“The Rise of the Jujitsu-Suffragettes: Martial Arts in fin-de-siècle Great Britain”

Click here to contact the organisers and/or to book your place for this fascinating lecture on the real secret society of suffragette bodyguards who inspired the Suffrajitsu trilogy!

When?  6.30 – 8.00 p.m., May 19th, 2016

Where? Asia House, Library, 63 New Cavendish Street, London, W1G 7LP

How much? Admission: £8

What’s it about? The lecture will explore the blossoming of martial arts in Great Britain at the turn of the 20th century, investigating the Victorian obsession for self-defence, the appeal of the ‘exotic East’, and gender as a social and cultural construct.

Starting with the mid-Victorian garotting panics, Dr Godfrey will show how a fear of violent street crime was entangled with a fascination with Indian thuggee and how in response, civilians manufactured gruesome weapons.

By the end of the 19th century, the use of violent forms of self-defence had become unfashionable and Japanese martial arts were considered to be the ideal, minimally aggressive way to fend off attackers. Experts from Japan taught politicians, the public and police alike the art of jujitsu and women sensationally took up jujitsu in the campaign for women’s suffrage.

A century later, martial arts with an Edwardian twist are again in vogue.

 Lecturer: Emelyne GodfreyEmy Godfrey

Dr Godfrey is a writer and researcher specialising in the Victorian and Edwardian eras. She is a regular contributor to the Times Literary Supplement and has been interviewed by the BBC on numerous occasions. Author of Masculinity, Crime and Self-Defence in Victorian Literature (2010), and Femininity, Crime and Self-Defence in Victorian Literature and Society (2012), her latest work Utopias and Dystopias in the Fiction of H.G. Wells and William Morris will be available in September 2016. Dr Godfrey is currently working on a book on the suffragettes.

“Fencing and Bartitsu at the Bath Club” (Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News, March 18, 1899)

Bath Club demonstration

On Thursday, the 9th inst., “ladies’ night”, an amusing and instructive evening was spent by the members and their friends, gathered in considerable numbers. The first part of the entertainment consisted of an exhibition, under the management of Captain A. Hutton, of Elizabethan methods of sword–play and fencing. It is unnecessary to state that this was admirable in every way, the most taking items being the Two-Handed Sword contest between Messrs. E. Stenson Cook, L.R.B., and W.P. Gate, L.R.B.; Rapier and Dagger, between Captain A. Hutton and Mr. W. H. Grenfell; and Rapier and Cloak. Mr. E. Campbell–Muir was indisposed, and unable to give his exhibition of trick–riding; and in order that the audience might not lack amusement, Mr. W. Henry, of the Life Saving Society, probably our best exponent of ornamental swimming, gave a very fine exhibition of the art. Miss Lewin afterwards also gave a good display of swimming and diving.

The last and most novel feature of the program was Mr. E. W. Barton–Wright’s exhibition of the new mode of self–defence, which he has named “Bartitsu.” It was therefore a considerable disappointment to all present when they learned that Mr. Barton–Wright, and his friend who was to assist him in his exposition, were both suffering from damages of a more or lasts serious character, sustained in a cab accident that they had been in the night before. However, Mr. Barton–Wright, though damaged, came forward, and showed some of his “chips,” as wrestlers style them.

Although unable to speak from experience, we must confess to being a good deal impressed by some of his methods. The manner in which he showed how to receive the attack of a heavier and more powerful man, grappling him by the throat or shoulders, was very striking. He gave way, and dropped on his back, drawing his opponent with him, and while holding to his adversary he applied leverage by means of his foot placed on the body of his assailant, causing him to turn a complete somersault, so that he fell at full-length upon his back. The illustration number three shows this.

Another method for holding an opponent on the ground so that he shall be unable to rise, is shown in number four, and a means of leading a refractory and unwilling person from a room is number five. This last is somewhat of an old friend we remember having practiced on ourselves at school, although the hold was not quite taken in the same way. On the whole, it seems as though there were a good deal in Mr. Barton–Wright’s methods, and, unquestionably, as applied by him, they are most formidable. It would be interesting to see him opposed to a really high–class, catch–as–catch–can wrestler, as giving a distinct line for arriving at a judgment as to the value of Bartitsu.

Bath Club 1 Bath Club 2 Bath Club 3 Bath Club 4 Bath Club 5

Bartitsu makes its WWE debut with the Vaudevillains

World Wrestling Entertainment tag-team the Vaudevillains (Aiden English and Simon Gotch) appear to have time-travelled from the turn of the 20th century. Here to prove that “old-school is cool”, they are also masters of some exotically archaic British fighting styles; according to ring announcer Mauro Ranallo, English is an expert quarterstaff fighter and Gotch is a practitioner of Bartitsu.

Registration now open for the 2nd International Pugilism Symposium


When? Saturday May 21 and Sunday May 22, 2016
Where? River Valley Complex in Leaf River, IL.

Two days of intensive instruction in historic bare knuckle boxing with some of the top instructors in the world!!

Gallowglass Academy is pleased to announce the following list of fabulous instructors and classes:

Tim Ruzicki: 1) The Single Time Counters of Pugilism 2) Using Your Elbows

Martin Austwick: 1) Sparring Applications in Pugilism  2) The “Dirty Tricks” of Pugilism

Ken Pfrenger: 1) Proper Use and Feeding of Focus Mitts  2) The Pugilism of Ancient Greece and Rome

Kirk Lawson: 1) Grappling in Pugilism  2) Striking the Vital Points

Allen Reed: 1) Pugilism for Self Defense

Go to the Gallowglass Academy site for further information and online registration!

Houdini and Doyle, Episode 1: The Maggie’s Redress (review)

Doyle straight right

The ten-part Edwardian mystery/drama/action series Houdini and Doyle teams friendly rivals Harry Houdini (Michael Weston) and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Stephen Mangan) as freelance investigators of crimes that appear to have a supernatural slant.

The first episode begins with a murder of a senior nun in one of London’s notorious Magdalene laundries, in which young women – often unmarried mothers – were effectively imprisoned and forced to work. The twist is that the murderer is said to have been the ghost of a former “Maggie”, or young resident, who had been cruelly tormented by some of the nuns and had died some six months previously.

Both arch-skeptic Houdini and true believer Doyle are fascinated by the case because of its apparently otherworldly nature, but there the similarities end. Houdini is convinced that a mortal murderer has exploited the laundry’s resident ghost story to cover their tracks, whereas Doyle is equally convinced that a restless spirit is to blame.

Essentially bullying their way in to the Scotland Yard investigation, they are assigned the help of the progressive and forthright Adelaide Stratton (Rebecca Liddiard), the Yard’s first female police constable, by a condescending Detective Inspector who wishes to be rid of both H&D’s amateur sleuthing and of the female constable . The Inspector, of course, has significantly underestimated Houdini, Doyle and Stratton, who combine their talents to solve the mystery behind the bloody crimes.

The Maggie’s Redress is an effective procedural that strikes all the requisite beats at a rapid clip, including numerous allusions to the lives of the real Houdini and Doyle while also playing very fast and loose indeed with historical accuracy. Although Houdini and Doyle were, in reality, friends and mutual admirers, they did not actually meet until the 1920s.  That friendship only lasted a few years, ending acrimoniously due to their vehement disagreements about the reality of spiritualistic phenomena.  That said, their fictional relationship in the show is layered and the interplay between Doyle’s optimistic embrace of all things numinous and Houdini’s rational humanism is well portrayed.

The character of constable Adelaide Stratton is fictional and, in real history, the first female constables in London were not appointed until the outbreak of the First World War, some fifteen years after the period portrayed in Houdini and Doyle.

Some of the dialogue is painfully anachronistic – no more so than when Houdini actually uses the phrase “garbage in, garbage out” (!) – but the sets, costumes and other production design elements are all effectively evocative of London circa 1900.  Everything is ultimately explained, though the rationales for some of those explanations do strain credibility; if you like the show you may be inclined to forgive those trespasses, and if not, they’ll probably bother you.

The action elements in this episode are fairly minor. Houdini is shown performing his famous inverted escape from the water torture cell, Stratton uses her trusty cosh to fell a fleeing thief, Doyle belays a troublesome chap with a straight right cross and the heroes must escape a watery deathtrap.

All in all, The Maggie’s Redress is an enjoyable if lightweight 45 minutes’ worth of entertainment.

“The World We Live In: Self-Defence” – some words of wisdom from suffragette martial arts trainer Edith Garrud

The following article was first published in Votes for Women, the newspaper of the Women’s Social and Political Union, during March of 1910. At that time, Edith Garrud (right, above) had been running her “Suffragettes Self Defence Club”, which was advertised in Votes for Women, since at least December of the previous year. The club was based at Leighton Lodge in Edwardes Square, Kensington, a facility which also included a number of studios for classes in sculpture, painting and voice. The Suffragette self defence classes started at 7.00 p.m. each Tuesday and Thursday evening and cost 5s, 6d per month.

Click on the article to read it at full size:

The World We Live In

Eight months after this article was written, the intensity of the “suffrage question” was dramatically boosted when a large but ostensibly peaceful suffragette rally in central London escalated into the violent confrontation that became known as the Black Friday riot. That event forced the urgency and evolution of Mrs. Garrud’s training and by 1912 her Votes for Women advertisements read:

Ju-Jutsu (self-defence) for Suffragettes, private or class lessons daily, 10.30 to 7.30; special terms to W. S. P. U. members; Sunday class by arrangement; Boxing and Fencing by specialists. — Edith Garrud, 9, Argyll Place, Regent Street

By 1913 – in response to the Cat and Mouse Act, which allowed hunger-striking suffragette prisoners to be released and then re-arrested once they had recovered their health – Mrs. Garrud was training the secret Bodyguard Society, also known as the Amazons, in preparation for their violent confrontations with the police.

The Japanese Wrestlers (The Sketch, October 2, 1901)

This very ordinary short report on one of E.W. Barton-Wright’s 1901 jiujitsu promotions includes a distinctly unusual photograph. The man on the left is probably Yukio Tani who was, along with Sadakazu Uyenishi, performing this type of exhibition for Barton-Wright at this time. The man on the right, however, does not look at all like Uyenishi, who was closely comparable to Tani in both age and physique. No other Japanese jiujitsuka are known to have been active in London during 1901, let alone to have been performing martial arts demonstrations and challenge matches under the Bartitsu banner.

It’s possible that the Sketch made use of an archival photograph and that the man on the right was actually either Yukio Tani’s older brother, who is known to us only by his initial, K., or S. Yamamoto. Along with Yukio, K. Tani and Yamamoto had been among the first group of jiujitsuka that Barton-Wright had brought to England in late 1899. The elder Tani and Yamamoto left after only a few months, apparently due to a miscommunication or misunderstanding about the type of work they would be asked to do. Yukio stayed on and was joined by Uyenishi in early 1900.

No other photographs of either K. Tani or S. Yamamoto are confirmed to exist.


Tani Yamamoto

So much enthusiasm has been created by the introduction into this country of the Japanese Secret Art of Self Defence that the Management have entered into an agreement with Mr. Barton-Wright for the appearance of his two Japanese Champions at the Empire Theatre from Monday last.  New features have been introduced, and, in order that the utility of these methods may be properly tested, members of the audience are invited to go upon the stage.  Mr. Barton-Wright has already arranged some important contests with three English Champion Wrestlers.