In 1893, an English civil engineer by the name of Edward William Barton-Wright went to work for the E.H. Hunter Company in Japan.

While there, Barton-Wright studied jiu-jitsu and Kodakan Judo, before returning to England in 1898.

Once in England, Barton-Wright took what he had learned of those two Japanese martial arts, and combined them with English pugilism to form what he called “The New Art of Self-Defence”.

While teaching this pragmatic art, Barton-Wright met Swiss Master-At-Arms Pierre Vigny, who introduced Barton-White to the French art of Savate Dèfense and Vigny’s own variation of Canne d’Arme which used walking sticks and umbrellas.

Barton-Wright called this early mixed martial art “Bartitsu” (a portmanteau of the words “jiu-jitsu” and “Barton”) and taught it to a great many people in London — including women. Which was definitely a first for the time.

Unfortunately, E.W. Barton-Wright wasn’t very skilled as a promoter, and although he is rumoured to have continued training and development of Bartitsu until the early 1920’s, for all intents and purposes Bartitsu ended in 1903 with the closing of Barton-Wright’s Bartitsu Club in London.

Bartitsu might have vanished forever, except that an author — who occasionally published articles in Pearson’s Magazine alongside the articles of Barton-Wright — happened to pen some books about a bloke who liked to solve mysteries and who was well-trained in an art of self-defence called “baritsu”.

We don’t know if “bartitsu” was mis-spelled because of copyright issues, or mis-remembering, typographical error or a goof-up on the part of the editor — but we do know that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s most famous detective was thoroughly acquainted with the eclectic mix of savate, judo, boxing, wrestling, cane-fighting and street-scrapping that is the legacy of E.W. Barton-Wright.


"Quickly, Watson, get your service revolver!"

8 thoughts on “Baritsu”

  1. Dang, Dawg. You are a veritable fountain of esoteric (and always-interesting) lore. MERRY CHRISTMAS TO YOU AND YOURS.

  2. Good one LawDog. It is true, you really can learn something new everyday. Merry Christmas.

  3. Yep, Sherlock is a many-faceted character…though I can't remember the particular story, perhaps "The Return of Sherlock Holmes?" Single stick fighting was mentioned a time or two as well, as I recall.

  4. Reading the original stories, Sherlock Holmes was not entirely cerebral. His brother Mycrofft was. Sherlock was a Victorian gentleman, who were obliged to be athletic.

    of note in Baritsu is Edith Garrud, who learned and taught baritsu to the suffragate movement "bodyguard".

  5. That is one I didn't know 🙂 Thanks for the history lesson and Merry CHRISTmas to you and yours!

  6. Merry Christmas, LD. And that's really cool to know – now I can go watch the movie with a better suspension of disbelief!

  7. Lawdog, if you are interested in Japanese culture, have you checked out "Japanese Homes and Their Surroundings" by Edward S. Morse?

    It was written by a zoologist that visited Japan soon after the "revolution" (Meiji restoration), and he documented the Japanese home.

    Although the original was published in 1886, their was a reissue in the mid 20th century that is still in print.

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