British Martial Arts – Quarterstaff and Bartitsu

Discussion in 'Western Martial Arts' started by mmazone, May 5, 2009.

  1. mmazone

    mmazone New Member

    This traditional English stick-fighting art uses a weapon known as the “quarterstaff”—a hard, wooden staff that sometimes has a reinforced metal tip. It is possible the name evolved because the primary weapon was a staff and, when fighting, was typically held with the right hand in the middle and the left hand a quarter of the way from the end— hence “quarter staff.” However, a more probable theory is that the name refers to a fight settled without the use of a lethal sword or knife. In medieval English, “quarter”—meaning to give mercy—may have referred to the act of pardoning an opponent by not killing him and using the staff as a response to an insult instead of the deadly sword. Typically made from oak, hazel, or ash, they ranged from 6-9 ft (1.8-2.7 m) in length and would have been employed in swinging, arching actions, and poking thrusts.

    Easily adaptable
    Training was practical and, once mastered, practitioners could utilize a range of improvised weapons in offense and defense, easily adapting the skills they had learned to help effect victory in battle. Most famously used as the favorite weapon and training method of Little John, one of the followers of the legendary Robin Hood, the art was adapted and taught in the late 1800s at Aldershot Military Training School and continued in the early part of the 20th century, when it was simplified and taught as a sport for instilling confidence into young Boy Scouts in England.

    Bartitsu is an English martial art founded by E. W. Barton-Wright; the name being a mix of his name and jujutsu. Barton-Wright had studied jujutsu in Japan and, on returning to England in 1898, codified the system and described his new science of self-defense in the following manner: “Bartitsu … comprises not only boxing but also the use of the stick, feet, and a tricky style of Japanese wrestling in which weight and strength play only a very minor part.”

    Instant attraction
    The art quickly caught on for three main reasons: first, there was an increased interest in the Orient; second, at the turn of the century, physical culture had become a popular pastime among many who realized that the Industrial Revolution had led to a decline in the physical health of the sedentary middle and upper classes; and third there was among the popular media a rising interest in street violence. Newspapers of the time noted that stories about violence, wars, and street crime led to an increase in sales figures. The upshot of the glut of stories, though, was a widespread fear that an epidemic of violence was burgeoning on the streets of England.

    E. W. Barton-Wright led an interesting and colorful life. Born in 1860 in India to a Scottish mother and a northern-English father, he spent the majority of his youth following his father, a railroad engineer, around the world as he moved from job to job. While in Japan, Barton-Wright studied jujutsu and it is likely he also learned judo from Kano Jigoro—the art’s founder—during his time there, before returning to England and codifying bartitsu in 1898.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 13, 2010
  2. liokault

    liokault Banned Banned

    I'm not seeing the point of your post?

    Quaterstaff is a weapon rather than a style and Bartitsu was just a English guy teaching what he picked up in Japan rather than inovating or developing any thing new.

    Where you find the real British martial arts are in our diverse folk styles of grappling.....and theres always cotswold shin kicking.
  3. Taffyleigh

    Taffyleigh Valued Member

    Wasn't Bartitsu the style used by Sherlock Holmes in the stories?
  4. Devon

    Devon Valued Member

    That original post was some sort of obscure spam that appeared on quite a number of martial arts message boards a couple of months ago.

    Barton-Wright's major innovation was to create Bartitsu as a method of cross-training between several styles of jujitsu and judo, savate, boxing, Swiss wrestling and the Vigny method of stick fighting. Bartitsu was literally the first civilian self defense art to combine Asian and European MAs.
  5. Devon

    Devon Valued Member

    Conan Doyle actually wrote that Holmes practiced "baritsu", which is widely assumed to have been a typo for Bartitsu.
  6. ShiroTora

    ShiroTora Valued Member

    As in how he faught Moriarti at The Falls.

    Is this a real style or did Doyle make it up? Was it a typo or was it a fictitious method that Holmes was supposed to have learnt, albeit loosely based on the Bartitsu of the time?

    I see what Devon posted regarding the evolution of those methods that would have been around at the time.
    Access to foriegn MA would have been very limited, so it's interesting to see what the first of these cross training systems actually were. Many years before Sykes and Fairbarn went to Shang Hai!

    Last edited: Aug 26, 2009
  7. Devon

    Devon Valued Member

    No-one really knows anything more about baritsu than what Conan Doyle wrote, i.e. that it was a form of "Japanese wrestling". IMO the chances are that Doyle was vaguely aware of jiujitsu and Bartitsu, needed a clever way to save Holmes at Reichenbach Falls, and wrote "baritsu" because he couldn't recall the proper name.

    Bartitsu (the real art) actually was the first known self defense art to combine Asian and European styles.

  8. ShiroTora

    ShiroTora Valued Member

    Western indigenous Martial Arts are fascinating, aren't they? Mr Brown's book on English Martial Arts is well worth a read.

    Everybody has heard of Muay Thai, but recently we've heard about the indigenous fighting arts of the surrounding countries such as Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. The Martial Art of Burma is called Bando, and is similar to Muay Thai, though it has it's own distinct "flavour".

    Closer to home, the origins of Savate in France are quite interesting as well, how it ws originally a kicking style, and how they incorporated "Boxe Anglais" techniques to create the modern "Boxe Francais".

  9. reedk

    reedk Valued Member

    I have never heard of Bartitsu. Is it really a style. Anyone know of any martial arts movies that have this style?
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 13, 2010
  10. adouglasmhor

    adouglasmhor Not an Objectivist

    Yes it's really a style.
    Yes the last Sherlock Holmes movie.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 13, 2010
  11. reedk

    reedk Valued Member

    Thanks man ill check it out.
  12. Devon

    Devon Valued Member

    That's the second time in a week I've encountered someone wondering whether Bartitsu was real!

    The answer is yes - see or just watch the mini-documentary at [ame=""]YouTube - Bartitsu: the Gentlemanly Art of Self Defence[/ame] .

    As adouglasmhor mentioned, the upcoming Sherlock Holmes movie (starring Robert Downey Jr.) will have fight scenes inspired by Bartitsu, although as with every martial arts movie, it won't be a truly accurate representation of the art.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 13, 2010
  13. ShiroTora

    ShiroTora Valued Member

    Though the film won't be accurate Bartitsu, perhaps they will make the effort to make it realistic and a bit more authentic.

    In Dark Knight, KFM was used to give Batman's fighting style a more realistic look. Hopefully the Holmes producers will hire the right MA consultants to make Downey look like he knows what he's doing.

  14. Devon

    Devon Valued Member

    The Bartitsu Society donated copies of their books to the production and the fight choreographer is Richard Ryan, who also did the fight scenes for Troy. It'll be good action, which will probably borrow a bit from the historical art of Bartitsu.
  15. reedk

    reedk Valued Member

    Will definitely check out the Sherlock Holmes movie

    thanks for the info
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 13, 2010
  16. seiken steve

    seiken steve golden member

    bartitsu! brilliant.
    i thought sherlock was a boxer?

    wouldn't mind dabbaling in one or two bartitsu sessions if anyone knows where there is a dojo in or near newcastle upon tyne?
  17. Devon

    Devon Valued Member

    He was; co-incidentally, Bartitsu includes aspects of boxing as well as jiujitsu, savate and walking stick fighting.

    There's an up-to-date list of upcoming Bartitsu seminars and ongoing classes at the Bartitsu Society website -
  18. La Bete

    La Bete New Member

    Steve, the closest to you is probably Phil's class in Edinburgh - not exactly close!

    If there's a few of you interested we could possibly arrange a seminar or similar. I'm from chester-le-street originally and it's always good to get an excuse to head back up north :)
  19. seiken steve

    seiken steve golden member

    haha im sure half the club would jump to the occasion, the other half petrified of any change at all, ever.

    i'll give a shout at my karate and AJJ clubs and see what people think.

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