“Mongrel Sports” (1906)

  • Originally published on the Bartitsu.org site on Tuesday, 3rd July 2018

The following article was originally published in the December 2nd, 1906 edition of The Referee, a then-popular sports newspaper.  The journalist remarks upon a proposed upcoming contest arranged by a promoter named Lowes, pitting jiujitsu champion Taro Miyake against pugilist “Gunner” Moir.

The proposed match was probably inspired by the “boxing vs. jujitsu” controversy that played out via numerous letters to the editors of sporting journals during 1906/7.   Many correspondents argued points of technique and combative theory, while others appealed to notions of nationalism and manliness.  The writer of the following article objects on rather vague grounds of “fairness” and seems to make a simple appeal to traditionalism, while exaggerating his position for comic effect.  Taken as a whole, the debate closely resembled a modern Internet forum flame war.  

Although the consensus was that a contest mixing boxing and jiujitsu would not, in fact, have been strictly legal at that time – they might well have been considered “brawling in a public place” – it’s clear that some such matches had already taken place “behind closed doors”.  Those very likely included the doors of the Bartitsu Club. It’s also clear that wrestler and self-defence authority Percy Longhurst had been party to similar experimental match-ups.

Although it was later reported that “Gunner” Moir had accepted Miyake’s terms of challenge, it seems that this particular match never actually took place.  Two years later, however, former Bartitsu Club instructor Yukio Tani did take on a boxer in a public contest

Boxing is one of the finest sports in the world, with what seems to many of us the special advantage of being essentially and exclusively English. There is no exercise equal to it, for one thing, and mentally it is as good for the honest, plucky fighter as it is physically; it teaches him quickness of decision, readiness of resource, and, better still, how to control his temper; for the man who loses it is at once handicapped.

Jujitsu is also a capital thing in its way, ingenious in the extreme as showing how a man’s powers may be most effectively utilised.

But the combination of these two sports is not — in my opinion, at any rate — in the least desirable, and it is to be hoped that if Mr. Lowes gets on his projected match with Moir we shall not have a succession of such tests. Mr. Lowes proposes to introduce a man who will take on the Gunner with 6oz. glove; rounds to be limited to three minutes each with one minute interval, Jujitsu and English boxing to be allowed.

It is not suggested that there should be any savate, or that the men should enter the ring by jumping a bar, the highest jump to win the round, or that they should leave their corners walking on their hands, the first to topple over losing a point; but these little variations would probably follow in course of time if the mixing business were once started.

If a game is worth playing, let us play it; if it is not worth playing, let us find another which is, and play that. It is not fair to British boxing to introduce Japanese details. I do not know whether this new notion is in any way due to the burlesque of golf lately devised by Sir Ralph Payne-Gallwey, who is accustomed to pretend that an arrow is a golf hall, to shoot instead of driving off with the legitimate implement, and to substitute a ball for the arrow when on the green. Why not have another ball a foot or so from the hole, and either pot it or go in off it with a cue? Then you would get a bit of billiards in, too. I feel pretty sure that Refereaders do not approve of mongrel sports.

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