Even by September of 1901, with the Bartitsu Club in Shaftesbury Avenue well-established and Bartitsu itself the subject of much media attention, E.W. Barton-Wright suffered ongoing frustrations in persuading European wrestlers to take on his Japanese champions. This article from the Morning Post of September 19th records how one would-be challenge match was called off at the last possible moment.
Mr. Barton-Wright’s “Another way of breaking the same fall” was the first thing one heard last night on entering the Tivoli. One might have thought, to look at it, that it was another way of breaking the same bone. An enormous audience had assembled to see a Russian light-weight wrestler try conclusions with one of Mr. Barton-Wright’s Japanese exponents of Bartitsu.
However, no collision between Russia and Japan was forthcoming on this occasion. Mr. Barton-Wright informed the audience that the challenger was in the house, was indeed in the wings, but had thought better his challenge. This led to some interruption: there were clearly two parties in the house. Mr. Barton-Wright proceeded say that had vainly offered the challenger £lOO, not by way of wager but as a gift, if he scored a single throw.
Then, after more interruption, Mr. Dowsett, the manager, came forward and confirmed Mr. Barton-Wright’s statement. £lOO had been deposited with him; he had Mr. Barton- Wright’s bank-note in his pocket.
And so the exhibition ran its usual course. One cannot blame anybody for keeping out the clutches of the Japanese wrestlers, whose art includes much that in England, and probably Russia, is looked on as foul play. But one should think of that before issuing a challenge, and not at the last moment, when others have gone to inconvenience in order to see the promise kept. In any case, the challenger might have responded to the cry, “Let’s see him” by endeavouring to hold the Japanese wrestler down.
It seems that the Japanese are to find no opponents, unless, indeed, a meeting can be arranged (it might be out and home) with the lions at the Hippodrome. Meanwhile, one would much like to know of what material the Japanese wrestlers’ dresses are made. It seems durable.
A report from the Music Hall Gossip newspaper of September 21st offered the tantalising further detail that the would-be challenger had offered to fight Tani or Uyenishi in his own (presumably Russian) style, while the champions employed their jiujitsu. Alas, it was not to be.