What Is Bartitsu

What is Bartitsu

Bartitsu the martial art made famous by Sherlock Holmes, when martial arts are mentioned we tend to think of Bruce Lee or the Shaolin Monks from China, the martial arts are almost always viewed as arts that are either Chinese or Japanese in origin and that anyone who is good at martial arts must be from Asia.









The very thought that an English gent could be a top exponent of a martial art is very rae indeed, aman called Edward William Barton Wright had been living in Japan from 1896-1902 and the time that he spent there were very informative for him as this is where his martial arts journey began.

Barton Wright was fascinated with combat in all it’s various forms and because of this he set about finding the best martial arts of his era, being an English gentleman he naturally boxed with others using the Marques of Queensbury rules:

  1. To be a fair stand-up boxing match in a 24-foot ring, or as near that size as practicable.
  2. No wrestling or hugging allowed.
  3. The rounds to be of three minutes’ duration, and one minute’s time between rounds.
  4. If either man falls through weakness or otherwise, he must get up unassisted, 10 seconds to be allowed him to do so, the other man meanwhile to return to his corner, and when the fallen man is on his legs the round is to be resumed and continued until the three minutes have expired. If one man fails to come to the scratch in the 10 seconds allowed, it shall be in the power of the referee to give his award in favour of the other man.
  5. A man hanging on the ropes in a helpless state, with his toes off the ground, shall be considered down.
  6. No seconds or any other person to be allowed in the ring during the rounds.
  7. Should the contest be stopped by any unavoidable interference, the referee to name the time and place as soon as possible for finishing the contest; so that the match must be won and lost, unless the backers of both men agree to draw the stakes.
  8. The gloves to be fair-sized boxing gloves of the best quality and new.
  9. Should a glove burst, or come off, it must be replaced to the referee’s satisfaction.
  10. A man on one knee is considered down and if struck is entitled to the stakes.
  11. That no shoes or boots with spikes or sprigs be allowed.
  12. The contest in all other respects to be governed by revised London Prize Ring Rules.

The rules made the art of fighting very fair


old boxers







Boxing is one of the arts that were used in his quest for a water tight martial art. wrestling was another of the martial arts that Barton Wright used, he learned this art in Japan whilst he stayed there working as an engineer


The type of wrestling that Barton wright studied was called all in wrestling which as the name suggests is wrestling with very few rules:


Pinfall is when a wrestler pins his opponent for a count of three or the referees 3 slaps against the mat or outer ring area. A pinfall can happen in many ways:

  • By pinning an opponent in the regular position.
  • By pinning an opponent in the rolling position.
  • By pinning an opponent in the Canadian position.

These are the three ways a pin can be counted or done:

    • by the referee swinging his hand from his left shoulder to the right side (usually if a wrestler asks for this.)
    • by the referee slapping the mat three times with the left or right hand.
    • by the referee holding up the “x” sign, which signals an automatic win.


When an opponent taps out in a submission move. There are three ways to get a submission:

    • The wrestler taps out
    • The wrestler passes out
    • The wrestler asks for the referee to hold up the “x” sign because of an injury or a serious injury.


when an opponent stays outside the ring for two long. This can happen in two different ways:

    • If a wrestler stays outside the ring for a count of 10 or longer.
    • If a wrestler doesn’t get up before the ten count while down inside the ring.
    • If a wrestler passes out while in the middle of the ring.


A disqualification is if a wrestler breaks a rule or the ref feels that wrestler is doing what the referee told him not to do over and over again. There are different ways for a pro wrestler to get disqualified:

    • Using a foreign object on an opponent, if the match doesn’t allow weapons
    • If a wrestler doesn’t break the count before it gets to five (when an opponent is in a corner or on the ground)
    • If a wrestler doesn’t break a submission move\hold when the opponent’s foot or hand is on the bottom rope before the five count
    • If a wrestler breaks a rule after been given a warning by the referee
    • If a wrestler interferes in the match


A draw is where both wrestlers win the match or the match ends in a tie. Here are the different ways a match can end in a draw:

    • If the match ends with a double pin
    • If both wrestlers don’t answer the ten count while done in the ring
    • If both wrestlers get disqualified




Barton Wright used an old French martial art called Savate in which the fighter uses their fists as well as their feet, the rules for Savate are:


  1. fouetté (literally “whip”, roundhouse kick making contact with the toe—hard rubber-toed shoes are worn in practice and bouts), high (figure), medium (médian) or low (bas)
  2. chassé (side (“chassé lateral”) or front (“chassé frontal”) piston-action kick, high (figure), medium (médian) or low (bas)
  3. revers, frontal or lateral (“reverse” or hooking kick) making contact with the sole of the shoe, high (figure), medium (médian), or low (bas)
  4. coup de pied bas (“low kick”, a front or sweep kick to the shin making contact with the inner edge of the shoe, performed with a characteristic backwards lean) low only


  1. direct bras avant (jab, lead hand)
  2. direct bras arrière (cross, rear hand)
  3. crochet (hook, bent arm with either hand)
  4. uppercut (either hand)

Savate did not begin as a sport, but as a form of self-defence and fought on the streets of Paris and Marseille. This type of savate was known as savate de rue. In addition to kicks and punches, training in savate de rue (savate defense) includes knee and elbow strikes along with locks, sweeps, throws, headbutts, and takedowns.






Barton Wright used another martial art that he believed was crucial in the development of he new martial art and that was Fencing

Basic oultline of fencing

Fencing utilizes a simple scoring system, awarding one point for each time a fencer touches his opponent with his weapon. Depending on the manner of competition, bouts may last five touches with a time limit of three minutes or 15 touches and a time limit of nine minutes. A fencer must touch his opponent in an approved target zone of the body to register a point, with the target changing depending on the weapon used. In epee fencing, contacting anywhere on the opponent’s body registers a touch. Sabre fencing limits the target zone to the torso, meaning anywhere above the waist. Foil fencing reduces it even further, restricting the target area to the trunk only and removing the arms and head from consideration.








Barton wright combined the methods of all these forms of fighting into one system called Bartitsu which he believed would be the best self defence system for street fighting, in the early days of the develophent of Bartitsu Barton Wright would go out on pupose to seek the attention of what was then called toughs (street fighters of the day), Barton Wright said:


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. Barton Wrights theory on the way that the majority of fights should be approached with an aim to victory:

  1. To disturb the equilibrium of your assailant.
  2. To surprise him before he has time to regain his balance and use his strength.
  3. If necessary, to subject the joints of any parts of his body, whether neck, shoulder, elbow, wrist, back, knee, ankle, etc. to strains that they are anatomically and mechanically unable to resist.

The words of Barton Wright are almost identical to the words spoken by a famous martial artist of the 20th Century, a man called Bruce Lee when he said

I have not invented a “new style,” composite, modified or otherwise that is set within distinct form as apart from “this” method or “that” method. On the contrary, I hope to free my followers from clinging to styles, patterns, or molds. Remember that Jeet Kune Do is merely a name used, a mirror in which to see “ourselves”. . . Jeet Kune Do is not an organized institution that one can be a member of. Either you understand or you don’t, and that is that. There is no mystery about my style. My movements are simple, direct and non-classical. The extraordinary part of it lies in its simplicity. Every movement in Jeet Kune Do is being so of itself. There is nothing artificial about it. I always believe that the easy way is the right way. Jeet Kune Do is simply the direct expression of one’s feelings with the minimum of movements and energy. The closer to the true way of Kung Fu, the less wastage of expression there is. Finally, a Jeet Kune Do man who says Jeet Kune Do is exclusively Jeet Kune Do is simply not with it. He is still hung up on his self-closing resistance, in this case anchored down to reactionary pattern, and naturally is still bound by another modified pattern and can move within its limits. He has not digested the simple fact that truth exists outside all molds; pattern and awareness is never exclusive. Again let me remind you Jeet Kune Do is just a name used, a boat to get one across, and once across it is to be discarded and not to be carried on one’s back.

Bruce Lee was not the first to realize that hybrid martial arts was going to be the future but as we can see Barton Wright also had this vision of a stlyle without style just an art form that used what was useful and abndon what is useless, he was a true pioneer of the martial arts who is not as well known as Bruce Lee  but he is just as important in the development of martial arts that can really be used in self protection.

What Is Bartitsu?