Bartitsu, or Steampunk Self-Defense

189486_10100105986224653_10204668_52526546_5234721_n   200722_10150123524183883_611573882_6655789_38919_n  fight6  fancy fight

This page discusses the actual late Victorian/Edwardian mixed-martial-art called Bartitsu. My new Steampunk novel Paragon of the Eccentric is full of Bartitsu fights.

Video links from Victorian Violence conference are below the Bartitsu info.


(below is the handout I give to participants at my canonical Bartitsu workshops at conventions and festivals)


“Belabour Him As You See Fit”



–invite a strike to a specific point, so you can predict it and prepare a countermove

–seize the initiative; don’t let opponent dictate what you do

–defend with an offensive move, if possible

–tenkan (demi-volte) or remove target (guard by distance), while remaining in range for

your own strike

–close with opponent; get inside the attack

–upset opponent’s balance while maintaining your own (especially head feints/attacks)

–attack his joints to force submission

–place yourself behind and beside him to exert control


Pugilism (punches)

Savate (kicks)

Jiu-jitsu (submission holds)

Wrestling (throws)

Stick/Umbrella (weapons)

–This is a mixed martial art; don’t rely on any one of the above disciplines

–Bartitsu is not a sport, but a violent defensive system; don’t play with your attacker (it gives him an edge)—finish him quickly, belabour him as you see fit, and then take tea


–Pugilism:  guards, punches (thumb on top, always demi-lunge with lead leg

–Savate:      basic kicks (low and high)

–Stick:        guards, tenkan, guard by distance, parries, strikes, hooks

–Jiu-jitsu:    joint locks (wrist, elbow, knee)

–Combinations for head, body, arm, leg strikes & grabs


–Ladies (umbrella): point & hook (or hatpin–now is not the time to be genteel)

–Hat/Coat defense: entangle your foe’s arms/face

–Multiple attackers: keep moving; seize one ruffian and use him as a hapless shield; create an opening and run away

For more information/training:            Website:




Cunningham, Andrew Chase

—The Cane as a Weapon (1912)

Hatsumi, Masaaki

—Stick Fighting: Techniques of Self-Defense

Lang, Tom

—The Stick And Cane In Close Combat: Jointlocks, Takedowns and Surprise Attacks

Tony Wolf(get these books first)

—The Bartitsu Compendium, Volume 1: History and the Canonical Syllabus

—The Bartitsu Compendium, Volume II: Antagonistics (both 2008)



(Tony Wolf’s site; there is also a companion Yahoo group

This is one-stop shopping. It is so extensive that you need go nowhere else)


Video (also plenty of YouTube clips available)

—Bartitsu – the Lost Martial Art of Sherlock Holmes (Tony Wolf)

Bartitsu – The Martial Art of Sherlock Holmes (Kirk Lawson)

(Beware! The above videos are easily confused. Wolf’s is a state-of-the-art History Channel-type production containing mostly historical context. Lawson’s is a guy standing in a park in a high wind teaching a class. Good combatives info, but poor sound)

Introductory Bartitsu (Gallowglass Academy)  Basic ‘how-to-hit-him’ video


My 4-part series on Victorian violence/Bartitsu for the UK’s English Historical Fiction Authors blog:

Victorian Violence video links, Denver’s Colorado Gold Conference 2014

1890’s boxing film:

Single Stick fight

Walking stick fight

Umbrella fight

Sword cane demo

Cane gun demo

Webley revolver demo

Webley-Fosbery demo:

Webley-Fosbery firing

LeMat revolver demo

Bartitsu demo

Bartitsu group demo

Jiu-Jitsu suffragettes

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