Bartitsu Mini-Documentary on the “Celebrity Antiques Road Trip”

A six-minute item on the gentlemanly mixed martial art of Bartitsu, as featured on a recent episode of BBC2’s Celebrity Antiques Road Trip and including demonstrations by the Manley Academy of Historical Swordsmanship:

For the sake of strict historical accuracy, there’s no evidence that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle actually studied Bartitsu (in fact, the evidence suggests that he wasn’t even especially familiar with it). That said, it’s great to see another precis treatment of the art and its intriguing history in the mainstream media, and media doesn’t get much more mainstream than the Celebrity Antiques Road Trip.

Also worthy of note is that the show benefits the BBC’s children’s charity Children in Need, which funds a wide range of projects helping children and disadvantaged young people throughout the UK.

“No Man Shall Protect Us” Suffragette Bodyguard Documentary Reviewed by Dr. Emelyne Godfrey

Directed by Tony and Kathrynne Wolf, No Man Shall Protect Us: The Hidden History of the Suffragette Bodyguards (2018), written by Tony Wolf, offers a lucid and rousing yet sensitively balanced account of the role of the role of martial arts in the campaign of the Women’s Social and Political Union. The documentary, which is backgrounded by evocative piano music and songs of the era, looks back across the late-Victorian era to the 1900s, considering Edward William Barton-Wright’s introduction of jujitsu to Britain and its emergence in mainstream popular culture. The story is nicely accompanied by a wide range of contemporary photography, film and illustrations.

Much of action is set in the months following the passing of the Prisoners (Temporary Discharge for Ill-health) Act, 1913 under which suffragettes could be released from jail to recover sufficiently (watched by the police) in order to be recaptured and see out the remainder of their sentences. The Act signalled a cycle of releases and rearrests, the government toying with the released prisoners as a cat would taunt a mouse. Mrs Pankhurst was the most famous of mouse of all and she needed special protection: her team of jujitsu-trained supporters, known simply as ‘The Bodyguard’.

Lizzie Bourne, who is an experienced voiceover artist, presents to camera and, with her measured style of narration, sets the keynote to this documentary. Her gentle tone acts as a counterpoint to Debra Ann Miller’s fiery Mrs Pankhurst and Lynne Baker’s compelling yet intimidating jujitsu instructor Mrs Garrud. Excerpts from the play The Good Fight give a sense of the shape of the confrontations between the Bodyguard and the police – whom Mrs Pankhurst called ‘tools of the government’ – as well as offer an insight into how the story of the Bodyguard is celebrated today. The confrontation scenes also underline Tony’s argument that the Bodyguard fought two battles, ‘one at street level and the other as cogs in a well-oiled suffragette propaganda machine’.

The actors have been well selected. I particularly liked Scottie Caldwell’s depiction of Gertrude Harding, who gives us her account as she pours a cup of tea, a copy of The Suffragette in front of her. It’s a scene which reminds me of Godfrey Winn’s interview with Edith Garrud as well as Brian Harrison’s well-known recordings of suffragettes who drink tea and chat to him over cake about their experiences. There are some lovely details, such Gert and Kathrynne Wolf’s Janie Allen standing behind Mrs Pankhurst, deftly signalling information to each other.

While David Skvarla’s accent is a touch over-lilted, it was pleasing to see Chief Constable James Stephenson charismatically being given a meaningful place in the suffragette story. His perspective was not downplayed here as is so often the case in suffragette history, nor reduced to a faceless police report.

We also see the viewpoint of the government represented. The film which accompanies the Votes for Women exhibition at the Museum of London argues that forcible feeding did not improve the condition of hunger-striking women and even set them back. However, as Tony Wolf points out, prison officials were duty bound to preserve life, otherwise protestors would have died in their care. It was out of this predicament in which the government found itself, not to mention the bad press elicited by forcible feeding, that the Cat and Mouse Act emerged.

The documentary is not only a valuable account of the Bodyguard, with a discussion of modern parallels, but also shows that the ‘Jujutsuffragettes’ are not merely a niche subject within suffragette history. Rather, the documentary invites us to consider the wider symbolic impact of jujitsu on the women’s suffrage campaign. ‘The image of radical suffragettes being helplessly led, carried away or dragged by much larger police constables was central to the popular conception of the suffrage movement,’ Tony says, ‘Therefore, photographs of the petite Edith Garrud, seemingly defeating policemen with deft jujitsu locks, struck a powerfully transgressive chord.’ In that case, perhaps the police were in fact the tools of the suffragettes?


No Man Shall Protect Us is freely available for viewing via this link.

About the reviewer: Since graduating from Birkbeck College, London in 2008, Emelyne now works as a freelance writer specialising in the 19th century. Her books include “Masculinity, Crime and Self-Defence in Victorian Literature: Duelling with Danger” (2010), which looks at crime-fighting from the seldom-explored viewpoint of the civilian city-goer. A sister volume, “Femininity, Crime and Self-Defence in Victorian Literature and Society: From Dagger-Fans to Suffragettes” was published in 2013. 

Emelyne is currently writing her next book, “Kitty and the Cats: Mrs Pankhurst’s Suffragette Bodyguard and the London Police”, which tells the story of Emily Katherine Willoughby Marshall, a member of the ‘Bodyguard’.  She became Emmeline Pankhurst’s close friend and was the chief organiser of her memorial, standing today in Victoria Tower Gardens, Westminster.

Emelyn is a regular contributor to the Times Literary Supplement and History Today, and has appeared on BBC television and radio. She is the current Chairman of the HG Wells Society.

Further information can be found at www.emelynegodfrey.com

Bartitsu Featured on Japanese TV

This six-minute Bartitsu featurette recently screened on the Japanese television show Sekai Kurabete Mitara  (“See the World in Comparison”). 

Bartitsu on Film

Some absolutely mental bits from Bartitsu Lab on Japanese TV

Geplaatst door The Bartitsu Lab op Donderdag 30 augustus 2018

Playing to the pop-culture notion of the “gentlemanly martial art” via the Sherlock Holmes and Kingsman movies, the segment still manages to communicate some of the essential details such as Edward Barton-Wright’s travels in Japan and the eclectic boxing/kicking/jiujitsu/Vigny cane nature of Bartitsu.

Kudos to the Bartitsu Lab of Warwickshire, UK and to their instructor Tommy Joe Moore.

Bartitsu to Feature on Japanese TV

The Japanese TBS edutainment show Sekai Kurabete Mitara (“See the World in Comparison”) will be featuring a short documentary on Bartitsu on August 20, 2018.  The theme of the show is to explore various current events and customs from throughout the world, with an emphasis on cultural diversity.

This will be the first Japanese-language broadcast on the art of Bartitsu and we’ll post the segment on this site if it becomes publicly available.

“No Man Shall Protect Us”

Embedded here for your convenience, the new documentary No Man Shall Protect Us details the origins and exploits of the jiujitsu-trained Bodyguard Society who protected the radical suffragettes of England just before WW1. The documentary offers a special focus on Bodyguard martial arts instructor Edith Garrud, who was one of the most prominent self-defence teachers in England during the early 20th century.

Suffrajitsu Documentary “No Man Shall Protect Us” is Now Available

The documentary No Man Shall Protect Us: The Hidden History of the Suffragette Bodyguards is now freely available via Vimeo.

Written, co-directed and co-produced by Bartitsu instructor Tony Wolf, the 50-minute documentary explores the origins and exploits of “The Bodyguard” – a secret society of women who trained in jiujitsu and defended the leaders of the radical suffragette movement in England.

Some images from the documentary:

 

An Update Re. “No Man Shall Protect Us”, the Suffrajitsu Documentary

Above: Edith Garrud (played by actress Lynne Baker) is featured in screenshot of the current No Man Shall Protect Us edit.

Editing proceeds apace on No Man Shall Protect Us, the upcoming documentary on the secret society of martial arts-trained female bodyguards who protected the leaders of the radical women’s suffrage movement just prior to the First World War.

The project was successfully crowdfunded during October 2017 and will feature extensive use of archival media and re-enactments.  Although reference will be made to E.W. Barton-Wright and Sadakazu Uyenishi of the Bartitsu Club, the martial arts focus is on Edith Garrud, the pioneering women’s self-defence instructor who trained members of the suffragette Bodyguard in jiujitsu.

Once editing is complete, No Man Shall Protect Us will be made freely available online.

Shooting Fight Scenes for “No Man Shall Protect Us”, the Suffrajitsu Documentary

A London “bobby” (stuntman Cody Evans, left) takes on a member of the WSPU Bodyguard Society (stuntwoman Gabrielle Perrea, right).

The past week of production on No Man Shall Protect Us: The Hidden History of the Suffragette Bodyguards has included black-screen studio action scenes performed by a very talented pair of stuntpeople.  Rather than shooting long, elaborate fights, the aim was to create about twenty short, diverse sequences that will be edited together to illustrate key moments of the suffragette Bodyguards’ story.

Both the Bodyguards and the London police were streetwise, experienced tusslers, but – jiujutsu lessons notwithstanding – few of them were experts in a formal fighting style.  Therefore, the challenge was to keep the action within the bounds of plausibility, while still ensuring that each “fight” told its own story.  That meant that the fights had to look scrappy and relatively realistic, with the Bodyguard and the constable occasionally staggering off-balance in the heat of the action or succeeding as much through luck as through skill.

Likewise, unusually for fight scenes, the characters were not necessarily trying to hurt each other.  The suffragette’s objective was more often simply to get past or escape from the constable, whereas the constable was attempting to block or arrest the suffragette.

When clubs and truncheons were drawn, though, most bets were off …

The production has now also filmed a number of prop inserts, including demonstrations of the circa 1909 boardgame Suffragetto, to help illustrate the complex tactics of suffragette vs. police street skirmishes:

No Man Shall Protect Us is now entering the final stages of production. Once the documentary is edited, it will be made freely available as an educational resource via Vimeo.

“Drunk History” (US) Tells the Story of the Suffragette Bodyguards

The Comedy Channel’s hit series Drunk History, in which interesting past events are related by inebriated comedians, has followed in the footsteps of the UK version of the show by featuring the jujitsuffragettes of the Edwardian English women’s rights movement.  “Civil Rights” was the title and theme of Drunk History’s episode 5, season 5 show, which screened in the US on Feb. 20, 2018.

The suffrajitsu segment is narrated by Kirby Howell-Baptiste and stars Tatiana Maslany as Emmeline Pankhurst, who is introduced leading the ill-fated “raid on Parliament” on November 10, 1910. This raid was the fourteenth attempt by the Women’s Social and Political Union to present a petition to Parliament and developed into a near riot in which many protestors complained of police brutality; the event later became known as “Black Friday”.

The Drunk History episode exerts some dramatic licence in stating that Mrs. Pankhurst’s sister was killed during the protest.  In reality, she died about a month later (possibly as the result of an accident while she was being force-fed in prison).

Actress Maria Blasucci plays martial arts instructor Edith Garrud and several scenes are set in her opulent dojo, where she is shown training the new suffragette Bodyguard team in the womanly art of jiujitsu. Gert Harding, played by Kat Dennings, is portrayed as Mrs. Garrud’s star pupil; in reality, Harding did study martial arts with Garrud and also led the Bodyguard team.

The show also offers fairly accurate representations of two key WSPU rallies in which the Bodyguard clashed with the police. The Campden Hill (Camden) rally, which was also portrayed in the Drunk History UK episode on the same theme as well as the 2015 feature film Suffragette, shows how the Bodyguard tricked the police into arresting a body double while the real Mrs. Pankhurst made her escape.

The second re-enactment is of the famous “Battle of Glasgow”, when the Bodyguard openly confronted and fought with the police on the stage of St. Andrew’s Hall, in front of some 4500 shocked witnesses. Although the show implies that this event turned the tide of the radical suffrage movement and led directly to the enfranchisement of women, the real history is (of course) vastly more complicated.

In reality, the First World War broke out shortly after the Glasgow brawl, at which point Mrs. Pankhurst suspended all militant suffrage activities and supported the government throughout the crisis, especially by organising and encouraging women to “do men’s work” while their husbands, sons and brothers were fighting overseas. It’s generally conceded that the suspension of WSPU militancy, in combination with the work done by women during wartime, tipped the balance in favour of “votes for women” as the conflict drew to a close.

The “Civil Rights” episode of Drunk History also includes interesting segments on the Birmingham Children’s March and the disability rights activists who organized America’s longest sit-in of a federal building. It is currently available to view for free via the Comedy Channel website (some conditions apply) or to purchase via Youtube or via Amazon.  Note that the dialogue does include some swearing and mildly raunchy slang and so may not be safe for work.

If you enjoy Drunk History’s take on the suffragette Bodyguard story, keep an eye out for the upcoming full-length documentary No Man Shall Protect Us, which will cover the same subject in much greater depth, albeit with much less drunken hilarity.