Chicago’s Babes With Blades Theatre Company announce their production of Anne Bertram’s play The Good Fight, telling the story of the jiujitsu-trained Bodyguard team who protected the leaders of the radical suffragette movement in England just before the First World War. Suffragette jiujitsu instructress Edith Garrud is featured as a character in the play, alongside other historical figures such as Emmeline Pankhurst and Bodyguard leader Gert Harding.
Footage from the stage production will also be featured during re-enactment scenes in the forthcoming documentary No Man Shall Protect Us.
Mancunian pro-wrestler “Gentleman Jack” Gallagher is a rising star of World Wrestling Entertainment due to his (mostly) unflappable charisma, technical grappling style and distinctly Bartitsuvian umbrella-fu, as seen in this “duel” with rival wrestler Aria Daivari:
Regnier over-reached, however, when he began to challenge much stronger and more experienced wrestlers. Thereafter, the French jiujitsu boom continued mostly via books promoting the Bartitsu-like integration of Japanese unarmed combat with French savate, such as Georges Dubois’ Comment se Defendre and Jean Joseph Renaud’s La Defense dans la Rue.
Cartoonist Ralph Cleaver’s 4th illustration for The Sketch imagines the swift downfall of Bill Sikes, the archetypal London ruffian from Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist, at the hands of a diminutive jujitsu instructor.
This holiday-season article offers a departure from our usual focus on Edwardian-era martial arts and combat sports to briefly illuminate a much kinder and, therefore, more important endeavour from the same period; namely, the work of the Poor Children’s Yuletide Association.
That said, the PCYA was the brainchild of Sir C. Arthur Pearson, who is best-known to Bartitsu aficionados as the publisher of Pearson’s Magazine, without which the present-day revival of E.W. Barton-Wright’s New Art of Self Defence would probably have been impossible. Before his magazine featured Barton-Wright’s articles on “strongman” feats, jiujitsu and Vigny stick fighting, Pearson himself had accepted Barton-Wright’s offer of a personal demonstration, and then found himself flying head-over-heels via one of the first tomoe-nage (stomach throws) ever applied in England.
C. Arthur Pearson was a wealthy and influential man in Edwardian London society, with a particular philanthropic interest in the welfare of children. At that time, London’s slums were little better than when they had been described by Charles Dickens; impoverished families lived as well as they could manage, which is to say, not well. As one of Pearson’s contemporaries noted, “There are only two ‘classes’ in London – those who have too much, and those who have too little”.
In 1892, Pearson had established the Fresh Air Fund, a charitable organisation that enabled disadvantaged city children to take summer outings and holidays in the country. Thirteen years later, he observed that, while charities existed to provide for children in orphanages and hospitals during the winter holiday season, many thousands of “waifs” living in London tenements had never seen a Christmas tree, nor received a gift marking the season of goodwill. Therefore, in 1905 he set up the Poor Children’s Yuletide Association, a new and strictly non-denominational initiative that organised the distribution of Christmas treats to the children of the city’s poorest districts.
The scheme was as ingenious as it was generous. Through emotive advertising in Pearson’s various newspapers and magazines, individuals, companies and “working groups” (including children from wealthier families) were encouraged to donate toys, scrapbooks, sweetmeats and similar Christmas presents to the PCYA. Monetary donations were also encouraged, with all proceeds going towards purchasing more gifts, as the administrative and other costs of the Association were borne by Pearson and his fellow benefactors. As a thank-you to donors, the Association then organised “Christmas Tree Parties” in venues such as Victoria Hall, featuring entertainment, refreshments and galleries of hundreds of trees laden with decorations and presents.
On Christmas morning, fleets of vans donated by some of London’s major department stores delivered the trees and presents to those schools and parish halls that the PCYA had identified as serving those most in need. This massive logistical effort resulted in bright and happy Christmas parties for London’s neediest children.
Between 1906-10 the Poor Children’s Yuletide Association organised the distribution of many hundreds of trees and hundreds of thousands of gifts, leading one commentator to aptly describe the Association as “a sort of collective Santa Claus”.
With seasonal greetings to all readers of the Bartitsu Society website, and may you have a happy and prosperous New Year.
A gallery of images from a recent unarmed Bartitsu seminar with instructor Alex Kiermayer for the inaugural Noble Science event in Ronneburg, Germany. This event brought together instructors in various unarmed martial arts and combat sports including Pankration, Scottish backhold wrestling, pugilism, savate Genovese and traditional German wrestling as well as Mr. Kiermayer’s classes on the kicking and grappling aspects of Bartitsu.
This interview from the Midland Daily Telegraph of August 1, 1907 offers some further details on the life and career of Taro Miyake. A prominent member of the “second generation” of Japanese jiujitsu champions to travel to England, Miyake enjoyed great success as a challenge wrestler.
Miyake also partnered with former Bartitsu Club instructor Yukio Tani in opening London’s Japanese School of Jujitsu and, in 1906, in co-producing “The Game of Jujitsu”. This book was an unusually advanced and detailed training manual for its time, especially notable for its instruction in ne-waza (mat grappling) techniques, which were a particular specialty of Miyake’s instructors, Mataemon Tanabe and Yataro Handa. The Tanabe/Handa lineage was also a significant influence on the jiujitsu aspect of Bartitsu, as both Yukio Tani and Sadakazu Uyenishi were likewise highly trained in that specialty.
Miyake later travelled throughout Europe, again competing successfully in numerous wrestling challenge contests, before settling in Seattle, USA where he ran a jiujitsu dojo. Later in life he became interested in professional wrestling and attempted to introduce it to Japan, without great success. Miyake died in New York City in 1935.
Noting for the sake of clarity and interest that:
Taro Miyake’s name was frequently rendered as “Tarro Miyake”, “Tarro Myake” and similar variants by Edwardian journalists.
The term “Jap” carried no pejorative meaning at this time, being in the nature of a simple abbreviation like “Brit” for “British”.
This is the first reference that we have come across to W.H. Collingridge serving as Miyake’s translator. Collingridge had been a student at the Japanese School of Ju-Jitsu and later wrote a manual of his own, titled “Simple Tricks of Self-Defence”.
It is no exaggeration to say that the most-talked-of man in Coventry to-day is Tarro Miyake, champion ju-jitsu wrestler of Japan—and of the world for that matter. His exhibitions at the Hippodrome have aroused a degree of interest in the city that has seldom been equalled. Miyake ‘s fearless challenges to all comers have met with a ready response in Coventry; but the challengers, it must not be forgotten, have all received an equally ready defeat.
A “Midland Daily Telegraph” reporter had a chat with Miyake on Wednesday night before he went on to the stage to give his second performance of the evening. He was accompanied by his manager, Mr. W. H. Collingridge, and as he does not converse fluently in English — although he understands it perfectly — the conversation was carried on chiefly by the aid of Mr. Collingridge, who acted as interpreter.
Miyake, like many another champion, bears his honours lightly; and it was only after a little persuasion that he could be got to talk of his many victories. Bit by bit, however, he gave the reporter an outline of the story of hie life. It is simply a record of success. In brief, it is as follows.
He was born at Osaka about 25 years ago, and after leaving school first began to take an interest in jujitsu at the age of 18. He attended the school of Tanuba and Hauda (sic – Tanabeand Handa)- two well-known Japanese teachers—and soon he became exceedingly proficient in wrestling. He visited various small tournaments with signal success, and then tried his luck at the large ju-jitsu competition at Kioto (sic – Kyoto). Here be quickly proved his wonderful skill and succeeded in defeating 24 men in succession. Tarro accomplished this feat in the presence of Prince Komats (sic – Komatsu) and other Japanese grandees.
But his great triumph still lay before him. He celebrated it—appropriately enough—at Osaka. At the great tournament there in 1904, Miyake defeated five of the best wrestlers in Japan, and won for himself the championship of wrestling in the jujitsu style of that or any other country. For this success he received a gold medal, presented to him by the Crown Prince of Japan.
On another occasion Tarro received as the reward of his remarkable prowess a sword of honour from Prince Komatsu, President of the Buto Kukai. It was not till two and a half years ago that he came to England. Here he found another expert in ju-jitsu already installed in the person of Yukio Tani. Miyake at once challenged Yukio, and the match took place at the Tivoli Music Halt in London. The result was that Yukio met his Waterloo in seven minutes, and Tarro held his title of champion stronger than ever. In passing, it might be mentioned that one result of the encounter between Yukio and Tarro was that they became fast friends quickly after, and are now at the present moment conducting school together for the teaching of ju-jitsu at 305, Oxford Street, London, where over 350 pupils attend regularly and are taught this simple yet all powerful art of self-defence.
To describe Tarro Miyake is not a difficult task. He is taller than most of his countrymen, standing 5ft. 8in.—the avenge height of an Englishman, in fact. He is built in proportion and weighs eleven stones and a half. Altogether Tarro Miyake, when dressed in the orthodox English garb, appears very little different from an ordinary Englishman—but whether he will take this remark as a compliment or otherwise the writer is not quite sure.
He is seen at his best on the stage, however. Dressed for wrestling he wears a pair of short white cotton pants and a shirt, through the open neck of which can be seen his sun-browned skin and fine chest. With his curly hair disarranged, his fine figure and happy confident smile, Tarro presents a very pleasant picture when seen “on the boards.”
And he has good reason to have confidence in himself, for he confided last night that on only four occasions has he had to pay out the sovereign which he offers to all who stand more then seven minutes against him.
“Tarro, Yukio and I,” said Mr. Collingridge, “are trying to introduce ju-jitsu into England as a pastime. Its three great objects are moral culture, physical culture, and self-defence. It is a game which can be played equally well by the weak u by the strong.”
Asked if any of his family were wrestlers, Miyake replied in the negative. “How do you like England?” asked the reporter.
“Oh, very much, very much indeed,” replied Tarro with enthusiasm.
“He doesn’t want to go back to Japan any more,” interjected Mr. Collingridge. But though Miyake said nothing, there crept into his eyes a far-away look which told another story.
“And English wrestlers,” queried the reporter, “Do you find them easy to beat?”
“Oh, very,” was Tarro’s still smiling but rather disconcerting reply. ” Very easy,” be repeated and then explained that Englishmen when wrestling relied on their strength, while he simply depended on his skill. And his prowess has always stood him in good stead so far.
But Miyake has not only wrestled and defeated Englishmen. He has continued his success on the Continent. He was at the Athletic Tournament at Paris last year, when he succeeded in defeating all comers, including some of the best European wrestlers, and in each case his man was beaten in less than a minute. Since then Miyake has challenged Hackenschmidt, Munro, Madrali—the world of wrestlers, in fact—but has not yet succeeded in finding anyone to take him up.
A short time ago Miyake had an accident, which necessitated his undergoing a serious operation. While in the Tottenham Hospital a visit was paid to his ward by the Prince of Wales, to whom he was pointed out. His Highness admired Miyake’s fine physique, and shook him cordially by the hand—an honour of which Miyake is quite justifiably proud.
Although Miyake’s temper on the stage is imperturbable, his opponents do not always manage to keep theirs. This was illustrated a little while ago, Mr. Collingridge explained. Miyake was appearing in a northern town, when a huge black fellow, of towering height, accepted his challenge. Miyake defeated the black, but when the latter was allowed to get on his feet he “went for” the Jap, who, however, dodged the blow, and, getting the arm lock on, in his own expressive words, “sent him to sleep,” or in plain language rendered him unconscious.
“Miyake thinks a lot of Coventry,” said Mr. Collingridge. “Is that so?” asked the reporter. “Yes,” replied the Jap, “I think it is a very clean town indeed.”
“Wouldn’t you like to stay and see La Milo as Godiva?” persisted the interviewer.
Miyake laughed, “I would like to see the procession” he said, “but can’t possibly stop as I have particular business in London next week.” He explained that he had come to Coventry as a personal favour to Mr. Barry, who is an old friend. During his stay in Coventry he has admired all the beauties of the ancient city, and hopes to renew his acquaintance with them when he returns to fulfill another engagement at the Hippodrome early next year.
The national flag of Japan may be seen flying on the Hippodrome below the Union Jack. This Miyake takes as a great compliment. He has also been very much gratified by the number of people who have stopped him in the street and shaken bands with him. This morning, at the invitation of Mr. Lennox Barry, the manager of the Hippodrome, a private exposition of ju-jitsu was given by Tarro Miyake and Mr. Collingridge, to a large number of the members of the City Police. Several of the officers tried conclusions with the redoubtable Jap, but were quickly glad to cry, “hold ! enough.” He also very carefully described, by ocular demonstration, how the various “locks” were brought about.
At the conclusion of the exhibition Mr. Charsley, the Chief Constable, thanked Mr. Barry on behalf of his men, for inviting them to the exhibition, and Miyake and Mr. Collingridge for having so kindly demonstrated the wonderful capabilities of ju-jitsu. It was, said the Chief Constable, a wonderful science and capable of great possibilities. He thought his men would have to try the locks on each other before they began practicing them on refractory offenders in the street. (“Hear, hear,” and laughter).
There was again a crowded house at the Hippodrome last night, when Jack Madden, a focal wrestler, took up the challenge of Tarro Miyake, the Japanese wrestler. Madden succeeded in holding the Jap at bay for 7mins. 45secs. and was awarded a sovereign for his splendid effort.
Ralph Cleaver’s third jiujitsu cartoon for The Sketch seems, like #2, to have abandoned the premise of police applications. Instead, Cleaver imagines how Japanese unarmed combat might be used to compel a recalcitrant husband to purchase jewellery for his skilled (and clearly unscrupulous) wife.
Martial arts enthusiasts who find themselves in central London may wish to visit the site of the original Bartitsu School of Arms and Physical Culture (a.k.a. the Bartitsu Club). The Club was the first commercial school in the Western world to teach Japanese martial arts and also the site of the first known experiment in deliberately blending Asian and European fighting styles, anticipating Bruce Lee’s Jeet Kune Do by about seven decades and the modern MMA movement by about ninety years.
The Bartitsu Club operated from approximately April of 1900-January of 1902 and was originally located in the basement of #67b Shaftesbury Avenue in London’s Soho district.
#67 Shaftesbury very narrowly survived destruction during the London Blitz and today the exterior facade looks much like it did circa 1900, apart from the variety of modern shops at street level. It presently houses a large, modern Best Western hotel, which was known formerly as The Shaftesbury and currently as The Piccadilly (harkening back to the days of the Bartitsu School of Arms, when the building was called Piccadilly-Circus-Mansions). Note, however, that the basement which housed the Bartitsu Club gymnasium itself is off-limits to guests and visitors.
In September of 2005, Tony Wolf launched the publication of the Bartitsu Compendium, Volume 1 via a function in the Allen Room, an oak-panelled meeting room in the St. Anne’s Church complex adjacent to #67 Shaftesbury. The exterior of #67 was shown in the 2011 feature documentary Bartitsu: The Lost Martial Art of Sherlock Holmes and served as a rendezvous point for participants in the 2011 Bartitsu School of Arms symposium. The exterior and lobby were also featured in a 2014 mini-documentary on Bartitsu produced by the BBC:
Pilgrims to #67 should also take time to explore the Soho neighbourhood, which features many attractions including superb West End theatres, restaurants, Victorian-era pubs and shops. Of particular note are St. Anne’s Churchyard, a small park immediately behind #67 Shaftesbury, where informal classes in martial arts from Tai Chi Chuan to kickboxing frequently take place; and nearby Cecil Court, a collection of some of the world’s finest antiquarian and specialist bookstores. Be sure to check out Storey’s Ltd., whose extensive catalogues of antique prints have been known to include rare illustrations of both Bartitsu and Captain Hutton’s historical fencing.
Finally, no Bartitsu pilgrimage is complete without a visit to James Smith and Sons, an establishment which has been manufacturing and selling fine walking sticks and umbrellas since the year 1830. The shop is only a ten-minute walk from #67 Shaftesbury and it’s been speculated that Bartitsu Club instructor Pierre Vigny’s special self-defence walking sticks may have been produced by the James Smith company. Although they no longer produce items overtly intended as weapons, the ornate Victorian-era signage still advertises “malacca canes, dagger-canes, life-preservers and swordsticks”.