“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.