Bartitsu is a Victorian mixed martial art aimed at practical self defense. Designed for the gentlemen of London it is a functional martial art for someone looking to used knowledge to overcome strength when defendingyourself in real life situations. As such it is not a sport for competition or concerned with grading and belts but focuses on practical techniques designed to incapacitate, restrain or out think and opponent.
Combining boxing, low kicks, grappling and weaponry Bartitsu looks to take control of a situation and resolve it quickly and safely. Focusing on the core principle of unbalancing your opponents’ equilibrium without them being able to unbalance yours it is very much a thinking person’s martial art. When the opponent is always considered to be twice as big and twice as strong as yourself then it is skill and logic that give you the edge to tip the balance in your favour.
Edward Barton-Wright was a British Engineer sent out as a smelting expert to Japan. Already an accomplished boxer whilst he was there he was privileged to be one of the first westerners to be allowed to study Ju-Jitsu. Upon returning to London he opened the Bartitsu School of Arms and Physical Culture in 1900. Bring with him two Ju-Jitsu experts from Japan he then invited experts from across Europe to come and teach their various arts in his academy. These were then combined into a united martial art called Bartitsu that claimed to be a form of Gentleman’s self defense for the rough streets of Victorian London. As an evolving art Barton-Wright continued to add to and develop this martial art over many years.
For many years Bartitsu then seemed to disappear as the physical culture fade in London moved onto the next craze. Over the last twenty years historical martial artists around the world have been collaborating to revive this forgotten art. Piecing together contemporary accounts and pressure testing ideas this group has reinvented Bartitsu as faithfully as possible to the original style. Beyond this, Neo-Bartitsu aims to bring Bartitsu up to date and compensate for the lost years to create a modern variant of Bartitsu.
Currently Bartitsu is a growing martial art with more and more groups cropping up all over the world. Classical and Neo Bartitsu are taught side by side as both historical curiosity and effective street self defense.
Whilst the setting may have changed and the world is nothing like Victorian London any more, the principles and techniques of Bartitsu still hold true and are just as effective today.
The core Bartitsu techniques are:
As a living and evolving system Neo-Bartitsu incorporates many additional techniques based on the philosophy of individual groups. As such these will vary from class to class but the core techniques above will still form the basis of all true Bartitsu.
The traditional weapon of Bartitsu is the gentleman’s walking cane. Whilst it has fallen out of style somewhat as a fashion accessory it is still taught as part of core Bartitsu syllabus. Modeled on the various European style of ‘La Canne’ it also incorporates some Irish shillelagh, and more unique techniques, into a unified system of cane work.
Neo Bartitsu takes the approach that if you are holding something in your hand during a fight it is either a help or a hindrance. This results in some groups incorporating other or improvised weapons training into their classes.
Author: Duncan McNulty, Bartitsu Amateur Forum