The case of the imaginary sensei

Eager would-be students of jiujitsu in early Edwardian England had limited options to learn the mysterious Japanese art of self defence. During the period 1899-1902 they might have trained at the Bartitsu Club in London’s Shaftesbury Avenue. By 1906, however, there were several more dojo operating in the UK, with greater or lesser degrees of legitimacy.

Some seekers (there’s one born every minute) sent away for the correspondence course advertised above, which purported to represent the Kara Ashikaga School of Jiu-jitsu in Liverpool. Not only did this course offer an infallible method of self defence “as taught at the Yoshimosa School in Japan”, but other advertisements promised that the practice of jiujitsu would cure all manner of ailments, including constipation.

The best current evidence suggests that Kara Ashikaga, the stern-looking sensei depicted in the Liverpool school’s magazine ads, did not actually exist. Rather, he was a promotional gimmick devised by the actual proprietor of the correspondence course, an Englishman named Thomas.

There appears to be no evidence that the Yoshimosa School of Jiujitsu ever existed either. The name “Yoshimasa Ashikaga” was, however, featured prominently in Lafcadio Hearn‘s book, “In Ghostly Japan”, first published in England in 1904. It’s difficult to avoid the conclusion that Thomas simply picked out a few names that he liked the sound of and proceeded to sell his customers a bill of goods. Adding insult to injury, the four-volume correspondence course, “Jiu-jitsu the Japanese Method of Attack and Self Defence by the Kara Ashikaga School” was, in fact, a direct plagiarism of “Jiu-Jitsu the Japanese Method of Attack and Self Defense” by Captain H. H. Skinner.

By a strange twist of fate, for a brief time in early 1906, the Ashikaga School did feature instruction by a genuine jiujitsu sensei. Liverpool was the first British port of call of the famous Gunji Koizumi. In Koizumi’s “My Study of Judo” (1960) he mentions having taught jiujitsu at the Kara Ashikaga School.

It’s tempting to imagine a Remington Steele scenario in which Mr. Thomas, having invented a Japanese martial arts master as a figurehead, suddenly and unexpectedly found himself in the position to employ a real one. Sadly, the historical record does not reveal whether Koizumi played along with the charade (although it seems unlikely), nor whether Thomas had to scramble to create an actual dojo at his Electric Building address to accommodate his new instructor and, presumably, paying students. Koizumi, sensibly enough, spent only a short time at the Liverpool school before before travelling south to London, where he collaborated with former Bartitsu Club instructor Sadakazu Uyenishi at his Piccadilly Square dojo.

Caveat emptor

“Schools where men are taught to defend themselves against the attacks of street rowdies”

From the New York Tribune, August 30, 1903:

ART OF STICK DEFENCE.

A Ready Means of Warding Off Felonious Assaults.

In the crowded city as well as at the lonely crossroads a man never knows when he may be called upon to defend himself. However vigilant may be the police, however strong the windows of his house, one is never absolutely secure from thug or burglar. However regular nay be his habits, however restrained his desires, still there are emergencies which may keep a citizen out until the “owl” hours or call him into unfrequented byways.

Street gangs never seemed bolder than at the present time, and their attacks upon law-abiding citizens are of frequent occurrence. The majority limit their operations to the tenement house districts, but now and then they appear where least expected. Such was the case in the alleged attack upon David Lamar’s coachman in Long Branch by “Monk” Eastman and some other members of his notorious East Side gang.

When a man is called on to face a ruffian, he needs no better weapon than a hickory walking stick. A revolver is likely to harm him more than to help. As soon as a man reaches for his weapon, his adversary has the right to shoot, and the accomplished criminal is almost sure to have his weapon ready first. The stick is the better weapon, because it is quicker. It is in one’s hand already. It is always “loaded.”

In such a crisis the first blow counts. At such a time neither endurance nor strength is as important as quickness. There is only one round, and in most instances there is only one blow. The man who gives it first, and gives it right, is the victor. One does not need to be an experienced boxer or wrestler, for his adversary on such occasions is not likely to observe the Marquis of Queensberry rules or the laws of the Greco-Roman school of wrestling. Foul means are fair at such times.

In the city of London the crime of the highwayman and burglar has increased to such an extent that many schools have sprung up in the great English metropolis where one may learn the art of stick defence. These schools have proved popular, and many of the professional fencing and boxing masters have included courses in which the pupil is taught to handle the stick. The instruction is simple, and contrasts in a striking degree with the complicated science of fencing. Neither is it anything like the old art of handling the singlestick, where two men armed with sticks parry with each other for an opening to administer a blow.

Stick defence differs from all these manly exercises in this essential — it is not a pastime between sportsmen; it is a quick and safe method of knocking out a thug.

Many a busy New Yorker, however, would never learn the art of stick defence, even though he believed it would some day save his life, if he had to go to a gymnasium or a fencing school to learn it. “I simply haven’t the time,” such a man would say.

For the same reason he has long wished to be a boxer, and secretly envied the splendid muscles of the athletes he sees at the beach when be goes down there for a Sunday swim. Neither does he know anything about wrestling or many another manly sport which would not only befriend him in an hour of need, but, best of all, build up his physique and enable him to work harder and longer, and yet feel far less weary when he leaves his office at night.

Stick defence, however, can be learned at home more easily, perhaps, than any other art of self-defence, and after a few general rules are mastered the beginner may learn how to apply them in many effective ways. He must first of all have a roommate or some other good friend who is willing to play the “thug” and to be “knocked out” some half hundred times. In imagination the “thug’s” arms will be broken, his wrists and ankles dislocated and his neck twisted.

The thug who is of Anglo-Saxon origin generally makes his assault with his fists. If he doesn’t he pulls a pistol. His most common first attack is to strike his purposed victim in the face with his left hand, and to hold back his right ready for a blow in the stomach. Nine times out of ten such a ruffian overwhelms his man and even an experienced boxer may fail to thwart such an assault. But the man with a stick, should he handle himself right, ought not only to withstand his enemy, but break his arm.

As soon as the stick man sees what his assailant is up to he clutches his enemy’s left hand with his own, and with his right, holding his stick and guarding his stomach at the same time, he cracks the thug’s arm in the crazy bone, at the elbow. At the same time he strikes he twists the arm inward, so as to make the pain of the blow still more acute. If the stick man wants to strike hard enough he can break a thug’s arm in this way.

Should one find it impossible to use this device in withstanding a left-handed attack, there is another way which proves almost as effective.

As the thug rushes for his man the stick man grasps his cane at the small end with his left hand, and with his right he clutches it near the handle. His hands are near enough together, however, so that his right elbow is at an angle of 90 degrees, and with this protruding elbow he wards off the swing of the thug’s left arm. At the same time he thrusts the handle of his cane under the chin of his foe and topples him over on his back. In case „of a right-handed attack, the man with a stick meets it in the same fashion, but with opposite hands.

Unless the sight of a pistol’s muzzle unnerves him, the man with a cane is able to dispose „of the thug who pulls a gun easier than if he used only his fists. If the pistol puller is left handed, an upward blow of the cane is best, for it knocks the weapon high into the air, and does not swerve the barrel sidewise, (in which case) the bullet is likely to reach the heart of the intended victim.

But in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred the gun is in the right hand, and the stick man need only drop to his knees and at the same time strike his would-be murderer a sharp sidewise crack on the knuckles to disarm him.

As the Anglo-Saxon uses his lists, so the Italian and Spaniard have recourse to the knife. Unless such a thug is left-handed, he strikes with his right hand, and he is met by the stick man in much the same way as a left-handed fist blow is averted by the thrust of the cane’s handle under the chin. The stick man, however, holds his arms differently. He now bends his left elbow to avert the stab and shield his vitals.

As a general thing the thrust of a cane under the chin partially strangles a thug and so disconcerts him that he drops the blade from his hand. Should the ruffian use his left hand, the man with a stick grasps his weapon with his right hand around its small end and his left about its centre, and with his right elbow shielding his breast he gives the strangling thrust into his enemy’s neck.

The German also has his way of holding up a pedestrian. In the gymnasium or the army he has been trained in the use of the broadsword, or even as a peasant boy he has had his “schlagen” matches with his playmates. So when a Teuton who has settled in the New World descends to deeds of violence, he generally uses a stick. His fate, however, at the hands of the master of stick defence is likely to be as instantaneous as that of the Anglo-Saxon or Italian.

In meeting this kind of enemy an umbrella or cane with a hooked handle is the best weapon. The stick man catches the cane of his foe, hooks his assailant around the neck and then jerks his head forward. At the same time he raises his knee so that the face of the thus strikes against it with great force. This treatment makes a man see so many stars that he invariably drops his cane and thus surrenders himself to the mercy of his victor.

Some thugs have a way of coming up on victims from behind and disconcerting them with a kick. The stick man who knows the tactics of thugs is prepared for this kind of assault. As soon as he suspects what is to occur he wheels on his heel and hooks the thug by the foot with the handle of his cane or umbrella. This is sure to send the ruffian over backward on to his back.

Another way is to dodge the kick, and crack the upraised leg with a stick over the knee. Such a blow will break a man’s leg if it be administered hard enough.

Tactics which might supplement those of the London stick men have been Introduced into the United States Navy. They are trick catches which are for the most part based on the Japanese system of wrestling. A sailor renders an assailant powerless simply by twisting his muscles the wrong way. It is called the leverage system, for the reason that it tends to pry a victim’s joints apart by using the bones as levers one against another. Should a New Yorker combine both the tactics of the London stick man and the United States naval wrestler, it is safe to say that the police of this city would have far fewer holdups and burglaries to record than at the present time.

Bartitsu ref. in new superhero drama, “The Cape”

Bartitsu gets an unexpected shout-out in this preview for the new NBC superhero series, “The Cape”. From the official Cape website:

“The Cape” is a one-hour drama series starring David Lyons (“ER”) as Vince Faraday, an honest cop on a corrupt police force, who finds himself framed for a series of murders and presumed dead. He is forced into hiding, leaving behind his wife, Dana (Jennifer Ferrin, “Life on Mars”) and son, Trip (Ryan Wynott, “Flash Forward”). Fueled by a desire to reunite with his family and to battle the criminal forces that have overtaken Palm City, Faraday becomes “The Cape” his son’s favorite comic book superhero — and takes the law into his own hands.

During a training montage, the Cape’s mentor, Max Malini, says:

“British Bartitsu … the warrior dancers of the T’ang Dynasty used their robes as weapons.”

The Cape is obviously an expert martial artist armed with a super-powered cloak, but it’s unlikely that we’ll see any classical Bartitsu featured in the series. On the other hand, it’s always nice when writers do their homework. One wonders what E.W. Barton-Wright would have made of all this:


Baron Charles de Berenger’s “Defensive Gymnastics” (1838)

“To be courageous is enviable, whilst, on the other hand, to be able to conceal the absence of courage is useful” – Baron Charles de Berenger, 1835

Seven decades before E.W. Barton-Wright produced his articles on Bartitsu, there was Baron Charles de Berenger and his “Defensive Gymnastics”.

Lieutenant Colonel Charles Random, Baron de Berenger, was a colourful character indeed. Virtually nothing is known of his early life, except that he was born with the humbler name of Charles Random sometime in the late 18th Century.

During the first decade of the 1800s he was reported to have been working as a colourer at Ackermann’s Printing Company in London and to have been serving as an Army volunteer. He was a notably good shot with both rifle and pistol. As a well-mannered young sportsman he enjoyed the patronage of a banker named Hammerley, and it was at Mr. Hammerley’s home that Random met and subsequently married a German widow, the Baroness de Berenger. He would probably have been aged in his late twenties at that time.

By virtue of having married a Baroness, it appears that Random then assumed the title of Baron and for the rest of his life announced himself as “Charles Random de Berenger de Beaufain” and claimed to be of noble Prussian heritage.

By all reports an effusively polite and remarkably inventive man, de Berenger was none-the-less prone to financial problems. While the Napoleonic Wars raged throughout the European mainland, de Berenger landed in a London debtor’s jail on at least one occasion. In 1814 he was implicated in an audacious and elaborate stock fraud that included temporarily convincing a large proportion of London society that Napoleon Bonaparte had been killed. De Berenger served a year in prison for his part in that infamous affair.

The Stadium

By 1830 de Berenger appears to have come into a very substantial sum of money, enough to purchase a large estate in the London suburb of Chelsea.

At the time de Berenger bought the property it was a fine estate including a large villa and some eleven acres of picturesque park-land bordering the river Thames. Perhaps in consequence of his interests in marksmanship and athletics, he immediately began work on converting the oak and elm-studded grounds of Cremorne House into an elaborate outdoor training facility for all manner of sports. He installed butts (targets) for archery, pistol and rifle shooting, set aside fields for equestrian training and planned a “floating school of Natation (swimming),” to be set upon pontoons and moored to his pier.

On May 28th, 1831 the Baron issued a prospectus for “THE STADIUM, Cremorne House, Chelsea, established for the tuition and practice of skilful and manly exercises generally.” The Stadium’s motto was “Volenti nihil difficile,” “Nothing is difficult for him who has the will.”

This prospectus and one subsequent were notable for including pictures by both de Berenger himself and his friend, the famous caricaturist and illustrator George Cruikshank.

“How to Protect Life and Property”

In 1835, de Berenger released his second book, “Helps and Hints: How to Protect Life and Property.” His format and style may have been modeled after that of Lord Chesterfield, whose correspondence with his son Philip (dating from 1730) had since been compiled into a popular and controversial volume. In any case, de Berenger chose to frame “How to Protect Life and Property” as a series of letters to his own son, Augustus, advising him on how to prevent or otherwise counter a myriad of potential threats.

Thus, de Berenger’s work may actually be considered as an early ancestor of the modern “self-protection handbook” genre. De Berenger did not simply present a system of, for example, fencing, nor boxing; rather, his lessons addressed self-defence in the broadest sense, including everything from escaping a burning house to numerous tricks of hand to hand combat; from dealing with wild animals to the avoiding the depredations of swindlers and pickpockets, with numerous digressions on the subjects of manly courage and morality.

The book was well-received by most contemporary reviewers, although it was dismissed out of hand by a much later (and deeply unsympathetic) writer as being a “claptrap book of gymnastics.” Several journals noted the Baron’s apparent obsession with moral conduct, which was cast in a rather ironic light by his involvement in the Stock Exchange scandal, but most seem to have taken his unusually florid prose style with amused good grace and to have been genuinely impressed with the scope and detail of his instruction and anecdotes.

In 2008, de Berenger’s writings on self-protection were re-published as “Defensive Gymnastics”, a compilation of the Baron’s advice on the different modes of “manly character”; the use of defensive gymnastics with fists, canes, whips, pistols and umbrellas to thwart pickpockets, street ruffians and con-artists; and how to escape from highwaymen, burning buildings, icy ponds and wild bulls.

The 2008 edition features over 50 new photographs and drawings, an introductory biography and a special feature on the Baron’s Stadium. Here is a short video preview:

The book is available from the virtual bookstore at Lulu.com.

“More Jiujitsu Tricks” (Punch Magazine, 1905)

During the first “jiujitsu boom” of the early 20th century, Punch Magazine made great sport of the novel art of self defence and of the claims made by jiujitsu enthusiasts.

In April of 1899 Mr. Punch published a story purporting to recount what happened when a Bartitsu fan, whose interests only extended to reading Barton-Wright’s articles rather than actually practicing the art, attempted to use it against a burglar. That tongue-in-cheek essay is reproduced in the second volume of the Bartitsu Compendium.

The June 14, 1905 edition of Punch included the following article, written by “Iyama Terra”, describing several “laughably simple” tricks sure to upend any scallywag.

MORE JIU-JITSU TRICKS.

Iyama Terra, the famous Japanese wrestler, whose recent work on Jiu-Jitsu (The Bruiseless Art) has created such a sensation in police circles, has been good enough to supply us with three short chapters which were inadvertently omitted from his book. His valued contribution is accompanied by the following characteristic note :—

Dear Mr. Punch,—Jiu-Jitsu, as taught by me and practised by everybody, is the science of defending yourself against every known form of physical attack. The system embraces 417 separate tricks, all of which can be done. In fact, next to its infallibility, the most conspicuous virtue of Jiu-Jitsu is its almost laughable simplicity. Yours, Iyama Terra.

RUSES AND FALLS.

To Repel The Attack Of A Man With Hatchet.

It is very important to know how to deal with a man who assails you with a hatchet. There are several ways of making effective resistance, but just a few will suffice. Indeed, it will be better to teach you only two or three, because if you knew them all you would, when putting them into practice, get confused and probably chopped.

Method 1.—Wait until your opponent strikes and then move. Try to move as quickly as possible. Everything depends on that. Activity rather than gracefulness should be aimed at. If your adversary delivers a really violent blow, and you successfully evade it, his hatchet will be partly buried in the ground. While he is endeavouring to extricate it approach him from behind, seize his legs and plait them in the shape of an ordinary lock-stitch. Then firmly bend them up his back and maintain them in their place with your right arm. Your left hand will be free to secure his left arm and wrap it twice neatly round his neck. To complete the fall you can stand on his right hand, if necessary. He is now practically powerless, and you can hold him in position until he has given a promise to lead a better life.

Method 2.—This is a favourite trick of mine. For its successful performance it is desirable that your friend should be wearing a fur overcoat, a stand-up collar and knickerbockers. Your first business is to make a feint, after which you ought to have no difficulty in taking the hatchet from him. Roll his fur overcoat suddenly up over his head to prevent him from seeing what you are going to do next. Get a firm purchase on his collar from the back, and with the other hand clutch the ends of his knickers. Tilt him over quickly and swing him about with his face downwards. As to how long you need swing him there is no absolute rule. Deal with every case on its merits.

Method 3.- —In the event of your antagonist being a big man with a big hatchet, and especially if it is quite clear that he is annoyed, it is sometimes a good thing to go swiftly away. Return with several friends and bigger hatchets.

To Cope With A Hat-kicking Hooligan.

To a quiet, well-behaved man nothing is more vexing than to have his hat, tilted over his eyes by the frolicking foot of a hooligan. I have squelched scores of hat-doffers in my time. This is how it is done.

Method 1.—Let him try it on. When his foot is about two inches off the hat strike it (the foot) smartly to one side. This will cause him to whirl on one leg like a top. When the projecting limb comes round again, take hold of it and follow it round in the manner of a sailor at the capstan. Four or five turns and you can leave him spinning.

Method 2.—This is usefully employed when your assailant happens to be intoxicated. In such case his kicking is likely to be erratic and may miss your hat. Seize his foot when it is about opposite your waistband. Keeping tight hold of the foot run rapidly past him. This will probably cause his leg to bend at the knee. To double up his remaining leg and tipple him on to his back is the work of a moment, or a couple of moments at the outside. Then tie each leg to its corresponding arm in a loose bow-knot. If you have the time it is amusing to stand by and watch him. As he attempts to undo himself, tighten the knots.

N.B.—As this second method requires a quick eye and plenty of nerve, it is well to constantly practise it at home before trying it on a stranger.

“Eifia Nofo” replied with two further techniques in the July 5, 1905 edition:

MORE JIU-JITSU TRICKS.

Dear Mr. Punch,—After reading in your columns Iyama Terra’s additional chapters on Jiu-Jitsu, I am tempted to give the public the advantage of two of my favourite tricks which I have practised many years with unvarying success.

(1) To protect yourself from a man who presents a loaded revolver full in your face.

At first sight it would appear that the man with the revolver has the advantage over you, but a close study of my method of defence will convince anybody that the man is really completely in your power.

First, with an adroit movement, catch the muzzle of the revolver firmly between your teeth. Then with a quick step towards your opponent get out your matches. Strike one, and set fire to his hair. He will of course put his hands up to extinguish the flames, and so let go of the revolver. He is now at your mercy, and you can do as you like with him.

(2) To protect yourself from a man who aims a blow at your face with his clenched fist.

For the purposes of this trick it is essential that you should be wearing heavy boots. In the event of a quarrel on the football field you will naturally be forearmed, but should you and your opponent be playing tennis you must tactfully postpone the attack until you have changed your shoes.

The method of defence is very simple. As he hits out at your face, and before he reaches it, quickly stand on your head. He will obviously hit your hobnailed boots, and his fist will suffer. His next step will naturally be to stand on his head and renew the attack, when you immediately resume your former position and he again hits your boots. This must be continued until your opponent is tired.

—Yours, Eifia Nofo.

Bartitsu at ISMAC 2010

Tony Wolf will be teaching a six-hour Bartitsu seminar at this year’s International Swordfighting and Martial Arts Convention in Detroit, Michigan (September 3-6 2010).

This class will explore three essential combat principles of Bartitsu, the “gentlemanly art of self defence” founded by Edward William Barton-Wright in 1898. Barton-Wright defined these principles as:

(1) to disturb the equilibrium of your assailant; (2) to surprise him before he has time to regain his balance and use his strength; (3) if necessary to subject the joints of any part of his body … to strains which they are anatomically and mechanically unable to resist.

He also noted that:

It is quite unnecessary to try and get your opponent in any particular position, as the system embraces every possible eventuality, and your defence and counter attack must be entirely based upon the tactics of your opponent.

Drawing from a selection of classical Bartitsu unarmed and walking-stick fighting set-plays, we will take up the challenge implied by Barton-Wright’s precepts of adaptability and improvisation, thereby continuing the “mixed martial arts” experiment that he began in late Victorian London.

Pre-requisites: this class is not suitable for beginners. Intermediate to advanced level martial arts training, preferably including skill in falling techniques, is required.

Equipment: a sturdy crook-handled walking stick or 36 inch dowel with any edges smoothed away; fencing mask or similar face/head protection.

A video montage from the 2009 conference:

See the ISMAC schedule page for details on the many classes to be offered at the conference.

The martial athletics of Diana Watts

Even before Edith Garrud began teaching jiujitsu classes for the women and children of London, Emily Diana Watts was pioneering the way for female martial arts instructors in the Western world. This post looks at her extraordinary career as a martial athlete and physical culture innovator.

Born into a wealthy family in the year 1867, Watts developed an early enthusiasm for the “strenuous life” and in 1903 she began studying jiujitsu with former Bartitsu Club instructor Sadakazu Uyenishi and his associate, Akitaro Ono. By 1906 she was teaching basic classes herself at Prince’s Skating Rink in Knightsbridge. That was also the year in which she published “The Fine Art of Jujutsu“, a handsomely produced manual that was notable as being the first book in the English language to detail a number of Kodokan judo techniques.

Watts continued to study and teach jiujitsu but also found herself drawn to physical culture in the broader sense. By the beginning of the First World War she had become passionately engaged in the task of reviving classical Greek exercises via the close study of ancient statuary and artwork.

In 1914 she presented her new system in a book entitled “The Renaissance of the Greek Ideal“, writing as “Diana Watts”. Although academics criticised her fashionably romantic view of classical Greece, pointing out that many of the translations she used to illustrate her points were themselves inaccurate, the book was generally very well received. On its strength, Watts was invited to join both the French Institut Marey and the American Institute of Archeology.

Her presentations put a new spin on both the fad for “Grecian” dance (exemplified by Isadora Duncan) and the traditional Victorian poses plastique. In displays of the latter type, athletes, often almost nude with their faces and bodies powdered with white makeup, would assume postures evocative of famous works of classical statuary. This form of visual theatre had been popularised by the famous strongman Eugen Sandow at the turn of the 20th century.

Rather than holding frozen postures, however, Diana Watts would demonstrate her interpretations of the athletic techniques portrayed by the statues. These included actions such as drawing a bow, hurling a discus or throwing an opponent in wrestling.

Here is a video montage of some of the exercises from “Renaissance of the Greek Ideal”, re-animated from the cinematographic photographs that illustrated the original book:

Diana Watts physical culture from Tony Wolf on Vimeo.

Several critics noted the “suspicious” resemblance between Watts’ “ancient Greek” exercises and those of the Japanese martial arts. In her own words:

In selecting and systematising different series of sequential movements which shall be perfectly natural, one turns instinctively to those needed in imaginary attack and defence, not only on account of the great variety of these positions, but because of the rapidity with which they must be performed. The origin, then, of all physical training is war. Among primitive peoples, it was necessary to be always on guard against sudden attacks. For this reason, during times of peace, they practised at first a sort of mimic war, which gradually developed into a sport. The Greeks ascribed the invention of wrestling to mythical persons such as Palaestra, the daughter of Hermes, and to Theseus is given the honour of having been the first to reduce the sport to a game, with well-defined rules, and thus to have made an art of wrestling; whereas before his time it consisted of the most brutal fighting, in which the strength and weight of the adversary alone decided the victory.

In the mimic battles of the Spartans, they frequently lost eyes and ears, which tortures they accepted as the necessary sacrifice in return for the indomitable fortitude which they acquired.

At a later date, the system adopted by the Athenians had for aim beauty of form and line, and grace of movement, and no competitor was awarded a prize unless his performance had been gracefully as well as effectively achieved. Contest by wrestling was divided into two branches by the ancient Greeks. The first was the “Pale Orthe,” the upright wrestling. The second was called “Halendesis” or “Kylisis,” in which the athlete wrestled with his adversary on the ground. The “Pale Orthe” was the only kind of wrestling practised in Homeric times, and also later on in the National Games of the Greeks. The rules provided that on the fall of an athlete his adversary should allow him to rise and resume the contest if he wished, but if he fell three times, the victory was decided in favour of the other. There were also preparatory exercises called “Analeinemata,” exercises which were looked upon as of the greatest importance, since through them alone could the athlete acquire that tense elasticity of muscle necessary for the extreme rapidity required in actual wrestling.

It is, then, natural to suppose that the preparatory movements represented as nearly as possible the actual positions taken in wrestling, so that by continued practice the pupil might arrive at the unhesitating certainty and precision needed in the varied changes of position of real contest.

Antique Art gives many examples of this extraordinarily rapid form of wrestling by tripping. It appeared many centuries later among the Chinese, brought back probably through their intercourse with the Persians. The form of wrestling called Jujutsu, practised by the Japanese of the present day, is, I am convinced, a survival of the “Pale Orthe” of the Greeks. The collection of tracings on page 39, taken from Professor Krause’s book “Hellenika Gymnastik und Agonistik,” show the close resemblance of some of the Japanese throws used in Jujutsu, to those of the Greeks.


No. 1, especially, is identical with the Koshinage shoulder throw, in which the thrower drops on his knees after having hoisted his opponent upon his shoulder. This throw can be given standing or kneeling, but the latter position is much more disastrous to the victim. No. 2 is obviously the Koshinage hip-throw, as used in Jujutsu at the present day, and No. 4 has a very close resemblance to the Japanese “Shimoku,” the position of the attacker’s left hand being the only essential difference, while he is practically erect, instead of crouching on bent knees.

The “Pale Orthe” was introduced into Japan by a Chinaman about the third or fourth century, under the name of “Jujutsu,” and remained a jealously-guarded secret known to and practised by the Samurai nobles alone, until comparatively a few years ago—in 1860, I think—when the general public were allowed to learn. With the strange liking of the Chinese for all that represents the grotesque in movement, they neglected, and eventually completely lost, all the grace and beauty esteemed by the Greeks as indispensable, and retained only the dramatic and practical sides of wrestling, the genuine self-defence, which, among the Greeks, was subordinated to beauty.

It is, then, upon the preparatory movements that I place such immense importance, and it was during the study of all the rapid changes of position in this “Pale Orthe,” which demand such exquisite balance, that I found for myself the Law of Balance in movement, the application of which allows of the greatest rapidity and force with the least expenditure of energy. This law, as I have said, requires the centre of gravity of a moving body to be kept exactly and continuously over its base, an impossible achievement except under the condition of Tension already described.

As explained in “The Renaissance of the Greek Ideal”, her training system went well beyond simple public performance, comprising a detailed method of physical, mental and even spiritual development based on the principles of balance and dynamic tension. It was also promoted as an aid to longevity, turning the tide of middle age and restoring youthful poise and energy.

Diana Watts spent many years touring on the international lecture circuit, sometimes in collaboration with other artists and researchers inspired by classical antiquity. Her personal wealth allowed her to fund these tours and to lecture free of charge, and by the 1940s she had circled the world five times, meeting Mahatma Gandhi and befriending George Bernard Shaw among other notables. She had homes in England, Italy and in Canada and was famous enough to have been written in to several novels and short stories as a sort of archetype of the eccentric physical culture enthusiast.

Watts’ system evidently worked for her, as she lived until 1968, passing away at the age of 101. Perhaps her training system is due for a revival.