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 “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.