Sergeant George Wheeldon’s Police Self-Defence (circa 1905)

  • Originally published on the site on Tuesday, 17th April 2018

The City of London police history blog Plodd in the Square Mile offers this short but informative article on Sergeant George Wheeldon, who essentially pioneered the systematic practice of unarmed self-defence within the English police force.

Sergeant Wheeldon had been in the audience during some of E.W. Barton-Wright’s first Bartitsu displays, including the original Tivoli Theatre displays by Yukio Tani and Sadakazu Uyenishi.  He was also a prominent correspondent in the great “Jujitsu vs. Boxing and Wrestling” debates that raged via letters to the editors of various sporting journals during 1905-7. In a letter to Health and Strength Magazine, Wheeldon evinced some skepticism about jiujitsu, more in terms of its actual novelty than its evident practicality:

Regarding a number of these holds, I can safely assert that I knew a great many of them long before Ju-ju-tsu came to this country, having studied anatomy for many years, and always having a hankering for tricks of self defence. I learnt a good many through the above study.

He went on to note that the jiujitsu “scissor hold” (dojime) was not unique to Japanese unarmed combat, having been illustrated in a book on catch-as-catch-can wrestling dating to the 1820s.  Another participant in the same debate referred to a different hold or takedown which was widely known among English poachers.

Although he may have been overstating his case a little for effect, and possibly out of nationalistic sentiment, Sergeant Wheeldon’s own course in self-defence was itself an eclectic blend of Japanese and English grappling techniques.  It probably represents the first attempt to systematise a method of unarmed self-defence and restraint training for a professional police force.

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