Thursday, 23 April 2009

Bartitsu: The Martial Art of Gentlemen

Its been a funny old year, as the pound in a pocket slowly turns too fluff, we await the rest of the year with anticipation. All around us the world seems to be falling apart, not even the second coming of Christ in the form of Obama can save the day. More people loose their jobs and it looks like we are on the brink of a revolution in the way we think of capitalism. Some where in Highgate cemetery late at night I'm sure that you can here the ghostly voice of Karl Marx saying I told you so.
With the rise of unemployment comes crime, so what better way to introduce you to a long forgotten martial arts that every gentlemen should be proficient in.

Before Randy Couture and the Ultimate Fighting Championship, there was Edward William Barton-Wright and bartitsu. Bartitsu was probably the first instance of what we know today as mixed martial arts. Mr. Barton combined elements of boxing, jujitsu, cane fighting, and french kick boxing in order to create a self defense system that could be used by discerning gentlemen on the mean streets of Edwardian London. It grew to such popularity that even Sherlock Holmes was practicing bartitsu in his mysterious adventures.

While bartitsu died in the early 20th Century, E.W. Barton left a legacy in the field of martial arts. What follows is a brief history of bartitsu as well as a guide to get you started on learning the martial art of gentlemen.

Bartitsu was created by William Barton-Wright, an English railroad engineer. Barton’s work as an engineer took him to Japan for three years where he was introduced to jujitsu. He studied the art at the school of Jigoro Kano. Barton must have been excited about what he learned. When he returned to England, he quit his career in engineering and opened up a martial arts school where he taught jujitsu.

In 1899, Barton wrote an article in the London based publication, Pearson’s Magazine, entitled “A New Art of Self Defense.” In it he set out his system of self defense that he called “bartitsu,” an obvious melding of his name and jujitsu. While bartitsu was based mainly on jujitsu, Barton explained in his article that the system included boxing, kickboxing, and stick fighting.

Barton opened a school called the Bartitsu Club. He brought in some of the best martial arts teachers from around the world to teach at his new school. Among these were Japanese instructors K. Tani, S. Yamamoto, and Yukio Tani as well as Pierre Vigny and Armand Cherpillod. One journalist described the Bartitsu Club as “… a huge subterranean hall, all glittering, white-tiled walls, and electric light, with ‘champions’ prowling around it like tigers.”

The popularity of bartitsu in England was widespread. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle even had Sherlock Holmes practicing “baritsu” (a misspelling of bartitsu) in The Adventure of the Empty House. Because Conan Doyle misspelled bartitsu, scholars of Sherlock Holmes were confused for years by the reference. (Note: Robert Downey, Jr. will be showing off his bartitsu chops in an upcoming Sherlock Holmes film. )

Bartitsu declined in popularity as rapidly as it had ascended. By 1903, the Bartitsu Club closed and most of its instructors established their own self defense schools in London. Barton continued to develop and teach bartitsu until the 1920s. Because of the lack of interest in his martial art, Barton spent the rest of his career as a physical therapist. He died in 1951 at the age of 90.

Bartitsu documentary

Like to thank The art of manliness website where most of the information regarding this long lost art was found. I'm sure they are happy that I'm trying to spread the word of such a manly art form.

Keep Calm
Lord Monty

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-Dwayne

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