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Developing sparring formats for Bartitsu

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    Developing sparring formats for Bartitsu

    Since about 2010, the Sherlock Holmes movies and steampunk craze have catapulted Bartitsu from an obscure historical martial arts revival project to a minor pop-culture phenomenon. One recent result has been a proliferation of quasi-Bartitsu classes and demos at steampunk conventions, sometimes performed by people who are in no practical sense "qualified" to be representing the system.

    To counter the inevitable impression that Bartitsu is strictly a LARP phenomenon, the Bartitsu Society is currently encouraging more serious clubs to create and post sparring videos. There is no standard format for Bartitsu sparring; some groups practice a kind of point-fighting inspired by historical fencing, while others spar in a way that looks more like Victorian Dog Brothers. Clubs are still too widely spread for tournaments to be logistically practical, but there is some enthusiasm for the idea of attaching a sparring event to the annual School of Arms seminar/conference in 2014.

    The object of this type of sparring is to pressure-test one's skills while (re-)discovering the most combat-efficient blend of the methods that went into E.W. Barton-Wright's original Bartitsu system, via experimentation. Thus, the sparring repertoire is deliberately anachronistic; while there is room for spur-of-the-moment improvisation, the techniques are largely restricted to the historical Bartitsu-related sources, dating from 1899 into the early 1920s. In that sense, it's a bit like playing vintage baseball, with old-time rules and equipment, rather than the modern sport.

    Most significantly, these "style points" include:

    * Predominant use of single and double-handed high guard positions in stick fighting.

    * Almost exclusive use of "hanging" or "roof"-style parries, in which the weapon-wielding hand is held higher than the point of impact between the two weapons, rather than the orthodox fencing parries of tierce and quarte.

    * Stick fighting tactics are heavily weighted towards invitations (for example, by lowering and/or widening the guard position to tempt an attack to a specific area), pre-emptive striking/feinting and "guards by distance" (simultaneous evasion and counter-attack)

    * Active integration of armed and unarmed combat

    * Predominant use of linear punches and linear, low kicks; in strictly unarmed combat, fighters employ the classic erect or backward-leaning fisticuffs stance and the "mill" pattern of vertically rotating fists.

    * When coming to grips in jacketed unarmed combat, the posture remains erect.

    * Deliberate exclusion of low-line grappling attacks (double-leg takedowns, etc.)

    The minimum protective equipment for this type of sparring consists of fencing masks, hockey or lacrosse gloves and groin cups. The weapons shown are 3/4" diameter, 36+" rattan sparring canes made by Purpleheart Armory, tipped with standard rubber cane ferrules at one end and with solid rubber "ball" handles at the other, simulating the steel ball handles of classic fighting canes. The asymmetrical balance of the cane is a key factor in this style of stick fighting.

    Fighters offer a simple salute with the stick or touch gloves to indicate the commencement and conclusion of a match.

    Fighters may acknowledge points verbally and/or gesturally but the emphasis is on continual action. A bout that goes to the ground may feature a successful submission hold/tapout but that does not necessarily represent the end of the match; by mutual accord, the fighters may simply recommence from a standing start if they wish.


    Some more Bartitsu sparring: lighter contact and more technical.


      I would like to find a club around me, just to add to my repertoire.


        Originally posted by DarkPhoenix View Post
        I would like to find a club around me, just to add to my repertoire.
        There's an active Bartitsu club in NYC, though they've just recently shifted from a "monthly seminars" format to a weekly training format, so I don't think they do any sparring yet. Also, it's possible that next year's School of Arms (the annual international Bartitsu seminar/conference) will be held on the East Coast.



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