19/07/2024 5:29 AM


Adorn your Feelings

Bartitsu – An Eclectic Form of Martial Art

4 min read

Bartitsu was developed by E.W. Barton-Wright, an English railroad engineer in 1898 after he had returned from Japan where he had been studying Jujitsu. He decided to recreate a new style of fighting, combining his newfound knowledge of Jujitsu with boxing, Japanese wrestling forms, and other elements. E.W. Barton-Wright was the first person known to attempt combining Asian and European martial arts. Bartitsu spread quickly in Europe due to their recent interest in “the Orient.” Europeans were also anxious to learn new modes of self-defense, as the media had recently been capitalizing off of stories of fear and disaster, noting that the more they wrote about street violence, the more money they made. The other contributing factor to Bartitsu’s popularity was the industrial revolution. The wealthy patrons were getting out of shape, as they had less manual labor to do. And so, because of good timing, E.W. Barton was able to spread his new technique and merge his own namesake with jujitsu and attempt to colonize it for the English. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who wrote the Sherlock Holmes Books, referred to Bartitsu as “Baritsu,” which stuck.


Barton-Wright intended Bartitsu to be used for self-defense. The core principles of Bartitsu included causing your assailant to lose their equilibrium and surprising the aggressor before they have a chance to get their balance back. Doing so causes their strength to fail. If at all necessary, using techniques that would allow you access to their pressure points would also serve as a good way to maintain self-defense. Joint locks are another option.


Bartitsu became fairly obsolete for most of the 20th century, but during 2011, it began to have a slow revival. There are not entire schools of Bartitsu, however classes, clubs and workshops are available. Today, these schools teach Bartitsu in the form of hand to hand combat, with the goal being to master each style in way that they can be used against each other. This form of hybrid martial art covers four long and close range fighting, which includes striking with a stick at mid range, kicking with your foot at short range, striking with your fist at close range and ground fighting as a means of close combat. The aforementioned fighting styles demonstrate the same traits are the four major martial arts; Judo and Jiujitsu, Boxing, Stick Fighting and Savate. Bartitsu was always meant to be a form of range fighting, and only to be used as close combat in extreme circumstances. Training of this early form of hybrid martial art is practiced in line with Neo-Bartitsu teachings, which includes original articles, demonstrations and lectures designed by Barton-Wright combined with its potential today. Bartitsu today is a collage of walking stick, Jiujitsu and defense techniques, which were implemented and administered by club members and their students from 1903 – 1923. In the early Bartitsu era, students wore knee high pants and short sleeved jackets for Jiujitsu training and t-shirts and knee high stockings for stick fighting, Savate and boxing practice. Practitioners use hook handles canes or regular canes dominated by ball handles, depending on the technique and club. There are a number of body protection equipment that is used in Bartitsu such as arm torso and shoulder shields, knee and chin protection, padded gloves and a three weapon fencing mask. This level of protection during training completely depends on the type of combat, whether close, medium or full range, and it is recommended that mouth guards, groin cups and protectors be used for boxing.


Bartitsu combines various styles of fighting into Barton-Wright’s own style. Jujitsu and Judo, which originate in Japan, were combined with other European fighting styles, such as Pugilism and wrestling. It also includes Savate, from France, and Cane Fencing. This type of martial art is quite accommodating as it combines a number of clinch work and stand up techniques, thrusts and strikes from Vigny style kick-fighting, grappling strategies from Judo, and joint locks from Jiujitsu. The footwork is similar to the styles exemplified in Savate and boxing, with the guards being slightly different than the latter. There isn’t however any affirmative information about the level of boxing in Bartitsu, but it is proved that the sport was used to relate to current day self-defense tactics. Some of these movements may have been excerpts from scientific or traditional boxing, which included blocking, ducking and side-stepping techniques. The difference between Bartitsu and Canne fighting is that the latter does not use a hand shield, which was taken into account for a number of styles in the former. There are also a number of offensive and defensive Bartitsu techniques, which are quite versatile. First is the cloak defensive method, which allows practitioners to defend themselves when their attacker displays a knife. With this technique, you simply throw your coat over your assailant’s face, which distracts them momentarily and gives you an opportunity to get your punches and kicks in. You can also use a hat instead of a coat or any object to cause the primary distraction. In regards to the offensive Bartitsu moves, there are many as the sport is a combination of a number of martial arts. Basic cane techniques are performed with a jab, thrust, cuts, while Savate is implemented in offensive mode with Chassie Crossie Kicks and Coup De Pied Bas.

How Competitions Work

Bartitsu competitions are performed in a number of ways and different clubs all over the world. Although, there is no concrete information about the terms, level and rating of each of these authorities, the fact that it is a sport with the large number of enthusiasts is quite evident.

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