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How to Fight Like a Victorian Gentleman Bartitsu, the Sherlock Holmes art of self-defense, is coming back.

CATHERINE TOWNSEND NOV 14, 2013

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Pierre Vigny and Edward Barton-Wright demonstrate walking stick combat. (The Bartitsu Society)
It’s sundown at a small park in Burbank and I’m dressed in head-to-toe black, carrying a big stick and ready to street fight, Sherlock Holmes style.

I’m not exactly a ninja—the closest I’ve been to hand-to-hand combat was fighting over the last cupcake at Thanksgiving. But even so, I have signed up to learn bartitsu, the esoteric and gentlemanly Victorian art of self defense.

Before I chicken out I spot my instructor, Matt Franta, a dapper gentleman in a three-piece suit. Franta’s bio describes him as an actor, fight choreographer, and stunt performer with black belts in tae kwon do and hapkido as well as experience in karate, judo, fencing, and kickboxing. He’s also a member of the International Knife Throwers Association.

Bartitsu was developed by Edward Barton-Wright, a British engineer who moved to Japan in 1895. After returning to London, just before the turn of the century, he created a mixed martial art hybrid, combining elements of judo, jujitsu, British boxing, and fighting with a walking stick.
The style was promoted to the middle and upper classes during a time when they were becoming increasingly worried about the street gangs and crime publicized by the tabloid newspapers.

“In this country we are brought up with the idea that there is no more honourable way of settling a dispute than resorting to Nature’s weapons, the fists, and to scorn taking advantage of another man when he is down,” Barton-Wright wrote in an 1899 edition of Pearson’s magazine.

It’s half historical recreation; half beating the crap out of someone with a cane.
“A foreigner, however, will not hesitate to use a chair, or a beer bottle, or a knife, or anything that comes handy, and if no weapon is available the chances are he would employ what we should consider are underhanded means.”

Over the next two hours, Franta talks about the history of bartitsu while patiently teaching me the basics of how to throw an opponent off balance with a series of punches, grabs and evasive moves.

“It was the first fight style that combined Eastern and Western techniques, and at the time anything from the East was considered very exotic,” he explains.

Basically, it’s half historical recreation; half beating the crap out of someone with a cane.

I’m beginning to see how this style of fighting would appeal to the fictional detective. After all, observing and adapting the best techniques to his advantage was one of Holmes’s signature traits.
Barton-Wright’s Bartitsu Academy of Arms and Physical Culture was all the rage for fashionable ladies and gentlemen of the era. Franta explains how, behind club walls, they learned to battle “hooligans” from instructors like Professor Pierre Vigny, who honed his technique fighting thugs in shadowy corners.

Then, in 1902, the school closed its doors forever under mysterious circumstances. Several theories exist as to what happened: Some blamed Barton-Wright’s high fees; others believe that a badly-managed 1901 exhibition helped seal the club’s fate. The instructors moved on, and so did the general public—and bartitsu was in danger of disappearing forever.

Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty struggling at the Reichenbach Waterfall. (Wikimedia Commons)

It survived through a single passage in Arthur Conan Doyle’s 1903 Sherlock Holmes mystery, The Adventure of the Empty House. Holmes claimed that he defeated his archnemesis Professor Moriarty at Reichenbach Waterfall using “baritsu, or the Japanese system of wrestling, which has more than once been very useful to me.”

“No one knows whether he misspelled it on purpose for copyright reasons, or because a 1900 London Times he may have used for reference has the same typo,” Franta said.

Tony Wolf, a fight choreographer, martial arts instructor, and self-described ‘walking bartitsu encyclopedia’, serves as editor of EJMAS: Journal of Manly Arts, a scholarly online journal focusing on the martial arts and combat sports of the Victorian and Edwardian eras.
As a founding member of The Bartitsu Society, Wolf explains how he and other members spent years researching and compiling archival material of the era in order to “bring bartitsu back to life” and move it online.

“Then we created neo-bartitsu, which is really bartitsu as it might have been,” Wolf says.

There is no such thing as an accredited bartitsu instructor, and Wolf says that the group has worked hard to keep the art open-source and apolitical. Each instructor has his own blend of practical self-defense and historical recreation.

But they all feature the principles that Barton-Wright explained in 1899:

To disturb the equilibrium of your assailant.
To surprise him before he has time to regain his balance and use his strength.
If necessary, to subject the joints of any parts of his body, whether neck, shoulder, elbow, wrist, back, knee, ankle, etc. to strains that they are anatomically and mechanically unable to resist.
Some of the unarmed combat moves are definitely old school. While modern boxing is known for close body contact, bartitsu boxing is a throwback to the mid-19th century punching style in which men circled each other in the ring.

“They didn’t have gloves or face protection,” Franta says. “In bartitsu, it’s about keeping your opponent at a distance.”

“The point of bartitsu was to avoid the fight if possible, and get your opponent to walk away rather than do damage,” he adds.
However, bartitsu students are taught to close and finish the fight with jujitsu techniques if necessary.

“The idea was that you use your opponent’s strengths against them. With the use of surprise,” director Guy Ritchie told Vanity Fair in 2009, explaining how bartitsu was incorporated into the fight choreography of the Sherlock Holmes movies starring Robert Downey, Jr.

“There’s all sorts of locks and chokes and various other techniques used to incapacitate someone. There’s lots of throwing hats at someone’s eyes, and then striking at them, if you can, with a walking stick.”

The movies helped propel what Wolf calls the “fringe of the fringe” movement into the spotlight, and attract a growing number of women.

The author learning bartitsu (Catherine Townsend)

Bartitsu aficionados come from all walks of life. Some study because they are fascinated with the daring tales of the Jujitsuffragettes, a hard-core group of women who trained in secret and helped protect leaders of the UK women’s right movement prior to World War I.

Others are followers of the steampunk movement. Victorian sci-fi influence has shown up everywhere from the Steampunk World’s Fair to the Alexander McQueen runway.
The author learning bartitsu (Catherine Townsend)
A Google search brings up dozens of clubs and meetup groups around the country with class titles including “Sparring with Sherlock” and “Kicking Ass in a Corset: Bartitsu for Ladies.”

But could an anachronistic art really protect me against a modern-day bad guy?
“A lot of the techniques are aimed at fighting hooligans,” Franta says. “But they weren’t always necessarily anticipating the challenges of modern hooligans.”

Wolf points out that students who hope to use bartitsu for present-day combat should keep in mind that it was originally meant for long-term study.

“It’s not something that you can pick up in a few classes, particularly if you’re more interested in real-world self defense than in historical recreation,” he says.

“Chances are your opponent isn’t going to be walking through the streets of a major world city twirling a parasol.”

But the classes do teach practical information about body awareness, how to target an opponent’s weak points and escape tactics that could come in handy in any situation.

Some instructors, like Professor Mark Donnelly have also posted YouTube videos that show how they have adapted parts of their training by incorporating umbrellas and baseball bats as an alternative to canes.

After several days of practicing my moves with the kitchen mop, I sign up for the four-week intro course. One day the skills taught to ladies and gentlemen of an earlier era could help me in a modern day battle for honor and glory.

At the very least, the elbow lock move called “A Good Way of Conducting a Person out of a Room” should come in handy with annoying party guests.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

CATHERINE TOWNSEND is a journalist and private investigator based in Los Angeles. She is the author of Sleeping Around and writes regularly at The Love Detective.

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1851: The Great Exhibition

SOURCE: Smithsonian Institution

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Hotel charges man $127 for three bottles of water

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The facade of the five-star London hotel.The Wellesley London

Hotels are notorious for overcharging customers for everyday items,  but one U.K. businessman is reeling after being charged about $127 for three bottles of sparkling water.

Edward Heaton, a U.K.-based property advisor, scheduled a meeting with his client at the Crystal Bar of the Wellesley Hotel in London. According to the Independent, the businessman ordered three 500ml bottles of San Pellegrino, a sparkling water that usually retails for around $2 a bottle.

Though Heaton expected to pay a little more for the hotel’s premium service, he was floored when the bill arrived. The water came to £16.50 (about $28). What Heaton didn’t realize is that the 5-star hotel imposes a service charge of £25 ($43) per person for customers using its bar after 4 p.m. This was on top of a £50.17 ($85) “minimum spend” fee –bringing the total to £75.

“For £75, we probably could have had a nice glass of wine each or maybe even a bottle of champagne,” Heaton told the Independent. “But three bottles of water? I wasn’t angry. I was just totally bemused.”

Heaton has vowed never to go to the Wellesley Hotel after the incident.

“I spend a lot of time in central London and I have a lot of meetings in the top hotels. I am pretty well versed in how these places work but I have never had this before. I will never set foot in that hotel again.”

The businessman admits that he paid the bill without incident to avoid making a scene in front of his client but later complained to the hotel claiming no one explained the minimum charge, nor were there any menus set out that would have clarified item prices. He even posted a picture to twitter with a warning to potential Wellesley bar goers.

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20 Roman Skulls Discovered In London River

20 Roman Skulls Discovered In London River

October 2, 2013
Image Caption: Roman skull found at Liverpool Street ticket hall. Credit: Crossrail

[ Watch the Video: Roman Skulls Turn Up In London River ]

Brett Smith for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online

Archaeologists working with London’s Crossrail project have announced the latest discovery brought about by the transit project’s excavations – 20 human skulls. The team of archaeologists said the skulls were probably washed away from burial sites by the Walbrook river, one of London’s ‘lost’ waterways.

“This is an unexpected and fascinating discovery that reveals another piece in the jigsaw of London’s history,” said Jay Carver, a lead archaeologist for Crossrail. “This isn’t the first time that skulls have been found in the bed of the River Walbrook and many early historians suggested these people were killed during the Boudicca rebellion against the Romans.”

“We now think the skulls are possibly from a known Roman burial ground about 50 meters up river from our Liverpool Street station worksite,” he added. “Their location in the Roman layer indicates they were possibly washed down river during the Roman period.”

Diggers also found nearly intact pottery, which was also probably transported by the river. Archaeologists said other, oblong bone fragments would not have been washed as easily down the river.

Before being paved over in the 15th Century, the Walbrook river split London into western and eastern sides. Scientists have said that its muddy walls made for excellent artifact preservation. The newly discovered skulls were found in clusters that indicated they had been caught in a bend in the river.

All of the archaeological samples discovered by the Crossrail project are being analyzed by the Museum of London Archaeology, and researchers there said they have dated the skulls to the 3rd or 4th centuries AD, when Romans buried their citizens outside their settlement as opposed to cremating them.

“What we’re looking at here is how the Romans viewed their dead. You wouldn’t imagine modern burial grounds being allowed to wash out into a river,” Nicholas Elsden from the Museum of London Archaeology, told BBC News.

Don Walker, an osteologist from the museum, said the skulls were most likely buried in different environments, based on their various shades of brown and grey.

“Forensic studies show that when the body disintegrates near a watercourse, the skull travels furthest, either because it floats or it can roll along the base of the river,” Walker said. “They were possibly buried in an area where there wasn’t much land available.”

“At the moment it looks as though they’ve collected together through natural processes,” he added.

Walker said his initial impression was that there was no “foul play” that caused the deaths of these individuals, but further investigations could reveal additional details. He expected that the museum’s work would reveal the sex and age of the individuals and a chemical analysis on the teeth would show where they came from and what food they ate.

The discoveries are the latest associated with the Crossrail project, with archaeologists currently surveying over 40 worksites ahead of the main transit construction. The rail project is expected to result in 37 transit stations that will connect Heathrow Airport to central London and beyond by 2018.

Source: Brett Smith for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online

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First journey on the London Underground

24th May 1862:First journey on the London Underground

“One of several pre-opening trial trips on the Metropolitan Railway, at Edgware Road. The then Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Rt Hon William Gladstone and his wife, and John Fowler the engineer are among the invited party aboard Smith & Knight’s open wagons. This was a special trial trip in a contractor’s train on the first section of the Metropolitan Railway”

– London Transport Museum

Sources: London Transport Museum / What’s That Picture?

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TARDIS located on Google Maps

This sited in London:

https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&ll=51.492159%2C-0.19092&spn=0.005291%2C0.013937&sll=51.492140%2C-0.193028&layer=c&cid=12502927659667388442&panoid=c9UMhWP_MWm9U0L48xEjYw&cbp=13%2C291.8%2C%2C0%2C18.86&gl=US&t=m&cbll=51.492132%2C-0.192862&z=17

tardis

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Tower Bridge – 1893

c. 1893:

Completing Tower Bridge

completing the tower bridge 1893

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