“Glima: Wonders of the Secret Sport of Iceland Which Beats Ju-Jitsu” (1911)

This self-defence article by the Icelandic wrestler and showman Johannes Josefsson was published in the Sydney Sun newspaper on June 9th, 1911.

Readers familiar with the basics of both jiujitsu and glima may well wonder at a number of Mr. Josefsson’s techniques, which seem to bear a far greater affinity to the former than to the latter.  


During recent years public interest in any and every really valuable form of self-defence has increased very largely, and on that account it will be a matter of the greatest surprise to me if the true merits of “Glima,” the particular form of self-defence that has actually been practised in Iceland for nearly one thousand years, do not, when once known, become generally recognlsed, for, as has been proved on countless occasions, it is at once the simplest and yet withal the most efficacious of all exercises.

But as to the present time, the ancient pastime of my countrymen has been jealously guarded from all foreigners. Indeed, the only occasion when strangers were allowed to witness it during the whole of the last century was when it was displayed before King Christian IX of Denmark at Thing-vellir, when he visited Iceland in 1874, and even then only two men took part — the presont Rev. Sigurour Gunnarsson, of Stykkisholm, and the Rev. Larus Halldorsson, of Reykjavik.

But times change, and thus to-day, even in far-away Iceland, where news from the outside world is slow to creep in, we have at last recognised that no good purpose is being served by still keeping secret our ancient form of self-defence, the knowledge of which, valuable though it is in everyday life, must necessarily play “second fiddle” in scientific warfare. On that account, therefore, to-day I feel no qualms in divulging to readers the secrets of this form of self-defence, which has been practised In Iceland since 1100, when my country was a Republic. It was not then limited to the platform nor to any special occasion, for throughout the land, from the country, farm to the Althing (Parliament), it was a daily exercise in which most men took part.

Tho essential idea of this Icelandic form of self-defence is to enable the weaker to hold their own with the stronger, and I am not exaggerating when I say that. If she will take the trouble to learn some of the tricks and “hitches” of Glima, even a woman possessed of only ordinary strength will be able to defend yourself against, and overcome, an opponent possessed of far greater physical strength.

In recent years, too, the perfection to which Glima has been brought has proved it to be, in a very high degree, an exercise which gives health and endurance to the body, and which also acts as a real source of refreshment to tho mind, while, at the same time, sharpening the courage, smartness, and intellect of those who take part in it. I would mention that most of the grips are formed by the aid of the feet and legs, so that, even should an exponent of Glima have his or her hands tied, a capable resistance can still be made, n0 matter from which side the attacker may decide to start
operations.

It would be easy to write at considerable length about the history of this wonderful form of self-defence, for the story of how, little by little, new holds and hitches have been thought out to enable its exponents to be prepared for all emergencies is full of interest.   Still, in the space allowed to me, I could not do sufficient justice to the subject, so I will content myself by explaining various tricks which are likely to prove most useful in cases of emergency in everyday life. Even in these civilised days, the hooligan and larrikin is far from “a back number,” as cases so frequently reported in the press clearly prove, but I would dare swear that these amiably-inclined “gentlemen” would speedily havo cause to regret their temerity if they were to attempt an assault on an opponent conversant with Glima.

Perhaps the most common form of attack is with the fists, and, generally speaking, a man posssessed of some knowledge of how to box must inevitably have a great pull over an opponent who has never learnt how to use his fists. I will, therefore, explain how an attack with the fists can be easily warded off, and also how the attacker can be reduced to a state of lamb-like passivity.

For the sake of example, let us say that he leads off with the left, as shown in the accompanying illustration.  As he strikes out, all that it is necessary to do is to throw yourself down on your left hand, at the same time throwing the right foot across his right leg just above the knee, and quickly gripping your left foot behind and over the opponent’s right, when, by pressing your right foot back and your left foot forward, you have him in such a position that you can throw him to the ground, and, by exertlng pressure, keep him there until he has decided that further attack would be, to put it mildly, a most indiscreet undertaking.

On paper, no doubt, this explanation may not seem quite clear, but if you will practise the hold for a minute or two with any opponent you will be able to prove its value at once. But I do not think I need give any clearer example of the merits of this trick than by saying that, although I am not a boxer myself, I am, nevertheless, prepared to challenge even the champion of the world, and to throw him to the ground before he can make any real use of his fistic ability.

When unarmed, to be attacked by an opponent with a knife is a happening which even Mark Tapley would assuredly not have found particularly cheering. However, such an attack can be rendered completely ineffective, as follows. Let us suppose that the attacker strlkes out with his knife in
the right hand. As he does so, the attacked must move slightly to the left, so that the arm comes over his shoulder.

He must then turn quickly to the right, at the same time twisting his left leg round the attacker’s right, as shown above, and also pulling the attacker’s right arm across his chest, when the former will find himself in a position from which he cannot possibly extricate himself, for, by putting on even slight pressure, his opponent can break either his arm or his leg with the greatest of ease.

Maybe, in explaining what can be done, I must seem rather a bloodthirsty person. As a matter of fact, however, I should like to say that I am the most peacefully-inclined individual in the world. Still, to show how Glima can he made of real value in everyday life in the case of attack, it is necessary to point out the unenviable position any opponent must find himself in if he
struggles against a Glima “hold.”

An excellent means of throwing an opponent off his balance is known in the Icelandic form of self-defence as the “inverted hitch.” This is performed with either right foot on right (as shown above) or left on left, by hooking the foot slantwise round an opponent’s heel, the attacker’s knee bent slightly forward and his opponent’s slightly inward, so that the foot is locked in the position shown in the illustration. The attacker then draws his foot smartly to one side, and with his hands he keeps his opponent from jumping, for it is important to keep him down, otherwise the trick can be frustrated.

Another valuable trick for unbalancing an opponent is the “leg trick.” This is performed by placing the right foot on the opponent’s foot, or vice versa, so that the inner part of the foot touches the outer part of his foot. The feet are then drawn from him, and the hands used to complete the fall.

I would mention, by the way, that the last two tricks I have described will be found particularly effective should any reader encounter some individual in a crowd, or elsewhere, who shows some inclination to assert his position in an unploasnnt manner by jostling or otherwise using undue pressure. Yes, the “leg trick” and “inverted hitch” will be found invaluable replies to a jostler’s idiosyncrasies.

An opponent possessed of “firearms” and unamiable inclinations is never a particularly pleasant person to meet. Still, at close quarters it is possible to deprive him of much of his advantage if you will act quickly, and act as follows: —

Let us suppose that he is trying to extort money or the fulfilment of some wish by levelling a revolver at your head, and threatening “your money or your life” unless you consent to his dictates. As he raises the revolver step quickly back, at the same time leaning backwards, and with your right foot kick up his wrist in such a way that his aim is completely “put out of joint,” in that, whether he fires or not, the shot must inevitably miss its destination.

I do not pretend, of course, that this trick is in any way infallible, for an opponent with firearms and his finger on the trigger must necessarily be possessed of an enormous advantage over an unarmed adversary. At the same time, with sufficient practice, the simple device I have explained can be performed so rapidly that, while the arm is being raised to fire, the foot acts more quickly, and reaches the wrist before the revolver is in the requisite position to make an effective effort.

Another extremely useful way of disarming an opponent— if only you are quick enough — is shown here. As the attacker levels his revolver at his adversary’s head, the latter quickly bends down and grasps his opponent’s right wrist with his left hand and the latter’s left with his right hand, the while forcing his left wrist back.  With his right leg he then encircles the attacker’s left in such a way that he can easily throw him backwards, when, by gripping the wrist of the hand In which he holds the revolver, and by pressing the thumb on the back of the armed hand and gripping his palm with the other fingers, an opponent is inevitably forced to drop the revolver.
Try this grip on anyone you like, no matter how strong he may be, and you will find it extraordinarily effective.

A trick I would earnestly commend to ladies is known in Glima as the “zig-zag trick”. By this manoeuvre, even a child can throw a strong man to the ground with lightning rapidity, and in my native country I have often seen a little Icelander bring about the overthrow of a man who, in a hand-to-hand struggle, would probably have defeated her “with two fingers.” The requisite position in which to bring this trick into play can be understood at once by glancing at the illustration.

The “zig-zag trick” is “laid” by placing the right foot round an opponent’s right leg, when, by quickly gripping him by the wrists and swinging him slightly to the left, he will find himself on his back in a fraction of a second. The valuo of this trick is derived entirely from the laws of balance, and, if practised a few times, ladies will find it particularly useful as a means of subjugating someone much stronger than themselves.

The “gentle hooligan” who relics upon a knife or dagger to bring about an opponent’s downfall can he subdued as follows. As he strikes downwards with his knife, the person attacked bends slightly backwards, at the same time gripping the right wrist with the left hand and his right ankle with the right hand from the outside, when, by pressing the leg upwards, as shown in the illustration, an opponent, no matter how strong he may be, can be thrown backwards to the ground.

I quite realise that “the hypercritical reader,” who, maybe, has never even heard of Glima, will probably scoff at the tricks I have explained, by reason of the fact that in cold, hard print they probably sound far from easy of accomplishment. I would hasten to say, therefore, that every Glima trick explained in this article will be found perfectly simple after a little practice. After all, it is on practice, and practice alone,  that each and every form of self-defence depends for its real value in times of stress; and when I point out that a really clever exponent of Glima is more than a master for an adept at any other form of self-defence, I am merely giving this Icelandic pastime the credit to which it is entitled.

In conclusion, I would lay special stress on the necessity of each trick being performed sharply and decisively.  Had space permitted I could have explained many other tricks which might possibly have come in useful at some time or another to readers. If, however, they will be content to thoroughly master the various “self-defence” exercises set forth in this article, they will find that they are armed with a stock-in-trade of defensive tactics which will assuredly serve them is good stead should necessity to bring them into play arise.

No speclal gymnasium is required in which to practice Glima tricks; any ordlnary-sized apartment will serve the purpose.  In fact, a plot of level ground anywhere furnishes an excellent school, providing there are no stones.

I would mention, too, that no carpet is required, and the tricks may be practised in ordinary clothes, though, until they become fairly expert, I would counsel beginners not to wear too-heavily-soled boots or shoes; soft shoes, or the stockinged feet, are best when commencing to practise Glima tricks, as – speed being so essential to their successful accomplishment – unnecessarily hard knocks are sometimes given when heavy footwear is worn.

The “Old Timey Boxing Stance” Explained

The popular TodayIFoundOut.com site offers this in-depth, entertaining  and mostly-accurate explanation of the generic late-19th century pugilism fighting stance.

The sweeping claim that Victorian boxers held their guards “low” (relative to the modern style) because they preferred to target the body over the face is mildly controversial.  Manuals of boxing and written reports on boxing matches during the bare knuckle era consistently demonstrate punches to all legal targets.  It’s worth noting that the way pugilists posed for portrait paintings and photographs did not necessarily reflect their actual fighting stances, which in turn depended very much on individual styles, measure and the stances and tactics adopted by their opponents.  Also, for the record, “pugilism” should be pronounced with a soft “g”, as in “pew-jill-ism”.

“Ju-Jitsu to the Rescue” (1913)

Here’s a newly-discovered Bioscope playbill for the short silent film Ju-Jitsu to the Rescue, which starred former Bartitsu Club instructor Yukio Tani and which played widely throughout England during late 1912-early 1913.

The film itself is sadly lost, but scarce and scanty reviews indicate that it began with a technical demonstration – possibly as part of a scene in which Tani was instructing a student – and then closed with a dramatic fight sequence in which Tani rescued a third party who was being unfairly set upon. One reviewer mentioned that “the villain is defeated by Tani by means of his well-known arm lock”, which almost certainly refers to the extended jūji-gatame lock by which Tani won many of his music hall challenge matches.

Tani was actually the second Bartitsu Club affiliate to star in a film, as Edith Garrud had famously appeared in a short subject called The Lady Athlete, Or, Jujitsu Downs the Footpads, which was produced in 1907.  A number of other very early short films also featured Japanese unarmed combat, including Juvenile Ju-Jitsu and A Lesson in Ju-Jitsu (both released in 1909) and the slapstick comedies Charlie Smiler Takes Up Ju-Jitsu and Nobby’s Ju-Jitsu Experiments (both 1914).  None of these films are known to have survived, although it’s worth noting that the great majority of items in the British film archive have not yet been catalogued.

A closer look at the Ju-Jitsu to the Rescue playbill illustration:

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 charity Children in Need, which funds a wide range of projects helping children and disadvantaged young people throughout the UK.

“Drunk History (US)” Drunkenly Explains Suffrajitsu

The popular TV comedy series Drunk History offers its inebriated (and somewhat NSFW) take on the suffrajitsu saga, starring Tatiana Maslany (Orphan Black) as Emmeline Pankhurst, Maria Blasucci (Ghost Girls) as Edith Garrud and Kat Dennings (2 Broke Girls) as Gert Harding.

We detailed some of the show’s more radical departures from what actually happened in history when this episode originally screened in February 2018.  Historical pedantry aside, it’s an entertaining 5.5 minutes and it’s nice that the full episode has now been made freely available.

Yukio Tani vs. the Masked Wrestler (April, 1909)

Still popular today in Mexican and Japanese pro-wrestling circles, the “masked wrestler” gimmick originated in Paris during the year 1867.  The original “Lutteur Masqué” was rumoured to be an athletic aristocrat who kept his identity secret so as not to bring shame upon his family.

The same story and gimmick was reported to have re-appeared about ten years later in  Bucharest.  In that instance, the masked circus wrestler was rumoured to be none other than “Prince Stourdja of Moldavia”, grappling incognito; it was also reported that a riot nearly ensued when a careless circus employee let slip the masked man’s real identity as a humble, but muscular, clown and roustabout.

“The True Masked Wrestler”.

Although the mask gimmick remained a rarity,  it entered the zeitgeist to the extent that a masked wrestler character appeared in a 1903 English stage melodrama titled The Village Blacksmith, a play that would remain popular on the provincial circuit for some years to come.

In March of 1909, dramatic newspaper announcements heralded the arrival of a new “Masked Man” (M.M.) who intended to challenge former Bartitsu Club instructor Yukio Tani to a match under jiujitsu rules. The allegedly Continental grappler was speculated to be a disguised Aleksander Aberg, Frank Gotch or even the great Hackenschmidt himself, and was said to have previously challenged the famed Stanislaus Zbyszko.

At this point it’s worth noting that very limited credence can be given to anonymous newspaper reports about the activities of masked wrestlers, perhaps especially when they coincide with tours of a popular melodrama likewise featuring a M.M.  That said, The Sporting Life did its due diligence in covering the M.M./Tani challenge, especially after the two parties met at the Sporting Life office to discuss terms for the match.

Noting as usual that the term “Jap” was not used pejoratively during the very early 20th century, here follows the Sporting Life report on that meeting, from their March 26th, 1909 issue:


“A man of good family, who is traveling all over Europe for the sake of ‘taking down’ some of those wrestlers who think so much of themselves,” is the character of the notorious Man with the Mask, who has struggled with Zybysko in Vienna, and who has been mistaken for Hackenschmidt, Gotch and  Aberg. This description was given to us by Herr Neiman, the M.M.’s manager, who according to promise came to the St. Bride Street office of the Sporting Life yesterday afternoon, .

Mr. J Harrison, Tani’s manager, and Mr. Adam King had already arrived, and Herr Neiman was at once asked what he had to propose. Herr Neiman said he was in London with the M.M. for the purpose of wrestling and beating Tani, and he would deposit with the Sporting Life now £100 or £200 as a side stake in a match with Tani. The M.M. had some holds that Tani had never even dreamed of, and with these he would best the Jap.

The editor of the Sporting Life said that he hoped that no attempt would be made to play this hoary Continental trick on the long-suffering supporters of wrestling in England. The Sporting Life would not accept any money for a match in the mountebank style of wrestling, and it would strongly advise Tani, who had a good reputation in England, to steer clear of any trickery such as a man in a mask suggested. The Sporting life hoped that the man would take off his mask and tackle Tani, and only because of that hope had it allowed the man to meet in St. Bride Street.

Mr. Harrison said he could say nothing of (illegible), except that Tani would very willingly wrestle the M.M. on the ordinary terms – £20 if he stood for 15 minutes and £100 if he beat Tani, but the wrestler must be without a mask.

Herr Neiman then declared threateningly that if Tani not make a match the M.M. would find out where he was and follow him all over the country.

Mr. Harrison, amused, said he would give Herr Neiman Tani’s address, and he was further assured that a bluff of that kind would avail him nothing.

Herr Neiman said the man would not take off his mask for a million pounds, and someone suggested that it would not be safe to offer 10. Mr. Harrison said that if this man wanted to wrestle Tani with a sack over his head, Tani would wrestle him with a hammer in his hand.

We suggested that if the man would not take off his mask, he should as promised wrestle in private, but Herr Neiman declared that the M.M. had never yet wrestled in private and he did not want to start.

Wherefore we are forced to the conclusion that he is after a “gate”.

There being no prospect of unmasking this wonderful wrestler, the meeting was abortive and we shall hear the next news of the masked man from the provinces, where Tani will be performing next week.

All that we were able to glean of the wrestler who affects the mask was that he is a white man , stands about 5’8″ or 5’9″ and weighs between 13 1/2 stone and 14 stone . He wrestles (his manager says) as a hobby and he comes from so good a family that he does not want anyone to know him.


It’s evident, however, that either the colourful wrangling over terms was part of the show, or that actual terms were decided privately, because Tani and the Masked Man did compete in several jiujitsu matches during April of 1909.   The first contest took place in Newcastle on Saturday, April 1st, and was duly (and somewhat disapprovingly) described in the next day’s issue of the Sporting Life:


Wrestling has quite suddenly become interesting, if some aspects of it are not particularly edifying. We have some mountebank tricks at Newcastle-upon-Tyne where we find Yukio Tani, notwithstanding the advice we gave him last week, wrestling the man who conceals his identity, and saves his noble family from the disgrace of wrestling, behind a mask. We are astonished that Tani should mix himself up with mountebank business of this kind.

We have been informed that the man in the mask is really an official of a foreign government, and a good amateur, and that those are the reasons why he is literally keeping it dark. We cannot congratulate the continent on its amateurs. This masked man, we are further informed, is wrestling purely for the sport. He must indeed be a keen sportsman if he follows his Zybysko from Vienna to Lodz and from Lodz to St. Petersburg, and, having taken the measures of the (illegible) to England and hurries up to Newcastle- upon-Tyne after Tani, who in private, report says, once brought the mighty Zybysko low.

The masked wrestler of continental fame appeared in a match against Yukio Tani, the famous jujitsu wrestler, at the Pavilion Theatre, Newcastle, last night, and stayed at the stipulated 15 minutes against the Japanese with ease. In fact, the unknown forced matters at a terrific pace for practically the whole time, exhibiting tremendous strength and evading Tani’s frequent attempts at leg holds over the neck. The masked man is undoubtedly an accomplished wrestler, though lacking in knowledge of the Japanese style, and is a splendidly developed athlete.

The Sporting Life’s skepticism re. the masked wrestler schtick was undoubtedly justified – among other things, even if the stories about the M.M. pursuing Zybysko all over Europe were true, there would be no practical way of ascertaining whether he was the same M.M. who was currently challenging Yukio Tani.  However – assuming that the actual match was a legitimate contest of skill – he must indeed have been a proficient grappler, because few wrestlers were able to last the stipulated time against Tani in his prime.

Their next recorded clash took place in the nearby town of Gateshead on the 10th of April:


On Saturday, at the Metropole Theatre, Gateshead, Yukio Tani, the famous ju-jitsu wrestler, met the “Masked Man” for £lOO a-side, in a contest under ju-jitsu rules. The “Masked Man”, since his first appearance in this country, has excited considerable curiosity, and on this occasion removed his mask for the first time.  He had had two previous unfinished contests with the Jap, and the conditions for the third meeting were a wrestle to a finish.

The “Masked Man,” though uncovered, had not had his identity revealed, though it is understood that he is a German, and has achieved considerable distinction as champion wrestler. He scales 14st. 91bs., against the Japanese wrestler’s 9st.

There was a large audience, and the umpire was Mr. Collingridge, of Newcastle. On the last occasion the pair met, the Masked Man was on the aggressive for the most part of the bout, but this time the Jap went on other tactics, and at once led off. He got his man down first, and very soon tried his favourite arm-lock, but he was not strong enough to use it to effect. The first ten minutes of the contest saw Tani doing most of the work, but his heavy opponent was playing a waiting game, and ultimately took a turn at forcing the work.

When the German got his hold he held his light opponent with apparent case, but Tani was much too clever in avoiding awkward holds, and slipped out of them when seemed to be in a bad way.  He tried his arm lock as a  counter-move to the German, but the latter was always safe in relying upon his strength to get out of trouble. After about 30 minutes of keen wrestling, the Jap looked like giving his opponent the head press, but after several attempts he was unable to muster strength enough to turn his opponent’s body over.

After a breather, on the conclusion of half an hour’s exciting work, Tani assumed the offensive, and got a strangle hold, which he was unable to use, however, to much advantage. The German took up the fighting, and for few minutes forced the pace. Tani, waiting his opportunity, however, got a verdict before most people expected it, for, at the close of nearly eight minutes’ wrestling,  he secured a neck lock, which gained him a well-deserved victory. The time of the contest was 37 minutes and 45 seconds. Tani was warmly applauded on the verdict.


Mr. Collingridge, the Newcastle-based umpire, was almost certainly W.H. Collingridge, who was himself a jiujitsu student and then instructor, as well as the author of Tricks of Self Defence (1914).

Despite the journalist’s comment suggesting that this was the third meeting between the M.M. and Tani, there seem to be no records of a bout between the Newcastle match and this one in Gateshead.  In any case, the M.M.’s unmasking for this encounter may well have been part of the terms reached between the two promotions. 

The mysterious hooded grappler’s actual identity was never publicly confirmed and has now been lost to history.

“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

The “Great Anglo-Japanese Tournament” at Liverpool’s Adelphi Theatre (April, 1902)

Liverpool’s Adelphi Theatre.

The “last hurrah” of the Bartitsu Club as a corporate entity was the ambitious and largely successful “Great Anglo-Japanese Tournament” tour during early-mid 1902.   We’ve previously detailed these provincial Bartitsu exhibitions at the Oxford Town Hall, the Shorncliffe Army Camp base in Kent and the Mechanics Institute Hall in Nottingham; the Club is also known to have exhibited at Cambridge University during this period.

Recent research has confirmed that the 1902 tour extended as far North as Liverpool, where Edward Barton-Wright et al performed a week-long series of tournament contests and displays at the famed Adelphi Theatre in Christian Street.

As usual, the first notice Liverpudlians had of Barton-Wright’s impending visit came in the form of challenge notices printed in their local newspaper.  Lancashire was, of course, the birthplace of the renowned catch-as-catch-can style of wrestling, and a Liverpool Echo journalist picked the story up, commenting that although they had heard great things about the “New Art of Self Defence” from London, Lancastrians knew a thing or two about the grappling game and would adopt a “wait and see” approach:


Anglo-Japanese wrestling in Liverpool

The Bartitsu self-defense system
An orchid fancier, when he makes an important find or successfully hybridizes, generally perpetuates himself in the nomenclature of the plant. In the field of athletics Mr. Barton Wright seems to have done both, and, applying the first syllable of his own name to the Japanese phrase which is equivalent to our “to the finish”, gives to the world “Bartitsu” as the appropriate name of the system of self-defence for which he claims results that, to those ignorant of anatomy, might seem almost incredible.

Bartitsu in its fullness is described as consisting of a means of self-preservation against hooliganism, which enables a man a very slight build to hold his own against a giant. With the Japanese system of wrestling and its wonderful knowledge of anatomy as a basis, Mr. Barton-Wright has set himself to add to it by calling from other systems of wrestling as well as boxing, singlestick, etc., all that is most applicable to a perfect system of self-defense under all possible circumstances.

We of Liverpool, who in the past decade have seen more of championship wrestling than the rest of the world taken together, aren’t actually inclined to accepting anything regarding matters agonistic on the ipse dixit of any other place. If, however, all that is reported of Bartitsu from the Metropolis is such as we are likely to find it, Liverpool will not be behindhand in its acclamation.

Mr. Barton-Wright’s combination, including two celebrated Japanese wrestlers, who are credited with doing some wonderful things in resistance as well as attack, opens this evening a week’s performance at the Adelphi Theater, Christian Street, which has been very much brightened up for the occasion. These events, which seem to pit the Japanese system of wrestling against our own Lancashire style and to involve other equally interesting considerations, will be awaited with great expectancy.

– Liverpool Echo, 31 March, 1902 


It may be worth noting that “combination”, in this context, implies a team of professional athletes, and that the Echo journalist confused Pierre Vigny’s art of walking stick defence with the sport of singlestick fencing.

Another story appeared in the Echo a few days later (noting, as usual, that the term “Jap” was not pejorative during this period, being rather a simple abbreviation like “Brit” for “British”):


Japanese wrestling in Liverpool

 Forthcoming visit of the Japanese exponents

If the “Japs”, in their enterprising and praiseworthy search after scientific knowledge, have had to borrow extensively from Britain and other Western nationalities, it appears that they are in a position to return the compliment by showing us some valuable “pins” and how best to take care of ourselves when threatened as individuals with personal hostility.

For quite a decade, Liverpool people have had the advantage over other centers, not excluding even the mighty Metropolis, and seeing by far the larger share of the championship Greco-Roman and catch-as-catch-can wrestling matches. On the other hand, in regards to the Bartitsu method of self-defence , regarding which such wonderful reports have for months been appearing in print, London has had the better of us.

At last, however, Mr. Barton-Wright is coming with his lightweight Japanese wrestlers to show what it what extraordinary results man of slight build, but armed with easily learned scientific knowledge, can obtain against heavyweight hooliganism. Mr. Barton-Wright is to open a week’s entertainment of a varied and attractive program on Monday next, in the Adelphi Theater.


The first exhibition, on the evening of March 31st, was received with great acclaim (although later reports suggested that the attendance on that night was low):


The Wonderful Japanese Wrestlers in Liverpool

 The Bartitsu Method of Self-Defence

Last evening, Mr. Barton-Wright and his athletic combination, who have for several months been creating such a furore among sporting circles in London, entered upon a week’s entertainment in the Adelphi Theater, Christian Street. In anticipation of the event, Liverpool people have seen so much of championship wrestling during several years, and are naturally rather chary in giving credence to the wonderful things related of Mr. Barton-Wright’s Japanese wrestlers and his combination generally.

Now that they have had an opportunity of witnessing it for themselves, there is no doubt about the superlative degree with which the verdict would be given. The neatness and lightning quickness with which falls occur in the Japanese practice is something that must be seen to be believed. Their performance consists of three classes of display, commencing with the foiling of sudden attacks by dextrous movement and sudden assumptions of the best wrestling positions with strength momentarily applied in the nick of time.

Following that are several wrestling bouts, in which the falls are obtained with equal dexterity, the feet, which are bare, playing an important and a wonderfully clever part in the struggle. Balance, or rather the sudden deprivation of it, obviously plays a very prominent part in these bouts, which can hardly be called “struggles”, so quickly is the controlling force brought into operation.

They also illustrate how effectually a man lying on his back may defend himself against an aggressor on foot, while giving far more than he receives. Several new counter checks for the cross buttock are also in evidence to the great admiration of the onlooking, and one artiste lying on his back, and held down by a pole across his throat, and kept in the position by the weight of two men on each side, releases himself by sudden exertion, the operation being so deftly performed that the eye can scarcely follow it.

That part of the display would of itself be a very fine entertainment for lovers of really scientific athletics, but several additional turns bear out both the novelty and the excellence of the whole display. The combination comprises a most remarkable exhibition of ball punching by Mr. D. Meier, described as the champion of the world and certainly the best we have seen in Liverpool.

La Savate is a style of boxing very much in evidence in France, but absent from Liverpool for very many years. A very able display of that art of self-defense is given by Pierre Vigny opposed to Wolfe (sic – should read “Woolf”) Bendoff, a well-known heavyweight boxer of decided ability.  Monsieur Vigny also gives an able exposition of the most comfortable and effective use of the walking stick in self-defence.

Not the least important item in the program is the catch-as-catch-can wrestling competition contended for each night with Armand Cherpillod, the celebrated Swiss wrestler. Last night the contest was between him and Charles Green, of Wigan, a well-known heavyweight who was pinned down upon his shoulders after fully 40 minutes industrious wrestling, in which the Swiss put in a kind of leg roll which was new to many of the spectators.

Tonight Cherpillod’s opponent will be the famous Joe Caroll, whose long and exciting struggles with the renowned American, Jack Carkeek, two years ago, are still well remembered. Mr. Sam Nixon officiated as referee last evening, and Mr. T. Walsh as timekeeper.


The Cherpillod/Carroll contest on Tuesday night was effectively a rematch of their famous catch-as-catch-can contest at London’s St. James’s Hall a few months prior.    After training with Tani and Uyenishi, Cherpillod had won the St. James’s Hall challenge match, and so his struggle with Joe Carroll at the Adelphi was the highlight of that evening’s action:


Japanese and European wrestling in Liverpool

Mr. Barton-Wright’s Wonderful Combination
Cherpillod and Joe Caroll in Catch-as-catch Can

 Mr. Barton-Wright’s remarkably clever combination of experts in Japanese and European wrestling, Bartitsu self-defence with a walking stick, boxing, savant, ball punching, etc. was again presented last evening to a highly appreciative Liverpool audience.

The Japanese secret art of wrestling by the two lightweights Japanese champions elicited tokens of unbounded admiration, and occasionally a good deal of laughter, on account of the apparently magical style in which falls were achieved. So suddenly and unexpectedly were they brought about as to elicit the general comment that they were far too quick for the eye to follow them. One noticeable point in regards to either contestant who scored a particular fall was that, however negligently he appears to be standing at the commencement, his attitude at the close of the movement was always the strongest and the most rigid which science could devise for the purpose.

A remarkably interesting item was a catch-as-catch-can contest between Cherpillod, the Swiss champion, and the celebrated Joe Caroll, who, in prospect of a match a month hence with Carkeek, the American heavyweight, found the event a good opportunity for training practice. Seldom have two men apparently more equally matched in skill and the other qualities essential to success been pitted together. Joe Carroll, as candidate for the 10 pounds offered on behalf of the Swiss, was in the position of defender, but he undertook a large share of the attack, and by his phenomenal bridge-making capacity repeatedly escaped from tight corners occurring through Cherpillod’s strong body rolls, half-Nelsons, etc.

Having succeeded in out-staying the 15 minutes, he was hailed as the winner of the 10 pounds offered as a forfeit. As he has accepted a second challenge for this evening, patrons of agonistic prowess may expect to see something in the nature of the object lesson in regard to clever points. Apart from this event, the general program is one which no lover of excellence in athletics should miss the opportunity of seeing them.


The Wednesday night programme ran much the same:


Mr. Barton-Wright’s Japanese Wrestlers

A Local Catch-as-Catch-Can Champion’s Acceptance
A Britisher and a Japanese Wrestler

Last evening’s program in the Liverpool Adelphi Theatre was highly intensified by a second contest between those redoubtable catch-as-catch-can celebrities Joe Carroll of Hindley and Cherpillod, instructor of the Bartitsu School of Arms. The time limit was set at 15 minutes.

Carroll, as the acceptor of the challenge, being nominally on the defensive, was really doing a full share of the aggressive work . In regard to Cherpillod’s body rolls and Carroll’s splendid defense on the bridge, the ballot was pretty much a repetition of that of the previous evening, but with intensified impetuosity and some very fine additional points put in on both sides.

Carroll successfully outstayed the 15 minutes, and, as he is considered a good man to take on upon a similar terms again, the limit for him will be extended to half an hour, with Carroll having the opportunity of earning double forfeit if he can’t obtain a fall within the time.

Mr. Barton-Wright’s general program is one which must really be seen more than once for an intelligent appreciation of Pierre Vigny’s remarkably fine walking stick defence, which leaves no part of the body unprotected for the 10th part of the second; Mr. D. Meier’s magnificent ball punching; M. Vigny’s display of the French savate against an English boxer, and the wonderful exploits of the Japanese wrestlers.

This evening’s bill is fare will not only include a bout between Cherpillod and Charles Green, of Lincoln, but the fulfillment of an acceptance by a local man of a challenge on behalf of one of the Japanese wrestlers. As the opponent in question is Roger Parker, winner of the 11 stone championship and Mr. Cannon’s catch-as-catch-can tournament of two years ago, the event will be of very great interest, as affording the first opportunity we of Liverpool have had of seeing a Britisher opposed to a Jap.


Barton-Wright’s ongoing difficulty in persuading English wrestlers to take on his Japanese grapplers under their own rules seems to have followed the troupe around the country.   Kenneth Duffield’s 1945 memoir Savages and Kings includes an amusingly exaggerated account of his own set-to with Yukio Tani at Cambridge University, in which the diminutive Tani was described and illustrated as if he’d been a sumo wrestler. 

The Liverpudlian catch wrestler Roger Parker was unusually courageous in accepting Barton-Wright’s challenge, though the subsequent match only lasted 90 seconds before Parker tapped out.


The Japanese Wrestlers in Liverpool

The attendance at the Adelphi theater last evening he gave unequivocal testimony to the remarkably rapid progress which Mr. Barton-Wright’s scientific and attractive entertainment has made in the favor of Liverpool patrons of athletics.

A house filled to repletion presented a remarkable contrast to the miserable gathering of the opening evening, which would probably have caused a less enterprising manager to shake the dust of Liverpool from his feet, but which did not deter Mr. Barton-Wright from persevering, knowing that his entertainment was one deserving well a very important section of the public to delight in patronizing athletics conducted with dignity and respectability, and carried on with the idea of selecting the fittest on their merits, and apart from individual or national considerations.

The customary items of ball punching by Meier, boxing and the Savate by Wolf Bendoff and Pierre Vigny, the wonderful defensive manipulation of the walking stick by M. Vigny and the magical science of the Japanese wrestlers were all applauded to the echo.

The piece de resistance of the evening proved to be a half-hour bout between Cherpillod, the wonderfully strong and clever Swiss catch-as-catch-can wrestler, and the celebrated Joe Carroll. It proved to be one of the nimblest and best conducted struggles as seen in Liverpool for many a day. The Swiss was, as usual, remarkably quick and strong in securing body rolls, but Carol was equally effective in his splendid bridge-making defence, and exceedingly quick and nimble in counteractive moves. Neither secured a fall, so that, according to the agreement, Carroll received 5 pounds for having outlasted the time, though he failed in earning a similar sum offered if he could throw the other man.

Cherpillod afterwards tried conclusions with Leo, the South African giant, who made a good defence in resistance of hammer locks and other moves for 13 minutes, but who was eventually disposed of before his allotted 15 minutes.

The Jap wrestler, who had got the better of Roger Parker on the previous evening in a minute and a half, Japanese-style, appeared on the stage in readiness to wrestle him (Parker) in the catch-as-catch-can style on the undertaking to put him down in 15 minutes. Parker failed to appear, but it was announced on his behalf that he would come forward this evening. It is also expected that Tom McInerney will appear as an opponent of Cherpillod on a half hour time limit, and that Ted Reece will also try for a forfeit against the Swiss in the ordinary quarter of an hour.

There is, therefore, every prospect of a very fine program of wrestling events added to the other admirable structures. Mr. Sam Nixon officiates as referee, and Mr. W. Walker as timekeeper. Mr. Barton-Wright announced that he was willing to back Cherpillod for 25 pounds or upwards in his own style against any man in England.


Unfortunately, although the Echo noted again on Saturday afternoon that Cherpillod was scheduled to take on two local opponents, namely Tom McInerney and Ted Reece, and that Roger Parker intended to compete again with either Yukio Tani or Sadakazu Uyenishi, there seem to be no detailed records of the final night’s exhibitions. Research is ongoing …

“Chucker-Out of the Unwanted: Muscular Maude” (1917)

Actress Doris Lytton puts up her dukes as Maude Bray, a supporting character in the 1917 theatrical farce Wanted: a Husband.  Hilarity ensues when one of Maude’s friends advertises for a husband to spark some ideas for her new novel.

Maude – a “strenuous woman” who is well-trained in boxing and jiujitsu – volunteers her services as a “chucker-out” (Edwardian-vintage slang for a bouncer).  At one point in the play she deals handily with a “colonial” would-be suitor who is making a pest of himself:

This was not the first time that the Japanese art of unarmed combat had been associated with “chuckers-out”.  Some reviewers of E.W. Barton-Wright’s early jiujitsu displays commented that they could conceive of no other lawful use of the art, much to Barton-Wright’s indignation.

 

“The Dwarf of Blood” on Savate (October 29, 1898)

La Savate exhibited at the Alhambra (October 1898).

Colonel Nathaniel Newnham-Davis, who wrote a popular column for the Sporting Life newspaper under the  “Dwarf of Blood” pseudonym, was clearly a connoisseur of antagonistic novelties.  Of all the English journalists who covered the heyday of the Bartitsu Club between 1899 and 1902, Col. Newnham-Davis was perhaps the most enthusiastic and carefully critical.

Written in October of 1898 – at about the same time that Barton-Wright was making his first forays into the London self-defence scene – the following article offers Newnham-Davis’s review of M. Georges d’Armoric’s savate displays at London’s Alhambra Music Hall.  These displays were not especially well-received by their audiences, due partly to the age-old Anglo-French rivalry and partly to the insular English bias against kicking in combat sports, but critics and reviewers generally treated them fairly.  


I have been studying Mons. Georges d’Armoric’s book on the French method of the noble art of self-defence, which begins with a pat on the back to the average Englishman: “He will not,” says Mons. d’Armoric, “stop at the argument points; he will offer practical demonstrations, for who does not think himself a crack in the noble art of self defence and the use of Nature’s weapons ?”

Then Mons. d’Armoric, pleading for “Le Chausson,” goes on to point out, with fine eye to a topical allusion, how good for the Hooligans a little of the noble order of the boot would be.

“Let a good number of these fellows receive their deserts at the hands” – surely it should be feet – “of their would-be victims; let a few get the treatment they delight to inflict upon the unwary and unoffending; let them feel what the weight of a well and scientifically administered Coup de Chausson on the side of the face is like, or the sensation of an ‘upper cut off the knee’ may be; favour your pet elect with more sport, if not yet contented, and add a ‘lead off from the left foot,’ or a ’rounded hit off the right,’ accompanied a fair concentrated arm fist blow, in the ‘mark,’ and your attacker will not ask – nor even wait – for more.”

As a practical exposition of these kindly sentiments Mons. d’Armoric trotted out his professors early this week at a press performance, and they are now whacking each other with canes, butting each other in the stomach, and putting their toes in each other’s ears nightly at the Alhambra. That the savate is useful in street row there can be no doubt, and the question as to whether a foot was only made to stand on when there is a row forward is a question of national taste.

I recall a story of a little row in Julian’s studio in Paris. There was a pugnacious young British student who yearned to make mincemeat of an equally pugnacious French student, and each was encouraged by his compatriots. Suggestions as to a duel with sabres, pistols, or mitrailleuses were put on one side, and it was decided to turn the two men loose in a courtyard with only the weapons that nature had given them.

The Britisher squared up in the customary style, and while he was deciding whether he would knock the Frenchman’s teeth out or put him out of his agony at once by a solar plexus blow, the Frenchman nearly cut one of his ears off with the edge of his bootsole, and then caught him a kick well below the belt; a kick that sent him running round the yard doubled with agony.

When the Britisher was able to face again the Frenchman, who had been doing a pas seul in the centre of the court, he remembered some wrestling tricks he had learned in Cornwall, and, closing with the Frenchman, brought him to ground with a throw meant to hurt. It did hurt the Frenchman – it hurt him so much that his friends came into the yard and carried him out; but the Frenchmen hold to this day that the Britisher fought unfairly, and the Britons can scarcely contain their wrath now when they discuss the Frenchman’s tactics. It was in small way a forerunner of Fashoda.

Some Frenchmen came over here and boxed at the Pelican Club in the old days of its existence in Denman Street. O’Donoghue, I think, was the “bhoy” put up against the best of the Frenchmen, and at first the gentleman from across the channel seemed to be getting very much the best of the deal; but somebody – The Mate, I think – told the Irishman to get to close quarters and keep there, and the character of the fight changed at once. It was on this occasion that Jem Smith, asked why he would not take on one of the Frenchmen, replied that he did not want to be prosecuted for manslaughter.

But this is straying away from the Press view of the “boxeurs.” The stage, set with a palace scene, was decorated with tricolour flags, and Mons. d’Armoric, a genial and excellently mannered Frenchman, described to us in very tolerable English all that was going to take place. The exponents of the noble art a la Francaise were two muscular-looking young Frenchmen, with small moustaches and heads closely clipped, clothed in dark blue armless jerseys and dark blue tights, with a tricoloured sash at the waist.

La canne displayed at the Alhambra.

First they went through the cuts and parries that are recommended for battle with canes. Neither shouted “A bas les Juifs!” nor “Conspuez Brisson!”, “Vive l’Armee!” nor “Vive la Republique!” which are the cries that seem to be inseparable from cane combat in the Paris of today; but after the cuts and guards, and a review exercise or “salute,” differing very little from single-stick exercises as we know them, except that before a cut is made the cane is given a preliminary twist, the two professors commenced a set-to with the canes, their sole protection being masks and a glove on the right hands. They were very quick with cut and parry, but occasionally one caught the other whack which sounded and must have stung.

Then they put on the gloves and went through slowly the various punches, and butts, and kicks, and the parries for them—all very interesting from a scientific athlete’s point of view, but all a little wearying to the layman. This done with, we came to business. The two professors sat down in two chairs, had their arms wiped by two young gentlemen, who in frock coats and faultless ties looked as different as could be to the seconds we are used to on the British platform. Mons. d’Armoric called “Time,” and after the hand-hold, which does duty for a handshake, the two went at it with a will.

Unfortunately they were rather unevenly matched. With their hands they were more or less on an equality, but in foot-play one had undoubtedly the best of the game. One professor did little more than offer to kick the other’s shins, or the worst dislocate his knee, while the better man got in corkscrew kick in the right ear, flicked off a bit of the left eyebrow, disarranged the folds of his opponent’s sash, and hurt his ankle all in one comprehensive chahut.

In the third round the better man got in a kick on his opponent’s right breast that sent him to ground, and as nearly as possible knocked him out.

I believe that Mr. Slater is going to pit, or has pitted, English boxers against the Frenchmen, and it will be interesting to see the result. A man who knows as much about boxing as any amateur in this country was sitting in front of me at this press rehearsal, and his opinion was that Lancashire lad would be the best man to set against a Frenchman, for up North they are handy with feet as well as hands. If the evening show is what was put before us, I should say that the preliminary work is tedious, the actual contest decidedly interesting.


It seems that Mr. Slater’s proposed savate vs. boxing exhibitions didn’t actually happen.  Almost exactly one year later, however, the infamous Charlemont/Driscoll savate vs. boxing challenge match would take place in Paris, setting Anglo-French sporting relations back a considerable distance.