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  1. #1
    DdlR's Avatar
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    Ask me literally anything about Bartitsu

    I've been closely involved with the revival of Bartitsu, the eccentric circa 1900 "martial art of Sherlock Holmes", for a long time. I've seen it develop from a tiny fringe-of-the-fringe academic interest in the very early 2000s through development, via research and pressure-testing, into a still-fringy but functional martial art combining jujutsu, Vigny stick fighting and old-school boxing. Then the Robert Downey Jr. "Sherlock Holmes" movies transformed it into a minor pop-culture phenomenon that's subsequently popped up in the mainstream media, sitcoms, comic books and video games.

    It's been a while since I had a good discussion about this stuff, so feel free to ask anything you like.

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    Diesel_tke's Avatar
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    How much emphasis is placed on the stick fighting portion of your training? I've only really seen pictures of Vigny stick fighting and I just wonder if you spar sticks with aliveness or is it more compliant as a historical recreation rather than combative in nature?

    Stickfighting being one of my favorite things, is the reason I ask. But I'm curious as to the direction you take with it. I went to a fencing club at my old university because my dad is a fencing instructor. So I was going to get some fencing in with them. Unfortunately, they were into historical fencing and more interested in dressing up in medieval clothes than actually fighting. So I was wondering if that's the direction Bartitsu takes as well?
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    scipio's Avatar
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    I've seen a couple of one off seminars in the UK - is there anywhere in the UK that has any kind of regular scheduled training?

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    I realize this is probably difficult if not impossible to answer definitively, but how close do you think the revival is to the original?

    Was there much source material to go off of?

    Also do you think modern pressure testing may change aspects of the art?

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    DdlR's Avatar
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    How much emphasis is placed on the stick fighting portion of your training? I've only really seen pictures of Vigny stick fighting and I just wonder if you spar sticks with aliveness or is it more compliant as a historical recreation rather than combative in nature?
    Here's a recent video compilation of Vigny-style stick sparring matches from various countries:

    Vigny stick fighting is undoubtedly the most popular aspect of the Bartitsu revival. I'd say that there is still, however, a bit of a demographic problem in that the people who are most often/naturally attracted to Bartitsu tend to be steampunks/history nerds with a bit of martial arts training, rather than serious fighters. That meant that, up until maybe six years ago, relatively few clubs wanted to take it in the full "Dog Brothers" direction of hard contact sparring. That's been changing recently to the point that there are now some good examples out there for the rest of the revivalist community.

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    DdlR's Avatar
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    I've seen a couple of one off seminars in the UK - is there anywhere in the UK that has any kind of regular scheduled training?
    There have been numerous UK-based clubs set up over the past decade or so, but not too many that have stayed the course. The Bartitsu Lab in Warwickshire is pretty "hot" right now, and recently hosted a successful multi-club weekend seminar/sparring event, so I'd check them out if possible: https://www.artofmoore.co.uk/bartitsu.

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    Diesel_tke's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DdlR View Post
    Here's a recent video compilation of Vigny-style stick sparring matches from various countries:

    Vigny stick fighting is undoubtedly the most popular aspect of the Bartitsu revival. I'd say that there is still, however, a bit of a demographic problem in that the people who are most often/naturally attracted to Bartitsu tend to be steampunks/history nerds with a bit of martial arts training, rather than serious fighters. That meant that, up until maybe six years ago, relatively few clubs wanted to take it in the full "Dog Brothers" direction of hard contact sparring. That's been changing recently to the point that there are now some good examples out there for the rest of the revivalist community.
    That's good stuff! Looks a lot like some Kali sparring that I've done. I would totally be into that if there was any close by. Have you done any Vigny vs FMA sparring? I would be interested to see how some of that altered the game. Some of the setups are unorthodox compared to more current stuff, but then all starts to look similar in application.

    Very cool!
    Combatives training log.

    Gezere: paraphrase from Bas Rutten, Never escalate the level of violence in fight you are losing. :D

    Drum thread

    Pavel Tsatsouline: kettlebell workouts give you “cardio without the dishonour of aerobics”.

  8. #8
    DdlR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BJMills View Post
    I realize this is probably difficult if not impossible to answer definitively, but how close do you think the revival is to the original?

    Was there much source material to go off of?

    Also do you think modern pressure testing may change aspects of the art?
    I'd say that the Platonic ideal of the revival is that modern practitioners should be able to fight well in a style that's very closely evocative of the original, as well as we understand it from nigh-on 18 years of intensive research. "Historical accuracy" tends to evoke bespectacled nerds poring over dusty books, but it's crucial to something like reviving Bartitsu; if you're not aiming for a high degree of accuracy, you may as well save lots of time and effort and just train in MMA, FMA, etc.

    Starting in the early 2000s we've had three major "waves" of research. The first was very much a team effort, back when the Internet was shiny and new, as far-flung enthusiasts met online and pooled resources, scouring the British Library, antique book stores, etc. At that point Bartitsu was a tiny little niche interest and no-one expected it to ever be much more than that.

    Then the next wave happened once we had enough original material to start pressure-testing it and realized that, once you get past the silly name and the handlebar mustaches, this actually was a way-ahead-of-its-time martial art; there was some substance there. Finally, the most recent wave happened when the British Newspaper Archive went online, which didn't reveal much "new" technical info. but did include some old interviews and reports on Bartitsu demos, etc., which allowed us to connect the dots a bit better.

    At this point I'd say there's *just* enough completely original, circa 1900 material that we can now make highly-educated deductions about how it worked and especially how the original styles fit together. Once you expand into the "neo-Bartitsu" side of things - based on the detailed training manuals produced by former Bartitsu Club instructors and their first generation of students - there's enough to keep you busy forever.

    The only real risk re. pressure-testing is that without very strict stylistic guidelines, the whole exercise becomes redundant because it easily melts into a generic blend of stickfighting, kickboxing and submission grappling. If revivalists can hold to the technical and tactical "markers" that gave the original style its own flavor, then the revival project can be counted as a great success.

  9. #9
    DdlR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Diesel_Claus View Post
    That's good stuff! Looks a lot like some Kali sparring that I've done. I would totally be into that if there was any close by. Have you done any Vigny vs FMA sparring? I would be interested to see how some of that altered the game. Some of the setups are unorthodox compared to more current stuff, but then all starts to look similar in application.

    Very cool!
    I haven't done any Bartitsu vs. FMA, but there's a guy in Chile who has done a whole bunch of experimental sparring matches along those lines. The main differences are that the Bartitsu-style stick is 1) longer than the "typical" FMA stick 2) weighted differently and 3) almost always held in a variety of high guard positions - the theory was that high guards protect your weapon hand from being sniped or accidentally struck while you block.

    Please note that none of these vids are intended as "our style kicks your style's ass" - it's all in the spirit of experimentation to learn more about the original Vigny stick system. It's also worth noting that the original style involved quite a lot of closing in to takedown, etc., but that isn't featured much in these videos.

    Here's the Vigny stick vs. FMA doble baston (sorry, can't embed the videos here): http://www.bartitsu.org/index.php/20...-doble-baston/

    Vigny stick vs. a clearly less-experienced opponent fighting in a more generic style: http://www.bartitsu.org/index.php/20...ting-in-chile/

    Vigny stick against a more experienced FMA-trained opponent: http://www.bartitsu.org/index.php/20...stickfighters/

    There are dozens of similar vids on the Bartitsu Society website - try searching for "Andres Morales" if you're interested.

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by DdlR View Post
    I'd say that the Platonic ideal of the revival is that modern practitioners should be able to fight well in a style that's very closely evocative of the original, as well as we understand it from nigh-on 18 years of intensive research. "Historical accuracy" tends to evoke bespectacled nerds poring over dusty books, but it's crucial to something like reviving Bartitsu; if you're not aiming for a high degree of accuracy, you may as well save lots of time and effort and just train in MMA, FMA, etc.

    Starting in the early 2000s we've had three major "waves" of research. The first was very much a team effort, back when the Internet was shiny and new, as far-flung enthusiasts met online and pooled resources, scouring the British Library, antique book stores, etc. At that point Bartitsu was a tiny little niche interest and no-one expected it to ever be much more than that.

    Then the next wave happened once we had enough original material to start pressure-testing it and realized that, once you get past the silly name and the handlebar mustaches, this actually was a way-ahead-of-its-time martial art; there was some substance there. Finally, the most recent wave happened when the British Newspaper Archive went online, which didn't reveal much "new" technical info. but did include some old interviews and reports on Bartitsu demos, etc., which allowed us to connect the dots a bit better.

    At this point I'd say there's *just* enough completely original, circa 1900 material that we can now make highly-educated deductions about how it worked and especially how the original styles fit together. Once you expand into the "neo-Bartitsu" side of things - based on the detailed training manuals produced by former Bartitsu Club instructors and their first generation of students - there's enough to keep you busy forever.

    The only real risk re. pressure-testing is that without very strict stylistic guidelines, the whole exercise becomes redundant because it easily melts into a generic blend of stickfighting, kickboxing and submission grappling. If revivalists can hold to the technical and tactical "markers" that gave the original style its own flavor, then the revival project can be counted as a great success.
    Interesting thanks.

    And as far a maintaining the 'style' of the art while pressure testing I suppose it's not much different (in terms of philosophy not practice) then say JKA tournaments where rules about how a technique is thrown effect whether it scores or not... er, at least that's the way I was taught when I was a kid and still did karate. I have no idea nowadays.

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