The Pillars of Bartitsu - victorian bartitsu practitioners

Bartitsu, a unique and eclectic martial art, gained prominence in the late 19th century as a complete self-defence system. It was created by Edward William Barton-Wright, who sought to combine various fighting styles to create a versatile and effective method of personal protection. At its core, Bartitsu relies on four distinct pillars: Japanese JuJitsu, Boxing, Savate, and Cane Fighting. In this article, we will delve into each of these martial arts to understand their contributions to the fascinating world of Bartitsu.

Japanese JuJitsu: The Foundation of Bartitsu

JuJitsu in Bartitsu

The first pillar of Bartitsu, Japanese JuJitsu, provided the groundwork for the entire system. JuJitsu is a traditional Japanese martial art that focuses on using an opponent’s energy and movements against them. Barton-Wright, who spent several years in Japan, adapted many JuJitsu techniques for Bartitsu. These techniques encompass throws, joint locks, and grappling manoeuvres.

JuJitsu’s emphasis on leverage and technique was instrumental in shaping Bartitsu’s non-resistive approach. Practitioners learned to redirect an opponent’s force, rendering them helpless while minimising the need for brute strength. This proved especially useful in an era when gentlemen and women sought self-defence skills that didn’t rely on physical power.

What does JuJitsu bring to Bartitsu?

  • Throws
  • Locks
  • Grappling
  • Strikes

More information on JuJitsu


Boxing: The British Art of Striking

The second pillar of Bartitsu is boxing, a combat sport that places a strong emphasis on striking techniques using fists. Incorporating boxing into Bartitsu allowed practitioners to learn effective punching, footwork, and defensive manoeuvres. Boxing was chosen for its ability to handle stand-up confrontations, complementing the grappling techniques from JuJitsu.

The inclusion of boxing brought an entirely new dimension to Bartitsu. It taught students the art of striking effectively, utilising combinations of jabs, hooks, and uppercuts. These skills proved invaluable in scenarios where self-defence required keeping an opponent at a distance.

What does Boxing bring to Bartitsu?

  • Striking
  • Footwork
  • Range
  • Defense

More information on Boxing / Pugilism

Savate: French Kickboxing with a Certain Je Ne Sais Quoi

Savate, the third pillar of Bartitsu, is a French kickboxing style known for its striking with the feet. Incorporating Savate into Bartitsu enhanced the art’s striking capabilities. This martial art introduced kicks, sweeps, and an array of lower-body techniques that complemented boxing’s upper-body focus.

The utilisation of Savate was pivotal, enabling Bartitsu practitioners to execute swift and powerful kicks. This unique combination of boxing and Savate allowed for an effective range of striking techniques, ensuring that students could handle various combat scenarios.

What does Savate bring to Bartitsu?

  • Kicks
  • Sweeps
  • Unique strikes & angles

More information on Savate

Cane Fighting: An Unconventional Weapon

The fourth and perhaps most distinctive pillar of Bartitsu is cane fighting. In an era when gentlemen and ladies carried walking canes as a fashion statement, cane fighting became an essential self-defence skill. Barton-Wright recognised the potential of this everyday accessory as a concealed weapon, and thus, it found its place in Bartitsu.

Cane fighting in Bartitsu involves using the walking cane as both a defensive and offensive weapon. Techniques include strikes, blocks, and joint locks. Cane fighting added an element of surprise and unpredictability, allowing individuals to protect themselves discreetly.

What does Cane Fighting bring to Bartitsu?

  • Improvised weapon
  • Advantages against unarmed and armed foe
  • Additional tool for locks, throws, block and strikes


The Synergy of Bartitsu

The beauty of Bartitsu lies in the harmonious integration of these four diverse martial arts. By combining Japanese JuJitsu, boxing, Savate, and cane fighting along with Barton-Wright’s own methodology and approach, Barton-Wright created a comprehensive, multifaceted system which prepared practitioners for a wide range of self-defence situations. Whether it was a sudden physical altercation on the street or a need for discreet personal protection, Bartitsu provided a solution.

In conclusion, Bartitsu’s four pillars, drawn from Japanese JuJitsu, boxing, Savate, and cane fighting, demonstrate the versatility of this unique martial art. Each component contributed to the development of a comprehensive self-defence system that catered to the needs of the time.
Today, Bartitsu stands as a testament to the ingenuity of its founder and continues to captivate martial arts enthusiasts, historical reenactors, and those interested in the rich tapestry of self-defence history.


Bartitsu, The Martial Art of Sherlock Holmes

If you’re interested in learning more, the Bartitsu club webpage seeks to preserve, extend and promote the art of Bartitsu. Below we have included some useful links on our website.

A directory of Bartitsu clubs

Information on learning Bartitsu

A list of must have Bartitsu books