Early Days at the Bartitsu Club

Here are some clippings from that early period when E. W. Barton-Wright first opened the Bartitsu Club, those days prior to the import of his jujutsu experts. There are a couple of reasons I like these.

First, the issues of class (perhaps bigotry as well?) in Victorian society are readily acknowledged, but rarely felt by the modern reader. The first article slaps you in the face with the reality that things were different back then with its talk of “undesirables”, kind of like the culture shock you experience re-watching Mel Brooks’ Blazing Saddles now that it’s thirty-some years after its debut.

All three articles show why we’ve had spirited but friendly discussions on the Bartitsu Society Forum trying to figure out just exactly what bartitsu is. Is it just re-badged jujutsu? Some statements point that way, others add Vigny’s system of city la canne and/or savate, others imply that anything taught at the club is fair game to be called bartitsu.

So just within this series we see the first article stating that bartitsu is just “Japanese wrestling,” while the second includes that plus boxing, savate, la canne, and the use of the dagger. The 1902 illustration inset shows that savate is firmly an element of bartitsu, whereas the last article separates bartitsu out from those activities.

A last point, related the the previous, is that the use of the dagger is mentioned again, although the only other mention we’ve seen was a reference to Barton-Wright learning the stiletto from “recognized masters”. This is an as yet unreconstructed element of bartitsu simply because there is so little to go on.

As always, for all your bartitsu needs don’t forget to check Bartitsu.org.

BARTITSU

MR. W.H. GRENFELL A CONVERT TO THE ART
(“Daily Mail” Special)

Very bronzed, and looking, if that were possible, in fitter athletic trim than ever, Mr. W. H. Grenfell, pattern and model of the English sporting gentleman, is back in town from Florida.

Already, under his stimulating influence, a new sport is developing. This is Bartitsu, the Japanese system of scientific wrestling, of which Mr. Barton-Wright has given such interesting demonstrations.

Mr. Grenfell has consented to become the president of the Bartitsu Club.

“The idea,” said Mr. Grenfell, to a “Daily Mail” representative, “is to establish an athletic class for people of good standing, and it seemed to us best to establish it in the form of a club, so as to be able to exclude undesirable persons. So members will be able to come themselves, and to send their children and the ladies of their family for instruction with every assurance that they will be running no risk of objectionable associations.”

“Is Bartitsu, then, a sport for women and children?”–”Oh, we are not going to confine ourselves to Japanese wrestling. Athletic exercises of many kinds and physical culture will be taught, but with this difference, that physical culture will be taught in a new form, which will make it interesting.”

“And this new art of self-defence?”–”Bartitsu; that will be taught as part of the general scheme of physical culture. And you know it is very desirable to teach people how to protect themselves against violence.”

“But does not the noble art of self-defence do that–the art of using the fists?”–”No. In the first place the violent ruffian is likely to be fairly proficient IN THE USE OF THE FISTS, and in the second place the stronger and heavier man has an overwhelming advantage in fist fighting.

“The great thing is to show people every possible form of attack to which they may be subjected, and to teach them how, by the application of scientific principles, every attack may be successfully met. Bartitsu teaches you how to overcome an opponent of superior weight by using his weight against himself, of throwing him by yielding instead of resisting, and of gripping him in various ways so as to put such a strain on his joints that however strong he may be he will be completely at your mercy. Then it teaches you how to fall so that the fact of being thrown will give you an advantage over the man who throws you.”

“It is a sort of physical counterpart, then, of the great financial art of making a fortune out of bankruptcy.”–”Then there are other means of self-defence which are useful. A lady I had the other day was, while riding her bicycle, attacked by a tramp. She was helpless against his superior strength. But there are ways of using a bending cane by which a lady might, if she has been taught the art, keep a molesting tramp at arm’s length. This will be taught as well as several other systems, all of which are not only useful but interesting to learn.”

“And who are with you in the movement?”–”Lord Alwyne Compton, M.P., is chairman of the club company, and with him as directors are a number of gentlemen whose names you will know in connection with sport–Lord Arthur Cecil, Mr. Bertram Astley, Mr. W. Moresby Chinnery, Captain Hutton, Mr. Stobart, Mr. Montagu Sweet, and Mr. Barton-Wright, who will be managing director.”
1899-06-13 London Daily Mail

Ladies Night at the Bath Club: A Varied Entertainment

A curious and amusing entertainment was given last Saturday by the Bath Club at their premises in Dover Street, Piccadilly, the occasion being the ladies night. Swordsmanship, swimming, and bartitsu were the special features. The last-named item is, as was demonstrated by Mr. E. W. Barton Wirght, a branch of the art of self-defence entirely new to England. It comes from Japan. It embodies all the best and most practical points in boxing, la savatte, the use of the dagger and of the walking-sticks, combined with a most scientific and secret style of Japanese wrestling. It also comprises the art of falling so as to reduce all risk of being hurt when thrown, and to land upon one’s feet facing the enemy, and also the art of putting “locks” on one’s opponent-that is subjecting different parts of his body to strains which he cannot possibly resist.

The Bartitsu Club

A new club, the “Bartitsu,” which means the art of self-defense, is being formed in London. “It will be a sports club,” explains its organizer, “where men and women, boys and girls, can be instructed in fencing, sabre play, la savate, boxing, and bartitsu.” One special feature will be the instruction of members, especially lady members in the art of defending themselves with a walking stick. The promoter of the “Bartitsu club” is going to Japan to secure instructors in certain styles of Japanese wrestling, which he says is the most perfect form of self-defense and one that can be acquired by women as equally as men.
1899-08-11 The Daily Iowa Capital

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