hutton and Egerton Castle is well-known to students of Historical European Martial Arts, far-fewer are aware of the expansive, and longer-lasting, efforts of their “spiritual heir”, George Dubois (1865 – 1934).

Dubois was a professional sculptor and Olympic athlete, who had studied savate and fencing since childhood, and became inspired by a display of “Ancient Swordplay” involving Hutton and Castle, which he saw in Brussels in 1894. By 1906, Dubois had become interested in the intellectual and physical challenges of reviving archaic systems of fence. His first project was the reconstruction of Roman gladiatorial combat between a retiarius (net and trident fighter) and a myrmillo (sword and shield fighter), to be demonstrated at an “ancient sports” festival in Tourcoing.

Myrmillion vs Retiarus – Dubois’ method of reconstructing gladiatorial combat prefigured the “living archaeology” movement by almost seven decades.

For the next several years, Dubois continued to combine his interests in the fine, performing and martial arts. In 1916 he produced a book, Comment se Defendre  presenting a notably realistic fusion of Japanese and French self-defence techniques, reminiscent of Barton-Wright’s Bartitsu. His daughter, Mathilde, played the role of the defender in several of the book’s forty-eight instructional photographs.

Two years later, Dubois published his “Essai sur le traité d’escrime de Saint-Didier, publié en 1573,” a brief but insightful analysis of the rapier fencing text produced by the 16th century master-at-arms, Henri de Saint-Didier.

But it was rapier fencing was that truly inspired Dubois, how found the “doubled” art of rapier and dagger to be the height of fencing exercise; beneficial both in terms of physical culture, because it encouraged a more symmetrical muscular development, and also in terms of intellectual engagement. During this period he collaborated with another French fencing master, Albert Lacaze, who shared Dubois’ interest in historical fencing techniques.

In 1925 Dubois published a further work on rapier and dagger fencing. Essai sur l’Escrime: Dague et Rapiere is particularly interesting by way of contrast to L’Escrime au Theatre, which had been published some fifteen years earlier. Dague et Rapiere was not a book of stage combat techniques, but rather presented an innovative system of competitive fencing with double weapons.

 Introducing his own work, Dubois explains that:

 “Employing Fifteenth and Sixteenth century fencing terms creates something of a complication for the modern reader. A didactic book should present all of its explanations as clearly as possible. Therefore I shall employ, in this essay on ancient fencing, terms that are familiar to masters-at-arms and to their students at the foil and epee, using the classical grammar of the modern French school.

“Moreover, I would appreciate it if the reader would adopt my conviction – based on studies within the historical oeuvre – that even if the terms employed by the old Masters are not the same ones that we use today, then the methods that they described are as our own; they taught many of the same skills, since the guard of the sword was furnished with transverse branches that we all utilise scientifically.”

Thus, in Dague et Rapiere, Dubois presented a historically-inspired double-weapon fencing system intended to complement the classical foil and epee fencing of his own era. He wrote that the system was based soundly upon the mutual study, by himself and Master Lacaze, of their collective fencing libraries, which included the works of Thibault, Capo Ferro and Fabris.  Rather than a strict revival of ancient swordplay, it was a modern system adapting historical practice to the contemporary art. In several respects it is very much the type of manual that Captain Hutton might have produced on this subject, had he been inclined to popularize “ancient swordplay” beyond his own small clique.

For those interested in a glimpse of Dubois’ “modern rapier” in practice, in October of 1927, the Pathe film company recorded an outdoor training session in the method of double-weapon fencing described in Dague et Rapiere. The footage was then edited into a silent newsreel item entitled Fence and Keep Fit!”, which runs for a little over three minutes.

A second film clip from 1934, records a visit to Salle Lacaze by the famous Italian fencer Aldo Nadi, and shows students engaged in rapier and dagger training, and in the final shot shows Nadi decisively winning a fast epee and dagger bout:

That same year, George Dubois died at the age of sixty-nine. Through his books and essays, historical fencing displays and theatrical fight choreography, he had been at the cente of the escrime ancienne movement for three decades. It was largely through his efforts, and latterly those of his colleague, Master Albert Lacaze, that the work begun by Alfred Hutton, Egerton Castle and their peers was perpetuated into the new century, and in isolated pockets, such as the Salle Lacaze, has continued to the present day, creating its own living tradition of “modern rapier and dagger”.

You can read more about Dubois and the French HEMA movement in Tony Wolf’s Ancient Swordplay. For Francophones, we are pleased to celebrate this early pioneer by making his Cemment du Defendre,  Le Point d’ Honneur et le Duel, and Essai sur l’Escrime: Dague et Rapiere freely available as downloadable PDFs on the Freelance website.

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After our last blog post, we had intended to post a review of the fictional bartitsu appearing in the new Sherlock Holmes film, but it turns out that  bartitsuka Tony Wolf has beat us to the punch, literally, in his The Substance of Style: A review of the martial arts action in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows:

http://www.bartitsu.org/index.php/2011/12/the-substance-of-style-a-review-of-the-martial-arts-action-in-sherlock-holmes-a-game-of-shadows/

and besides its fictionalized depictions, there is some big news in the bartitsu  and HES world. As many of you may know, Barton-Wright’s “Bartitsu Club” was a martial arts and physical culture studio which not only brought together the best of 19th century fitness and fighting arts, but served as a home for Alfred Hutton’s “Ancient Swordplay” circle – the first sustained effort at recreating the extinct martial arts of Europe. In his discussion of bartitsu on the Freelance website, Tony stated:

“Eventually, someone is going to bite the bullet and open a fully-fledged Edwardian-style martial arts and physical culture studio. “

We can say with absolutely assurety that when he made that statement, Tony had no idea that his interviewer, Freelance’s own president, Gregory Mele, would be the one biting that bullet, or that Tony himself would be coming along for the ride. And yet, not even a year later, we can proudly say that just such a studio is about to open its doors! Well, since Tony already scooped us once, why don’t we let him do so again:

A 5000 square foot Western martial arts and fitness training center is currently under construction on the border of Chicago’s Ravenswood and Buena Park neighbourhoods. Patterned after a circa 1900 physical culture studio, it features high timber ceiling, a hardwood floor and brick walls, which will be decorated with large historical prints featuring swordsmen and combat athletes in training.

The new gym will include my collection of antique physical culture apparatus, including Indian clubs, medicine balls, iron dumbbells, an 1880s rowing machine and wall-mounted weightlifting machine, pull-up bar and climbing ropes, forming a “gymuseum” for old-school physical culture training. Functional replicas of other classic training equipment and a Western martial arts store may be added in the future.

The complex will also include an upstairs library/meeting/lounge area reminiscent of a Victorian era private gentlemen’s club, with comfortable chairs and couches, a gallery of antique antagonistics images and books on all manner of Western martial arts and related topics. Basically, it will be an athletic club in the traditional sense, a place to socialise, relax and learn as well as to train.

Beginning in February, the school will be running multiple tracks in:

Historical fencing – Fiore de Liberi’s Armizare system, including two-handed sword, dagger and unarmed combat, as well as Renaissance-era rapier and Bolognese fencing
Fighting Fit – a CrossFit type exercise program geared towards martial arts/combat sports training
Modern self defence
19th century “antagonistics” – classical sabre, bowie knife, catch wrestling and both canonical and neo-Bartitsu

There will also be a full program of special-interest public seminars and intensive courses, starting with a Bartitsu seminar scheduled for January 22nd. The seminar will roll through immediately into a progressive, experimental course of 12 introductory Bartitsu classes over the following six weeks, between 6.30 and 8.00 pm each Tuesday and Thursday evening.

All going according to plan, the new school will have a web presence from early January.

(From: Art of Manliness)

Historical Swordsmanship and the Manly Arts are afoot in the Windy City!

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t the end of the Victorian era, E. W. Barton-Wright combined jiujitsu, kickboxing, and stick fighting into a new martial art he termed bartitsu. This elegant discipline would have been forgotten save for a famous, cryptic reference in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Adventure of the Empty House, in which Sherlock Holmes used its mysteries to save his life from the villainous Professor Moriarty:

When I reached the end I stood at bay. He drew no weapon, but he rushed at me and threw his long arms around me. He knew that his own game was up, and was only anxious to revenge himself upon me. We tottered together upon the brink of the fall. I have some knowledge, however, of baritsu, or the Japanese system of wrestling, which has more than once been very useful to me. I slipped through his grip, and he with a horrible scream kicked madly for a few seconds and clawed the air with both his hands. But for all his efforts he could not get his balance, and over he went. With my face over the brink I saw him fall for a long way. Then he struck a rock, bounced off, and splashed into the water.

Several years ago, director Guy Ritchie and actor Robert Downey, Jr. re-conceptualized the Great Detective as a Steampunk sleuth and man of action. Doyle fans have been divided on the interpretation, but one thing is certain, as martial artists themselves, Ritchie and Downey have given Holmes his fighting chops! Bartitsu, or “baritsu”, as Doyle penned it, gets screen time (seemingly faithfully) in the new Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, as can be seen in the teaser clip on YouTube .

We have yet to see the film, but rumor has it that the final confrontation between Holmes and the villainous Professor Moriarty is worth the price of admission. Of course, there is only one way to find out for certain…

Snapshot of the FAP BlogOne you’ve seen the Silver Screen depiction of “baritsu”, you may wish to find out more about the truth behind the fiction. In conjunction with the film’s American release this week, we are featuring Bartitsu: the Lost Martial Art of Sherlock Holmes, at 30% off of its regular price. A unique documentary relating the fascinating history, rediscovery and revival of Barton-Wright’s pioneering mixed martial art, this is a great present for martial artists, Holmes enthusiasts, or lovers of Victorian and Edwardian England.

Finally, if you are reading this blog, but somehow still don’t know what Bartitsu is, this interview with our colleague, Tony Wolf, ought to set things aright!

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A Chivalric Rogues Gallery: combatants, judge, heralds and valets from WMAW 2011’s Armoured Deed of Arms

s the pen mightier than the sword?

That is the question the Freelancers sought to answer as they took to the fields of honor at the Western Martial Arts Workshop, in Racine, Wisconsin. (See The Road Goes Ever On and On, Part II for more details!)

New at this year’s Workshop was an armoured Deed of Arms, in which seven challengers agreed to meet and hold the field against all challengers (suitably armed and armoured), with sword, axe, spear or dagger.  In the pas d’armes, combatants challenge one another for the pleasure of the combat-not for victory. In reality, other than the winner himself, few remember who one any given tournament, but all remember an exciting, invigorating – or embarrassing – bout, and the names attached to that bout. Renown is earned within the lists by demonstrating great skill (prowess) combined with the other chivalric virtues of, courage, generosity, humility (in accepting defeat or victory), faith (in our ideals), a sense of justice and the duty of defense. These are the real contests of the tournament, and it is the yardstick by which we are measured. The ‘gallery’ and your opponent can see who you are; it is hard to be deceptive of your motives and your sincerity in such contests.

Greg, Christian and Adam all donned their harness and broke a few lances with the other combatants. Christian, who had been chosen as the captain of the challengers, began the Deed by meeting the defender’s captain, none other than FAP author Robert Charrette! They engaged in a long, vigorous fight with poleaxes, that set the tone for the rest of the Deed.

It fell to Christian to also fight the final bout of the day, a duel with spears fought with Greg! We have been asked if there were any particulars wagered on the encounter, such as majority share in the press. Well, maybe so and maybe no, but fortunately the encounter was a draw!

The armoured Deed of Arms was a great deal of fun, and the only regret was having it come to an end! But the special events continued.

Since 2002, Saturday night at WMAW has concluded with a grand fête combining an old-fashioned pig-roast, displays of arms, merriment, and a cast of characters dressed in their best attire. The order of the day is “eat, drink and be merry, but remember the long generations who have come before thee, for we are but caretakers of ancient traditions.”

This year, there was something new: a proper, late Victorian Assault-at-Arms, organized by Bartitsu and Victorian “antagonistic” expert, Tony Wolf. The tradition of the Assault-at-Arms became well-established throughout the British Commonwealth and the United States during the latter part of the 19th century.  Thought to have been originated by British troops serving in India, Assaults-at-Arms developed into popular events whereby soldiers, gymnasts and combat athletes demonstrated their skills for an appreciative public, often in aid of charitable causes.

The 2011 WMAW Assault-at-Arms notionally took place in September of 1901 and featured displays of various forms of military and civilian swordsmanship, French cane and baton fighting, and incorporating the “Elizabethan swordplay” that was then being revived by a coterie of fencing antiquarians led by Captain Alfred Hutton.  There was also exhibition of self-defense via E. W. Barton-Wright’s Bartitsuby Tony Wolf and his co-host, the mysterious “Professor X”.

Greg had a chance to be a part of the Grand Assault at Arms in an exhibition of two-handed swordplay, ably assisted by Ms. Nicole Allen. Although the material demonstrated was taken from modern reconstruction of Italian and Iberian sources, rather than Hutton’s set-plays, the demo was in the style and flavor of Victorian demonstrations of “Ancient Swordplay”.

The many demonstrations in the Grand Assault were captured on camera and can be seen online:

Intro

Italian Foil

Italian Duelling Sword

Heavy Sabre

La Canne

Bartitsu

Womens Self Defence

Victorian Greatsword

Sword and Buckler

Messer

Longsword

Rapier

Broadsword

(Special thanks to Paul Wager of the Stocatta School of Defence, for being so handy with the camera!)

You can also learn more about the Grand Assault in this essay by Tony Wolf, and even more in his forthcoming Ancient Swordplay.

Of course, we aren’t just swordsmen….we are merchants. So with all of those martial artists gathered at WMAW, we thought it the perfect time to debut not one, but two new titles that we guarantee are game-changers for students of medieval martial arts: Armizare: The Chivalric Martial Arts System of Il Fior di Battaglia and the new Agilitas DVD, Sword and Shield.

All in all it was a tiring, but exhilarating couple of months. Now our journey’s come to an end, and while we’d like to borrow the line, “Well, I’m back”, it truth it more, “Well, back to work!”

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