“Fiendish Science”: a Pearson’s Magazine Editor Recalls His First Encounter with E.W. Barton-Wright

When E.W. Barton-Wright returned to England in 1898, after a three-year sojourn in Japan, he lost little time in starting to promote the then-almost totally unknown martial art of jiujitsu. One of his first major promotions took place via the pages of Pearson’s Magazine, a very popular journal at the time.

Barton-Wright’s two-part article titled “The New Art of Self-Defence” was literally the first detailed, illustrated exposition of Japanese unarmed combat to have appeared in the Western media, and excerpts were widely re-printed in other magazines and newspapers, notably including the American edition of Pearson’s.  An extended editorial addendum to the first entry noted that:

It is possible (…) that after a consideration of the explanations which follow, many readers will exclaim, “this is all very well on paper, but in practice it will probably be otherwise.” We must confess that when Mr. Barton-Wright first came into this office with his credentials and claims (a short, good-looking man with no indications of unusual strength) we ourselves were somewhat sceptical, but a few practical tests soon showed that we were in grevious error! Others, too, have scoffed at first – professional strong men, gymnasts, and athletes generally – but not one of these has met Mr. Barton-Wright and put him to the test who has not in the end been bound to admit that his system is irresistible.

The following is excerpted from an essay in the Pearson’s Weekly of September 16, 1909, written by P.W. Everett.  Mr. Everett had been the editor responsible for Barton-Wright’s article, and his reminiscence of their first encounter offers a few more details about their “practical tests” of Barton-Wright’s New Art.

Allowing that Everett may have been exaggerating a little for dramatic effect, it’s worth noting that Barton-Wright had also offered a similar demonstration to C. Arthur Pearson – the owner and editor-in-chief of Pearson’s Magazine.

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