The “Dwarf of Blood” on Bartitsu (June-October, 1900)

The following accounts were written for the Sporting Times by a journalist styling himself as “The Dwarf of Blood”.  Many Sporting Times columnists used similarly colourful pseudonyms – “The Pitcher”, “The Shifter”, “The Master”, et al.

The author of these articles was actually Colonel Nathaniel Newnham-Davis, a gourmet and bon vivant who was best known as a London restaurant critic.  Newnham-Davis had received his nickname during the preparations for an impromptu pantomime, performed as an after-dinner entertainment under the direction of famed music hall chanteuse, Miss Bessie Bellwood.  The principal parts having been cast, Miss Bellwood assigned to the Colonel the role of the Dwarf of Blood, tasked with emerging from beneath the dinner table and groaning “at the appropriate time”.  The nickname stuck with him for life.

Colonel Newnham-Davis, who was also a founding member of the mysterious “Order of the Black Heart”, took an ongoing interest in Bartitsu and produced a series of entries on that subject for “the Dwarf of Blood’s” regular Sporting Times column, “Around the Town”, between 1899 and 1901.

Sporting Times –Saturday, 09 June, 1900

If Mr. Barton-Wright wants advertisement for Bartitsu, he has got it very thoroughly through Otojiro Kawakami and his company, who have been playing at the Coronet Theatre. To see the gallant Samurai in the second act of the little play, by twists, catches, and kicks, dispose of four assailants at once is a lesson in the art of using skill against brute strength. Nor is the gentle Madame Soda Yacco behind him in this art. She, as a Geisha, sends four Buddhist priests sprawling to earth. Theatrical criticism is in Bill of the Play’s department, otherwise I should like to rave for half column over the quaint intensity of the principal players. If the company revisits London after the Paris Exhibition I should advise all and sundry to and see them.

Above: film footage of the “Samurai” fight scene described by Colonel Newnham-Davis.

Sporting Times – Saturday, 20 October, 1900

(N.B. that the term “Jap” had no pejorative meaning in Edwardian English, being more in the nature of a simple abbreviation like “Aussie” for Australian or “Brit” for British.)

There was private show of “Jujitsu,” the new Japanese art of self-defence, at the Alhambra on Wednesday last. Mr. Barton-Wright was in the place of showman, and his usual bad luck on these occasions stuck to him, for he had to begin the proceedings with an explanation and an apology. The Japanese professors of Jujitsu — which Mr. Barton-Wright says means “fighting to the last,” but which I had always understood to mean “the gentle art”—who have come to this country are three in number; but, when they understood that they were to appear place where money is taken, they made difficulties in the matter, and Mr. Barton-Wright was looking forward to an interview with them before the consul of their country to try and have matters put square.

The reluctance of the professors to do anything that they consider might be disparaging to their position or their art comes from the curious origin of Jujitsu. At one time it was secret art, and to those to whom it was taught an oath was administered that its principles should not be communicated except under conditions that would render its abuse almost impossible, and the recipients of the knowledge had to be men of perfect self-command and of good moral character.

Mr. Kano Jigoro, however, the principal of the higher normal school in Tokio, who is himself splendid athlete, established throughout Japan schools of the art, in order that, by learning it, the Japanese gentleman, in spite his small size, might be at no disadvantage in rough and tumble fight. He also invented Judo, form of fighting in which the falls are given standing. Therefore the art has a particular status of its own, and the semi-sacred mystery which surrounded it at one time has scarcely yet worn off.

Mr. Kano, the inventor of Judo, is splendid exponent of the two arts, men who have seen him give exposition of them tell me. Part of the training for Jujitsu—and it takes three years to make a perfectly trained man, they say in Japan, and seven to make professors – is to harden the muscles of the neck so thoroughly, that strangulation is impossible. To show how hard his muscles are, Mr. Kano puts a pine wood pole across his throat and lets two 14st men sit on the ends, releasing himself by jerk given with the throat muscles. A parallel feat, though not so effective, was performed by one the professors at the Alhambra.

Above: Yukio Tani’s version of the pole trick.

The other bit of bad news that Mr. Wright had to tell on Wednesday was that the bout with canes promised between two of his professors was off, for one of the two Bartitsu gentlemen had been having a bout with a Jap the day before, and had been thrown so violently that his shoulder was badly hurt.

A large square of matting had been nailed down on the floor, and the two Japanese professors, one a powerful man, who looked as if be weighed somewhere between 12st and 14st, and the other an 8st man, came on the stage. They were dressed in the orthodox costume of a wadded cotton coat with short broad sleeves, cotton belt, and wide silken trousers; but they omitted the orthodox salutes of touching the mat with their foreheads.

Above: Bartitsu Club instructors demonstrate jiujitsu.

The first exhibition of series of grips and throws was difficult to follow, so quickly were they done. Then the two men wrestled and fought couple of bouts at Jujitsu, a form of fight in which there is no such thing foul play, and the smaller man was, in the first one, held in such grip that his arm would be broken if did not declare him self vanquished. Then followed the tour de force of supporting the weighted pole on the throat; but the rod used was too lissom for the feat to convincing. Next the smaller man, taking as his subject the biggest man in the audience, showed how easy it was to give him a fall by using his adversary’s weight against him.

Above: Tani demonstrates two pole tricks.

The bigger man of the two then put the end of the pole against muscles his throat, and allowed one of the audience to push against him with one hand.

Then the talking began, for a gentleman of ripe years, alluded to affectionately by most of the audience as “Charley,” was not quite satisfied with the pushing experiment of arm against throat, and had something to say as to leverage and the Georgia Magnet. Whether he wanted make a match between the little American lady and the big Jap, we in the stalls could not quite catch; but when the discussion was at its height, Mr. Barton Wright appeared from behind the scenes with a message from the big Jap. He (the big Jap) would stand against the wall, and let the doubting gentleman push with the pole as hard as be could against his throat, if afterwards the doubler would wrestle a fall with him.

There was general feeling amongst the pressmen present that the weather was too cold to attend funerals, so the champion of the Georgia Magnet was dissuaded from accepting the offer.

Whether Mr. Barton Wright will persuade the Japanese to appear in public, and whether, if they do, it will be show that an ordinary British audience will understand, I cannot tell; but that has no bearing the value of Jujitsu and Bartitsu, into which the catches, grips and throws of Jujitsu have been absorbed. It is a training by which a light but athletic gentleman can overcome the brutal and heavy rough, and I should like to see in all the great public schools when there are gymnasiums, the art made part of the physical training. Every boy is taught how to put up his hands so that he can give account of himself in a fair fight; he should be trained in Jujitsu, or Bartitsu, so that he can make good struggle of it if beset upon by Hooligans.

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