“Game of Shadows” fight scenes

Commentary on the fight choreography is available in The Substance of Style: a Review of the Martial Arts Action in “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows”.

Self defence training of the New Zealand Peace Scouts (1910)

The Peace Scouts, a precursor to the Girl Guide movement in New Zealand, were active between 1908 and 1923. They may well have been the first national organisation to promote self defence training for girls. The image above is taken from the book Peace Scouting for Girls (1910).

Eugen Sandow on “Boxing vs. Ju-jitsu” (Daily News, 1907)


Despite E. W. Barton-Wright’s advocacy of a rational melding of various “antagonistics” for purposes of self defence (a theme that was later championed by some others),  the years 1906/7 saw a “boxing vs. jujitsu” controversy play out in the pages of British sporting magazines.  The controversy is detailed in the second volume of the Bartitsu Compendium.

The substance of that debate included both the questions of “who would win” in a contest between a boxer and a jujitsuka, and also which of the two styles was a better method of self defence training. Barton-Wright might have replied that it did not have to be a question of either/or.

The following short article attributed to the famous strongman and entrepreneur Eugen Sandow is a typical contribution to the debate, mingling nationalistic sentiment with fighting savvy.  As did several other contributors, Sandow hints at having knowledge of “trials” pitting the two styles against each other, which evidently took place in private; a true “jujitsu vs. boxing” match would have been considered “brawling in a public place” under Edwardian English law.

With the remarks of Sir Ralph Littler at the Middlesex Sessions this week on the lapse in public favor of the “noble art” I am in cordial sympathy. The art of boxing as an accomplishment amongst the men of this country is undoubtedly upon the wane.  I am very sorry to see this, for the resort to fisticuffs as a method of self-defence or offence when circumstances call for such measures is a sound, healthy, and, all things considered, most satisfactory one. I ascribe this decline in popular favor to the growing habit of “looking on” is preference to “taking part,” which nowadays seems to pervade all branches of athletics. Attendances at boxing events were never larger than to-day, but I suppose also there never was a time when, proportionately, fewer men were able to use the “mittens.”

Perhaps the worst phase of the subject is that the average Briton has during the last two or three years been losing his respect for the national pastime owing to the popularity of the Japanese ju-jitsu, which receives a veneration that it certainly does not merit when compared with boxing.   A good knowledge of boxing is a more practical attainment than the admittedly clever Japanese method.  Because small exponents of ju-jitsu have overcome great exponents of wrestling, it has assumed a distorted magnitude in the eyes of the man in the street.  In such trials as I have knowledge of between ju-jitsu and boxing the latter has had a distinct ad vantage.  The more this is known the setter.

I think it is very important that the British form of self-defence should be encouraged for many reasons.  Boxing is good for men because it teaches the lesson of giving and taking minor hurts generously.  Experience in the sport gives a man a feeling of self-reliance and power amongst his fellows that leads to a magnanimous self-restraint in attacking a weaker opponent. Even amongst the worst class of men, a set-to with the fists must surely be preferable to the stealthy stab with a knife or blow from the back with a loaded belt or sandbag.

Last of the Jujitsuffragettes (June 19th, 1965)

Edith Garrud, former trainer of the English Suffragette movement’s Bodyguard Society, demonstrates a jujitsu wrist-lock on journalist Godfrey Winn during an interview for Woman Magazine. The interview took place on the occasion of her 94th birthday.

“It was jiu-jitsu!” (1906)

I drew a deep breath as I mastered the contents of this momentous document. Then, just as I was about to replace it in the ingenious receptacle contrived for it, I felt a tap on my wrist, a light simultaneous pressure on my throat and knee-cap, and staggered back helpless and overpowered.

It was jiu-jitsu!

– From The Secret Treaty of Portsmouth, a short story published in Pearson’s Magazine, volume 16, issue 5 (1906).

“I am a woman, but no weakling” – Judith Lee, lady detective

He stopped – there was silence. The bell rang again. I was just about to suggest again that he should go and see who was at the outer door when – he leapt at me. And I was unprepared. He had me by the throat before I had even realised that danger threatened.

I am a women, but no weakling. I have always felt it my duty to keep my body in proper condition, trying to learn all that physical culture can teach me. I only recently had been having lessons in jiu-jitsu – the Japanese art of self defence. I had been diligently practicing a trick which was intended to be used when a frontal attack was made upon the throat. Even as, I dare say, he was thinking that I was already as good as done for, I tried that trick. His fingers released my throat and he was on the floor without, I fancy, understanding how he got there. I doubt if there ever was a more amazed man. When he began to realise what had happened he gasped up at me – he was still on the floor – “You … you …”

The above is quoted from the short story Mandragora, part of the Judith Lee detective series written between 1912-16 by Richard Marsh. Among the first protagonists of the still very popular lady detective genre, Judith Lee brought several unusual talents to her role as an amateur sleuth, including an almost uncanny ability to read lips and a willingness to physically apprehend evil-doers, thanks to her training in physical culture and jiujitsu. Certainly, she was among the first heroines in Western literature to have studied Eastern martial arts.

Several of Judith’s adventures are linked to from the Bunburyist website.

Suffragettes and Jiu-Jitsu (1910)

From the Wanganui Chronicle, 9 August 1910, Page 5.

No longer is the annoying male interjector to disturb the tranquility of the peaceful Suffragette at her meetings (says the London “Standard”). A Women Athletes’ Society, the latest adjunct of the Women’s Freedom League, has been organised by Mrs. Garrud, a ju-jitsu expert, and Miss Kelly, one of the hunger-strikers, who entered a Dundee meeting by way of the fanlights.

Mrs. Garrud is not an inch taller than five feet, but she has already enjoyed the pleasure of throwing a six-foot policeman over her shoulder. “He was a very nice man, and he didn’t mind a bit,” she said. “But there are other men who are not a bit nice, men who are merely silly and a nuisance to others besides themselves. I have already had the pleasure of ejecting one youth from a woman’s franchise meeting, and after we have had our new society in full swing for some months, we hope to have a regular band of jujitsu officers, who will be able to deal with all the male rowdies who dare to bother us. Only to-day I received a letter from the headmistress of a North London girls’ school saying that she desires to enroll all her pupils in our society.”

Review: “100 Years of Judo in Great Britain”, Volume 1

This review is specific to Volume 1 of a two-part series of books by the late judoka and historian Richard Bowen (1926-2005), whose extensive private collection of judo/jujitsu books and ephemera now forms the Bowen Collection at Bath University.

The “Reclaiming of its true spirit” subtitle is curious, in that aside from a few scattered editorial comments, the book does not actually address reclaiming judo’s “true spirit”. Rather, Volume 1 of 100 Years of Judo in Great Britain offers a very thorough history of the early 20th century personalities and politics of jujitsu and judo in the UK, with generous asides exploring Japanese martial arts in the USA and elsewhere during the same period.

Bowen was obviously a devoted and very careful scholar, with long-term access to rare archives, diaries etc. in addition to in-depth first-hand knowledge of the subject and many of its principal figures. Specific to Bartitsu, he performed pioneering research into the lives of Bartitsu founder E.W. Barton-Wright, music hall challenge wrestlers Yukio Tani and Sadakazu Uyenishi and strongman/jujitsu promoter William “Apollo” Bankier, amongst many other notables. 100 Years of Judo in Great Britain cites and offers extensive quotes from numerous c1900 newspaper articles, etc. that promise to open new doors for contemporary Bartitsu researchers. Also, students of Brazilian jujitsu/MMA history will be interested to read about Mitsuyo “Conde Koma” Maeda’s early experiences as a challenge wrestler in London.

Perhaps unavoidably, given that the book was published posthumously, some sections are obviously better polished than others. Frustratingly at times, there are no chapter headings, contents pages nor index, though there are almost 100 pages of carefully annotated end-notes. The proof-reading also leaves quite a lot to be desired. Ultimately, though, these are minor quibbles in comparison with the absolute wealth of knowledge and detail to be found in this book. It is a unique and very valuable contribution to martial arts scholarship.

Uyenishi vs. the Guardsman

An interesting snippet from the August 4th, 1905 edition of the Auckland Star, describing a contest between former Bartitsu Club instructor Sadakazu Uyenishi and the wrestling champion of the Royal Horse Guards.

A tremendous struggle took place in the riding school at Windsor recently between Corporal Shoeingsmith Fraser, of the Royal Horse Guards (of which regiment he is champion wrestler), and Professor S. K. Uyenishi, the well-known instructor in the art of Japanese self-defence, of Golden Square, W.C. Mr Uyenishi, who has been appointed instructor in his art in the Aldershot Gymnasium, came over by motor-car from the famous camp to give a display.

On his request for an opponent from the audience, Corporal Fraser came forward amid loud applause. The little man certainly took on a stiff bargain, as the giant guardsman must have weighed nearly twice as much as he, but after a truly Titanic struggle he succeeded in hurling the soldier clean over his head on to the platform. Mr Uyenishi admitted that Fraser was the most difficult man he had ever had to deal with, and it must be confessed that the contest was a wonderful example of how futile the greatest strength is made to appear when pitted against the wonderful Japanese science. Two very interested spectators were Prince Alexander of Teck and Major-General Baden-Powell.