Wednesday, June 6, 2007

The Art of Fighting

Good morning America! Gabriel broadcasting live from NYC thanks in part to Clorox.

Here's an interesting article I found on the fighting art used by Sherlock Holmes, Doc Savage and the Shadow. I've decided to post the article here because it is pulp related after all.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Baritsu is possibly the world's most famous fictional martial art.

By the 1890s Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had become weary of chronicling the adventures of Sherlock Holmes. He had actually killed Holmes off in his 1893 story, the Final Problem, in which Holmes apparently plunged to his death over a waterfall during a struggle with his arch-enemy, Professor Moriarty.

However, such was the public clamour for the fictional detective's return that Doyle capitulated and revived Holmes for another story, the Adventure of the Empty House, in 1901. As Holmes himself explained his apparently miraculous survival:

"When I reached the end I stood at bay. He drew no weapon, but he rushed at me and threw his long arms around me. He knew that his own game was up, and was only anxious to revenge himself upon me. We tottered together upon the brink of the fall. I have some knowledge, however, of baritsu, or the Japanese system of wrestling, which has more than once been very useful to me. I slipped through his grip, and he with a horrible scream kicked madly for a few seconds and clawed the air with both his hands. But for all his efforts he could not get his balance, and over he went. With my face over the brink I saw him fall for a long way. Then he struck a rock, bounced off, and splashed into the water."

In fact, baritsu did not exist outside the pages of the English editions of the Adventure of the Empty House. Doyle had, presumably, meant to refer to Bartitsu, which was an eclectic martial art that had been founded by Londoner E. W. Barton-Wright around 1898 or 1899, i.e. several years after Holmes supposedly had used it (but a couple of years before Conan Doyle was writing).

It is uncertain why Holmes referred to 'Baritsu', rather than 'Bartitsu'. It is possible that Doyle, who, like Barton-Wright, was writing for Pearson's Magazine during the late 1890s, was vaguely aware of Bartitsu and simply mis-remembered or misheard the term; it may even have been a typographical error or a concern about copyright. In any case, baritsu was considered to be too esoteric by Doyle's American editors, who further added to the confusion by substituting the word "jiujitsu" in the American editions of the story.

Another possible source for the word could be the Russian "borets" ("борец"), "fighter", "wrestler".

This confusion of names persisted through much of the 20th century, with Holmes enthusiasts puzzling over the identity of baritsu and mistakenly identifying it as bujutsu, sumo and judo. It was not until the 1990s that scholars including Y. Hirayama, J. Hall, Richard Bowen and James Webb were able to positively identify the martial art of Sherlock Holmes.

Meanwhile, baritsu 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; those last two were established as knowing Baritsu in a DC published crossover that spilled over into The Shadow Strikes. It was also incorporated into the rules of several role-playing games set during the Victorian and Edwardian eras.

No comments: