“Policewoman Uses Jiu-jitsu on Mashers” (Chicago American, 1923)

Alice Clement

One of the most famous and colourful “characters” of Chicago during the roaring ’20s was Detective Alice B. Clement, whose sharp wits, snappy dress sense and enthusiastic use of jiujitsu in quelling “mashers”, fraudulent clairvoyants and other ne’er-do-wells made her the darling of the city’s newspaper editors.

Alice Clement, badge # 1708

According to this excellent 2003 article from the Chicago Magazine:

She was the city’s own “feminine Sherlock Holmes,” “the saviour of souls,” “nemesis to many a masher,” “the wonder of the police world,” “terror of the guilty and hope of the friendless.” This was Chicago’s woman of a thousand disguises and a thousand arrests (including at least one lunatic, according to the papers), who could expose phony clairvoyants and fold a man into a jujitsu pretzel; who could pass as a bagwoman one day and seduce an embezzler with a saucy smile the next (“Old dips fall for us,” she was known to say).

When she wasn’t dragging a criminal in by the ear like some exasperated aunt, she was sizing up the latest dances, infiltrating the cabarets and shimmy parlors to see whether new steps like the “moonlight slide” and “angle-worm giggle” squared with the moral code of the day. With the blessing of the police chief and other high-ranking officers, she had even produced—and starred in—her own movie, Dregs of the City, in which she saved a country girl from the “bright lights, the flashy dress and the glib tongue” of the city’s underworld.

More “Peace Scouts” self defence training

Peace Scouts self defence training

Founded by Muriel Cossgrove in 1908, the New Zealand Peace Scouts were a precursor to the Girl Guide movement in New Zealand.

Peace Scouts were encouraged to eschew corsets, which were believed to interfere with breathing and natural movement, to eat healthily, to play outdoor sports and to train in self defence techniques, as seen above.

This post includes another example of Peace Scout self defence training.

You know you’ve made it when …

The Level 1 and Level 2 incarnations of Flint, the Bartitsuka flamingo

“Flint” is a new character in Urban Rivals, which is a “free multiplayer online trading card game (MMO TCG) with hundreds of characters to discover, collect and level up by fighting live against players from all over the world!”

We here at the Bartitsu Society website are very old and do not quite understand what that means, but the game looks like this:

According to Flint’s official biography:

Maintaining one’s chic and sang froid under any circumstances is no easy task when you’re surrounded by badly brought up country bumpkins who have a nasty habit of getting into fights for no apparent reason. But Sir Flint isn’t just any old poseur. His mastery of Bartitsu has made him an opponent to reckon with, who’ll have you on the floor in less time than it takes to relight his pipe. And just in time for tea, if you please.

So, if you’ve ever wanted to play a free multiplayer online trading card game (MMO TCG) as a Bartitsu-fighting flamingo, here’s your chance.

“Scarlet Line” web-series reveals a secret society of female bodyguards …

The Scarlet Line Trailer 1 from Wolf Point Media on Vimeo.

The Scarlet Line is an upcoming web series written by and starring Kathrynne Wolf as Amanda Hutton, a member of a secret lineage of martial arts-trained bodyguards originating with the famous “jujitsuffragette” protection team of Edwardian London.

Jujitsuffragettes in training, circa 1912.

Whereas in actual history the Suffragette Bodyguard team was disbanded after Britain entered the First World War, The Scarlet Line imagines an alternative history in which members of the Bodyguard travelled to the United States to assist in the struggle for women’s emancipation there.

The following interview explores some of this fictional history and also touches on The Scarlet Line’s unique martial arts component.

Q – In the world of the Scarlet Line, what happened after American women won the right to vote in 1920?

Kathrynne Wolf – The British bodyguards would likely have been expected to return to England and settle into a ‘ladylike’ life, leaving all this radical feminism and jiu jitsu behind.

Some of these women, in our story, decided that option was not appealing. They decided, instead, to stay in the US and put their skills to use protecting people who needed protection, but who were being overlooked by the mainstream institutions that should have helped them.

Q – Like the police?

K.W. – In some cases, yes. The Scarlets (bodyguards) would physically protect people who had fallen through the cracks of the system. In the 1920s and ’30s that would have included mostly women and children at the mercy of abusive husbands, boyfriends or fathers, but it could include anyone who was being unjustly bullied.

They then decided to train younger women in the arts of self-defense, and defense of others, so that the work could be carried on.

Q – How would that have been organised?

K.W. – Since many of these young ladies were from wealthy families, they established a trust in order to allow their successors to carry on the work without having to rely on marriage or so-called “acceptable employment” to cover their cost of living.

Q – So by 2013 it’s become a sort of shadow institution?

K.W. – Yes – over the past 100 years, the trust has continued to provide monetary support for whoever is ‘active’ in the Line. There’s a protégé training system so that when one woman retires from the work, another takes her place.

Q – I understand that the Line is very secretive and that “Scarlet” is actually a code-name, almost like a secret identity – why is that? Why didn’t they just set up a private security company?

K.W. – Mostly expedience. At the time the lineage was founded, it simply “wasn’t done” for women to do this type of work and over the years they’ve found that keeping everything on the down-low allows them certain freedoms, even if it also causes some problems. Their use of code-names and disguises when they’re on duty is another form of self-defense.

Q – The original Suffragette Bodyguards were trained in jujitsu and carried concealed Indian clubs as weapons; how have you approached the martial arts content in your series?

K.W. – Well, the martial arts in which Scarlets are trained have evolved as the various women who took on the mantle brought their own preferences, styles and innovations to the work.

Q – I was going to ask about that – the trailer shows women using long ropes or scarves as hand-to-hand combat weapons. What was the inspiration there?

K.W. – We call that the “web”. We wanted something that would be largely defensive. The Scarlets are primarily bodyguards, and the best way to protect yourself, or someone else, without accidentally killing the attacker, is to immobilize them. So they tend to use the webs to trap and bind their opponents, rather than just beating them silly.

We discovered several martial arts that use ropes and lengths of cloth as grappling weapons, like Japanese hojojutsu and Indonesian Pentjak Silat, but the webs also have weighted ends so they can be used as missile weapons, like a rope-dart, in emergencies.

The web also serves as sort of a “badge” or trademark when a Scarlet is out on active duty. There’s no standard costume, as operating incognito is important, but the web is a visually striking identifier for clients and those “in the know”. With apologies to Wonder Woman, the web is both a golden lasso AND tiara.

Self-defence from “The Wrinkle Book” (1921)


An illustration from The Wrinkle Book, edited by Archibald Williams and published by Thomas Nelson & Sons Ltd., London.

These techniques were probably inspired by those described in Percy Longhurst’s Jiu-jitsu and Other Methods of Self Defence, first published in 1906. Longhurst was an associate of most of the principal figures attached to the Bartitsu Club and may well have trained there himself.