Art of Bartitsu: The Original MMA

Bartitsu, first developed by Edward William Barton-Wright in 1898 after returning from Japan, is considered one of the first martial arts to hybridize styles from Eastern and Western methods, primarily cane fighting, fencing, jujitsu, savate and english boxing.  Nearly 70 years before Bruce Lee developed Jeet Kune Do (Considered the first modern mixed art) Barton-Wright devised a system that would meet the needs of various scenarios in self defense.

In his observation, he saw that the Japanese arts of Kodakan Judo and Jujitsu were well fitted for close-contact defense, incorporating throws and grappling maneuvers, but limited at longer range.  From this, he incorporated the use of cane as a long distance defense object, and boxing as a mid-range solution for striking and kicking.

In his notes for a lecture delivered to the Japan Society of Londan in 1901, Barton-Wright wrote:

"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 are secret styles of Japanese wrestling, (I) would call close play as applied to self-defence.
In order to ensure, as far as it is possible, immunity against injury in cowardly attacks or quarrels, (one) 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 are scientifically attacked. The same, of course, applies 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 are only to be used after coming to close quarters, and in order to get to close quarters it is absolutely necessary to understand boxing and the use of the foot."

 

Although it was a short-lived venture, the Bartitsu Club in Soho was considered one of the first establishments to offer self-defense specifically for women.  Many of the club's early instructors went on to establish their own academies.

Had it not been for a small reference to the art in The Adventure of the Empty House by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Bartitsu may have been forever lost in obscurity.  Explaining his victory over Moriarty during their struggle at Reichenbach Falls, Sherlock Holmes credited "baritsu, or the Japanese system of wrestling, which has more than once been very useful to me".

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