Bartitsu, anyone? This Sunderland accountant can teach you to fight like Sherlock Holmes

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A MARTIAL arts enthusiast is resurrecting a lost sport once favoured by Sherlock Holmes.

Bartitsu was used by the famous fictional detective to defeat his arch enemy Professor Moriarty in the novel The Adventure of the Empty House.

Resurrecting the Victorian Martial art of Bartitsu, left to right; Andrew Walton, Sarah Winter, Duncan McNulty, Rachel Winter and Andrew Crawley.

Resurrecting the Victorian Martial art of Bartitsu, left to right; Andrew Walton, Sarah Winter, Duncan McNulty, Rachel Winter and Andrew Crawley.

But the Victorian form of self-defence then became forgotten for decades – until now.

Duncan McNulty, from Ashbrooke, is an accountant by day, but by night he is helping to spread the word about the lost art of Bartitsu.

“It’s relatively rare,” he said. “It was prevalent during the Victorian times.

“The official Bartitsu club opened in London in 1899. There were articles in Strand magazine at the time about it.

“It was lost for almost fifty years and is now being rediscovered and reinvented by Western martial arts enthusiasts who are piecing together articles, it’s a research project as much as anything.”

Bartitsu fuses Eastern martial arts with European styles of rapier fighting and is a mixture of boxing, jujitsu, cane fighting and French kickboxing.

It was designed to be used as a form of self-defence for gentlemen on the streets of Victorian London and taught them to use everyday objects, such as walking canes and bicycles, as a way of defending yourself from an attacker.

Duncan says there are even reports of the Suffragettes using it as a form of defence against the police at the time.

“It was a way the Suffragettes could deal with the police without being aggressive, it’s more unisex than most martial arts,” explained Duncan, who works for Sunderland University.

He added: “It was meant to be a usable form of defence for people who didn’t want to carry a gun on the streets of London.”

Duncan and a group of fellow Bartitsu revivalists meet weekly at Enon Baptist Church, in Monkwearmouth, to hone their skills and share research.

Out of class, they also host demonstrations and seminars around the country in a bid to breathe new life into Bartitsu.

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A history of Bartitsu

BARTITSU was created by William Barton-Wright, an English railroad engineer. Barton’s work as an engineer took him to Japan for three years where he was introduced to jujitsu.

He studied the art at the school of Jigoro Kano. When he returned to England, he quit his career in engineering and opened up a martial arts school where he taught jujitsu.

In 1899, Barton wrote an article in the London based publication, Pearson’s Magazine, entitled “A New Art of Self Defence.”

In it he set out his system of self defence that he called “Bartitsu,” a blend of his name and jujitsu.

Barton opened a school called the Bartitsu Club. He brought in some of the best martial arts teachers from around the world to teach at his new school. The popularity of Bartitsu in England was widespread. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle even had Sherlock Holmes practicing “Baritsu” (a misspelling of bartitsu) in The Adventure of the Empty House.

Because Conan Doyle mis-spelled Bartitsu, scholars of Sherlock Holmes were confused for years by the reference.

Bartitsu declined in popularity as rapidly as it had ascended.

By 1903, the Bartitsu Club closed and most of its instructors established their own self defence schools in London. Barton continued to develop and teach Bartitsu until the 1920s.