Martial Exotica: Kusarigamajutsu in London (1919-23)

Founded by Gunji Koizumi in 1918, the London Budokwai remains the oldest Japanese martial arts club in Europe.  Former Bartitsu Club instructor Yukio Tani taught there for many years, shaping the first generation of British judoka.

On May 31, 1919, the Budokwai hosted an exhibition at the Aeolian Hall by the visiting kendo master Sonobe Masatada, which was notable for including not only kendo and jiujitsu displays but also some highly exotic martial arts such as nabebutajutsu (the use of pot-lids as shields and knuckle-dusters), nitojutsu (fencing with a sword in each hand) and kusarigamajutsu (the use of the chain and sickle).  Madame Hino Yoshiko rounded out the display with a demonstration of naginatajutsu (halberd fencing).

A similar Budokwai exhibition in 1923 again featured the kusarigama, curiously described by an Illustrated London News reporter as a “universal homely weapon” .

This excerpt from an Isshin-ryu kusarigamajutsu exhibition offers a sense of what would have been seen at the Budokwai displays about 100 years ago:

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