I have some knowledge of baritsu [EMPT]

As Holmes explained to me, after I had recovered from my faint, on his sudden return that spring of 1894, he was never in that awful abyss at the base of the Reichenbach Falls. He had used his knowledge of the Japanese system of wrestling, known as Bartitsu to escape from Professor Moriarty. My literary agent had incorrectly transcribed it from my draft as “baritsu”. I might suggest, as a doctor, he should have been better at reading another doctor’s scrawl!

I was unaware until very recently that although bartitsu is derived from Japanese methods it was the invention of an Englishman, Edward William Barton-Wright and it is through his book on the subject which he has thoughtfully entitled “The Sherlock Holmes school of Self-Defence – The Manly Art of Bartitsu as used against Professor Moriarty” that I am able to write these few words.

Barton-Wright was an engineer and his work took him all around the world. He spent a period living in Japan where he became fascinated by jujitsu and took lessons in the art. In his return to London he began to develop his own system of self-defence, publishing two articles in Pearson’s Weekly. He named his system “Bartitsu” this being the first four characters of his name “Bart” and the remainder being the last four characters of  jujitsu “itsu”.

The two articles are entitled “How a Man may Defend Himself against every Form of Attack”. Part I appeared in March1899 and Part II the following month.

He opened his own Bartitsu Club in at 67B Shatftesbury Avenue in London’s Soho in 1899. Amongst its patrons was Herbert Gladstone, the youngest son of William Gladstone, the Prime Minister.

The book is a neat pocket-sized volume (so that you can have it handy at all times) with chapters entitled:

  1. How to deal with undesirables
  2. How to escape when attacked from then rear
  3. How to escape when seized by an item of apparel (such as your belt or the pocket of your coat)
  4. Defence against an unarmed opponent
  5. Use of the stout stick
  6. Use of the short stick or umbrella
  7. How to throw and hold a man upon the ground
  8. Self-defence from a bicycle

It is available from the publishers and from Amazon in the UK and USA.

One puzzle remains. If Barton-Wright’s system only became widely known in the late 1890s, how did Holmes know about it in the early 1890s?



2 Responses

  1. Laura says:

    I am an Italian girl passionate about martial arts, recently I have been in London to visit the Sherlock Holmes Museum museum, there I bought the book described above.

    Now, I would like to know if it’s possible to buy a copy also online, cause I can’t find it on the internet,please let me know…

    best regards.

    • The Good Doctor says:

      My dear lady, I have added links to the Amazon sites in the UK and the USA to the article and here is a link to the book on the Italian Amazon site.


      John H Watson MD

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