“Why I don’t Ju-jits” (1905)

From the Auckland Star, 16 December 1905:

Having completed my course, I said farewell to Mr Yo San, and kept up my jiu-jitsu by practising on a chair; but after a while my better nature asserted itself, and I realised that it was cruel to hurt anything incapable of self-defence. Therefore, I was yearning to have an opportunity of trying my powers on some big human bully. My opportunities came too quickly, and I failed to grasp them. I also failed to grasp my opponents.

Sauntering down the road one morning, I saw a burly navvy abusing his wife. “You are a brute!” I said to him. “Desist at once!” He talked to me long and earnestly, and I looked for a convenient spot to catch hold of him. Curiously enough, he failed to adopt any of those attitudes which had enabled me to score such victories over Yo San’s assistant. According to the book, I ought to have gripped his fingers with my right hand, flung them across my chest, thus disabling him, and making him tap twice on the ground as a signal of defeat. He didn’t. He only tapped once, and it was on my nose, with a fist like a petrified ham; and it wasn’t a signal of defeat. Oh, no! It was the sign of a glorious victory, and when I came to myself I had a proboscis the size of a bag of cement.

Had I not had great faith in the art, this experience might have disheartened me; but I assumed that I was perhaps not sufficiently lightning-like in my movements — a matter of great importance in jiujitsu. Consequently, when I was standing gaping in a jeweller’s shop-window and felt a tug at my watch-chain, I promptly carried out Rule 27 — crooked my foot behind the thief, and smote him on the chin with the side of my hand. I drew another blank. I missed his jaw and hit the shop window.

Owing to a strange oversight, I omitted defeating a large retriever dog at jiu-jitsu. The animal belongs to a neighbour of mine. He came bounding towards me, and jumped up. I got the regulation shoulder grip on him. and reached for the fingers of his left hand, to bend them back, and complete the victory. Another mistake on my part. Dogs haven’t got any fingers, so, instead of my throwing Rover, he threw me, and wiped his feet liberally on my face before rushing off to brag about it to a fox terrier.

Since that day I have jiu-jitsued with an itinerant vendor of flowers, much to the detriment of a large box of pinks; endeavoured to stop a runaway burglar in his mad career, and been knocked down with a silver-plated presentation teapot as a result.

There is a lot in jiu-jitsu — I am convinced of it.

“Entirely due to ignorance” (1905)

A skeptical view on the virtues of jiu-jitsu, courtesy of the Auckland Star (1 July, 1905).

“Yes,” said little Perkins, I’ve learned jiu-jitsu.”

“Have you now,” said an admiring chorus. “Wonderful science, isn’t it?”

“It is. What is more,” he continued, “I had an opportunity a few weeks of applying my knowledge. I was tacked by an enormous hooligan one night; but I didn’t mind. I remembered what I’d learned, and I applied the ‘willy-nilly grip,’ which means you grab your victim by the right elbow and the left ear, and, thanks to jiu-jitsu, you can lead him wherever you like.”

“Excellent. That was splendid!”

“It would have been, but the hooligan didn’t know jiu-jitsu, and so he picked me up and dusted me against a lamp-post till I thought every bone in my body was broken; then he took what he wanted from my pockets at his leisure. But I’m not a bit discouraged; that fellow had never studied jiu-jitsu. If he had, he would have known that my hold had rendered him powerless.”

“Femininity, Crime and Self-Defence in Victorian Literature and Society: From Dagger-Fans to Suffragettes”

The topic of women and danger has long fascinated historians. Emelyne Godfrey’s new book, available now from Palgrave Macmillan, innovatively situates both well-known and more obscure themes within the cultural context of the development of self-defence for ladies during the period from circa 1850 to 1914. Elizabeth Robins, Mona Caird and Anne Brontë considered the role of physiognomy in spotting rogue suitors, the nature of feminine anger and the dangers inside and outside the home. H.G. Wells’s controversial novel, Ann Veronica (1909), is refreshingly re-examined as a testament to the growth of women’s sports while the accompanying proliferation of women’s martial arts classes was promoted by Edith Garrud, the trainer for the suffragette Bodyguard. Richard Marsh’s detective, Judith Lee, a lip-reader and jujitsu practitioner, has been likened to Sherlock Holmes; her encounters with the Edwardian criminal underworld are explored here. Emelyne Godfrey introduces major themes in this area, showcasing a wealth of literary sources, artefacts and archival documents.


List of Figures
A Note on the Text
On the Street
Danger en Route
Behind Closed Doors: Bogey-Husbands in Disguise: Mona Caird’s The Wing of Azrael (1889)
Elizabeth Robins’ The Convert
The Last Heroine Left?
‘Where Are You Going To, My Pretty Maid?’: Elizabeth Robins on White Slavery
Read My Lips

Note that the publishers are offering a 50% discount on both this book and the companion volume Masculinity, Crime and Self-Defence in Victorian Literature until 30 November, valid in the UK and Europe. Simply enter the code WGODFREY2012a at the Palgrave Publishing website checkout.

Jujitsuffragettes featured in BBC History Magazine

Self defence historian Emelyne Godfrey‘s article on the jujitsu training of the British Suffragettes is now available in the December issue of BBC History Magazine.

You can also listen to Emy’s interview for the BBC History Magazine’s podcast by clicking on this link.

“All-in fighting”: jiu-jitsu conquers Australia (1906-9)

Those with an interest in the international expansion of Japanese martial arts during the early 20th century should read this excellent article on the early history of Australian jiujitsu:

According to the ringmaster, it was to be competed under “jiu-jitsu rules”, which according to him, meant that each of the men would be allowed, “To hit, scratch, bite, pull by the hair, kick sideways, gouge, or strangle. Practically the only forbidden action was a straight kick.” There would be no pinfalls and one man yielding to the other would only decide the match. It would be Mr. M. P. Adams of Melbourne’s job to keep the order as referee, which would prove to be no small task.

Bartitsu (sort of …) to be featured in “The Friday Society”

This interview with author Adrienne Kress re. her upcoming young adult steampunk/superhero/girl power novel The Friday Society reveals that one of the protagonists, a Japanese teenager named Michiko, works as a martial arts instructor for a character based on “Sir Edward Barton-Wright”.

The real-world Barton-Wright was never anywhere close to being knighted, and apparently the character based on him is a pretty nasty fellow, but the book sounds fun. It’s being launched at an event in Toronto on December 7, 2012 which will include a Bartitsu demonstration by members of the Riot A.C.T. stunt team.