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Quirky British martial arts: beat like a gentleman


Jiu-Jitsu with Hat and Walking Stick: Around 1900, a well-traveled Brit invented martial arts Bartitsu. This combined street fighting with a fine English style - and even saved Sherlock Holmes's life.

The gentleman in a tweed suit had casually thrown his coat over his shoulder and put one leg in front of him. The melon was as iconic as its twisted mustache and starched Kent collar. The photo series, published in March 1899 in the English "Pearson's Magazine", seemed to show men's fashion.

Only there was the man with the dagger.

He attacked the gentleman. If the reader was so attacked, the text suggested: "Envelop his head and arms by throwing her coat on him with a circular motion." So his view was hidden. "Glide around him, grab his ankle and push his hand under the shoulder blade." Then the lout will fall and drop the weapon to protect his face with his hands. "He will be in a position where you can break his leg without delay, if you please."

"A form of self-defense, any attack," Edward promised William Barton-Wright. As author of the article he introduced the revolutionary martial art "Bartitsu". It first combined Asian and European methods and made walking sticks, umbrellas, even bicycles into weapons. And a 1.50-meter woman to the horror of the London police.

Far East import against street gangs

International was Barton-Wright's life from the beginning: In India, he was born in 1860 as the son of British parents, grew up in Germany and France. Later, his work as an engineer drove him halfway around the world - and in 1885 to Japan.

He was fascinated by Jiu-Jitsu. In Japanese martial arts, fighters deliberately turn the enemy's power against him. This studied Barton-Wright for years, including at the school of Jigoro Kano, founder of the later judo baptized martial arts. When he returned to London in 1898, he took what he had learned with him.

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Victorian mixed martial arts: beat like a gentleman

In the motherland of modern boxing, the interest in Far Eastern fighting techniques was initially low. But for the harsh everyday life of London could use the sophisticated handles and throws: street gangs, robberies and murders were not uncommon in the overflowing Moloch end of the 19th century, the "Jack the Ripper" killings kept the city in breath. Especially wealthy Londoners could barely stroll through the streets carefree.

Barton-Wright suspected that a method of defending himself against criminal street mobs without relying on raw power would be of interest. And so he combined jiu-jitsu with elements of the French savate boxing and the Swiss walking stick fight La Canne. He baptized the self-defense method: Bartitsu.

"Carotid artery cut through the coat collar"

"A huge underground hall, with glittering, white-tiled walls, electric lights, and champions that roam like tigers," the Health and Strength magazine admired in 1901, the "Bartitsu Club," the Barton-Wright training center the year before opened in Soho.

Newspaper articles and demonstrations had aroused the Londoners' curiosity, also thanks to Barton-Wright's full-bodied promises: Bartitsu was "just as applicable against an attacker with a knife or stick as against a boxer."

His methods were creative. So he showed how to roll bikes to weapons on the rear wheel in front of him to bring attackers to overthrow. Or pinch the opponent's leg between the wheel and the frame to fix it.

Even out of walking sticks and umbrellas, Bartitsu made weapons. Heads proudly raised, gentlemen in suits stood facing each other to guide their stick like a sword. Barton-Wright explained in 1901 in "Pearson's Magazine": "So blows can be performed so powerfully that a normal Malacca caning stick can cut through the carotid artery of a man through his coat collar."


In photo series, exquisitely dressed gentlemen demonstrated such acts of blood with such impeccable posture, as if they could balance a teacup with their free hands. "The way Barton-Wright combined the fighting styles suited the Victorian idea of ​​an upright, officer-friendly martial art, while the opponent lost his balance, keeping his gentlemanly attitude," said BBC choreographer Keith Ducklin in 2016.

Even the thought of the spirit that triumphs over the body suited the self-image of British educated citizens. Because every brutal attack could be countered with an elegant, efficient defensive move. Barton-Wright emphasized that this was a "scientific method of defense". This idea of ​​an intellectual struggle brought Bartitsu even literary fans:

"We staggered together at the edge of the waterfall, but I have some knowledge of Baritsu, the Japanese method of wrestling (...) I slipped out of his grip and he kicked wildly for a few seconds, hitting him with a terrible scream with both hands for the air, but despite all the effort he could not find the balance and fell over the edge. "
Arthur Conan Doyle, "The Empty House" (1903)

Actually, Arthur Conan Doyle had the detective genius Sherlock Holmes die in 1893. The writer was tired of his most famous figure and wanted time for other fabrics. So he had Holmes wrestle in "The Last Problem" at the Swiss Reichenbach Falls with his nemesis James Moriarty - and plunge with him to the deadly depth.

Dojo in Soho

But ten years later, Doyle was supposed to revive him with the help of "Baritsu," as he wrote wrongly. In the short story "The Empty House," Holmes, master of logical reasoning, told how he had escaped Moriarty with the help of Barton-Wright's "scientific" martial arts.

Barton-Wright's martial arts import was soon popular with women too

Brand new was the idea not to use Bartitsu in the fight against crime. As early as March, 1899, in a Barton-Wright newspaper article, a Colonel GW Fox from York had campaigned for Bartitsu classes: "I'm sure our police could be much more successful in resisting any form of contention with some of his litters and learn handles. " In fact, however, the opposite should happen: citizens would take it by means of Bartitsu with the police. Exactly: citizens.

Nobody would have considered the petite Edith Garrud with her 1.50 meters in size as a martial arts expert. But around 1901, she and her husband William, a physical education teacher, regularly trained at the London dojo of Barton-Wright, who had recruited instructors around the world - from Japan to Sadakazu Uyenishi. When the Jiu-Jitsu expert returned to Japan, the Garruds began to teach in 1908 themselves.

Billets under the sports hall floor

Her most famous students became the suffragettes: activists who fought demonstrations and hunger strikes for women's suffrage. First, Edith Garrud taught members of the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU) to defend against violent attacks, then attack techniques.

Garrud became the instructor of a team of about 25 Jiu-Jitsu suffragettes called "Bodyguard". They saved WSPU chief Emmeline Pankhurst from being arrested at public appearances when the police approached: The bodyguard women started fighting with police to distract them. Meanwhile, Pankhurst was taken away.

The Dojo, which Garrud now operated, served as a refuge, as her grandnephew Martin Williams told the newspaper "Islington Tribune" in 2012: "They started a turmoil on Oxford Street, ran back to the dojo and hid their clubs and clubs under the floor When the police arrived, they acted as if they were holding a physical training course. "

Even the satirical magazine "Punch" immortalized the club inside: In a drawing from 1910, Garrud London police officers so that the wet as washcloths hung over the fences. Title: "The suffragette that Jiu-Jitsu could."

Return of a dead-believed art

Edward Barton-Wright could no longer benefit from this boom. He was the martial arts pioneer, but many other teachers soon opened jiu jitsu schools, including Barton-Wright's own staff.

Already in 1902, after just two years, the "Bartitsu Club" had to close. Englishmen now trained in other Jiu-Jitsu clubs, even without walking stick and jacket throw. The Bartitsu inventor could not withstand the competition. He was said to have lived in poor conditions before he died in 1951.

In the 1960s, Barton-Wright did not live through the British thriller series "With Umbrella, Charm and Melon": In this, Agent John Steed used to carry his adversaries with a sword-umbrella and steel-reinforced melon, his feline colleague Emma Peel was proficient in karate, both shining with acumen Elegance and nonchalance - their appearance was very reminiscent of Barton-Wright's strange martial arts.

His creation was to be reborn in 2009, as Sherlock Holmes once did. Thanks to Sherlock Holmes. For when director Guy Ritchie brought a new film to the screen, presented the master detective extremely powerful: Robert Downey Jr. resisted the machinations of English criminals with his sharp mind. And with the ingenious handles, throws and walking sticks of Bartitsu.

What was probably owed not only to Ritchie's literary historical details - but also his black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

Source: spiegel

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