In this short scene from the 2015 movie Suffragette, newly militant Maude Watts (Carey Mulligan) receives her first lesson in jiujitsu from Edith Ellyn (Helena Bonham Carter).
In real history, Edith Garrud served as the self-defence trainer for the secret Bodyguard Society of the Women’s Social and Political Union, whose duties included physically protecting suffragette leaders from arrest and assault.
London’s Radical Tea Towel Company will be hosting a day-long Suffrajitsu Experience on Sept. 16, with a guided tour by historian Elizabeth Crawford, a lecture by Dr. Emelyne Godfrey and a demonstration of suffragette martial arts by Jennifer Garside.
In these excerpts from a recent episode of “Drunk History UK”, inebriated comedienne Luisa Omielan attempts to relate the history of the jujitsu-trained suffragette Bodyguard team:
Bonus points for the casting of actress and real-life suffragette history enthusiast Jessica Hynes as WSPU leader Emmeline Pankhurst.
Ms. Omielan also struggled valiantly to recall the name of suffragette jujitsu trainer Edith Garrud, finally settling on “Gertrude” before being gently corrected by an off-screen colleague. She was probably confused by the similarity of names between Garrud and Gertrude Harding, who was, in fact, the main organiser of Mrs. Pankhurst’s security vanguard.
The episode also included a semi-accurate re-enactment of a confrontation between the Bodyguard and the police during one of Mrs. Pankhurst’s public rallies in Camden Square:
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.
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.
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.
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.
The newly translated, full-colour edition of Self Defence for Women is now available here.
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.