The Reichenbach Legacy
Years ago in Victorian London 1899, there was once a self-defence club that taught the four major hand to hand combat styles. The idea was that students would learn self-defence each corresponding to the different ranges of personal combat. Their goal was to master each style well enough that they could be used against an attacker if needed.
The various different systems chosen were as follows: Vigny cane fighting system at the striking range, Jujutsu and European wrestling at the grappling range French kicking and boxing methods were used to bridge the gap between the other two ranges. These methods were modified for self-defence purposes making a clear distinction between fitness and competition training as well as, any formal martial arts style. Thus, indicating that cross training and Mixed Martial Arts style fighting is not a new concept as some martial artists seem to believe.
The man responsible for all this was E.W. Barton Wright he named his system of self-defence Bartitsu. He was a man ahead of his time and among the first Europeans known to have studied Japanese martial arts in Japan and gone on to teach them in Europe and the Americas making it the first martial art of its kind to have deliberately combined Asian and European fighting styles and towards addressing the problems of rising crime in major urban areas that was causing fear in local residents especially the middle and upper class. Some notorious street gangs such as: the Apaches, hooligans, and corner men to name just a few, were roaming the streets and alleyways of London, Dublin, Liverpool and Manchester looking for some innocent victim to rob or murder.
Part of the training included scenarios and pre-arranged exercises designed especially for rehearsing those techniques too dangerous to be performed at full speed or contact it included, free sparring, cane and stick fighting drills plus, it appears that some kind of circuit training was also devised in which the students would rotate between small group classes learning the various different techniques taught by each of the specialist instructors based at the club.
In short, the essential principles of the system are; 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 part of his body, whether neck, shoulder, elbow, wrist, back knee, ankle and so on to strains that they are anatomically and mechanically unable to resist. Sounds familiar doesn’t it.
In addition, Barton Wright developed the concept of specialized self-defence classes for women, with the added idea that women could take self-protection into their own hands, an evolutionary development unheard off at the time.
But, Barton Wright’s teachings may have been lost forever, had it not been for a short cryptic message in one of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s mystery stories about the private eye Sherlock Holmes, were he mentions the fight and defeat he had with the villain professor Moriarty at the Reichenbach falls in Switzerland where he states that Bartitsu has more than once been very useful to me.
Hence, today, due to increased interest and the resurgence in old style fighting methods clubs have sprung up with the aim of following Barton Wright’s self-defence system although, you will probably have to look hard to find one. He was clearly a man ahead of his time as far as self-defence concepts were concerned and although his system of self-defence was dormant for many years maybe now it’s no longer the forgotten art of personal combat.