“A Novel Ju Jitsu Demonstration” (1904)

  • Originally published on the Bartitsu.org site on Sunday, 20th January 2019

This article from the Sporting Life of 21 December, 1904 includes a possibly-unique report of former Bartitsu Club instructors Yukio Tani and Sadakazu Uyenishi working together again during the years following the Club’s dissolution.  It also represents one of the very first public exhibitions of Japanese unarmed combat by women, presaging both the craze for “jujitsu parties” and the more serious association of jujitsu with the women’s suffrage movement.

The British public are no strangers to ju-jitsu, but it is something of a novelty to see it demonstrated by two daughters of Albion.

Tani’s performances have familiarised many with the commoner manoeuvres, such the fatal arm-lock and the outside-right click, beloved of Jonathan Whitehead, the renowned wrestler of a past generation, but to the Cockney mind ju-jitsu still savours largely of mystery and magic.

In a sense, it does partake of the latter character, and at a demonstration by members of the School of Jujitsu at the Caxton Hall, it was defined as the defence of oneself by sleight of body; the utilisation of your opponent’s strength by taking ingenious advantage of the human anatomy.  To accomplish this, the master of ceremonies emphasised the need of studying the art of yielding, as opposed to resisting. Probably this is why wrestlers living outside of Japan have generally shown but limited aptitude for ju-jitsu, the act of yielding being in conflict with their natural instincts.

Those well-known exponents Tani and Uyenishi, were to the fore in illustrating the countless holds, locks, chips, and counters, and a contest between two cheery little compatriots ot theirs in Messrs. Eida and Kanaya raised the audience a high pitch of excitement when “Time!” applied its unwelcome veto.

In the course of the programme two English ladies, Mrs. Watts and Miss Roberts, exhibited some of the tricks of the art. They ware only billed to display of the more elementary points, but they certainly lacked nothing in facility of execution. Mrs. Watts also gave a demonstration with Mr. Eida, whom she appeared to match in proficiency as well as in composure, and – allowing that it was merely an exhibition – this lady showed that she had been an apt pupil.

Another performer was Mr. Miyake, who is much heavier than the other Japanese exponents, though he shares their characteristic agility.

Indeed the whole demonstration, which it is difficult to adequately describe on paper, exemplified in an unmistakable manner that, apart from other advantages, ju-jitsu is invaluable for the cultivation of suppleness. The various turns were of highly attractive order, and testified the sublety which underlies the art. At the same time, the yielding theory is apparently open to qualification. On numerous occasions the exponents undoubtedly practised this principle, but on several others they obviously resisted. This, of course, is only logical, as a policy of “passive resistance” carried to the end must spell subjugation — at any rate, on the mat.

The value of the system is strongly shown in the physiques of its votaries, and the fact of its being a regular part of the Japanese soldier’s training has probably contributed more the success of the Island Empire in Far East campaign than appears on the surface, for it develops the mental well as the physical qualities.

A number of ladies were deeply interested spectators of the proceedings, as were many of the performers’ fellow countrymen.

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