“Suffrajitsu” Back in the News as UK Celebrates 100 Years of Women’s Suffrage

February 6, 2108 marks the centennial anniversary of (limited) women’s suffrage in the UK.  As numerous cultural and media organisations mark the anniversary, here are some current and upcoming projects that focus particularly on “suffrajitsu” – the use of jiujitsu by radical suffagette Bodyguards, circa 1913-14.

The Good Fight

Chicago’s Babes With Blades Theatre Company is currently staging Anne Bertram’s play The Good Fight, which details the history and missions of the suffragette Bodyguard team.  Women’s jiujitsu pioneer and Bodyguard trainer Edith Garrud appears as a character in the play.

Suffrajitsu by Horse + Bamboo Theatre

England’s Horse + Bamboo Theatre Company is currently developing Suffrajitsu, an original play celebrating the suffragette Bodyguard through puppetry, music and film.  Aimed at young audiences, the play will begin touring the UK in Autumn 2018; you can learn more about, and support the project via this Crowdfunder site.

“The Awesome Art of Suffrajitsu”

The UK fashion and lifestyle magazine Stylist has featured suffrajitsu, including some great original illustrations, in its suffragette centennial issue.

No Man Shall Protect Us

Currently in production, the documentary No Man Shall Protect Us: The Hidden History of the Suffragette Bodyguards will make use of narration, rare archival media and dramatic re-enactments.  Successfully crowdfunded in late 2017 and co-produced by Tony Wolf, author of the Suffrajitsu graphic novel trilogy, the completed documentary will be made freely available online later this year.

Suffrajitsu at the Royal Armouries

The Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds, England will be showcasing Edith Garrud’s suffrajitsu as part of the Warrior Women exhibition during mid-late February.

Kitty Marshall: Suffragette Bodyguard at the Museum of London

The Museum of London’s year-long Votes for Women exhibition includes a showcase for Katherine “Kitty” Marshall, who was an active member of Emmeline Pankhurst’s Bodyguard team.  Marshall also wrote the memoir Suffragette Escapes and Adventures, which currently exists in manuscript form as part of the Museum’s suffragette collection.

Kitty and the Cats: Mrs. Pankhurst’s Suffragette Bodyguard and the London Police

Author Emelyne Godfrey’s book on Kitty Marshall and the Bodyguard will be released later in 2018.

Suffragette City

Suffrajitsu martial arts lessons will be part of the UK National Trust’s Suffragette City, an immersive, interactive experience that will recreate the headquarters of the Women’s Social and Political Union circa 1913.

Re: Public Screenings of “Bartitsu: The Lost Martial Art of Sherlock Holmes”

Just a reminder that the 2011 documentary Bartitsu: The Lost Martial Art of Sherlock Holmes cannot legally be screened at venues such as public libraries, nor at events such as steampunk conferences, martial arts seminars, etc.  without the express permission of the producers.

Here’s the Motion Picture Association of America’s advice:

The Federal Copyright Act (Title 17 of the US Code) governs how copyrighted materials, such as movies, may be used. Neither the rental nor the purchase of a copy of a copyrighted work carries with it the right to publicly exhibit the work. No additional license is required to privately view a movie or other copyrighted work with a few friends and family or in certain narrowly defined face-to-face teaching activities. However, bars, restaurants, private clubs, prisons, lodges, factories, summer camps, public libraries, daycare facilities, parks and recreation departments, churches, and non-classroom use at schools and universities are all examples of situations where a public performance license must be obtained. This legal requirement applies regardless of whether an admission fee is charged, whether the institution or organization is commercial or nonprofit, or whether a federal or state agency is involved.

Willful infringement of these rules is a federal crime carrying a maximum sentence of up to five years in jail and/or a $250,000 fine. Even inadvertent infringement is subject to substantial civil damages.

If you wish to arrange a public screening of Bartitsu: The Lost Martial Art of Sherlock Holmes, please contact Tony Wolf via info(at)tonywolfsystem.com for further details.

“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.

“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.

“Ju-Jitsu For The Police: Its Possibilities” (#5)

Ralph Cleaver’s fifth cartoon for The Sketch (March 8, 1905) returns to the cops-and-robbers theme, imagining a confounding stalemate between a police constable and a burglar who are equally trained in the art of jujitsu.  The motto “When Greek meets Greek” refers to a line from The Rival Queens, a 1677 tragedy by English dramatist Nathaniel Lee; “when Greeks joyn’d Greeks, then was the tug of War”.

“Gentleman Jack” Gallagher Brings Umbrella Fighting to the WWE

Mancunian pro-wrestler “Gentleman Jack” Gallagher is a rising star of World Wrestling Entertainment due to his (mostly) unflappable charisma, technical grappling style and distinctly Bartitsuvian umbrella-fu, as seen in this “duel” with rival wrestler Aria Daivari:

… and heard straight from the horse’s mouth:

Perhaps an ambassadorship is in order …

The Bartitsu Club as Imagined in “Suffrajitsu: Mrs. Pankhurst’s Amazons” (2015)

In the 2015 graphic novel Suffrajitsu: Mrs. Pankhurst’s Amazons, the Bartitsu School of Arms serves as the gymnasium and headquarters of a secret society of female bodyguards who protect the radical suffragettes from arrest and assault. The graphic novels were commissioned as part of the Foreworld Saga, a multimedia franchise initiated by speculative fiction authors Neal Stephenson and Mark Teppo.

While there was a real-life Bodyguard team who defended Emmeline Pankhurst and other notable suffragettes circa 1913/14, they were not, historically, based at the Bartitsu Club, which had closed its doors for the last time in 1902.

That said, as shown in the graphic novels, this fictional Bartitsu Club did draw a great deal of inspiration from history …

The physical layout of the Suffrajitsu universe’s Bartitsu School of Arms is closely based on that of the Forteza Western Martial Arts school in Ravenswood, Chicago (home of the Bartitsu Club of Chicago).  Comparatively little is known about the layout of the real Bartitsu Club in Shaftesbury Avenue, except that it was a large basement space featuring white tiled walls and support pillars.

The stalwart chap bracing the punching bag in the foreground is Armand Cherpillod, who was (in real history) the Bartitsu Club’s wrestling and physical culture instructor.

The two jiujitsu throws shown in the foreground and medium ground are closely based on techniques shown in Emily WattsFine Art of Jiu-jutsu (1906).  Mrs. Watts was, in fact, a student of Sadakazu Uyenishi, who is shown observing the suffragette Bodyguards’ training in the medium background.

The Amazons shown in the background are practicing the Vigny style of stick fighting and savate, as taught at the real Bartitsu Club by Pierre Vigny.  The Amazon defending herself against her training partner’s savate kick is demonstrating a variation of “How to Defend Yourself with a Stick against the most Dangerous Kick of an Expert Kicker“, as per Barton-Wright’s 1901 article Self-Defence With A Walking Stick.

The elaborate sigil above Uyenishi’s head is the symbol of the Ordo Militum Vindicis Intactae, a secret order of martial artists who play a major role in the earlier Foreworld stories.

The longsword and other swords barely visible on the wall behind Uyenishi are nods to Captain Alfred Hutton, who taught Elizabethan-era fencing styles at the real Bartitsu Club.

The Amazons emerging from a trapdoor hidden under the mats of the Bartitsu Club is a reference to an anecdote told by Edith Garrud, who taught self-defence to the real suffragette Bodyguard team (and who makes a cameo appearance in the third panel above).

According to Edith, her London dojo was used as a safe-house by suffragettes escaping from the police after window-smashing protests.  It featured a trapdoor in which they would hide their street clothes and any remaining missile weapons, so they would appear to be innocently practicing jiujitsu when the police came knocking at the dojo door.

The technique posters shown in the background of this picture are actually miniaturised images of real Bartitsu techniques from E.W. Barton-Wright’s “Self-Defence with a Walking Stick” article.

The sparring equipment worn by Barton-Wright and his niece and student Persephone is based on protective clothing actually worn by combat athletes during the Victorian and Edwardian periods, including cricket pads for the knees and shins, padded fencing gloves, sabre fencing masks and padded vests.

Barton-Wright (left) is assuming the classic “rear guard” of Vigny stick fighting, while Persephone counters with the “double-handed guard”.

This picture of the Bartitsu Club’s elaborate electrotherapy clinic, which is adjacent to the combat gymnasium, is closely based on photographs of Barton-Wright’s real clinic.  After the Bartitsu Club closed, Barton-Wright persisted in the therapeutic field for the remainder of his career, specialising in various forms of heat, light, electrical and vibrational therapies to alleviate the pain of arthritis and rheumatism.

Baritsu in Denny O’Neil’s “Sherlock Holmes” Comic Book Adaptation (1975)

Famed comics writer/editor Denny O’Neil offers his take on the famous “baritsu” fight between Sherlock Holmes and Professor James Moriarty in these scenes from O’Neil’s Sherlock Holmes #1 (1975).

At the end of the first chapter, Holmes encounters Moriarty at the brink of the Reichenbach Falls in the Swiss Alps.  Both men appear certain to plunge into the roiling abyss …

… and, indeed, that is what Holmes’ boon companion, John Watson, deduces to have happened when he examines the scene.  However, as Holmes later explains: