That the cane was a natural part of a man’s everyday life in the past. Nowadays, you might think of the cane mainly as a fashion accessory or support when hiking. What is less well known is that the cane has historically also been used as both an offensive or defensive weapon – sometimes canes have even been used with concealed knives or swords.
Either way, the cane was such a natural part of everyday life as late as the 1930s that many self-defence books from that period included sections on how to defend oneself with a cane. Especially in the 19th century, you will find a number of books with tips on how best to deal with an attacker using the stick as a weapon.
One of the people who actively taught self-defence in the late 19th and early 20th centuries was Edward William Barton-Wright (1860-1951). He is known as one of the first people from Europe to learn Japanese martial arts. Later he would also come to teach a form of hybrid martial art, which he named Bartitsu, a combination of his own name and Jujitsu.
Anyone who has seen the 2009 movie Sherlock Holmes starring Robert Downey Jr. and read the books will have come across the word Bartitsu. In the short story The Adventure of the Empty House, first published in 1903, author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle has the main character Sherlock Holmes try out “baritsu”, as an excellent way to defend himself. In the book, he misspelled the word Bartitsu.
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It was when Barton-Wright wrote an article called “A New Art of Self Defense” in Pearson’s Magazine in 1899 that he came up with the name Bartitsu. Bartitsu can be described as a mixture between jujitsu, boxing, kickboxing and self-defence with a stick. In essence, however, it was jujitsu on which most of it was based.
It was also in Pearson’s Magazine that he wrote two articles on how to defend oneself with a walking-stick called “Self-defence with a Walking-stick” which were published in January and February 1901.