In this cartoon from the Penny Illustrated Paper of March 4, 1905, the illustrator imagines a jiujitsu contest between two constables at a police fete held at the famed Crystal Palace amusement centre. Although the cartoon was intended as a joke, within a few years of its publication police constables actually did start performing jiujitsu demonstrations for the general public.
When E.W. Barton-Wright returned to England in 1898, after a three-year sojourn in Japan, he lost little time in starting to promote the then-almost totally unknown martial art of jiujitsu. One of his first major promotions took place via the pages of Pearson’s Magazine, a very popular journal at the time.
Barton-Wright’s two-part article titled “The New Art of Self-Defence” was literally the first detailed, illustrated exposition of Japanese unarmed combat to have appeared in the Western media, and excerpts were widely re-printed in other magazines and newspapers, notably including the American edition of Pearson’s. An extended editorial addendum to the first entry noted that:
It is possible (…) that after a consideration of the explanations which follow, many readers will exclaim, “this is all very well on paper, but in practice it will probably be otherwise.” We must confess that when Mr. Barton-Wright first came into this office with his credentials and claims (a short, good-looking man with no indications of unusual strength) we ourselves were somewhat sceptical, but a few practical tests soon showed that we were in grevious error! Others, too, have scoffed at first – professional strong men, gymnasts, and athletes generally – but not one of these has met Mr. Barton-Wright and put him to the test who has not in the end been bound to admit that his system is irresistible.
The following is excerpted from an essay in the Pearson’s Weekly of September 16, 1909, written by P.W. Everett. Mr. Everett had been the editor responsible for Barton-Wright’s article, and his reminiscence of their first encounter offers a few more details about their “practical tests” of Barton-Wright’s New Art.
Black-screen studio “interviews” with actors representing suffragette leader Emmeline Pankhurst, Bodyguard organiser Gert Harding and self-defence instructor Edith Garrud are currently being scheduled.
The script is now 99% finalised and the first 25 minutes of the documentary have been assembled as a rough-cut edit. The completed documentary is expected to run about one hour and will be made freely available via Vimeo as an educational resource.
Just a reminder that the 2011 documentary Bartitsu: The Lost Martial Art of Sherlock Holmescannot 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.
Instructor Peter Smallridge (executing a flawless defence/trap/takedown/belabourage in the above sparring clip) will be teaching a Bartitsu cane seminar at the May Melee HEMA event. The event will run between Friday 25th and Sunday 27th May in Newnham, Gloucestershire, UK.
The notion of London bobbies studying the newfangled Japanese art of self-defence clearly intrigued Edwardian cartoonists. The Penny Illustrated Paper of March 4, 1905 imagined that a new police uniform inspired by “Uko-Tani” – the cartoonist meant Yukio Tani – would incorporate the white shorts that were then fashionable as jiujitsu leg-wear.
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.