Bartitsu is a fancy name for a fancy martial art. Though not a very well known martial art, bartitsu is a rather efficient form of self defense and one of the first if not the first ever hybrid art to combine eastern and western martial arts. A most famous practitioner who remains immortal is the fictitious Sherlock Holmes. The art is a hybrid form that is based around Japanese jujutsu and combines elements of stick fighting and French kickboxing.
A Brief History
A savvy Brit by the name of Edward William Barton-Wright had been practicing various western martial arts ranging from wrestling to French savate for years and moved to Japan to study their forms. Through many training sessions at a multitude of jujutsu schools; Barton-Wright brought his new techniques back to England and created his new art, Bartitsu, a portmanteau of his own name and jujutsu. Barton-Wright rose awareness of his creation by actually challenging random people to try and beat him in a fight. As a true mixed martial arts instructor, he brought in experts such as Pierre Vigny for savate and Yakio Tani for jujutsu, he even brought in Armand Cherpillod for physical fitness training.
Though bartitsu was mildly popular at and a bit after its inception, it faced a major drop and fell into obscurity throughout the decades. It wasn’t until the early 21st century did it see a revival mainly in England. Even Sherlock Holmes has taken it back up again as seen on the screen represented by Robert Downey Jr. If one were to watch those movies again and pay close attention to the fights one would see just how effective bartitsu (or baritsu as its named in the Holmes books) can be in any sort of fight.
What Sets Bartitsu Apart
When bartitsu was created, it was during a time of walking sticks and street toughs. Barton-Wright stated that his art was meant to be a way to defend oneself in the streets using what tools they have and with an efficient strategic advantage in mind. Barton-Wright explained that while judo and jujutsu were effective in close quarters combat, only striking arts like boxing could allow someone to even close the distance. The inclusion of stick fighting was a way to not only expand the range of techniques but also act as a fair counter against knives or other weapons. Regardless, jujutsu influenced the majority of techniques as Barton-Wright personally insisted on submitting your attacker over knocking them out.
Just like the era of its inception, bartitsu teaches techniques named in such fancy ways such as “A Good Way of Conducting a Person out of the Room.” Fancy talk for something as simple as throwing a person out of a room. While many western fighting styles like wrestling and boxing were geared a little more towards men, bartitsu often invited women as it was meant for all people. Barton-Wright had a simple process to understanding the purpose of bartitsu; break attacker’s equilibrium, keep it broken, force a hold on them to finish the fight.
The Bartitsu Club was established as the base of operations for the art and with its several instructors of different arts, allowed members to get the full feel of bartitsu. Barton-Wright often encouraged members to attend all the arts his school offered; boxing, savate, jujutsu and stick fighting. Alongside traditional technique drills and form training, the Bartitsu Club also offered sparring sessions, fencing bouts and circuit training.
Bartitsu for Self Defense
Bartitsu was founded as a form of self defense and it remains a form of self defense. Very few martial arts allow for such seamless transitions between ranges like bartitsu does. The use of stick fighting segues into boxing and clinch range which allows for takedowns and submission holds that can glide right back to stick fighting. Barton-Wright wanted his art to be practiced to the point where one of the bases could be used to counter the others. While bartitsu teaches boxing and savate, it was meant to be based around jujutsu and stick fighting as at the time, many people carried some sort of stick be it an umbrella or a cane. Though in modern times, carrying around a stick without a purpose may seem odd, if you practice the art then why not carry the necessary tools.
Barton-Wright placed emphasis on technique but wanted bartitsu practitioners to also consider their physical health as another weapon for defense. Much of the techniques he created were designed around finding an advantage in a disadvantageous scenario. He enforced the concept that no matter how effective one style may be at beating another, no style can beat every martial art. Very few arts come close to just how effective bartitsu can be because of the sheer range of combat zones it covers and the pedagogy of being well-rounded as well as physically capable.
Simply put, bartitsu is badass. Aside from looking dapper with a cane in hand, the knowledge of stick fighting is nearly unparalleled in helping a fighter understand that anything can be a weapon. Though it never reached the amazing heights it could have, bartitsu is still extremely effective as a form of self defense and the strict inclusion of physical culture is a great way to stay in shape. It has so many great features to it; jujutsu, stick fighting, physical fitness, British accents. Consider including bartitsu on your list of things to try and definitely on your list of martial arts to train in.