Bartitsu

Wiliam Barton-WrightThe art which in recent years has become known as the art of Sherlock Holmes is in fact a creation a 19th century engineer called William Barton-Wright. Barton-Wright was a well travelled man and while in Japan he studied martial arts under several jujitsu masters including Jigoro Kano, the father of Judo.

On his return to London in 1898, Barton-Wright set up a School of Arms in Shaftsbury Avenue where boxing, fencing, wrestling and savate were also taught. A master of self promotion he began touring the music halls with Yukio Tani and Sadakazu Uyenishi, two prominent Jujitsu practitioners, offering a £20 purse, approximately 10 weeks wages, to anyone who could stay on their feet for 15 minutes with either of these experts. Thus Barton-Wright was able to successfully demonstrate the superiority of these Japanese fighting skills when employed by a small defender against a bigger more powerful assailant.

Wiliam Barton-WrightIn 1899, Pearson’s Magazine, printed an article by Barton-Wright describing the principles and techniques of a ‘New Art’ which he named Bartitsu; Conan Doyle called the skill employed by his fictional detective Sherlock Holmes, Baritsu. He explained that his new art of Bartitsu meant “real self-defence in every form.” As well as containing elements from ju-jitsu, Bartitsu also included skills and techniques from boxing, wresting and french kick boxing (Savate).

A visionary in many ways, Barton-Wright was emulated many year later by Bruce Lee, whose own quest for martial enlightenment led him to incorporate and adapt elements from different fighting styles in to his martial arts concept, Jeet Kune Do. Barton-Wright also published several articles on a self defence system using the cane, a device carried by most gentlemen at the time.

Although the Budokwai (the oldest and most famous Japanese martial arts club in Europe) honoured Barton-Wright’s contribution to martial arts in 1951 he was, a couple of years later, afforded only a paupers funeral in an unmarked grave. A sad and poor memorial for the west’s first mixed, martial artist and the man ultimately responsible for bringing Jujitsu to this country.

This introduction fails to do justice to this remarkable man, ahead of his time in many ways. Very few people, including martial artists are aware of him. A senior dan grade once asked me who was responsible for bringing jujitsu to this country, “William Barton-Wright,” I answered confidently. “No, it was Kano!” I was told.

UK martial artists, no matter what style they practice should acknowledge the fact that Barton-Wright was a pioneer in the combat arts. Today, societies exist that study and comment on the art of Bartitsu and a search on the net will find martial artists who list within their profiles ‘Bartitsu’ as a practicing or teaching style.

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ACS MAGFA … the beginning

Back in 2008 I was contemplating, with some trepidation, the dawning of my 35th year career with Dixons. Over the many years I’d worked for them, first as Currys then as Dixons Stores Group, I’d had a vast array of jobs: shop floor, relief manager, window dresser, admin processor, delivery driver, eventually moving on, by way of fortuitous resignation of one individual and me, unknowingly, impressing someone of importance – I must have had an off day!

This impression lead to head office in Ealing and another array of jobs and responsibilities eventually culminating in my role in e-commerce – Oh, in the meantime, we’d relocated to the chav capital known as Hemel Hempstead famous for Jarmin Park and it’s roaming groups of feral 16 year old mothers.

I could regale you with all the fascinating shenanigans that drives a large electrical retailer and how I hated Christmas ‘cos I’d been living it since bloody July! But I won’t, maybe one day, but not now. I will however say that I’d met some complete f***tards over the years, snotty little marketing oiks I couldn’t stand the sight of (they probably felt the same about me, but I could care less) and some great individuals who I liked and thought worthy of my respect.

But the one over riding thought at the back of mind as I ploughed on through the monotonous drudgery or marketing plan after marking plan, where spring creeps into summer followed by autumn and the inevitable yuletide boredom, was that one day I would retire and be gifted the watch, spoon or whatever the f*** they give out these (or those) days as retirement gifts.

It filled me with dread until 2009 … In 2009 the angel of career death, an obnoxious little female asian thing, came in under the remit of providing a restructure for the department I was in.

And please, don’t get uptight about the ‘female Asian thing’ it’s not meant to be derogatory, unless you see yourself as an obnoxious little female Asian thing, in which case you probably couldn’t give a s***! That’s good ‘cos neither do I!

They started by trying to find dirt and inappropriate activity on everyone and dismissing them on the spot. Some of these dismissals were ‘weak’ to say the least, some attempts for breach of company rules down right pathetic: the Irish joke sent by one irish director to another irish director, springs to mind.

Anyway my nose was clean, although I did replace the Teri Hatcher garbed in Superman cape I’d been using as my desktop, just in case. Upshot was I could apply for a down speced version of my job, (go screw yourself) a job further up the pay scale (really, in my frame of mind?) or seek redundancy.

I chose redundancy after a brief flirtation with a higher salaried position. My overriding thought was that this now gave me the opportunity to escape the inevitable train ride to gold watch oblivion.

I took the money and ran.

The next year was spent trying to find re-employment firstly in the area I was already familiar with, e-commerce and later at anything I could possibly find!

I was treated to the joys of the job seeker / job / unemployment center, or Dante’s Inferno as I liked to call it. I have never in my life seen so many ill mannered individuals. Smelly, poorly dressed, gaunt, disinterested – and that was just the staff!

Seriously they were sycophantic, derogatory and useless – prerequisites for local government employment I believe.

RANTMODE INITIATED

If you work in local government, and I have caused offense – good, my work here is done! I’ve met too many of you pen pushing no-marks. The day you remember that you’re role is to serve the tax payer and not the other way round, is the day you may gain some respect.

RANTMODE END

I was unemployable! Too highly paid for a call center job – I didn’t expect the same salary for gods sake! Too set in my ways in others – being loyal to one company over so many years reeks of poor self fulfillment and ambition – apparently!

I could train for new skills but would have to pay to be trained, unlike those that could hardly speak English or hadn’t worked before, their training was free – how the f*** does that work?

I couldn’t face the monotone: “have you worked this month?” “have you looked for work this month?” anymore! I’d already opened a modest martial arts club in 2008 and in late 2009 decided to try and change the modesty into something more substantial and money making.

It wasn’t going well …

Struggling and on the verge of being penniless I was rescued by Giles Delafeld, a man I had worked for at Dixons who, for some inexplicable reason, held me in high regard. He offered me a short term contract with Blacks and then later at Alexon which gave me the financial security to live and progress my coaching aspirations.

I got to train with Geoff Thompson, a man I had admired for many years and, as a result, I met some amazing martial artists and coaches, Al Peasland, Tony Preston, Wayne Poulter, Andy Holmes, Alan Butcher, Steve Timperly, Bromley Darren Rob Poynton, Luccio Delgaddo, Rory Miller, Gary Smith, there’s loads more, but this isn’t an episode of, ‘This is Your Life’ besides, remembering them all is a challenge in itself. These weren’t people associated with my brand of martial arts, but had a vast array or martial skills and influences. I learned from them – and still am.

Along the way I also got divorced after a long marriage. I was changing, metamorphosing my lifestyle so it was inevitable that any relationship was bound to be affected and so, with regret, I had to decide what was most important to me and move on.

I could go on, but boredom beckons.. Suffice to say that the next part of my journey which began with that redundancy back in 2009 had a first major terminus at a place called ACS MAGFA.

A venue we’ve been trying to secure ever since the madman called Geoff Thompson planted the seed of achievement in my confused and battered skull. A seed kept watered by the woman who entered my life after the divorce and who even now keeps telling me ‘its all a job well done and worth doing’

ACS MAGFA opened in October 2014. It’s an old Victorian building. Damp, cold, in need of loving care and the occasional hug by way of leak fixing. It’s our venue. A place where the kids who train there will be nurtured, hugged (metaphorically speaking) and taught that they are kings and queens of their own domain. That they matter, that they count and that they can make a difference to their lives and the lives of others. As for the adults, well I just let them hit and throw each other.

I have come a long way but feel the journey, to use a modern over used expression, has just re-booted.

I would like to thank: my children, Giles Delefeld, Geoff Thompson, Kiran Sharma, all my students and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. (of course Joss Whedon’s timeless cult classic is irrelevant in the scheme of things, but I thank him anyway because Buffy rocks!)

“To dream by night is to escape your life. To dream by day is to make it happen.”

Stephen Richards

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