Monday, 28 March 2011

Bartitsu documentary

A while back I mentioned Bartitsu, the English martial art invented around 1898 by Edward William Barton-Wright and immortalised in Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories under the misnomer "Baritsu".

Since then, Bartitsu has undergone a flourishing revival via the historical research of the Bartitsu Society, helped along by publicity for the 2009 Guy Ritchie film Sherlock Holmes (which reenvisioned Holmes as an action hero) and a deal of synergy with the neo-Victorian steampunk movement. In connection with this, Tony Wolf of the Bartitsu Society just sent me news that:

The independent documentary, "Bartitsu: The Lost Martial Art of Sherlock Holmes", is now available on DVD.

At the end of the Victorian era, E.W. Barton-Wright founded Bartitsu as a pioneering "mixed martial art" combining jiujitsu, kickboxing and self defence with a walking stick. It was also the means by which Sherlock Holmes was said to have defeated his arch-nemesis, the evil Professor Moriarty, in their famous battle at Reichenbach Waterfall.

The documentary was shot on location in Italy, Switzerland, England and the USA. Through numerous interviews, animations, re-enactment sequences, rare archival film footage and historical images, it explores the history, rediscovery and modern revival of Bartitsu.

There's a preview trailer, gallery and other associated material at Freelance Academy Press. Particularly check out the article Bartitsu: the "Mixed Martial Art" of Sherlock Holmes, An Interview with Tony Wolf.

I loved one comment at the end, that really sums up the fascination of research: how apparently dusty topics can so easily take you into new experience and acquaintances.

Q: Considering all you have told me, if there is any one "take away" message you want to impart to viewers of the film, what would it be?

That the most obscure and unlikely events can reverberate though history in very strange, interesting and even valuable ways. I mean, if not for Barton-Wright, I'd never have found myself climbing up to Reichenbach Waterfall with an Israeli opera director ...

- Ray

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