A “Suffragette Bartitsu Brawl” video from Fight Rep

Fighting for the vote, the Suffragettes have planted an explosive device. As they attempt to make their escape, a husband sells out his wife’s cause to the special constables …

Hats off to the team at London’s Fight Rep for this Suffrajitsu-inspired tribute to Edwardian ass-kickery, which was rehearsed and shot in a mere eight hours. Bartitsu aficionados will appreciate the use of signature techniques from E.W. Barton-Wright’s Pearson’s Magazine articles and Marguerite Vigny’s (“Miss Sanderson’s”) demonstrations of parasol and umbrella self-defence.

BBC “Timeshift” documentary on the history of the martial arts in Great Britain

The first twelve minutes of this 2013 BBC documentary focus on Bartitsu and the use of jiujitsu by the radical suffragettes, featuring demonstrations by James Marwood and George Stokoe and interviews with Tony Wolf and Emelyne Godfrey.

“Self Defence for Women” by Nohata Showa (1914) now translated and re-published

Although Emily Diana Watts’ Fine Art of Jujutsu was first published in 1906, Self Defense for Women (1914) may well have been the first booklet written by a female author to specifically deal with jujutsu as self-defence for women, as distinct from treating it as an athletic accomplishment.

Above: an armlock restraint technique from Self Defence for Women.

Nohata Showa was the pen-name of Nobatake Yaeko.  Her booklet is a short compendium of martial arts techniques selected to be of particular use to women who are attacked by men:

The fundamental (principle) of Jujutsu is to use the opponent’s power. You can win by moving nimbly at the right time, without using much power. Should you ingrain these techniques into your body, even a cute weak girl can wrap up a large man and achieve a win!

She also wrote that:

While I was returning to my abode from running an errand just the other night I encountered a frightful situation. I was able to imitate the handful of Jujutsu moves I learned and, despite my slight form, was able to avoid falling prey to a dastardly scoundrel. It was an absolutely thrilling experience.

Additionally, Showa referred to the foundation of a Women’s Self Defence League:

Should any reader of this book have, by chanced toppled, restrained or otherwise through self-defense measures thrown a ruffian or [man] attempting mischief, this organization will award you … a large certificate reading “Meiji Imperial Achievement Award”.

Given the time she was writing, it’s possible that Showa was inspired by the Suffragettes Self Defence Club of London, which was organised by Edith Garrud under the auspices of the Women’s Freedom League from circa 1909 onwards.

Above: Suffragette jujutsu instructor Edith Garrud demonstrates a restraint hold.

The newly translated, full-colour edition of Self Defence for Women is now available here.

Dr. Emelyne Godfrey’s presentation on Bartitsu and the Jiujitsu Suffragettes

Here’s a full video record of Dr. Emelyne Godfrey’s recent presentation on Bartitsu and suffragette jiujitsu, delivered for the Martial Arts Studies Research Network.  The presentation is followed by a question and answer session, beginning at about 32 minutes into the video.

Emelyne Godfrey to lecture on Bartitsu and suffragette jiujitsu

Emelyne Godfrey’s presentation on Bartitsu and Suffragette Jujitsu of the early 20th Century will be given at the next Martial Arts Studies Research Network Event, ‘New Research on Japanese Martial Arts’, which will take place on 3rd May 2017, at the Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution.

Inside Edith Garrud’s dojo (1910-11)


By March of 1910,  jiujitsu instructor Edith Garrud was becoming increasingly involved with the radical women’s rights movement, teaching her “Suffragettes Self-Defence” classes at Leighton Lodge in Edwardes Square, Kensington and performing politically charged demonstrations in which she defeated men dressed in police uniforms.

Edith’s jiujitsu dojo in Regent Street was the setting for the above photo sequence, which was originally published in The Sketch magazine.

The tatami mats stacked against the walls in the fourth and sixth photos were probably intended to serve as a neutral background for the photographer, perhaps so that the police constable’s uniform could be better distinguished from the wood panelling behind them.

Notably, a close-up view of one of the bookshelves reveals that the dojo made copies of Sadakazu Uyenishi’s The Text-Book of Jiujitsu and W. H. Collingridge’s Tricks of Self-Defence available to their students.

Uyenishi was, of course, one of the young Japanese instructors who had taught jiujitsu at the Bartitsu School of Arms.  He later followed his colleague Yukio Tani onto the boards of the London music halls as a challenge wrestler, but the impression is that he was happier as an instructor. Uyenishi taught his art to members of the British armed services as well as establishing the Golden Square dojo, which William and Edith Garrud later took over when Uyenishi returned to Japan.

Like the Garruds, W. H. Collingridge was a “second generation” instructor who had learned Japanese unarmed combat from Yukio Tani and his associate, Taro Miyake. His book was still being published, in an edition revised by their mutual colleague, Percy Longhurst, as late as 1958.

This photograph, originally published in The Sphere of Feb. 11, 1911, offers a very rare glimpse of one of Edith Garrud’s jiujitsu classes for girls, which also took place at the Golden Square dojo.  The unusual gi jacket designs, featuring dark ribbons along the hem-lines, may have been unique to these classes.

Perhaps some of the young ladies shown in this photo went on to join the clandestine “Bodyguard” unit of the radical suffragette movement, for which Edith Garrud also served as a trainer …

Miss Blanche Whitney, the World’s Champion Lady Wrestler (1911)

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This gallery of images from an article in the Oregon Daily Journal (April 30, 1911) showcases the combative talents of Miss Blanche Whitney.

Between 1908-11, the Philadelphian Miss Whitney travelled the US carnival and vaudeville circuit, taking on all comers as the “World’s Champion Lady Wrestler”. She challenged any woman in the audience to try their skill against hers, and would also grapple with any male wrestler weighing no more than 145 lbs (she herself weighed in at a muscular 155 lbs). She was also held to be a proficient boxer and foil fencer, and indeed an all-around athlete whose skills included bowling and gymnastics.

During April of 1910 she defied a police ban on “lady wrestling” contests in Chicago and took on Miss Belle Myers in an otherwise all-male wrestling card. She then moved on to performing tent-shows at the lakeside White City amusement park, where she proudly informed an interviewer that she was teaching up to four classes a day for “society ladies” desiring to learn how to apply half-nelsons and hammerlocks.

It may have been at the White City that she assembled her troupe of “Lady Athletes” – wrestlers, boxers, ball-punchers and gymnasts – with whom she later toured to perform at the great Appalachian Exhibition.

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Goldie Griffith, one of Miss Whitney’s Lady Athletes, strikes a pugilistic pose.

The “Americanised jiujitsu” featured in these pictures may not be strictly traditional – it may, in fact, represent something more in the nature of catch-as-catch-can wrestling plus a couple of half-learned tricks from a jiujitsu manual. Nevertheless, while Miss Whitney was self-professedly not a suffragette (“I can take care of myself without a vote”), she had no qualms about promoting her contests and classes as exemplars of women’s self-defence.

If a husband is cross and disagreeable, “advises the stalwart Miss Whitney, “just put him on his back as fast as he can get up. It will make a gentle man out of him in no time.

This clinging vine stuff is alright, but, believe me, the woman is a winner who can look her husband in the eye and say, ‘what about the coin for that new dress? Do you come across like a little man, or do I throw you down and sit on you while you make up your mind?’

Think how different the world would be if such scenes were common. The stranglehold might be useful in case hubby came home late at night.

Miss Whitney reported that she herself had applied some of these lessons one night in a Chicago alley:

(…) a tall man halted her in the semi-darkness and said something which, in her surprise, she took to be the words of a “hold up. ” Whether it meant robbery or flirtation, she didn’t waste time inquiring. She merely gripped him by the coat lapel, the simplest trick in Americanized jujitsu, and yanked him forward and downward . At the same instant she swung a clenched fist upward – the simplest blow in sparring – and landed on his jaw. The combination of descending head and ascending fist came within an ace of being a knockout. Her accoster reeled, dazed, for the instant she needed to brush past him and reach the full streetlights.

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A detailed report on Dr. Emelyne Godfrey’s lecture for the Bagri Foundation

Following yesterday’s quick report on Dr. Emelyne Godfrey’s recent lecture on self-defence in England during the “long 19th century”, here is a much more detailed guest post by Bartitsu Forum member Paul Wake.

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Dr Godfrey’s lecture ‘The Rise of the Jujitsu Suffragettes’  was an illuminating and entertaining account that took a packed audience on a fascinating journey from India in the early 1800s to the violent struggles of the Suffragettes in the early 1900s.

The talk began with an account of the origin of the Garotters of London which in turn gave rise to the self defence culture into which Barton-Wright launched Bartitsu.

Dr Godfrey opened with a fascinating piece of etymological study explaining how lurid accounts of the Spanish execution device called the garrotta – which consisted of a throttling mechanism attached to a heavy chair that was used to slowly strangle victims – led to criminal gangs in London being called Garotters.

Their name might have come from this infamous machine but their techniques, however, seemed inspired by India’s Thuggee cult. Dr Godfrey provided some extremely vivid and graphic explanations of their methods and one of the many highlights of the lecture was her photographs of a collection of miniature Thuggee figures from the early 1800s that had at one time been on display in the British Library public space but which were removed for fear that they might inspire copycat criminal behaviour and stoke up the garrotting panics that were sweeping through London.

The figures (about 6 inches high) effectively make a series of diorama scenes showing a band of Thuggees stalking their victims and then attacking them before burying and disposing of the bodies while sharing out the loot. They are incredible in their detail and graphically show the whole method of operation of the Thugees including a three man attack involving two ‘assistants’ holding the victim while a third strangled him from behind with his rumal (garroting scarf). Apparently these are in store somewhere, which is a huge pity because they would make a fascinating exhibit and definitely deserve to be seen.

Dr Godfrey pointed out a number of very interesting literary mentions of both the Thuggees themselves and their copycats, the London Garotters. In particular, Confessions of a Thug by Philip Meadows Taylor which was made into a film called The Deceivers starring Pierce Brosnan; Wanderings in India by John Lang as re-published by Charles DIckens in his Household Words magazine circa 1859 and the mugging of Mr Kennedy in Anthony Trollope’s Phineas Finn.

The panics about street attacks in London, Paris and elsewhere led directly to a culture of self-defence and the publication of illustrated books such as Émile André’s 100 Façons de se Defendre dans la Rue. All of which paved the way for Barton-Wright to step in with Bartitsu.

In addition to books, specialist weapons were developed and Dr Godfrey showed pictures of the Belt Buckle Pistol which allowed you to shoot someone grabbing you from behind. Basically the gun was a short barrel and firing mechanism mounted on a brass plate looped through a belt so that it sat in the small of your back. If someone grabbed you from behind there was a cord looped around to the front that you could pull to discharge the weapon and shoot the attacker in the stomach. Obviously if you were on a night out you’d want to make sure it didn’t go off accidentally while you were sitting in the theatre and kill the person sitting behind you. Unless, of course, they were fiddling with their iPhone …

Dr Godfrey paid excellent tribute to the contribution of Barton-Wright before moving on to talk about Edith Garrud and the general environment of intimidation by men in general and the police in particular towards women in the late 19th century and early 20th century.

Especially interesting was the account of the arrest and trial of Elizabeth Cass in 1887 who went out one evening to window shop for gloves on Regent Street and ended up being arrested, roughed up and hauled in front of a magistrate for soliciting and prostitution.

It was eye-opening to find out about the astonishing level of harassment that women were subjected to on the street in Victorian London. It certainly reinforces how far we have come since then and how precious the freedoms are that we have today. Interestingly though, in the Q&A after the talk, it was pointed out that even today the right of women to walk about freely on the street is threatened by people who’s behaviour is remarkably similar to that on show in the 19th century. The men harassing women in the Walking in New York video and the sleazy street pick up artists promoting the Game could easily have been time travellers from 1899.

In response to this harassment 19th century women equipped themselves with various weapons including life preservers and perhaps most deadly of all – the long hat pin. An authentic example was passed around and I’m pretty sure that any would-be sleazeball would get a hell of a shock to have one of those stuck in them where the sun don’t shine.

Dr Godfrey eloquently explained how this societal treatment of women formed a backdrop to the struggle of the Suffragettes for the right to vote and helps to explain the startling levels of violence that were used to suppress them. Anyone not already familiar with the history of the Suffragettes would have been shocked by Dr Godfrey’s description of Black Friday on 18th November 1910, when hardened police officers from the East End were drafted in to deal with the 300 Suffragettes led by Mrs Pankhurst to Parliament Square to protest about the suppression of the Conciliation Bill which would have extended the right to vote to property-owning women. Anyone interested might pick up on the point made that Winston Churchill was Home Secretary at the time and responsible for the handling of the riot. It didn’t turn out to be his finest hour.

Against all this going on in the background Edith Garrud had appeared on the scene and learned her jujitsu from Sadakazu Uyenishi at his Golden Square school which was later taken over by her husband William Garrud. Dr Godfrey gave vivid accounts of Garrud’s involvement in teaching jujitsu to suffragettes as well as the part the Golden Square dojo and her own gymnasium in Argyll Place played as safe havens for Suffragettes during the window smashing campaign on Oxford Street. Apparently women would return to the gym from a session of smashing windows and if the police followed them and tried to gain entry to arrest them Edith Garrud would confront them and demand that they leave because “ladies were exercising and gentlemen shouldn’t be present”. A clever use of the rules of the time to protect those campaigning to change them!

Dr Godfrey left the audience in no doubt that even at 4’11” Edith Garrud was a formidable woman and deserves her reputation as a redoubtable figure in the Suffragette movement and a pioneer of jujitsu and women’s self defence in the UK.

The following Q&A was lively and included some agreeable speculation on the mystery identity of Vigny’s ‘wife’ and assistant Miss Sanderson and whether she might have been involved in teaching la canne to the Suffragettes. No conclusions reached for lack of sources. Also noted was the rise of the Hugger Muggers of modern London whose choreographed techniques are reminiscent of the Hooligans and Apaches, although less violent.

All in all a very enjoyable and enlightening talk. Dr Godfrey is a superb speaker and has a wealth of deeply researched anecdotes and information about the Bartitsu era and I recommend looking out for future public lectures. A definite must-see for any Bartitsu enthusiast.