Friday, 20 March 2009

Ye olde curiositie shoppe

I wanted to share with you a little piece of Jiu Jitsu trivia that I just picked up. Bored (as I often am) at work, I decided to browse e-bay to see what Jiu Jitsu related items were around. The usual mix of MMA gear, the odd Gi and instructional DVDs popped up. But also amongst the mix was a cutting from “Punch” magazine dated 1910, titled “The Suffragette that Knew Jiu Jitsu: The Arrest” by Arthur Wallis Mills.

What I thought was curious about this cartoon was the spelling of “Jiu Jitsu” which is often reserved nowadays in connection with Brazilian Jiu Jitsu whilst the Japanese original is often spelt “Ju”. It seems clear to me that it is only in recent times that any spelling of the Japanese word meaning “Gentle” has been standardised, hence the spelling in this cartoon.

However, I still felt that this was a nice little bit of trivia that would look good in a frame, so I put in my bid, forgot about it and lost. To be honest, I was a little bit gutted – you can by prints of this cartoon, but I felt I wanted the original with all of its history still clinging to it. That’s just me.

I put in a call to my Sister-in-Law, Tammy, who, with my Brother-in-Law and her Dad run a business in the US called “Bakertowne Collectables”. Here’s a quick plug – they buy and sell all types of collections and collectables and trade over e-bay…they’re a great place to try if you have some unique collections to sell or are looking for an obscure item or publication. Anyway, I thought that Tammy, with her connections might know where I could get a copy of the original. Almost instantly, the reply came “I have that edition right here in my hands!”. Schweet! It’s not what you know…

So I now have this original cartoon – monetary value is small, but I think it will look just great mounted and framed. Now I have it though, it has prompted me to do a bit of research on it and the history around it…the martial arts side. Women’s suffrage is well documented, but their involvement in Martial Arts is not so well known.

So where to start? Well, this cartoon is a good place. “Punch” was a weekly satirical zeitgeist publication and published this cartoon shortly after the release of a series of photos of Edith Garrud demonstrating Ju Jitsu techniques on a policeman (or at least a man dressed as one).

Garrud’s husband, William was a student of Sadakazu "Raku" Uyenishi - a Judoka who ran a Dojo in Soho in the early 20th century and was the author of the “Text Book of Ju-Jutsu as Practised in Japan”. William became the instructor at the Dojo when Uyenishi returned to Japan. Edith Garrud was active in the Women’s suffrage movement, the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU), led by Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughter Sylvia and from her makeshift dojo at no. 9 Argyll Place, London (near Oxford St) she taught women of the WSPU the art of Ju Jitsu.

The need for women who were part of this movement to defend themselves became abundantly clear on “Black Friday” - November 18, 1910. In response to the Prime Minister quashing a women’s voter bill, 300 suffragettes marched on the House of Commons. Police were caught on film assaulting unarmed women attempting to march past. Unthinkable isn’t it? For a few still, this happened within living memory…

Ju Jitsu became an empowering force for a number of women in the Suffrage movement as shown in the article “Ju-Jutsu as a Husband-Tamer: A Suffragette Play with a Moral” From a publication called “Health & Strength”, April 8, 1911

In researching this, links to a Martial Art known as “Bartitsu” were also thrown up. Bartitsu was created by Edward William Barton-Wright who, while working as a railway engineer and surveyor in Japan, studied at two ju jitsu schools including the Kodokan Jiujitsu Dojo, possibly with Jigoro Kano, in Tokyo. He later incorporated stick fighting, Boxing and Savate into his learning and created an eclectic system which he named after himself – a pioneer in cross training and MMA if you will.

Barton-Wright was also one of the earliest people to open his doors to women, although, after the demise of Bartitsu, Edith Garrud’s Dojo became one of the most prominent places in London for women to learn self-defence.

Incidentally, Bartitsu was immortalized by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle as the fighting system employed by Sherlock Holmes – a feature not missed in the movie starring Robert Downey Jr released later this year, directed by Guy Ritchie. The movie is rumoured to contain plenty of fight scenes featuring Bartitsu - interesting since Guy Ritchie is, I think, a BJJ Brown Belt under Renzo Gracie, so I’d expect to see a distinct influence on the Ju Jitsu components of Downey’s Sherlock’s Bartitsu.

Anyway, it appears that Ju Jitsu was seen, at the start of the last century to be an effective way for women to defend themselves – a thought I’ve often had about Brazilian Jiu Jitsu today and yet, there are still very few women involved and this is a real shame. Rather than veer off on this subject myself, take a look at Meerkatsu’s blog which has a good article on this subject and also some of the links provided here by Slideyfoot to women in BJJ’s sites – they can give you insights that I certainly can’t.

Take care,

Main source of info and links here


Anonymous said...

thanks for the mention :)

Anonymous said...

It is rare to run across a blog post that really teaches you something. I enjoyed reading this.

Al said...

Thanks very much - glad you enjoyed it!