Miss Phoebe Roberts, “Champion Lady Ju-Jitsu Wrestler of the World”

Phoebe Roberts demonstrates a leg trip and a defensive finger lock.

Alongside Edith Garrud and Emily Diana Watts, Phoebe Roberts (1887-1955) must be accounted as one of the first female jiujitsu instructors in the Western world.  She was certainly the youngest; Miss Roberts began training at the tender age of fifteen, circa 1904. Within a year or two she had started to teach classes at the Japanese School of Jujitsu in Oxford Street, which was operated by former Bartitsu Club instructor Yukio Tani and his colleague, Taro Miyake.

Her costume here is typical of early 20th century women’s jiujitsu attire, featuring a short-sleeved gi jacket tied with a dark sash and bloomer pants over stockings.

A Welshwoman from Blaina, Monmouthshire, her name is also given as Phoebe Laughton Parry, and “Phoebe Roberts” appears to have been a professional pseudonym for her work as a jiujitsu instructress and athlete.

Breaking the opponent’s balance via an arm-lock and palm pressure against the chin and neck.

Miss Roberts also participated in numerous jiujitsu exhibitions circa 1906-08, demonstrating with many of the senior jiujitsuka active in the UK at that time, including Tani and Miyake, Akitaro Ono, Sadakazu Uyenishi and Yuzo Hirano.  She was frequently billed as the “Champion Lady Ju-Jitsu Wrestler of the World”.

An arm- and wrist-lock applied to Yuzo Hirano by the bonneted Miss Roberts.

Phoebe Roberts and Yuzo Hirano were married during 1907.  In January of 1910 they arrived in Lisbon, Portugal in the company of Sadakazu Uyenishi; there they performed demonstrations and offered classes.  Hirano seems to have disappeared under mysterious circumstances during 1915.  Phoebe later remarried and remained in Portugal until she died in 1936.

Self-defence against a left-lead punch; Miss Roberts parries the punch and then throws her opponent to the mat.

Sunday in Jurassic Park with George

Jurassic HEMA

BWAHAHAHA, The Lonin Victorian Group, takes its commitment to historical accuracy very seriously, as this short instructional film demonstrates. Join us for Victorian martial arts on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays!

Geplaatst door Lonin League op donderdag 13 april 2017

“Jiu-Jitsu in the Navy” (1907)

From the Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News – Saturday 21 September, 1907:

1. Thigh arm lock. 2. Seized by the coat in front: 1st position. 3. Seized by the coat in front: 2nd position. 4. The stomach throw: 1st position. 5. The stomach throw: 2nd position. 6. A hip throw.


Jiu-Jitsu was first taught in the Navy officially about a year ago to a selected number of officers and physical training instructors who, after they became proficient in the subject, taught it in turn to other officers and petty officers. Examinations of those who have undergone a course of the lessons take place at the School of Physical Training in Portsmouth.

It is not intended that Jiu-Jitsu shall be the system of physical training for the Royal Navy, but only as one of the numerous recreative forms of gymnastics.