How “Re-Nie’s” Jiujitsu Won Against Dubois’ Savate (1905)

In the wake of his stunning six-second victory against savateur Georges Dubois in their 1905 style-vs-style challenge fight, jiujitsuka Ernest Regnier (a.k.a. “Re-Nie”) posed for the following series of technical photographs. The pictures are from the November 3, 1905 edition of La Vie au grand air: revue illustrée de tous les sports and the descriptive text is translated from L’Illustration of November 4th, 1905.

Dubois feinted a low kick with his right leg, which Re-Nie dodged. Dubois then executed a side kick with the same leg, but at the same time, with extraordinary agility, Re-Nie performed a cat-like leap towards Dubois and grabbed him round the waist.

Dubois tried a hip check: Re-Nie, moving to the right of his opponent, placed his right hand on the abdomen of the latter, simultaneously compressing the lumbar muscles with the left hand and swinging a knee to Dubois’ right thigh.

Dubois reeled and fell back onto his shoulders; nevertheless Re-Nie stayed in contact, taking a grip that allowed him to seize Dubois’ right wrist.

Re-Nie immediately dropped onto his back, to the left of Dubois, passing his left leg across Dubois’ throat; Re-Nie was now gripping Dubois’ forearm with both hands, Dubois’ arm passing between his two legs.

  • Note the discrepancy here; if Re-Nie was gripping Dubois’ right wrist, then he must in fact have dropped to Dubois’ right, as illustrated in the photograph, rather than to his left.

A strong pressure exerted upon the wrist of Dubois threatened to dislocate his arm at the elbow, which was now cantilevered. Dubois resisted for a second, then cried for mercy.

  • Interestingly, some observers – completely unfamiliar with jiujitsu techniques – believed that Re-Nie had won by choking Dubois with a leg scissor lock around his neck, rather than via the extended arm-lock.  The arm-lock was also a favourite submission technique of Re-Nie’s jiujitsu instructor, former Bartitsu Club trainer Yukio Tani.

“Urban Heroes vs. Folk Devils”

Above: French self-defence specialist Jean Joseph Renaud (left) embodies the role of the urban hero vs. three “apache” gangsters .

Emelyne Godfrey‘s 2010 essay on civilian self-defence circa 1880-1914 is available via this link.

Here are some excerpts:

Pearson’s Magazine boasted articles on adventure, features on sport and remarkable fiction; it had just recently serialised H.G. Wells’s The War of the Worlds (1897). Here, Barton-Wright offered the readers of PM the opportunity to imagine their own responses in swashbuckling fantasy scenarios which, although statistically unlikely, could nevertheless occur in everyday life.

Bartitsu constituted an exotic mélange of fighting styles, fortified with ‘traditional’ British virtues. Barton-Wright’s creation could be adapted to fit in with the mere act of strolling, with the anticipation of or encounter with crime. Martial arts were not only designed for use against physical threat, they prompted an imaginative response to the quotidian, an emotional and personalised engagement with the landscape of the city.

The Story of the Jujitsuffragettes, Courtesy of “Drunk History UK”

In these excerpts from a recent episode of “Drunk History UK”, inebriated comedienne Luisa Omielan attempts to relate the history of the jujitsu-trained suffragette Bodyguard team:

Bonus points for the casting of actress and real-life suffragette history enthusiast Jessica Hynes as WSPU leader Emmeline Pankhurst.

Ms. Omielan also struggled valiantly to recall the name of suffragette jujitsu trainer Edith Garrud, finally settling on “Gertrude” before being gently corrected by an off-screen colleague. She was probably confused by the similarity of names between Garrud and Gertrude Harding, who was, in fact, the main organiser of Mrs. Pankhurst’s security vanguard.

The episode also included a semi-accurate re-enactment of a confrontation between the Bodyguard and the police during one of Mrs. Pankhurst’s public rallies in Camden Square:

“Victor Ros” Fights Crime on the Mean Streets of 1890s Madrid

Set in Madrid during the years 1895-6, the Spanish action/drama telenovela Victor Ros is notable for its Bartitsuesque fight scenes, as shown below. Note that the video may take a few seconds to start playing after you’ve clicked on the “play” button.

The Japanese School of Ju-jitsu in Oxford Street (1904-08)

Above: students and teachers training in the Japanese School of Ju-jitsu, circa 1906.

After the closure of the Bartitsu School of Arms in mid-1902, the various specialist instructors went their separate ways.  Wrestling and physical culture tutor Armand Cherpillod returned to Switzerland, where he became instrumental in introducing Japanese unarmed combat to the European mainland.  Pierre Vigny eventually established a successful self-defence and fencing academy in London’s Berners Street, while Sadakazu Uyenishi opened his own dojo in Golden Square.

Yukio Tani continued his career as a music hall challenge wrestler, handily winning most of his contests until December 23 of 1904, when he fought the jujitsuka Taro Miyake.  Then newly-arrived in London from Japan, Miyake was the stronger and heavier wrestler.  His victory over Tani was widely reported in the sporting press, with journalists observing that, whereas jujitsu was a great equaliser in instances of mismatched skill favouring the jujitsu stylist, weight and strength advantages still held when two fighters were of approximately equal skill.

Tani and Miyake then joined forces in opening the Japanese School of Ju-jitsu, which was initially located in the basement of a house in Gordon Square. They were assisted in adminstrative matters by L. F. Giblin, an adventurous young Australian jujitsu enthusiast and then-resident of London, who possessed the business acumen and contacts to establish the new venture on a secure footing.

After a few months at the Gordon Square location, the Japanese School moved about one mile to set up a larger dojo on the second floor of a building at 305 Oxford Street (one pities the downstairs neighbours of a jujitsu school).  The School quickly gathered a staff of assistant instructors inluding S.K. Eida, Shozo Kanaya, Yuzo Hirano, Phoebe Roberts and W.H. Collingridge, with Mr. Giblin serving as secretary.

They offered ongoing daily training and the senior instructors also travelled to teach short-term training intensives for various institutions, including the Royal Navy’s School of Physical Training in Portsmouth.

Above: a composite image showing Phobe Roberts (right) and Yuzo Hirano demonstrating self-defence techniques.

Another major project was the production and publication of The Game of Ju-Jitsu for the Use of Schools and Colleges, which was attributed to Tani and Miyake but edited (and, very likely, largely ghost-written) by L.F. Giblin and his friend Martin Grainger.

By early 1908, with Giblin and Grainger departed for further adventures and Tani and Miyake increasingly busy travelling to compete in challenge matches, the Oxford Street school was no longer viable as an ongoing concern.  Miss Roberts and Mr. Hirano married and set sail for Portugal; Mr. Eida enjoyed a successful music hall career as a “ju-jitsu waltz” performer; Mr. Kanaya is believed to have returned to Japan, while W.H. Collingridge went on to write Tricks of Self-Defence (1909), which remained in print until the 1960s.

“Tani, the Japanese Wrestler” (1905)

From the 1905 omnibus edition of Mind and Body: A Monthly Journal Devoted to Physical Education:


TANI, the Japanese wrestler, was in the midst of a bout with an alert, muscular young Englishman from the Mile End Road. The Englishman was doing very well and the audience at the Royal, Holborn, were enthusiastically on his side, urging him with shouts of encouragement, native to East End, to hold on like death.

The odds seemed to be in his favour. He was the bigger man of the two, and apparently the stronger. He had good, stout limbs, yet he was lithe and quick. It seemed absurd to set him against the short, slight, wiry Japanese, who looked even less than his eight stone ten.

And the Japanese was down on his back, and the Englishman held him with a grip of irbn, and the Mile End Road thought he could do it for the five minutes that remained of the stipulated fifteen, and thus win the prize.

Suddenly there was a change. The Japanese wriggled out of trouble like a cat. He stepped around his opponent as lightly as if he were waltzing, seized a wrist, hitched the man down with a leg trip, and at once, sinking on his back at right angles to the Englishman, threw his leg across the man’s neck and held him there like a log until Mile End Road tapped the mat in signal of defeat.

There were some murmurings among the audience. It looked suspiciously as if the Japanese had half strangled his opponent, and the Englishman’s admission from the stage that he had nothing to complain of scarcely removed the impression. I went behind the scenes afterward and Tani showed me this particular fall.

“Well,” said he, “you are in the street and you desire my life. You have a heavy dagger and I have none. You make a downward plunge — so; and see what happens.”

I made the downward plunge in a double sense. Quick as lightning Tani had me by the wrist, his other hand pressed hard on my shoulder, the back of his leg pressing inward on the back of mine.

I went sprawling on my back, Tani slipped down on his and his leg was curled over my throat. But,that was the least part of the operation, only designed to keep my head in position. Tani had retained his hold on my wrist and now held it with both hands. The slightest struggle on my part exerted a pressure on the elbow which went near to breaking the arm. With my disengaged hand I beat a violent tattoo on the mat to indicate that I was convinced.

“That’s all very well with me, being no lion in strength,” I said. “But what would happen with Hackenschmidt? You couldn’t get his arm down for that lock.”

“This,” said the Japanese—and he quickly turned the arm the other way, fixing the lock of exquisite agony. “In fact,” he pursued, “the bigger the man the better I like him. It is his strength, not mine, that does the mischief. That stands to reason. If I put on a lock he cannot break, the harder he may struggle against it the greater the damage he enjoys.”

To correctly appreciate jiu-jitsu, it is necessary to understand that it is more than a sport, designed to teach the student to meet every form of attack that may be made upon him.

It was developed by men who had made a profound study of anatomy and the laws of leverage and force; and it was perfected by generation after generation of clever men. Every boy of the samurai or warrior class was taught it, and it was their favorite form of competitive sport.

There is one deadly grip which always offends English notions of fair play. That is what Apollo, Tani’s manager, christened the knockout blow.

Tani grips both sides of your collar, hands crossed, palms outward, puts one foot on your thigh, and falls backward. You fall with him. Retaining his double grip on the collar and his leg on the thigh, he rolls over and you roll over with him. Then, like a cat, he is sitting astride your chest, and you are done.

This grip is generally regarded by British audiences as a strangle, and it has been known to provoke howls of protest. But it is not a strangle, as I can testify by personal experience. The pressure is all at the sides and back of the neck, the windpipe not being touched.

Appollo tried it and found the sensation that of “floating among clouds in a perfectly happy state.” He wondered how it was done, and Tani could not explain.

Then he read that a Dutch physician, while sojourning among the Japanese, found that the native doctors, when performing slight operations, used no anaesthetics, but simply applied pressure to the carotid artery, by which means the patient was rendered unconscious.

That was the explanation of the Japanese knock-out grip. Pressure on the two carotid arteries arrested the flow of blood to the brain, and the victim, if he was too proud to give the signal, drifted out of conscious existence.

I asked Tani to show me his reply to a kick. He allowed me to kick him, but he caught the foot, twisted the toe around, and on the instant had me sprawling on the mat, tied up in a contorted knot, from which I was uncommonly glad to be released.

One thing which I particularly noticed in these falls was that Tani left me to do the hard work. He cajoled me off my balancc, I fell, as he wanted me to fall, and he then had me in a lock wherein, if I was anxious for a broken bone, the breaking had to come from me. He wrestles as if he were playing chess, and while you are still standing, he makes the hold which he exercises when you are thrown.

Apollo admits that after two years’ constant practice with Tani he began to “rather fancy himself” at the art. So one day he made a wager with Tani that he could withstand him for 15 minutes. And in exactly three minutes Apollo was beaten by a hold that he had never seen before. It is asserted that there are some 300 moves in the game, with which a wrestler must be familiar before he is regarded as a master.

But, as Tani says, why use more variations than you need? “There were two of us, and we used to show the art of defense against a street attack. My comrade, he attack me, and I throw him out. But what use is that? We do it so quickly that the people think it is a made-up job, some juggling, or something, and they only laugh. It is the same when two Japanese wrestle on the stage. If you do not know the fine points of the game, how can you see they are good?

“And so it is better for me to wrestle with your Englishmen, so that you can see how we combat their attacks. And how I should love to try it on one of your biggest champions! But they want me to play their game, which I do not know: and if it is a game merely of strength, how shall a man of nine stone beat a man of fourteen?”

The rear guard and the guard by distance

Girded for battle, Bartłomiej Mysłek of Poland assumes a variation of the Vigny stick fighting rear guard during a recent Bartitsu sparring match.

The rear guard, also referred to by E.W. Barton-Wright as the “left guard”, is one of the signature defensive stances of the Vigny style of stick fighting. It was well-described by the anonymous author of “L’art de la canne”, an essay first published in the Revue Olympique of May, 1912:

The Vigny guard position is, in essence, a combat guard. The left arm is held in front as if bearing a shield; the right arm is raised at the rear, with the weapon held above the head, in a perpetual “spring hold.”

When you are being attacked, quickly retreat with a swift guard change and bring your cane down powerfully upon the opponent’s arm or hand. In doing this, you can be mathematically certain of reaching and damaging your target.

Immediately afterwards, you step towards him, turning your wrist rapidly and striking the steel tip of your cane into his eyes or under the nose. And here is very surprised man … !

In Barton-Wright’s “Self Defence with a Walking Stick” articles, the rear guard is consistently presented as a position of invitation, “baiting” an attack to an apparently exposed target so as to set up a devastating counter-attack via the “guard by distance” tactic:

Vigny (right) assumes a rear guard, inviting Barton-Wright’s attack to his exposed left arm, then counters with the “guard by distance”, withdrawing the target and striking to the top of Barton-Wright’s head.
Vigny (right) assumes a variation of the rear guard inviting Barton-Wright’s attack to his head, then withdraws the target and counters with a strike to B-W’s weapon hand.
The “guard by distance” can also involve stepping towards, rather than away from, the opponent.  Here, Vigny (right) invites Barton-Wright’s attack to the left side of his head then steps inside the strike, trapping B-W’s stick and countering with a back-hand strike to the right side of B-W’s head.
Vigny (right) invites Barton-Wright’s left lead punch and counters with a strike to B-W’s knee or shin, then follows up by beating B-W’s time with a “bayonet” thrust to the midsection.
A defence, trap, counter-attack and takedown from the rear guard applied in sparring.