More Duelling Inspiration: Bartitsu


Edward Barton Wright montage (Wikipedia public domain source) 

Lots of steampunk Sherlock Holmes era self defence, umbrella duelling etc – don’t try this at home  – on this interesting website about E.W. Barton Wright, 1860-1951,  the inventor of Bart-itsu. is a fascinating website or blog,  written by James Marwood since 2008, is a real labour of love, researching this once-forgotten pioneer of the martial arts.

How to use your cane and hat (shield ) to defend yourself – a short silent film by James Marwood.

Lots more ravishing images of  duelling in suitable clothing

This all fits well with Gerard Du Gre’s simple “Lunge, Cut and Stop Thrust” skirmish duelling rules from Donald Featherstone’s Solo Wargaming.

I wonder how many manufacturers make these kind of gents and ruffians?


Playmobil certainly do top hat figures like Dracula. Somewhere amongst the many interesting steampunk and VSF miniatures, other figures might be found wielding sticks, umbrellas and walking canes etc. I searched the toy box and my collection for a few suitable figures:

Dr. Watson with stick in hand confronted by a Ruffian with a stick after his medical bag, no doubt. (Sherlock and Watson are Tradition Of London  figures, home cast Prince August policeman, pound store plastic pirate moll and Wendal farmer hooligan with stick.)
And never forget the simple rule – “those who live by the sword (stick) get shot by those who don’t.” Watch out for that lady!

Edith Garrud taught Jiu-jitsu to suffragettes protecting Mrs Pankhurst which became known as Suffra-Jitsu. See also Miss Sanderson or Madame Vigny

A Match for Any Ruffian! Ladies Self Defence 1902 style

Against a determined lady armed only with a hat pin, umbrella and a handful of distraction devices, I don’t much rate the survival chances of these two mean-looking characters with cudgels! Who needs a sturdy Footman?

“The umbrella is distinctly a form of rapier; the husband-beater is a hand-and-a-half estoc (to be used in the saddle, if required); and the sunshade and parasol are short swords, or long daggers: and one and all are designed for thrusting— not cutting.

Yet how does the citizen use his characteristic weapon ? Why, as a broadsword—nearly always!”

from “The Umbrella:  A Misunderstood Weapon” website

From “The Umbrella as a Misunderstood Weapon” blog post, website

And going back a period to the Brontes (hooray, Arise Angria! etc) and late Regency / early Victorian period, 1838 Baron Charles Du Berenger’s Defensive Gymnastics:

Not forgetting  Captain F.C. Laing of the 12th Bengal Infantry (Kelat-I-Ghilzai Regiment) who spent several months doing intensive training at the London Bartitsu Club.

Lots more Edwardian / Victorian military gents in the original Bartitsu Club

Egerton Castle’s Rapier training and Ancient Swordplay revival

Edwardian Paintball – harmless duelling with wax bullets?

Edwardian Lady Detective Judith Lee

Over almost a decade the Bartitsu website has thrown some interesting people nad pictures including:

The Simms Motor Scout, one of the world’s first armed motor vehicles?

Simms’ Motor Scout 1899 (Wikipedia source)

and his Simms War Car, again possibly the world’s first armoured car?

Simms’ War Car at the Crystal Palace, 1902 (Wikipedia source) 

I’m sure H.G. Wells would approve of Simms’ inventiveness and foresight. This 1899 invention narrowly missed deployment in the Boer War: “Because of difficulties, including a gearbox destroyed by a road accident, that arose during completion the prototype was not finished by Vickers until 1902 when the Boer War was over”. Now there is a “What If?” Boer War gaming scenario.  The French version with a Russian Army connection looks even more modern –,_Girardot_et_Voigt_1902

Noted Bartitsu historian Emelyne Godfrey has written several books and articles  on crime and self defence in Victorian Britain.

All fascinating stuff – don’t try Umbrella Fencing at home without suitable head protection  – from a website and area  which throws up lots of interesting duelling scenarios for Gerard Du Gre’s “Lunge, Cut and Stop Thrust” rules.

Scenarios and figures? 

At last a gaming use for all those civilian figures, ladies with parasols, farmers with sticks, useless cameo cowboys and soldier figures  clubbing with rifles, drum majors with their batons etc.

Part of the role of the Militia in Britain throughout Napoleonic, Regency and Victorian times was crowd control, as set out in Jenny Uglow’s In These Times (reviewed earlier on this blog). Rioters, luddites and mobs of protesters often armed only with pitchforks, cudgels and tools would be broken up or scared off by calling out the Militia. The Riot Act would be read etc, etc.

The Militia  formed this role of suppression or public order before an organised police force in Victorian times. Jenny Uglow is very even-handed in her views on the British Government’s use of the Volunteers and Militia to suppress dissent or keep order during a surprisingly turbulent time of food riots, resistance of the press-gang, Highland clearances and labour disputes.

An Angrian police force or constabulary in top hat,  blue tail coat and cutlass  appear in the Charlotte  Bronte Angria juvenilia stories in her early Victorian  novella “Henry Hastings”. They are sent to all points of the compass, tracking down this escaped treacherous murdering deserter!

While some early top hatted policemen with their leather stock neck pieces (against garrotting gangs) carried a cutlass, traditionally British police have been unarmed. What is the police truncheon or American patrol officers night stick however but an extension of this Bartitsu type approach of self defence? Highwaymen beware!

Before and after … front and back views … or How not to upset the Broom Lady out of Steve Weston’s excellent Mexican Peasants set. 

Not forgetting those ever so useful handy Steve Weston Mexican Peasant figures, some of which would have a distinctively Boxer / Oriental / Street Fighting appearance with suitable painting.

Off to track down some more useful ‘useless’ posed figures for more duelling in the mean streets, backyards, gardens and sandpits of my Imagi-Nations …

Meanwhile in the leafy Edwardian garden of my imagination


If  any Ruffian  snuck up on H. G. Wells in his garden whilst busy playing Little Wars, sorry I meant  researching his next book, no doubt Wells would snatch up a nearby garden cane, whip off his straw hat and Have at Them! En Garde-ns!


Lunge, Cut and Stop Thrust – this could almost be H.G. Wells versus Edward Barton Wright. (Wikipedia source montage). 

Blogposted by Mark, Man of TIN blog, April 28 2017.

4 thoughts on “More Duelling Inspiration: Bartitsu”

  1. Jolly interesting post. Strangely enough the other day some chaps demonstrating Bartitsau appeared on my Instagram feed from the royal armouries as they are I think demonstrating it as part of a Sherlock holmes Weekend there.


  2. Strange coincidence Alan! Bartitsu seems to be a growing international very niche thing – getting walloped at incredible speed with umbrellas and sticks is not my kind of hobby but each to his own!
    I’m sure in the rough lawless streets of Regency and Victorian London this would have been a very useful skill.
    I think some of the Dorset Soldiers series of Morris Dancers could be useful stick fighting miniatures for this sort of thing … en garde with bells on. Etc Etc
    Mark, Man of TIN blog


  3. Another interesting post; and another blog that I must read! I took fencing classes years ago and was thinking of getting into it again. There are some interesting videos of actual duels on Youtube; just type in “epee duel” and you can see several duels fought in the early 1900s. However, they aren’t quite as exciting as in the movies! I do, on occasion when the coyotes are active, carry a cane with me while walking my dog, as a last ditch defense should they get too bold. Also, here in the States, they have classes on how to use a shillelagh walking stick for defense.


  4. John
    Thanks for the YouTube tip off – it might be good to watch these for learning some new moves or new random cards to add to De Gre / Featherstone’s limited fencing / fighting moves of Parry and Lunge, Cut to Head and Stop – Thrust.

    I think my reflexes aren’t fast enough any more for fencing. I have done some choreographed stage fighting before many years ago. Useful skills though to see off wild beasts …

    I like the idea that you can use this type of simple skirmish game for any period from rifle butt and bayonet back to caveman or more benign sport fencing.

    There are several more quick and simple sets of rules to explore in the Wargaming in Bed chapter of Solo Wargaming covering jousting and tournaments.

    I have 54mm Briatins Deetail Turks and Knights somewhere, as well as the pound store plastics as well as the 15mm Peter Laing knights for this. I think you have done Peter Laing jousting on your blog before?
    Best wishes
    Mark, Man of TIN blog


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