Forteza Fitness and Martial Arts is a revival of the grand tradition of 19th century gymnasia, which were often centers of cultural, as well as physical, development. It’s also a labor of love that we’re building into a solid business with an enthusiastic community of clients. We’ve hosted open house days, martial arts seminars and action choreography sessions for video game and theater projects as well as our daily and weekly classes.
The past nine months have seen the completion of the main training floor, personal training area, reception area, changing rooms, a pro-shop and our unique “gymuseum” of antique exercise equipment.
The Forteza building also includes a large upstairs store-room, which hasn’t changed much over the past hundred years; it’s dusty and grimy, with an uneven concrete floor, rickety bannisters, etc. Our next remodeling project is to turn that room into a neo-Victorian style clubhouse (with a secret passage entrance … shhh!) and that’s where this fundraising project comes in:
Click on this link – Creating the Forteza Clubhouse – to go to our fundraising webpage, including a unique video, background information, contributor rewards, etc.!
The Forteza clubhouse will feature:
a boutique library of both antique and contemporary books on Western martial arts, fencing, fitness and related topics
an art gallery showcasing our collection of rare, original edition 19th century newspaper prints of combat sport athletes, historical fencers and gymnasts
a multi-media learning center featuring WiFi, training DVDs and a discussion lounge and research area
we cannot stress this enough, a secret passage entrance …
Transforming this ancient store-room into a steampunk library/gallery/clubhouse will be a big project, but luckily we already have some of what we’re going to need. Funds raised through this campaign will pay for the installation of a new wooden floor, cleaning, painting etc. Funding over and above the target level will allow us to build an even better clubhouse, faster!
Please help us by contributing (check out our great perks!) and by using the share tools below and on the Indiegogo page to help us spread the word; social media buzz is the best way to make this happen.
The Forteza clubhouse will be the heart of our studio and community, and a home-away-from-home for people who share our passions. We look forward to the challenge!
Our band of stalwart adventurers met at the Forteza Fitness and Martial Arts studio in Chicago’s Ravenswood neighburhood just before noon, embarking in a small but spirited convoy to La Salle, IL to tour the Hegeler Carus Mansion and its historic gymnasium – normally a two-hour trip. Unfortunately we were delayed by unusually heavy traffic leaving the city, but the Hegeler Carus Mansion staff were kind enough to delay the start of the 2.00 tour to accommodate us. En route, a nascent plan emerged to write a Bartitsu-themed “anthem”, perhaps in the style of a c1900 music hall song. We also met SoA instructor Allen Reed, who lives somewhat near La Salle, at the site.
The mansion tour was fascinating, particularly re. the Hegeler and Carus families’ close connections to events such as the 1893 Columbian Exposition and the spread of Zen Buddhism to the Western world and to the publishing industry via their in-house “Open Court” company. By special permission of the Hegeler Carus Foundation, instructor Tony Wolf was then able to lead an extended, “up close” tour of the famous 1876-vintage gymnasium, which he has been helping to research and re-assemble. Two Bartitsu Club of Chicago members were afterwards inspired to construct their own “teeter ladder” exercise apparatus, which would surely be a unique addition to the Forteza gymuseum; as far as we know, the original teeter ladder in the mansion’s gym is the only surviving example of its type.
Our return to Chicago was significantly delayed by extremely heavy traffic, due in part to a Bruce Springsteen concert, but we were just about able to get everyone fed and at the Lincoln Square Theatre in time for the beginning of Susan Swayne and the Bewildered Bride.
The play is set during the late Victorian era and actually opens with the title character – a no-nonsense, Mary Poppinsish member of the Society of Lady Detectives – making adroit use of jujitsu and then her parasol to fend off various assailants. Further fight scenes showcased everything from smallsword fencing to pugilism in the context of an ostensible Jack the Ripper mystery, but in fact the mysteries to be solved were of a different and more personal nature. All ended happily for the heroines and the audience was left hoping for further adventures with the S.O.L.D.
We began the first full training day with a tour of the Forteza Fitness and Martial Arts studio and then a mini-lecture on Bartitsu history. Warm-ups began by simply walking around the space for orientation, then jogging, then jogging backwards, then jogging while throwing an antique leather medicine ball to and fro (nothing like it for breaking the ice).
We continued the warm-up with a series of synergy exercises stressing efficient whole-body movement, unbalancing tactics and elbow/hip alignment.
Next up was a set of two circuit training sessions in which small groups rotated between short classes taught by three instructors; Allen Reed teaching collar-and-elbow wrestling and jujitsu throws, Tony Wolf teaching fisticuffs and Mark Donnelly teaching cane techniques. These sessions were followed by some “integration” training, making the point that Bartitsu really comes to life when the various skills/styles are tested against each other and combined together.
After lunch we reconvened for longer, specialized classes with each instructor. Mark taught a session on umbrella/parasol defense via the “bayonet” grip; Forteza Fitness instructor Keith Jennings taught some catch wrestling holds, takedowns and reversals; Allen presented several canonical Bartitsu/jujitsu kata, and drills arising from opponent resistance; Tony taught “combat improvisation” based on various canonical unarmed and armed set-plays.
Then each instructor in turn was invited to contribute to a combat scenario beginning with cane fighting, segueing through boxing and throwing and ending up on the ground.
The last session of the day was devoted to informal “breakaway” groups and included some spirited cane sparring, pugilism drills, scenario-based cane techniques, free submission grappling and even some Bowie knife work. Serious points to those young enthusiasts who, after a very full day of Bartitsu training, still had enough energy to squeeze in a kettlebell session.
At 7.00 pm we met in the Victorian-themed side room at O’Shaughnessy’s Public House – all dark green velvet, dark polished wood and maroon trimmings – and spent a very pleasant couple of hours eating, drinking and chatting before retiring gratefully, if not necessarily gracefully, to home and rest.
The final day of the School of Arms began with an orientation and quick Bartitsu history lesson for the four new (Sunday only) participants. We started the warm-up with forward and backward jogging and medicine ball tossing, then rotated through whole-group exercises/balance games taught by Mark Donnelly, Allen Reed and Tony Wolf, including iterations of wrist wrestling, stick wrestling, stand-off and finger-fencing.
Next we cycled through two circuit training rounds of small group mini-lessons (roughly 15 minutes each), in which Mark concentrated on cane work, Allen on jujitsu throws and Tony on integrating standing grappling with fisticuffs and low kicking.
After lunch each of the instructors taught a longer, 45 minute class for the whole group. Mark focused on the technical and tactical dynamics of parrying and countering with the cane. Allen taught applications of two canonical jujitsu kata vs multiple opponents and Tony gave a session on spontaneously combining three canonical kata/set-plays (two jujitsu, one cane) in response to opponent resistance.
We then set up for the Antagonisticathlon, which proved to be by far the roughest and wildest rendition of that event yet. The combination of stirring Sherlock Holmes and Steampunk music via the PA system and the presence of an audience fed into a quite extraordinary mixture of hard fighting and surreal Victorianesque humour. It was a sight to see.
After the warm-downs, the School of Arms ended on a high note, with thanks to our hosts at Forteza Fitness and Martial Arts for providing the perfect venue for this event, to the instructors and to the brave souls who volunteered as ruffians in the Antagonisticathlon. We then passed out participation certificates and posed for group photos before retiring to O’Shaughnessy’s for drinks and farewells.
Special thanks to the members of the Bartitsu Club of Chicago who volunteered to host and chauffeur out-of-towners, the staff at the Hegeler Carus Mansion and to all the participants, some of whom had traveled considerable distances for the event.
Join us tonight for the official first class of Forteza’s newest martial arts offering, the Forteza Combatives Method (FCM).
The term combatives originates with the military close quarter methods of WWI and WWII were men like Rex Applegate and Col. Anthony J, Drexel Biddle devised simple, direct fighting methods with empty hands, sticks, knives and bayonets that soliders ould learn fast and apply in a wide variety of situations. Combatives weren’t about dueling or competition fighting, but about “getting the job done”.
Today, the term combatives has expanded beyond military combat, but still describes eclectic fighting arts aimed at practical self-defense. In this sense it can be seen as the post-World Wars inheritor of Barton-Wright’s “New Art of Self-Defense”, Bartitsu.
Inspired by these predecessors, the Forteza Combatives Method is an eclectic blend of proven fighting arts designed to meet the needs of today’s martial artists and self-defense enthusiasts. We offer a well-rounded approach to take your fighting skills to new heights, by combining boxing, kicking, clinch fighting, ground fighting, edged weapons survival, and physical conditioning into one cohesive system.
Closed Fist Combatives: a blend of old school Western bare knuckle boxing, combined with the devastating knees, kicks and elbows of Muay Thai and old school Korean Tae Kwon Do.
Ground Survival: the FCM’s’ ground fighting techniques are a mix of military ground-fighting combatives, jujitsu, and American Catch Wrestling. Our Catch Wrestling curriculum comes from Dr. Les Moore, in the lineage of Billy “Pops” Wicks. Ground survival training teaches throws, holds, submissions, and escapes to give you the skills needed when a fight goes to the ground. This is decidedly not grappling for sports competition, but rather for reality of the street.
Empty Hand Combatives: practical unarmed combatives training focuses on gross motor skills that you can use to brutal efficiency in the chaos of an actual violent encounter. This includes open and closed fist strikes, joint locks and breaks, throws, and trapping skills.
Edges Weapons Survival: learn the defensive and offensive use of the knife. Our edged weapons program is based on the world renowned Martial Blade Concepts system as taught by MBC founder Mike Janich.
Combatives Conditioning: get into top fighting shape with a blend of pad work, kettlebells, body weight exercises, and sprints, and more. You may not be a professional fighter, but you’ll be in shape like one!
If you are like to train hard, this is the class for you! No experience in martial arts are necessary – we’ll train you from the ground up, but the program is also designed to strongly appeal to students coming from a background in Krav Maga, boxing, Muay Thai or MMA who are specifically interested in integrated training and sparring focused on self-defense, rather than competition.
The Forteza Combatives class will be running on Tuesday evenings from 7:30-8:30, right after the Bartitsu class.
Bring a water bottle, a towel and enthusiasm and we’ll see you there!
The second annual Bartitsu School of Arms and Physical Culture will be hosted by the Bartitsu Club of Chicago between Sept. 8-9. Following the successful model established at the first School of Arms event in London last year, we will be concentrating on Bartitsu as a method of cross-training between fisticuffs, jujitsu, wrestling and Vigny stick fighting via a team-teaching approach.
Highlights will include:
* an optional, but highly recommended field trip on Friday, Sept. 7 to visit the historic Hegeler Carus mansion in LaSalle, IL, which includes the oldest known private gymnasium in the US
* two full days of Bartitsu cross-training at Forteza Fitness and Martial Arts, a full-time historical Western martial arts training studio in the Ravenswood neighborhood
* the Saturday night dinner in the Victorian-themed side room at O’Shaughnessy’s Public House, just a few minutes’ walk from Forteza
* an Antagonisticathlon (Bartitsu-themed obstacle course challenge) on Sunday afternoon (spectators welcome!)
The Bartitsu School of Arms and Physical Culture: Chicago, 2012
The 2012 Bartitsu School of Arms and Physical Culture will take place at Forteza between September 8-9.
Participants are invited to join a field trip and guided tour of the Hegeler Carus mansion and historic gymnasium in LaSalle, IL on the afternoon of Friday, September 7. Saturday the 8th will include a full day of Bartitsu cross-training instruction followed by dinner, discussions and socialising, and Sunday the 9th will include a further day of training with fellow enthusiasts, finishing with a fun and challenging antagonisticathlon combat obstacle course event.
A portrait of Captain Alfred Hutton, taken at about the time he was teaching at the Bartitsu Club.
Captain Alfred Hutton was among the instructors who taught various branches of “antagonistics” at E.W. Barton-Wright’s School of Arms in London circa 1900. One of England’s most prominent and respected swordsmen, Hutton was also the president of the Amateur Fencing Association and a pioneering practitioner of revived Elizabethan era fencing with weapons such as the rapier and dagger.
In an article for The Press newspaper (8 February 1904, Page 10), Captain Hutton reminisced about some colourful characters and incidents from his long experience of fencing. He also offered the following remarks upon his Bartitsu Club colleagues and their methods of antagonistics:
“Before bringing my passing recollections to a close as regards people I have met, and as having been more especially connected with the use of defensive and offensive weapons, I should like to refer to my friend Monsieur Pierre Vigny, a Swiss gentleman, devoted to all athletic exercises, and certainly master of the art of self defence by means of an ordinary walking-stick, a Malacca cane being preferred. The exercise is most useful in case of attack by footpads, most interesting as a sport, and most exhilarating in a game. It beats single-stick. However, it would take far too long for me to give further explanations.
There is another new development of athleticism which I strongly advocate, viz., Ju-jitsu, or Japanese wrestling. I am too old to go in for regular wrestling as it obtains in Japan, easy as it may look, but my good friends Uyenishi and Tani put me up to about eighty kata, or tricks, which even at my age may one day or another come in useful. In modified form the art might be advantageously practised by a small boy when meeting a great hulking bully; indeed, the successful way in which a twelve-year-old friend of mine who knew some tricks of Japanese wrestling floored his parent in my presence was most instructive in spite of its apparent disrespect.
My Japanese friends tell me it is one of the most amusing sights to watch the little native policemen in Japan throwing and capturing huge, stalwart, European sailors who have supped not wisely but too well.”
These anecdotes clearly demonstrate that Hutton took a keen practical interest in the classes offered by his fellow Bartitsu Club “professors”. He occasionally demonstrated the Vigny method of self defence with a walking stick during interviews, and he offered a somewhat more detailed account of the Vigny system in his book The Sword and the Centuries. It was also in that book that he described the Bartitsu Club as being “the headquarters of ancient swordplay in England”.
As it turned out, Hutton did find use for some of the 80 “kata” he learned from Tani and Uyenishi, beginning when he penned a short monograph on Ju Jitsu, or Japanese Wrestling, for Schoolboys. A few years later, Hutton demonstrated a number of jujitsu “tricks” for a panel of doctors working in one of London’s psychiatric hospitals. This was almost certainly the first time Asian martial arts had been applied towards the problem of humane self defence and restraint in a therapeutic environment.
On Sunday, March 11th of 2012, members of the Bartitsu Club of Chicago took part in the first ever “antagonisticathlon” event at Forteza. This was their graduation from the recent six-week introductory Bartitsu training course.
Obviously, with a diverse group of students, some with extensive martial arts training, some with none what-so-ever, there is a limit to what a “graduation exam” might entail after a mere twelve classes. Likewise, the Bartitsu revival has been decidedly non-hierarchical, emphasizing the continuation of Barton-Wright’s work over creating ranking systems and standardized curriculum. What to do?
Enter the Antagonisticathlon.
During the late 19th century, the word “antagonistics” meant all manner of combat sports and self-defence skills. Inspired by this, Bartitsu instructor Tony Wolf came up with an interesting way to test the novice Bartitsuka (students) while having a good deal of tongue-in-cheek fun at the same time!
Antagonisticathlon participants represent Victorian-era adventurers fighting their way through a gauntlet of obstacles and ne’er-do-wells, inspired by Sherlock Holmes’ escape from Professor Moriarty’s assassins in The Final Problem:
The dapper Michael Mauch, right, does not hestiate to sully his waist-coat as he hurls a ruffian to the ground during the Anatagonisticathlon. ((c)2012 Andrew A. Nelles/ For The Chicago Tribune)
The “stations” of the antagonisticathlon (not all shown in the video compilation) included:
Charging shoulder tackle to punching bag (“knocking an assassin out the window and into the Thames”)
Precision cane thrusts through suspended rings
Overcoat and cane vs. dagger-wielding assassin
Weight-lifting on antique pulley-weight apparatus
“Death Alley”; cane vs. three stick-wielding assassins
“Rowing across the Thames” on antique rowing machine
“Rescuing Dr. Watson”
Walking Cane vs. stick combat
Shoulder roll and hat toss to finish
Dressed in either traditional Edwardian work-out clothing (a fitted, sleeveless shirt and loose-fitting pants, such a yoga or gi pants), or in their Victorian best, the students readily got into the spirit of this martial obstacle course; testing themselves and their fledgling skills in Bartitsu, but first and foremost celebrating the esprit de corps of helping to make Barton-Wright’s “noble experiment” born anew.
“I say, Old Bean, perhaps this is more what you were envisioning?” ((c)2012 Andrew A. Nelles/ For The Chicago Tribune)
At the end of the Victorian era, E. W. Barton-Wright combined jiujitsu, kickboxing and stick fighting into the “New Art of Self Defence” known as Bartitsu. Promoted via exhibitions, magazine articles and challenge contests, Barton-Wright’s New Art was offered as a means by which ladies and gentlemen could beat street hooligans and ruffians at their own game.
Thus, the Bartitsu School of Arms and Physical Culture in London became the headquarters of a radical experiment in martial arts and fitness cross-training. It was also a place to see and be seen; famous actors and actresses, soldiers, athletes and aristocrats eagerly enrolled to learn the secrets of Bartitsu.
In early 1902, for reasons that remain a historical mystery, the London Bartitsu Club closed down. Barton-Wright’s art was almost forgotten thereafter, except for a single, cryptic reference in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Adventure of the Empty House, wherein it was revealed as the method by which Sherlock Holmes had defeated Professor Moriarty in their fatal battle at Reichenbach Falls.
Our premise and approach
Bartitsu was abandoned as a work-in-progress one hundred and ten years ago, but what if Barton-Wright’s School of Arms had continued to thrive? In collaboration with other Bartitsu clubs and study groups throughout the world, the Bartitsu Club of Chicago is proud to pick up where he left off, reviving and continuing the experiment into the new millennium.
E.W. Barton-Wright recorded the basics of his “New Art” via lectures, interviews and detailed articles, which form the nucleus of “canonical Bartitsu”. These methods are practiced as a form of living history preservation and also as a common technical and tactical “language” among modern practitioners.
“Neo-Bartitsu” complements and augments the canon towards an evolving, creative revival as a system of recreational martial arts cross-training with a 19th century “twist”.
Bartitsu classes at Forteza run from 6.30-8.00 pm on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. The price for the six-week introductory course (two classes per week) is $125.00.
A typical class includes calisthenic warm-ups, specialized movement drills, study of the canonical sequences and neo-Bartitsu “combat improvisation” training. Participants should wear comfortable exercise clothing and bring a change of shoes for the class.
New Zealand citizen and Chicago resident Tony Wolf is one of the founders of the international Bartitsu Society. A highly experienced martial arts instructor, he has taught Bartitsu intensives in England, Ireland, Italy, Australia, Canada and throughout the USA. Tony also edited the two volumes of the Bartitsu Compendium (2005 and 2008) and co-produced/directed the feature documentary Bartitsu: The Lost Martial Art of Sherlock Holmes (2010).