“The Eight Olympians”

Above: seven of the Eight Olympians.

By 1907 the art of jiujitsu was becoming thoroughly integrated into English popular culture. It had been written into plays and novels and was the subject of greeting cards, jokes and cartoons. It also remained a successful “draw” in the music halls, both in terms of the challenge contests offered by Japanese professionals such as Yukio Tani and Taro Miyake and as a form of performing art in its own right.

The Olympians were an itinerant troupe of music hall athletes who toured their jiujitsu self-defence act between 1907-9. The team of four male and four female performers was led by a Mr. George Mortimer and billed as having appeared “before Royalty”.  Notably, their act included explanations of the principles of jiujitsu as well as exhibitions of its practice, recalling E.W. Barton-Wright’s early demonstrations of the art for groups such as the Japan Society.

“Les Secrets du Jiu-Jitsu” (1906) Online

A scan of Ernest Regnier’s instruction manual Les Secrets du Jiu-Jitsu (1906) is now available online via this link.

Regnier was a talented but down-on-his-luck Parisian wrestler until he was sponsored by physical culture entrepreneur Edmond Desbonnet to travel to London and train at the Japanese School of Jujitsu.  Regnier’s athletic prowess and antagonistic skills allowed him to learn quickly, and it certainly didn’t hurt that his teachers included former Bartitsu Club instructor Yukio Tani and his colleague, Taro Miyake.

Returning to Paris, Regnier adopted the vaguely Japanese pseudonym “Professor Re-Nie”.  On October 23 of 1905, he decisively defeated savateur George Dubois in a much-hyped style-vs.-style challenge contest, sparking an intense but short-lived craze for jiujitsu in the French capital.  He then established a salon de jiu-jitsu in Desbonnet’s exceptionally well-appointed gymnasium.  Regnier also had the distinction of training senior Parisian policemen in Japanese unarmed combat, but his jiujitsu career was effectively ended in December of 1908, when he ill-advisedly took on the giant Graeco-Roman wrestler Ivan Podubbny.

Les Secrets du Jiu-Jitsu was co-authored/ghost written by a writer named Guy de Montgrilhard, leading to some confusion in later generations as to “Professor Re-Nie’s” real name.  Although it is, in fact, a fairly simple compendium of some basic throws and locks, the fact that Regnier studied at the Japanese School of Jujitsu places the book squarely within the “Bartitsu lineage” and it serves as a useful supplement to the works of William Garrud, Percy Longhurst and other second-generation instructors.

More from the Santiago Stickfighters

Andres Morales (in the fencing mask with white trim) demonstrates the Vigny style in action against an opponent using a more generic style in this recent sparring match:

In this clip Mr. Morales takes on two opponents at once, fighting on uneven terrain and through the obstacle of overhanging tree branches:

La canne vigny vs 2 stickfighter

Geplaatst door Andres Pino Morales op zondag 14 januari 2018

Gentlemanly Fisticuffs in Seattle

An academic exhibition of the manly art of pugilism from a 19th century history event in Seattle. Note the use of the milling guard with elbow covers rolling into the “chopper” (back-fist or hammer-fist) punch, which was part of the London Prize Ring style and fell out of favour with the requirement of wearing large gloves under the Queensberry Rules.  Likewise, frequent entries into throwing range were very much a part of the LPR style.

“Ju-Jitsu For The Police: Its Possibilities” (#7)

The seventh and final of Ralph Cleaver’s 1905 cartoons doubles as a follow-up to cartoon #6, allowing that the rascally hooligan might not be quite the jujitsu expert he believed himself to be.

The implicit criticism that Japanese unarmed combat seemed to work best when both parties were “playing the game” was made by a number of observers during the very early 20th century.

Jiujitsuffragettes Fight “The Good Fight” in Chicago

Suffragette Bodyguard leader Gert Harding (played by actress Scottie Caldwell) executes a jiujitsu arm-bar against a hapless police constable (Richard Traub) in an action scene from Anne Bertram’s play The Good Fight.

Closely based on the real history of the all-women security team who protected the leaders of the radical suffragette movement in England just before WW1, The Good Fight will open at Chicago’s City Lit theatre on January 15.  The play is being produced by the Babes With Blades Theatre Company and is directed by Elizabeth Lovelady, with fight choreography by Gaby Labotka.

“To Defy the Hooligan: Advice to Ladies” (1905)

A satirical self-defence article from the Bristol Magpie of February 2, 1905:

NOTWITHSTANDING there are already numberless systems of self defence extensively advertised and practiced, Magpie hopes to be excused for bringing before his readers just one more, “The Magpie System,” which has been devised by a brainy professor, specially for ladies, in this respect filling a great and crying need.

To get to business; we will commence with railway assaults as these are the most common and the most dreaded. In the first place, dear ladies, you must never travel alone without a copy of the Magpie and a trusty life preserver, which latter can easily be concealed conveniently to hand, in the byways of your skirt. If you find yourself in a railway carriage, the only other occupant of which is one of those terrifying objects – a man – you will, after having reviewed in your mind all the crimes you can remember committed under similar circumstances, readily see that you are in a critical position and will prepare to act accordingly.

Wait till your natural enemy is buried in the latest phase of the fiscal problem, looking out of the window, or otherwise engaged, and then give him a tap over the “brayne panne” with the aforesaid weapon. One blow is usually sufficient, and all that remains is to throw the body through the window far into the night, or day as the case may be. Of course the man might have been as innocent and free from guilt as Mr. Balfour or E. T. Hooley, but that is a side issue and you cannot afford to take any risks in this strenuous life.

Let us take another view of the case. Suppose that by some means or other, you allow the man to get the best of the early exchanges, and find yourself apparently in his power, you must, whilst appearing to accede to the hooligan’s demands, stealthily disengage one of your hatpins, which are, I understand, like your troubles always with you, and plunge it into any tender spot which your assailant leaves exposed. A very slight knowledge of anatomy is of advantage here, as it will help you to decide where to strike, but it may be laid down as a safe rule, that if the pin sinks in the flesh to a depth of seven or eight inches without reaching bottom, you have, so to speak, touched the spot, and your man is at once placed hors de combat. You now recover your hat pin, adjust your toilet, and turn to the pages of this journal for further information.

We now come to the ordinary footpad, the common or garden form of Hooliganitus. Should you find yourself in a dirty street, commanded by a dirty Dick Turpin to “stand and deliver” you must use that sense of tact with which the gods have so liberally endowed your sex. Throw your bulging purse heavily on the pavement. The clink of the filthy lucre will generally cause Turpin to lose all caution, and as he stoops to pick up the spoils, you spring with all possible force on to his back. This will send him sprawling face downwards, and you can either sit on his head till the police arrive — which will be from one to twenty-four hours — or punish him yourself by seizing his ears and bumping his face in the gutter ad lib.

Sometimes, however the rascal is too wary to be had by the purse bait, and then a hand to hand struggle is inevitable. Close with him. Put your right arm somewhere around his neck, your left arm somehow around his waist, knock his feet from under him anyhow, and if you are as strong as Sandow you will be able to walk away victorious. But if, by some strange chance, you are bested, and find yourself on the ground with the man on top of you, then the hat pin trick is the correct thing.

Other tricks may be described briefly. Face your man squarely. Soozle round him a bit and then if you are able to reach so high, kick him in the wind. If you cannot soar to such heights, the shins of man are very sensitive and make a good substitute. Here again, a superficial acquaintance with the science of anatomy is most desirable.

Of all attacks whether in love or war, that which comes from the rear is acknowledged by every competent authority to be the most dangerous. We are pleased to be able to give a word of advice on this point. Whenever you find yourself in a difficult locality, WALK BACKWARDS. This will completely confound your enemy, as he cannot tell whether you are coming or going, and will effectually guard against an attack from behind. Those ladies who are skilled in the mysteries of the cake walk will find no difficulty in carrying out this part of our system, but we admit it has its disadvantages, (see sketch) and a little practice is highly recommended. For this purpose we cannot suggest a better place than Magpie Park during the dinner hour, and to that lady who proves herself most adapt we will award suitable recognition.

Everyone will agree that our methods are most effective and easily mastered, but should private lessons be desired, the editor will be pleased to send terms and particulars on receipt of stamped addressed envelope.

“Ju-Jitsu For The Police: Its Possibilities” (#6)

The sixth of Ralph Cleaver’s Sketch cartoons posits jujitsu against, rather than for, the police, as a grinning hooligan executes a textbook kugi-nuki (scissors takedown) against a hapless bobby.

Dating back to  circa 1900, casual observers had sometimes worried that the “new art of self-defence” might be employed by those on the wrong side of the law; this is why membership in E.W. Barton-Wright’s Bartitsu Club had been subject to the approval of a “committee of gentlemen”, whose role was (partly) to assess the prospective new member’s moral character.

Adam Adamant: an Edwardian Gentleman-Adventurer in Swinging ’60s London

Popular enough in its day but almost forgotten over the past four decades, the mystery/adventure TV series Adam Adamant Lives! was intended as the BBC’s answer to The Avengers.  Both series featured dapper Edwardianesque gents teaming up with groovy young women to combat the outlandish masterminds of fantastically devious schemes.

Adam Adamant, however, distinguished himself from The Avengers’ John Steed in three essential ways.  Firstly, he was not simply an Old Etonian spy with a taste for snappy suits, formal courtesies and umbrella fighting, but rather a genuine Victorian-era gentleman-adventurer.  In the year 1902, Adamant had been placed in suspended animation by his arch-nemesis, a masked evil-doer known only as “the Face”.  Accidentally rediscovered and revived in 1966,  the hero resumes his crusade in the name of Queen and Country, assisted by his quickly-acquired manservant, Mr. Simms, and swinging chick Georgina “Georgie” Jones.

The second point of difference is that Adam Adamant, as a gentleman of the belle epoque, could not quite bring himself to believe that the women of the 1960s might be anything other than the virtuous objects of his manly protection.   This gallant naiveté frequently resulted in his being duped by villainesses and then knocked cold.

Thirdly, at least when facing male opponents, Adamant exhibited the ruthlessness of his penny dreadful forebears to an extent that might have made even the steely John Steed blanch.  While Steed would not hesitate to kill an enemy if required by dire circumstance, he preferred non-lethal options when possible. Adam Adamant, on the other hand, demonstrates a cold-blooded relish for the kill, whether impaling his opponents (typically with the sword concealed in his ever-present cane, occasionally with spears or javelins), hurling them to their doom from great heights as Holmes did to Moriarty, or just slitting their throats:

The fight scenes in Adam Adamant Lives! are typical of their vintage; low budgets led to fast-paced production schedules that seldom allowed time to properly rehearse action sequences, resulting in sometimes imaginative, often energetic, but frequently sloppy and (actually) dangerous fights.  However, credit must be given to the fight arrangers who devised Adamant’s signature combat style, which is a Bartitsuesque combination of Queensberry Rules boxing, jiujitsu and fencing, with occasional use of the walking cane itself as a weapon.

Adamant’s formal, extended-guard unarmed stance is a fairly good approximation of late 19th century fisticuffs and he makes frequent and effective use of the classic left lead-off, rather than resorting to the modern jab.  His jiujitsu – which must surely have been learned at the Bartitsu Club, given that he lived in central London and was placed in suspended animation the very same year that the Club folded – generally defaults to those techniques that can be learned quickly by a game but over-worked actor and then “sold” by agile stuntmen.

Adam Adamant Lives! lasted for two action-packed seasons but ultimately could not compete with The Avengers.  It did, however, inspire the Austin Powers movie series, which updated the concept to feature an action man of the 1960s being cryogenically frozen and then revived during the late 1990s.  Those who enjoy ’60s action-adventure with an Edwardian flair should also note that a number of Adam Adamant Lives! episodes are available on YouTube.

“John Steed’s Sword-Stick”: an Umbrella Fighting Tutorial from The Avengers Annual of 1967

Having already addressed the umbrella combat of debonair super-spy John Steed in general terms, our attention now turns to some of the specifics, as delineated in The Avengers Annual of 1967.  The following graphic tutorial probably  accounted for a number of damaged umbrellas and wounded feelings between siblings and young friends.

John Steed’s Sword-Stick

The sword stick is essentially a light but surprisingly strong weapon which is used as an extension of the arm, a lever, or a locking stick. It enables the user to actually start his offensive before his opponent is within reach of him. It is silent, accurate and has great psychological advantages. While it can be lethal, it is mostly used to overpower without injury or to incapacitate an opponent.

An important technique used with the stick is “tension”.  When it is released at one end, the built-up energy causes it to go immediately into a movement almost too rapid for the eye to follow!
It is also a fact that when the sheath is cast aside or thrown at the opponent, his eyes almost invariably follow it and provide a distraction of great advantage.
Steed grasps shoulder and pulls it towards him while thrusting his umbrella between arm and body. The action is confined to pulling shoulder towards him and thrusting umbrella away – note that the curved handle is held to trap the arm so that from a forward movement, it will hook over the wrist. Steed can now move swiftly behind his opponent and, if he wishes, force him face downwards to the ground.
In this the main action is a left hand movement in order to keep the right hand free for a strong grasp on the gun hand. The right hand holds the stick in tension against the left so that when it is drawn it whips around to a violent blow on the gun hand. Steed uses his right hand to twist the gun away and takes an offensive threatening posture with the sword.
From the ground Steed slides his stick between his adversary’s legs at knee level. It is held firmly with both hands and all the following twisting and rising action must be smooth and continuous. The first movement is to twist umbrella between the legs and rise to a sitting position, proceeding to twist and rise onto one knee. At this stage adversary begins to fall and Steed rises fully to the offensive position as opponent falls backwards.
As the assailant kicks out, Steed steps back and traps the heel with his stick. As the leg extends forward it is forced upwards. Steed rises as high as possible to throw his assailant backwards to the ground. He is then able to take up a threatening pose over floored opponent.