imagecaption = A montage of Bartitsu self defence techniques
name = Bartitsu
focus = Hybrid
country = flagicon|United Kingdom United Kingdom
olympic = No
creator = Edward William Barton-Wright
parenthood = Jujutsu, Schwingen, Savate, La canne, Judo, Boxing
famous_pract =

Bartitsu is an eclectic martial art and self-defense method originally developed in England during the years 1898-1902. In 1901 it was immortalised (as "baritsu") by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, author of the Sherlock Holmes mystery stories. Although dormant throughout most of the 20th Century, Bartitsu has been experiencing a revival since 2002.


In 1898, Edward William Barton-Wright, a British engineer who had spent the previous three years living in Japan, returned to England and announced the formation of a "New Art of Self Defence". [Wolf, Tony and Marwood, James. (2007) "The Origins of Bartitsu." [] ] This art, he claimed, combined the best elements of a range of fighting styles into a unified whole, which he had named Bartitsu. The word was a portmanteau of his own surname and of "Ju jitsu".cite book
editor= Tony Wolf
title=The Bartitsu Compendium
publisher=Lulu Publications

As detailed in a series of articles Barton-Wright produced for "Pearson's Magazine" between 1899 and 1901, Bartitsu was largely drawn from the Shinden Fudo school of "koryū" ("classical") jujutsu and from Kodokan judo. As it became established in London, the art expanded to incorporate combat techniques from Tenjin Shinyō, Fusen and Daito Ryū schools of jujutsu as well as British boxing, Swiss schwingen, French savate, and a defensive la canne (stick fighting) style that had been developed by Pierre Vigny of Switzerland. Bartitsu also included a comprehensive physical culture training system.

In 1902, Barton-Wright wrote: [cite journal
author=Edward William Barton-Wright
title=Ju-jitsu and judo
journal=Transactions of the Japan Society

quote|Under Bartitsu is included boxing, or the use of the fist as a hitting medium, the use of the feet both in an offensive and defensive sense, the use of the walking stick as a means of self-defence. Judo and jujitsu, which were secret styles of Japanese wrestling, he would call close play as applied to self-defence.

In order to ensure as far as it was possible immunity against injury in cowardly attacks or quarrels, they must understand boxing in order to thoroughly appreciate the danger and rapidity of a well-directed blow, and the particular parts of the body which were scientifically attacked. The same, of course, applied to the use of the foot or the stick.

Judo and jujitsu were not designed as primary means of attack and defence against a boxer or a man who kicks you, but were only to be used after coming to close quarters, and in order to get to close quarters it was absolutely necessary to understand boxing and the use of the foot.

Bartitsu Club

Between 1899 and 1902, Barton-Wright set about publicizing his art through magazine articles, interviews and a series of demonstrations or "assaults at arms" at various London venues. He established a school called the Bartitsu Academy of Arms and Physical Culture, known informally as the Bartitsu Club, which was located at #67b Shaftesbury Avenue in Soho. In an article for "Sandow's Magazine" published in 1902, journalist Mary Nugent described the Bartitsu Club as "... a huge subterranean hall, all glittering, white-tiled walls, and electric light, with 'champions' prowling around it like tigers." [Wolf, Tony and Marwood, James. (2006) "The Bartitsu Club." [] ]

Via correspondence with Professor Jigoro Kano, the founder of Kodokan Judo, and other contacts in Japan, Barton-Wright arranged for Japanese jujutsu practitioners K. Tani, S. Yamamoto and the nineteen year old Yukio Tani to travel to London and serve as instructors at the Bartitsu Club. K. Tani and Yamamoto soon returned to Japan, but Yukio Tani stayed and was shortly joined by another young jujutsuka, Sadakazu Uyenishi. Swiss master-at-arms Pierre Vigny and wrestler Armand Cherpillod were also employed as teachers at the Club. As well as teaching well-to-do Londoners, their duties included performing demonstrations and competing in challenge matches against fighters representing other combat styles. [Anonymous. "The Bartitsu Tournament," "Sandow's Magazine", January 1902, v. 43:18, pp. 28-31. [] ] In addition, the Club became the headquarters for a group of fencing antiquarians led by Egerton Castle and Captain Alfred Hutton and it served as their base for experimenting with historical fencing techniques, which they taught to members of London's acting elite for use in stage combat.Wolf, Tony (ed.) "The Bartitsu Compendium." Lulu Publications, 2005.]

Bartitsu Club membership included Sir Cosmo Duff Gordon, who was later to achieve notoriety as one of the few adult male survivors of the sinking of the RMS Titanic, as well as Captain F.C. Laing of the 12th Bengal Infantry, who subsequently wrote an article on Bartitsu stick fighting techniques which was published in the "Journal of the United Service Institution of India". [Laing, F.C. "The 'Bartitsu' Method of Self-Defence." [] ]

Barton-Wright later reported that, during this period, he had challenged and defeated seven larger men within three minutes as part of a Bartitsu demonstration he gave at St. James's Hall. He said this feat earned him a membership in the prestigious Bath Club and also a Royal Command to appear before Edward, Prince of Wales.Koizumi, Gunji. "Facts and History," "Budokwai Quarterly Bulletin", July 1950, 17-19.] Unfortunately, Barton-Wright then suffered an injury to his hand, due either to a fight in a Kentish country lane or a bicycling accident, which prevented him from appearing before the Prince.Nugent, Mary. "Barton-Wright and his Japanese Wrestlers," "Health and Strength", December 1901, v. 3:6, pp. 336-341.]

Self defence

It is unclear whether Barton-Wright ever devised a formal curriculum for Bartitsu as a self defence method. He encouraged members of the Bartitsu Club to study each of the four major hand-to-hand combat styles taught at the Club, with the goal of mastering each style well enough that they could be used against the others if needed. This process was similar to the modern concept of cross-training.

Based on Barton-Wright's writings upon this subject, contemporary researchers believe that Bartitsu placed greatest emphasis upon the Vigny cane fighting system at the striking range and upon jujutsu (and, secondarily, the "all-in" style of European wrestling) at the grappling range. Savate and boxing methods were used to segue between these two ranges, or as a means of first response should the defender not be armed with a walking stick; these sports were also probably practiced so that Bartitsu students could learn how to defend against them through the use of jujutsu and Vigny stick fighting. Barton-Wright also modified the techniques of both boxing and savate for self defence purposes, as distinct from academic and fitness training or sporting competition. Wolf, Tony (ed.) "The Bartitsu Compendium." Lulu Publications, 2005.]

According to interviewer Mary Nugent, Barton-Wright instituted an unusual pedagogical system whereby students were first required to attend private training sessions before being allowed to join class groups.Nugent, Mary. "Barton-Wright and his Japanese Wrestlers," "Health and Strength", December 1901, v. 3:6, pp. 336-341.] It is currently believed that both private and group classes included pre-arranged exercises, especially for use in rehearsing those techniques that were too dangerous to be performed at full speed or contact, as well as free-sparring and fencing bouts.Wolf, Tony (ed.) "The Bartitsu Compendium." Lulu Publications, 2005.]

Many Bartitsu self defence techniques and sequences were recorded by Barton-Wright himself in his series of articles for "Pearson's Magazine." The specific details of other Bartitsu stick fighting training drills were recorded in Captain Laing's article.


Despite his enthusiasm, Barton-Wright seems to have been a mediocre promoter and the fame of his associates and their jujutsu quickly eclipsed that of Bartitsu. By 1903, the Bartitsu Club had closed its doors for the last time; subsequent speculation had it that both the enrollment fee and the tuition fees had been too high.

Most of Barton-Wright's assistants, including jujutsuka Yukio Tani and Sadakazu Uyenishi and Swiss self defence expert Pierre Vigny, established their own self defence and combat sports gymnasiums in London. After breaking with Barton-Wright, purportedly due to an argument and a fight, Tani also continued his work as a professional music-hall wrestler under the shrewd management of William Bankier, a strength performer and magazine publisher who went by the stage name of "Apollo". Bankier's promotional efforts helped to spur an international fad for jujutsu, which included the publication of numerous books and magazine articles as well as the establishment of jujutsu schools throughout the Western world. This fad lasted until the beginning of World War I and served to introduce jujutsu into Western popular culture.cite journal
title=Facts and History
journal=Budokwai Quarterly Bulletin

Although Barton-Wright was rumoured to have continued to develop and teach his martial art at least until the 1920s, it never again returned to prominence.


Bartitsu might have been completely forgotten if not for a chance mention by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in one of his Sherlock Holmes mystery stories. By the 1890s, Doyle had become weary of chronicling the adventures of Sherlock Holmes. He had actually killed Holmes off in his 1893 story, "The Adventure of the Final Problem", in which Holmes apparently plunged to his death over a waterfall during a struggle with his arch-enemy, Professor Moriarty.

However, such was the public clamour for the fictional detective’s return that Doyle capitulated and revived Holmes for another story, "The Adventure of the Empty House", in 1901. As Holmes himself explained his apparently miraculous survival:

In fact, "baritsu" did not exist outside the pages of the English editions of "The Adventure of the Empty House". It is uncertain why Doyle had Holmes refer to baritsu, rather than Bartitsu. It is possible that Doyle, who, like E.W. Barton-Wright, was writing for Pearson’s Magazine during the late 1890s, was vaguely aware of Bartitsu and simply mis-remembered or misheard the term; it may even have been a typographical error or a concern about copyright. It should also be noted that a newspaper report on a Bartitsu demonstration in London, published in 1900, had likewise misspelled the name as baritsu.

In any case, "baritsu" was considered to be too esoteric by Doyle’s American editors, who further added to the confusion by substituting the word "jiujitsu" in the American editions of the story.

This confusion of names persisted through much of the 20th century, with Holmes enthusiasts puzzling over the identity of baritsu and mistakenly identifying it as bujutsu, sumo and judo. It was not until the 1990s that scholars including Y. Hirayama, J. Hall, Richard Bowen and James Webb were able to positively identify the martial art of Sherlock Holmes. [Bowen, Richard. "Further Lessons in Baritsu," "The Ritual: Review of the Northern Musgraves Sherlock Holmes Society", 1997, v. 20, pp. 22-26.]

Later life

E.W. Barton-Wright spent the remainder of his career working as a physical therapist specialising in innovative (and sometimes controversial) forms of heat, light, and radiation therapy. He continued to use the name "Bartitsu" with reference to his various therapeutic businesses.Wolf, Tony (ed.) "The Bartitsu Compendium." Lulu Publications, 2005.] In 1950, Barton-Wright was interviewed by Gunji Koizumi for an article appearing in the Budokwai newsletter, and later that year he was presented to the audience at a Budokwai gathering in London. He died in 1951, at the age of 90, and was buried in what the late martial arts historian Richard Bowen described as being "a pauper's grave." [Noble, Graham. "The Master of Bartitsu," "Journal of Asian Martial Arts," 1999, v. 8:2, pp. 50-61. [] ]


In many ways, E.W. Barton-Wright was a man ahead of his time. He was among the first Europeans known to have studied the Japanese martial arts, and was almost certainly the first to have taught them in Europe, the Commonwealth of Nations or the Americas.

Bartitsu was the first martial art to have deliberately combined Asian and European fighting styles towards addressing the problems of civilian/urban self-defence in an "unarmed society". In this, Barton-Wright anticipated Bruce Lee's Jeet Kune Do approach by over seventy years. Barton-Wright's philosophy of pragmatic eclecticism was taken up by other early 20th century European self-defence specialists, including Percy Longhurst, William Garrud and Jean Joseph-Renaud, all of whom had studied with former Bartitsu Club instructors.Wolf, Tony (ed.) "The Bartitsu Compendium." Lulu Publications, 2005.]

A similar philosophy was later to be embraced by Bill Underwood, William E. Fairbairn and others charged with developing close combat systems for use by Allied troops during the Second World War. Underwood had actually studied jujutsu with Yukio Tani and another jujutsuka, Taro Miyake, in London during the first decade of the 20th century. The systems founded by Underwood, Fairbairn, and their contemporaries became the basis for most military and police close-combat training throughout the Western world during the 20th century.

E.W. Barton-Wright is also remembered as a pioneering promoter of mixed martial arts or MMA contests, in which experts in different fighting styles compete under common rules. Barton-Wright's champions, including Yukio Tani, Sadakazu Uyenishi and Swiss "schwingen" wrestler Armand Cherpillod, enjoyed considerable success in these contests, which anticipated the MMA phenomenon of the 1990s by a hundred years.

The Bartitsu Club was among the first schools of its type in Europe to offer specialised classes in women's self defence, a practice taken up after the Club's demise by students of Yukio Tani and Sadakazu Uyenishi including Edith Garrud and Emily Watts. Mrs. Garrud established her own jujutsu dojo (school) in London and also taught the art to members of the militant Suffragette movement, establishing an early association between self defence training and the political philosophy of feminism.

Contemporary interest and revival

In 2001, the "Electronic Journals of Martial Arts and Sciences" (EJMAS) web site [] began to re-publish many of Barton-Wright's magazine articles that had been discovered in the British Library archives by Richard Bowen. [University of Bath Archives, Richard Bowen Collection. [] ] Almost immediately, the "Self Defence with a Walking Stick" articles attracted a minor cult following and the illustrations were reproduced, often with humorous captions or other alterations, on a number of other sites.

Doyle's "baritsu" developed a life of its own during the latter 20th century, and it was duly recorded that fictional heroes including Doc Savage and the Shadow had been initiated into its mysteries; the latter two characters were established as knowing baritsu in a DC Comics crossover that spilled over into The Shadow Strikes. Baritsu was also incorporated into the rules of several role-playing games set during the Victorian and Edwardian eras. [cite book
title=GURPS Martial Arts
coauthors=Peter Dell'Orto, Sean Punch
editor=Sean Punch
publisher=Steve Jackson Games

In 2002, an international association of Bartitsu enthusiasts, known as the Bartitsu Society, was formed to research and then revive E.W. Barton-Wright's "New Art of Self Defence". The Bartitsu Society divides Bartitsu research into two related fields, those of canonical Bartitsu (the self-defense sequences that were detailed by Barton-Wright and his assistants between 1899-1902) and neo-Bartitsu (modern, individualised interpretations drawing especially from the training manuals produced by former Bartitsu Club instructors and their students between 1905 and the early 1920s). Associated interests include social phenomena such as street gangsterism at the turn of the Twentieth century, the martial training of the militant Suffragette movement, and the study of the martial arts as Victorian and Edwardian social history. The Bartitsu Society communicates via an email group established by author Will Thomas and individual members occasionally offer practical seminars in Bartitsu fighting techniques.

In August 2005, the Society published a book, "The Bartitsu Compendium", which was edited by Tony Wolf.Wolf, Tony (ed.) "The Bartitsu Compendium." Lulu Publications, 2005.] The "Compendium" details the complete history of the art as well as a technical curriculum for canonical Bartitsu.

The second volumeWolf, Tony (ed.) "The Bartitsu Compendium II." Lulu Publications, 2008.] was published in August of 2008, comprising resources for neo-Bartitsu drawn both from Barton-Wright's own writings and from the corpus of self defence manuals produced by his colleagues and their students, including Yukio Tani, William Garrud, H.G. Lang, Jean Joseph-Renaud, and R.G. Allanson-Winn. Articles on various aspects of Bartitsu have been published in journals including "Classical Fighting Arts" and "Western Martial Arts Illustrated".

In September 2006, Bartitsu Society member Kirk Lawson released a DVD entitled "Bartitsu - the Martial Art of Sherlock Holmes", which is a presentation of Bartitsu techniques as demonstrated at the Spring '06 Cumann Bhata Western Martial Arts Seminar.

In October 2006, the Bartitsu Society launched the [] website, which includes information on the history, theory and practice of Barton-Wright's martial art.

In July 2008, Bartitsu Society member Kirk Lawson officially announced the first ongoing Bartitsu/Neo-Bartitsu training commitment at his club, Cumann Bhata Dayton.

Proceeds from the sales of the "Bartitsu Compendium", the "Bartitsu Compendium II", and the "Martial Art of Sherlock Holmes" DVD have been dedicated to creating a memorial for E.W. Barton-Wright.

Online essays by Barton-Wright

* "The New Art of Self-defence: How a Man May Defend Himself against Every Form of Attack," "Pearson's Magazine", March 1899, v. 7, pp. 268-275. []
* "The New Art of Self-defence," "Pearson's Magazine", April 1899, v. 7, pp. 402-410. []
* "Self-defence with a Walking Stick," "Pearson's Magazine", February 1901, v. 11, pp. 130-139. []


"Bartitsu: the Gentlemanly Art of Self Defence" []


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