Basic Bartitsu Questions

I recently received another inquiry about Bartitsu by email. There are no bad questions. This was the question, which is very common, reasonable thing to ask when deciding where to put your time and effort:

Hello David,

I'm interested in learning Bartitsu. I'm wondering if you could tell me how effective it is compared to other martial arts. Also how many classes would it take to become proficient enough to effectively defend oneself against physical attacks. Generally speaking of course!

Thank you for your time!

The short answer is that your experience with any martial art will be a personal matter, and there's no way to know until you try. I hope you will join us for a "Taste of Bartitsu" class to see for yourself.

However, I'm interested in exploring the long answer to your two-part question as well.

The long answer is that all martial arts can be compared to other arts such as music or painting. Just as you can play the keys of a piano with no training or put colour onto a canvas since you were a child you can also throw a punch, grab an opponent's arm, or swing a stick. The art of a martial art, including Bartitsu, is a continual progression towards greater mastery, confidence, depth of tactical thinking, strength and versatility.

So, you might ask your piano teacher before your first lesson, "how long does it take to sound good?" You might ask your art teacher, "how many lessons until I can paint my favourite cartoon character?" You can try the rough version from the fist day and you will always find a new challenge for years to come. So it is with learning a new fighting art. You will start with rough motions and forget details, but with more practice and guidance, you will develop skill. However, there is no end-point. You will always be aware of deficiencies in your knowledge or performance that will keep you occupied.

One might say that martial arts are not like creative arts because of the definite goal of staying safe from an attack. Your question was specific in that respect: "How many classes would it take to become proficient enough to effectively defend oneself against physical attacks?" The fact is that if you cannot diffuse a person with words or gestures and it turns into a physical assault, most combat experts will still get a little hurt. We're looking to minimize your injury and escape. Will you ever be invulnerable to all physical attacks? No. How long until you start minimizing your risks from the most common attacks? Day one.

Bartitsu, unlike some traditional martial arts, is designed to be practical for real-life situations from the first lesson. We focus on the most effective movements for protecting oneself and escaping violent confrontations, and we are most concerned with the most likely forms of attack. Therefore, after taking our Introduction to Bartitsu — a four-week course — you will be familiar with defenses from grabs, punches, common kicks and weapons such as knives. The longer you stick with it, the greater variety of types of attacks you'll be ready for, and you'll keep discovering new options to reply to those actions.

That being said, everyone has different levels of proficiency and physical ability that will either accelerate their learning or leave them feeling awkward. If you are an active person who plays sports, dances, does yoga, or has a background in other martial arts you may feel confident in your ability to apply the things you learn in class quickly. If, on the other hand, you are recovering from an injury, seldom do physical work, or otherwise need to overcome some obstacles I am here to help and we'll both practice patience in your progression.

I'm not going to compare Bartitsu to every other martial art, but if you have previous experience with a specific style, I can point out the differences and similarities for you.

Don't miss our Umbrella Self Defense workshop on December 11; no experience is necessary! It's four hours of the most pragmatic uses of an ordinary umbrella for personal defense against unarmed and armed assault.

Head of Stage Combat at Academie Duello and certified Instructor with Fight Directors Canada. Head of Bartitsu at Academie Duello, the longest continuously running Bartitsu program in the world.
Read more from David McCormick.