The Jiu-Jitsu Waltz (“The Scrap Book”, vol. 4, 1907)

Jujitsu waltz 1


The novelty of the summer in London is the jiu-jitsu dance in which Mlle. Deslys and S. K. Eida are performing in “The New Aladdin.” A glance at the accompanying pictures is sufficient to convince one that it is novel and not quite like any of the dances in which Americans indulge. It is hardly as graceful as a waltz, nor does it require the agility of a “jig.” In seeking a comparison, perhaps the famous Bowery “spiel” is more nearly like it than anything else we have.

Gaby jujitsu waltz

After all, the jiu-jitsu dance is but a demonstration of the unflagging enterprise and initiative of amusement managers. Vaudeville strives to amuse, to appeal to our sense of humor; in a word, to present nonsense that incites the laughter and arouses the good spirit of the audience. Yet, there must be novelty, and the public is ever interested in those feats that involve the risk of the personal safety of the performer.

Jujitsu waltz montage

It matters not how really dangerous the feats may be, how much the pulse of the onlooker hastens, there is always a desire on the part of some to “see it over again.” Folks will talk about these hair-raising stunts, and managers know that there is no better publicity than the gossip that arises from an ever-increasing circle of public interest.

And knowing this, there is hardly an innovation in any field of human effort that is not exaggerated and made to fit the vaudeville stage and presented until public interest lags and the “new” act makes way for something “newer.”

The late Japanese-Russian War aroused great interest in things Japanese; in the home-life of the little yellow man; in his literature, his art, his sports, and his fads. Recall with what interest and lively expectation our athletes and physical-culturists hailed their “jiujitsu” manner of wrestling — that peculiar science in which sleight is a more potent factor than brute force.

Jujitsu waltz

Troupes of Japanese gave exhibitions of their skill upon the vaudeville stage, and no one who witnessed one of their “acts” can fail to remember that it was exceedingly rough, and that the necks of the participants were very often in great danger of being broken, not to mention the reckless manner in which limbs were twisted. Jiu-jitsu was then something novel; there was the spice of danger; the public was interested and the managers’ end was attained.

And now, perhaps because interest has abated, the original jiu-jitsu performance has been converted into a dance. London audiences have received the dance with marked signs of approval. It is exciting throughout, and excitement seems to be what the people want in theatricals these days. At any rate, they are getting it.

Deslys and Eida

Notes: Gaby Deslys and S.K. Eida introduced the Ju-Jitsu Waltz to London audiences during the run of The New Aladdin, a musical extravaganza, which ran at the Gaiety Theatre, London, from 29 September 1906 to 27 April 1907.

S.K Eida was one of three assistant instructors at the Japanese School of Jujitsu in Oxford Street, operated by former Bartitsu Club instructor Yukio Tani and his fellow challenge wrestler, Taro Miyake.

According to the Footlight Notes blog:

Surye Kichi Eida (1878-1918), who was born in Japan, appears in the 1901 Census as an assistant gardener, living in Acton, West London, with his brother, Saburo Eida (1858-1911), an importer of art, and his family. In 1909 he married Ellen Christina Brown (1886-1931) and together they toured United Kingdom music halls in a Japanese dancing and ju-jitsu act, billed as Nellie Falco and S.K. Eida.


Gandhi on jiu-jitsu (1905)

Some wry commentary on jiujitsu from Mohandas K. Gandhi (Indian Opinion, April 2, 1905):

The eyes of Europeans are slowly being opened. Narmada-shankar, the Gujarati poet, has sung:

The Englishman rules, the country is under his heel.
The native remains subdued;
Look at their bodies, brother,
He is full five cubits tall,
A host in himself, match for five hundred.

The poet here tells us that the main reason for the rise of English is their sturdy physique. The Japanese have shown that not much depends upon the physique of a man. The fact that the Russians, though well set up and tall, have proved powerless before the short and thin Japanese, has put the English officials in a quandary. They gave thought to the matter and discovered that Europe was very much behindhand in physical culture and knowledge of the laws governing the body. The Japanese understand very well how the various joints and bones of the (opponent’s) body can be controlled, and this has made them invincible. Many of our readers must be aware of the effect produced when a particular nerve of the neck or leg is pressed during an exercise. This very science the Japanese have perfected.

A Japanese coach* has, therefore, been employed to train the English army, and thousands have already been taught the art. And
jiu-jitsu is the Japanese name for it. The problem will now be to find something else after all the nations have learnt jiu-jitsu. This process is bound to go on endlessly.

* The Japanese coach in question was former Bartitsu Club instructor Sadakazu Uyenishi.

“Safeguards” (Punch Magazine, Nov. 18, 1914)

Note: with the outbreak of the First World War, jiujitsu instructor William Garrud became the self-defence instructor for the Special Constables.

It was the special terms to Special Constables that tempted me —and I fell.

I don’t just remember how many times I fell, but it was pretty nearly as often as the “Professor” of the wily art took hold of me. Before the first lesson was over, falling became more than a mere pastime with me, it grew into a serious occupation.

So I left the jiu-jitsu school at the end of the second lesson with a nodding acquaintance with some very pretty holds and a very firm determination to practise them on Alfred when he got back to the office next day from Birmingham.

I suppose I ought to have persevered with my lessons a little longer, but I was losing my self-respect, and felt that nothing would help me to gain it better than to cause somebody else to do the falling for a bit.

Alfred is six-foot-two, but a trifle weedy-looking, and so good-tempered that I knew he wouldn’t resent being practised on.

As he came in I advanced with outstretched hand to meet him.

“How goes it?” he said cheerily, holding out his hand.

“Like this,” I said, as I gripped his right wrist instead of his fingers, turned to the left till I was abreast of him, inserted my left arm under his right, gripped the lapel of his coat with my left hand and turning his wrist downward with my right, pressed his arm back. To attack unexpectedly is the great thing.

“Don’t be a funny ass,” said Alfred, as I lifted myself out of the waste-paper basket.

How I got there I wasn’t quite sure, but concluded that I had muffed the business with my left arm by not inserting it well above his elbow for the leverage.

“Sorry,” I said; “the new handshake. Everybody’s doing it.”

“Are they?” said Alfred. “Well, I’ve been having some lessons in etiquette myself the last few days from a naval man I met down at Hythe. Seen the new embrace?”

“Er—no,” I said, putting a chair between us, “I don’t think I have; but I’m not feeling affectionate this morning. I’m going to lunch.”

Thank goodness, if I do meet a spy, I’ve got a truncheon and a whistle.

Bartitsu Club of Chicago seminar at Forteza Martial Arts

B-W Vigny at Forteza

On Sunday, May 25 instructors Tony Wolf, Nathan Wisniewski and Treyson Ptak co-taught a five-hour introductory Bartitsu seminar at the Forteza Western martial arts studio in Chicago’s Ravenswood neighbourhood.

The seminar began with a discussion of Bartitsu history and then a series of rotating warm-up exercises teaching the skills of synergy (tactile sensitivity) and alignment (triangulating posture). Participants were then taught a simple two-person jiujitsu kata taken verbatim from E.W. Barton-Wright’s articles published in Pearson’s Magazine in 1899.

This was followed by a series of boxing drills teaching the fundamental left lead and straight right punches and the chopper/right hand counter combination following a folding elbow cover guard against the opponent’s left lead punch. To this sequence was added the coup de pied bas (low, swinging “chop” kick) to the opponent’s knee or shin.

After loosening up with some spirited rounds of purring (an old English low kicking game/sport), we returned to the canonical jiujitsu kata, this time allowing the “attacker” to defend against the scripted counter-attack at one key point. The defender was then challenged to recover the initiative by flowing with the interruption and employing boxing punches and low kicks.

The instructors then introduced a second canonical kata, to which was applied the same process of unscripted interruption and spontaneous recovery.

Stick fighting training began with the three basic guard positions (left/rear, right/front and double-handed) and a look at the unusual “forehand/backhand” strike as a way to either strike over an opponent’s guard or to force them to guard very high. That was followed by a drill in ambidextrous striking from the double-handed guard and then a canonical Bartitsu set-play incorporating a lunging forehand/backhand, an elbow trap, use of the butt end of the cane as a “dagger” in close quarters and then a parting shot to the knee.

The next stick set-play involved a Bartitsuka armed with a stick opposed by a boxer, elaborated by allowing the boxer to deflect or trap the Bartitsuka’s scripted stick thrust, at which point the Bartitsuka could either regain the initiative via unarmed combat or attempt to wrest the cane back into their own possession.

The seminar wrapped up with a development of the synergy and alignment exercises to incorporate any of three canonical jiujitsu takedowns.

Click here to register for the upcoming six-week Introduction to Bartitsu course, starting on Thursday June 5th from 7-9pm.

Policewomen training in jiujitsu (1914)

With the outbreak of the First World War, many British men enlisted as soldiers and many British women took occupations that had, until then, been considered strictly “men’s work”. Suffragettes were among the first to volunteer and the group of policewomen shown above were among the first of their kind. Initially, their duties were restricted to tasks such as caring for lost children and escorting prostitutes into cells – hence the jiujitsu armlock demonstrated above.

“Ju-ji-tsu” at Aldershot (April, 1905)


This illustration by artist L. Daviel represents a jujitsu exhibition by former Bartitsu Club instructor Sadakazu Uyenishi at the Public Schools Gymnasium, Aldershot.

An alternative caption for the same drawing refers to Uyenishi as coming from “Seiboukan, Japan”, which was presumably a typographical error for Senboku District, Osaka, in that Uyenishi was a native of Osaka.

“The Jiu-Jitsu Suffragette” on “The One Show”: BBC 1 Monday May 12

Bartitsu instructor James Garvey and historian Emelyne Godfrey appear on screen and instructor Tony Wolf served as a consultant for this One Show presentation on the life of Edith Garrud, the pioneering female martial arts instructor who trained members of the suffragette movement. The item was produced by Icon Films.

Edith Garrud is the subject of Tony Wolf’s book for young teenage readers, Edith Garrud: the Suffragette who knew Jujutsu. She also makes a cameo appearance in Wolf’s upcoming graphic novel trilogy about the adventures of the secret society of female bodyguards who protected suffragette leaders circa 1914.

One of the first modern female martial arts icons, presenter Honor Blackman – a real-life judo enthusiast and the author of Honor Blackman’s Book of Self Defence, as seen in the picture above – made good use of her judo prowess in playing Dr. Cathy Gale, John Steed’s partner in The Avengers. She later took on James Bond himself as Pussy Galore in the movie Goldfinger.