Thursday, July 16, 2009

The New Sherlock Holmes and his amazing Bare Knuckles

Guy Ritchie is directing an updated version of Sherlock Holmes starring the Iron Man himself, Robert Downey Jr. The director is playing up the physicality of this character, who is traditionally depicted as being brainy over brawny. To that end, the amount of wire fu expected in this movie is guaranteed to be more than in all other Sherlock Holmes films to date -- even if it doesn't quite approach the levels of The Matrix.

The justification for all the kung fu fighting is, in fact, in the original text. Although it is kind of a late addition. In order to explain how Holmes escaped certain death with his nemesis, the Napoleon of Crime, Prof. Moriarty; the suddenly appeared Holmes says that he used his knowledge of "Baritsu" or Japanese wrestling to break free of the villain's grasp.

"Baritsu" may not sound familiar. It is not a corruption of Jujutsu; well, not exactly. It is a mis-spelling of Bartitsu, a system of self-defense taught in Holmes' London era by Edward William Barton-Wright, who studied Jujutsu in Japan. Hos two primary sources of instruction were the growing Kodokan Judo and the waning Shinden Fudo Ryu jujutsu.

Yes, fellow Bujinkan members... That Shinden Fudo Ryu. Although, if I remember correctly, he did not study with the the same branch of the Ryu that eventually produced Takamatsu and Hatsumi. I'll have to dig around for that info. I've got it somewhere.

Barton-Wright combined several different systems of Eastern and Western fighting into Bartitsu. It also included elements of cane fighting, boxing, and Savate. There was, in fact a pretty vigorous self-defense and combat sport sub-culture in England at the time. Boxing technique was somewhat more varied, for example, and included some stances and hand movements that would appear familiar to someone trained in an Asian martial art. English wrestling styles were also pretty brutal and included a number of submission holds. Contests were popular and not always rigged (although they had some of that too).

The movie has been hyping the martial arts aspect pretty heavily. There a growing expectation that it will showcase some of the actual methods in use in London at the time, although it remains to be seen if that is true. Downey has been quoted in several articles as saying he really enjoys the martial arts training he's been doing for Iron Man and Sherlock Holmes, so I've got my fingers crossed that it will be pretty good and show something unusual.


dan said...

are you actually expecting this to be good? I've watched better trailers for episodes of Murder She Wrote.

Anonymous said...

I just saw the movie. I did not expect to see Japanese martial arts there but darn: as a Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu hobbyist I instantly recognised some of the techniques used.

That is Shinden Fudo Ryu! Sherlock Holmes is the best of the new ninja movies with more ninjutsu than Ninja Assassin or Ninja - the other two 2009 ninja movies. I especially loved how Holmes analysed his techniques during the bar fight scene and his use of metsubushi (a napkin).

jrf said...

Oh brother...

Am I risking the JRF reputation by saying: STFU, "anonymous"?