Amid the controversy that the new Sherlock Holmes movie depicts a character not in keeping with Sir Arthur Canon Doyle’s original Sherlock Holmes, we look to Canon Doyle’s own words written in the Adventure of the Empty House. Here he has Holmes explain how he survived his great confrontation and battle with his nemesis, Professor Moriarty.
“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.”
Although the spelling is slightly off, we know that Canon Doyle was referring to “bartitsu”, a form of self defense created by Edward William Barton-Wright.
Perhaps it is not so much that the new movie is not in keeping with Canon Doyle’s Holmes as it is that previous portrayals of the detective have down played his physical prowess and skill at the mixed martial art of bartitsu.
You can learn more about the history of Bartitsu: the Gentlemanly Art of Self Defense in this video created by the Bartitsu Society.