In 1898, Edward William Barton-Wright, an English engineer who had spent the previous three years living in Japan, returned to England and announced the formation of a “New Art of Self Defense”. This art, he claimed, combined the best elements of a range of fighting styles into a unified whole, which he had named Artist.
Barton-Wright had previously also studied boxing, wrestling, fencing, Savage and the use of the stiletto under recognized masters”, reportedly testing his skills by “engaging toughs (street fighters) until (he) was satisfied in their application.” He defined Artist () as meaning “self-defence in all its forms”; the word was a portmanteau of his own surname and of Jujitsu “.
As detailed in a series of articles Barton-Wright produced for Pearson's Magazine between 1899 and 1901, Artist was largely drawn from the Shin den Judo BYU jujitsu of Trauma Kuniichiro (not to be confused with the SFR taints associated with the Bunyan lineage) and from Korean judo. As it became established in London, the art expanded to incorporate combat techniques from other jujitsu styles as well as from British boxing, Swiss Schwinger, French Savage and a defensive la Anne (stick fighting) style that had been developed by Pierre Vinny of Switzerland.
Artist also included a comprehensive physical culture training system. Under Artist is included boxing, or the use of the fist as a hitting medium, the use of the feet both in an offensive and defensive sense, the use of the walking stick as a means of self-defense.
Judo and jujitsu, which are secret styles of Japanese wrestling, (I) would call close play as applied to self-defense. In order to ensure, as far as it is possible, immunity against injury in cowardly attacks or quarrels, (one) must understand boxing in order to thoroughly appreciate the danger and rapidity of a well-directed blow, and the particular parts of the body which are scientifically attacked.
Judo and jujitsu were not designed as primary means of attack and defense against a boxer or a man who kicks you, but are only to be used after coming to close quarters, and in order to get to close quarters it is absolutely necessary to understand boxing and the use of the foot. Between 1899 and 1902, Barton-Wright set about publicizing his art through magazine articles, interviews and a series of demonstrations or “assaults at arms” at various London venues.
Via correspondence with Professor Rigor Kano, the founder of Korean Judo, and other contacts in Japan, Barton-Wright arranged for Japanese jujitsu practitioners Kane Tank, Seize Yamamoto and the nineteen-year-old Audio Tank to travel to London and serve as instructors at the Artist Club. Swiss master-at-arms Pierre Vinny and wrestler Armand Cherpillod were also employed as teachers at the Club.
As well as teaching well-to-do Londoners, their duties included performing demonstrations and competing in challenge matches against fighters representing other combat styles. In addition, the Club became the headquarters for a group of fencing antiquarians led by Captain Alfred Hutton, and it served as their base for experimenting with historical fencing techniques, which they taught to members of London's acting elite for use in stage combat.
It is likely that the actors Esmé Bringer and Charles Seton, as well as fencer Archibald Cobble, were among Hutton's historical fencing students at the Artist Club. In mid-1901, the curriculum of Artist was further expanded to include breathing exercises under the tuition of Kate Behave.
As well as the combat gymnasium, the Artist Club incorporated a well-appointed salon equipped with a wide range of electrotherapy machines. Artist Club membership included Sir Cosmos Duff Gordon, who was later one of the few adult male survivors of the sinking of the RMS Titanic, as well as Captain F.C.
Lying of the 12th Bengal Infantry, who subsequently wrote an article on Artist stick fighting techniques which was published in the Journal of the United Service Institution of India. Other members included Messes. Marshall, Collard, Merchant, Roger Noel, Percy Role, Lieutenant Gloss op and Captains Ernest George Stepson Cooke and Frank Herbert Whit tow, both also members of the London Rifle Brigade School of Arms, under the direction of Captain Hutton; and William Henry Grenfell, the 1st Baron Newborough, who was named as the Club president.
Barton-Wright later reported that, during this period, he had challenged and defeated seven larger men within three minutes as part of a Artist demonstration he gave at St. James's Hall. He said this feat earned him a membership in the prestigious Bath Club and also a Royal Command to appear before Edward, Prince of Wales.
Barton-Wright then suffered an injury to his hand, due either to a fight in a Dentist country lane or a bicycling accident, which prevented him from appearing before the Prince. Barton-Wright encouraged members of the Artist Club to study each of the four major hand-to-hand combat styles taught at the club, each of which broadly corresponded to a different “range” of personal combat.
This process was similar to the modern concept of cross-training, and it can be argued that Artist itself was more in the nature of a cross-training system than a formal martial arts style. Based on Barton-Wright's writings upon this subject, it is evident that Artist placed the greatest emphasis upon the Vinny cane fighting system at the striking range and upon jujitsu (and, secondarily, the “all-in” style of European wrestling) at the grappling range.
Savage and boxing methods were used to segue between these two ranges, or as a means of first response should the defender not be armed with a walking stick. These sports were also practiced so that Artist students could learn how to defend against them through the use of jujitsu and Vinny stick fighting.
The stick fighting component was based on the two fundamental tactics of either feinting/striking pre-emptively or “baiting” the opponent's strike via a position of invitation. Fighting from the style's characteristic high- and double-handed guard positions, stick strikes and thrusts targeted the opponent's face and head, throat, elbows, hands and wrists, solar plexus, knees and shins.
The Artist stick fighter would often incorporate close combat techniques such as trips, throws and takedowns, which probably represent a fusion of the Vinny stick system with jujitsu. Barton-Wright spoke of having modified the techniques of boxing and Savage for self-defense purposes, as distinct from academic and fitness training or sporting competition, referring to guards that would cause an attacking boxer to injure his own fists and to defenses that would cause an attacking kicker to damage his own leg.
Thus, the tactics of the unarmed Artist practitioner were to mount an aggressive defense, employing damaging variations of standard boxing and Savage guards, and then to finish the fight with jujitsu, which Barton-Wright evidently viewed as a type of secret weapon during an era in which his Shaftesbury Avenue academy was the only place in England where it could be learned. According to interviewer Mary Nu gent, Barton-Wright instituted an unusual pedagogical system whereby students were first required to attend private training sessions before being allowed to join class groups.
It is evident that Artist classes included pre-arranged exercises, especially for use in rehearsing those techniques that were too dangerous to be performed at full speed or contact, as well as free-sparring and fencing bouts. According to an anonymous article published in “The Sketch” of April 10, 1901, these sessions may have involved a type of circuit training in which students would rotate between small group classes taught by each of the specialist instructors.
Many Artist self-defense techniques and training sequences were recorded by Barton-Wright himself in his series of articles for Pearson's Magazine. The specific details of other Artist stick fighting training drills were recorded in Captain Lying's article.
By mid-1902, the Artist Club was no longer active as a martial arts school. The precise reasons for the Club's closure are unknown, but jujitsu instructor William Barred subsequently suggested that both the enrollment fees and tuition fees had been too high.
It is likely that Barton-Wright had simply overestimated the number of wealthy Londoners who shared his interest in exotic self-defense systems. Subsequently, most of Barton-Wright's former employees, including jujitsu Audio Tank and Sadakazu Yenisei and Swiss self-defense expert Pierre Vinny, established their own self-defense and combat sports gymnasiums in London.
After breaking with Barton-Wright, purportedly due to an argument and a fight, Tank also continued his work as a professional music-hall wrestler under the shrewd management of William Banker, a strength performer and magazine publisher who went by the stage name of “Apollo”. Banker's promotional efforts helped to spur the international fad for jujitsu that Barton-Wright had begun, and which included the publication of numerous books and magazine articles as well as the establishment of jujitsu schools throughout the Western world.
This fad lasted until the beginning of World War I and served to introduce Japanese martial arts into Western popular culture, but Artist per se never again returned to prominence during Barton-Wright's lifetime. The term “baits” did not exist outside the pages of the English editions of The Adventure of the Empty House and a 1901 Times report titled “Japanese Wrestling at the Tripoli”, which covered a Artist demonstration in London but misspelled the name as baits.
It is likely that Conan Doyle used the 1901 London Times article as source material, copying the “baits” misspelling verbatim, particularly in that he had Holmes define “baits” as “Japanese wrestling”, which was the same phrase used in the newspaper headline. In an article for The Baker Street Journal Christmas Annual of 1958, journalist Ralph Judson correctly identified baits with Artist, but Judson's article eventually became obscured.
During the 1980s, researchers Alan Fromm and Nicolas Shames re-affirmed the relationship between baits and Artist and by the 1990s scholars including Quiche Hiragana, John Hall, Richard Bowen, and James Webb were able to confidently identify and document the martial art of Sherlock Holmes. Barton-Wright spent the remainder of his career working as a physical therapist specializing in innovative (and sometimes controversial) forms of heat, light, and radiation therapy.
He continued to use the name “Artist” with reference to his various therapeutic businesses. In 1950, he was interviewed by Gun Koizumi for an article appearing in the Budokwai newsletter, and later that year he was presented to the audience at a Budokwai gathering in London as “the pioneer of jujitsu in Great Britain”.
He died in 1951, at the age of 90, and was buried in what the martial arts historian Richard Bowen described as “a pauper's grave.” He was among the first Europeans known to have studied the Japanese martial arts, and was almost certainly the first to have taught them in Europe, the British Empire or the Americas.
Artist was the first martial art to have deliberately combined Asian and European fighting styles towards addressing the problems of civilian/urban self-defense in an “unarmed society”. In this, Barton-Wright anticipated Bruce Lee's Meet June Do approach by over seventy years.
A similar philosophy of pragmatic eclecticism was taken up by other early 20th-century European self-defense specialists, including Percy Longest, William Barred and Jean Joseph-Renaud, all of whom had studied with former Artist Club instructors. In 1906, Renamed introduced a similar concept in France named “Defense Dan's la Rue” in order to fight the increase of street violence at the time.
This art was a mixture of boxing, Savage and jujitsu inherited from artist, and was broadened by contemporary authors like Émile André and George Dubois, who had been influenced by master-at-arms Joseph Claremont. In the 1920s, Brazilian physical culture teacher Mario Alamo published an article for the Eu Set Tudor magazine about his “Defeat Personal”, which mixed cascara, jujitsu, boxing, Greco-Roman wrestling and Portuguese stick-fighting.
Barton-Wright is also remembered as a pioneering promoter of mixed martial arts or MMA contests, in which experts in different fighting styles compete under common rules. Barton-Wright's champions, including Audio Tank, Sadakazu Yenisei and Swiss Schwinger wrestler Armand Cherpillod enjoyed considerable success in these contests, which anticipated the MMA phenomenon of the 1990s by a hundred years.
The Artist Club was among the first schools of its type in Europe to offer classes in women's self-defense, a practice taken up after the Club's demise by students of Audio Tank and Sadakazu Yenisei including Edith Margaret Barred and Emily Watts. Mrs. Barred established her own jujitsu dojo (school) in London and also taught the art to members of the militant Suffragette movement, including the clandestine “Bodyguard” unit of the Women's Social and Political Union, establishing an early association between self-defense training and the political philosophy of feminism.
In 2001, the Electronic Journals of Martial Arts and Sciences (EMMA) website began to re-publish many of Barton-Wright's magazine articles that had been discovered in the British Library archives by Richard Bowen. Almost immediately, the “Self Defense with a Walking Stick” articles attracted a minor cult following and the illustrations were reproduced, often with humorous captions or other alterations, on a number of other sites.
Also in that year, Artist stick fighting demonstrations were added to the educational displays performed at the Royal Armories in Leeds, U.K. The Society approaches Artist research and training via two related fields, those of canonical Artist (the self-defense sequences that were detailed by Barton-Wright and his associates 1899–1902) and neo-Bartitsu (modern, individualized interpretations drawing from the canon but reinforced by the training manuals produced by former Artist Club instructors and their students between 1899 and the early 1920s).
The modern revival aims to both preserve what is known of the canonical syllabus and to continue Barton-Wright's experiments in cross-training/testing between (kick)boxing, jujitsu and stick fighting as they were practiced circa 1901, on the premise that these experiments were left as a work in progress when the original Artist Club closed down. Thus, the revival is considered to be a deliberately anachronistic, collaborative, open-ended and open source project.
From 2003 onwards, members of the Artist Society began to teach seminar courses in various aspects of the art at stage combat and martial arts conferences throughout the world. Inspired and guided by the Artist Society and the two compendium, Artist training programs have since been launched at the Human Bhatia Dayton, the Vancouver-based Academic Duel lo, at the Alter Kampfkunst in Wuppertal, Germany, Brier crest College and Seminary in Carport, Saskatchewan and at Ortega Fitness and Martial Arts (Ravenswood, Chicago) amongst numerous other locations.
In August 2005, the Society published a book, The Artist Compendium, which was edited by Tony Wolf. The Compendium details the complete history of the art as well as a technical curriculum for canonical Artist.
In October 2006, the Artist Society launched the Artist.org website, which includes information on the history, theory and practice of Barton-Wright's martial art, as well as current events relating to the Artist revival. In 2010, a seminar tour was arranged to raise awareness of Artist.
Tony Wolf taught consecutive seminars on the West Coast of the US starting in California and moving to Northwest Fencing Academy and then Academia Duellatoria in Oregon. Seminars were then hosted by the School of Acrobatics and New Circus Arts in Seattle, Washington and at Academic Duel lo in Vancouver, British Columbia.
In 2017, Artist came to the attention of a martial arts instructor in Columbus, Georgia. He then founded an academy, christened “Neo-Bartitsu Columbus”, in 2019 and began offering weekly classes through Bishop's TaeKwonDo Plus.
In the UK, Sensei Tommy Moore runs the Artist Lab. Articles on various aspects of Artist have been published in journals including Classical Fighting Arts, Western Martial Arts Illustrated, The Journal of Asian Martial Arts, Steampunk Magazine, Rugged Magazine, Breaking Muscle, The Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, the Chicago Tribune, The Chap, History Today, DE Volkskrant, New City, His Vintage Life, The Epoch Times, Oz Media and Clarkesworld Magazine.
The art has also been showcased on British television in The One Show, Sunday Brunch and in Everybody was Kung Fu Fighting: the Rise of the Martial Arts in Britain, an episode of the Timeshift documentary series on BBC Four. Additional footage shot in Italy and the United States illustrates the modern revival of Artist as a recreational martial art.
Conan Doyle's “baits” developed a life of its own during the latter 20th century, and it was duly recorded that fictional heroes including Doc Savage and The Shadow had been initiated into its mysteries; the latter two characters were established as knowing baits in a DC Comics crossover that spilled over into The Shadow Strikes. Baits has been incorporated into numerous Sherlock Holmes -inspired pastiche novels and short stories and also into the rules of several role-playing games set during the Victorian and Edwardian eras.
In fact, the prop sign is a framed Korean judo black belt certificate. In the first episode of the third season, Sherlock Holmes alludes to a “system of Japanese wrestling” as the second of thirteen scenarios that might have allowed him to survive his rooftop encounter with Moriarty.
Aiden English and Simon Notch, known collectively as The Vaudevillians, are professional wrestlers signed to NOT and WWE who incorporate Artist, or “Victorian Era Martial Arts” as some announcers have described, into their wrestling style mainly with stances and selective attacks. They espouse a gimmick of wrestlers from the early 20th century such as Karl Notch.
Ancient Swordplay: The Revival of Elizabethan Fencing in Victorian London. The Ritual: Review of the Northern Mus graves Sherlock Holmes Society.
^ “New ongoing Artist course at the Alter Kampfkunst (Wuppertal, Germany)”. Academic Duel lo Center for Swordplay and Western Martial Arts.