“Giving In to Get Your Way”

  • Originally published on the Bartitsu.org site on Saturday, 27th May 2017
Above: the stomach throw illustrated in Hans Talhoffer’s Fechtbuch (15th century) and Nicolaes Petter’s “Clear Instructions on the Excellent Art of Wrestling” (1674)

The “sacrifice throw” in which a wrestler drops to the ground, using his own falling weight to throw his opponent, was almost unknown in Europe during the late 19th century. Although earlier European systems of unarmed combat had employed this principle, the rules of late-Victorian wrestling styles generally asserted that “the man whose back touches the ground first loses”, and so those styles concentrated, by default, on standing throws.

In 1917, Sir Arthur Pearson – the publisher of Pearsons’ Magazine – reminisced about his first meeting with Bartitsu founder E.W. Barton-Wright, which had taken place in 1899:

He stood before me in a most casual attitude and invited me to throw him down. I have always kept myself very fit, and was in those days rather proud of my strength. Without any further ado I essayed the apparently simple task of putting the little man on the floor. What really happened was that in less time than it takes to dictate these words I struck the wall some 15 ft. away with quite enough force to be unpleasant! Mr. Barton-Wright had sunk before my assault and, as its violence upset my balance, had delicately poised me upon the soles of his feet and shot me into space.

E.W. Barton-Wright demonstrates the tomoe-nage (stomach throw) at the London Bath Club exhibition.

Thus, Sir Arthur Pearson may well have been the first gentleman in Victorian England to fall victim to a jiujitsu tomoe-nage or “stomach-throw”.  Thereafter, via Barton-Wright’s articles and lectures and the challenge matches of Bartitsu Club champions Yukio Tani and Sadakazu Uyenishi, the art of “giving in to get your way” in hand-to-hand combat was re-introduced to the Western world.

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