In 2002, author and Bartitsu enthusiast Will Thomas set up an email list to communicate with others of like mind. This correspondence developed into an international association known as the Bartitsu Society, which was formed to research E.W. Barton-Wright's "New Art of Self Defence". Although initially focussed on academic and historical documentation, the charter of the Bartitsu Society grew to encompass reviving the art at the practical level.
The first task was to gather as much primary source information as possible about Barton-Wright and his martial art, and towards this goal, members of the Society scoured institutions such as the British Library as well as old bookstores and newspaper archives. Eventually, the Society had enough information to be able to confidently define “Canonical Bartitsu”; the collection of self defence sequences, kata and techniques that were specifically presented as Bartitsu by Barton-Wright and his associates between 1899 and 1903. Canonical Bartitsu is maintained as a mark of respect for Barton-Wright’s vision, as a matter of historical preservation and also as a form of common language amongst contemporary enthusiasts.
Having established the Bartitsu canon, the Society then turned its attention to the idea of neo-Bartitsu. This was suggested as a way for Bartitsu enthusiasts, both individuals and groups, to work creatively with the canonical material. Neo-Bartitsu was also conceived as a way to extend the art through reference to the corpus of boxing, jiujitsu, savate and stick-fighting methods recorded in the books produced by Barton-Wright’s colleagues and their students between 1903 and the early 1920s. In this sense, neo-Bartitsu can be described as “Bartitsu as it might have been” or as “Bartitsu as it can be today.”
By 2004, members of the Society had begun offering practical workshops in both canonical and neo-Bartitsu techniques.