“The Fall Guy”: S.K. Eida

  • Originally published on the Bartitsu.org site on Sunday, 29th October 2017

The first generation of Japanese jiujitsuka to arrive in London included Kaneo Tani, Seizo Yamamoto and Yukio Tani, all of whom had been invited to the England by Bartitsu founder E.W. Barton-Wright.  K. Tani and Yamamoto remained in London for only a few months, but Yukio Tani remained and was then joined by Sadakazu Uyenishi.  The two of them taught, demonstrated and competed under the Bartitsu banner until mid-1902.

During the decade or so after the closure of the Bartitsu Club, a second generation of Japanese experts passed through the English capital.  Many of them – most notably professional challenge wrestlers like Taro Miyake, Akitaro “Daibutsu” Ono and Mitsuyo Maeda – settled only briefly before moving on to other countries.  Others, such as Yukio Tani, Yuzo Hirano and S.K. Eida, made England their home for a period of years, or even settled there permanently.

Except for the fact that he was born in Japan during 1878, little is known about Eida’s life prior to his arrival in London.  The earliest record of his presence there is to be found in the 1901 census, which lists him as an assistant gardener, living in Acton, West London.  At that time he was staying with his brother, Saburo Eida, who was an importer of art.  S.K. – whose given name was rendered by Edwardian English journalists as “Surye Kichi” – also served as a Fellow of the Royal Horticultural Society, advising Londoners on the exotica of Japanese gardening.

Given that the Bartitsu Club was operating between 1899-1902, it’s possible that Eida trained there, though there’s no known record to that effect.  Several years later he did, however, join the staff of the Japanese School of Jujutsu, a dojo figureheaded by former Bartitsu Club instructor Yukio Tani and his colleague Taro Miyake.

It was common for martial arts experts to supplement their teaching and competing income with “jiujitsu turns” on the music hall circuit, but the notably agile Eida seems to have made a unique specialty of this type of performance.  Between September 29, 1906 and April 27, 1907 he teamed with the popular French entertainer, Mademoiselle Gaby Deslys, in performing a “Ju-Jitsu Waltz” as part of a musical extravaganza called The New Aladdin, which ran at London’s Gaiety Theatre.

The Ju-Jitsu Waltz was, essentially, a series of spectacular throws performed by Mademoiselle Deslys, with S.K. Eida serving as her acrobatic uke or “fall guy”.  The equivalent term in Mlle. Deslys’ native language was “cascadeur”, likewise implying an acrobat who specialised in tumbling – the term survives in modern French show business to describe stunt performers.

In 1909 Eida married an English woman named Ellen Christina Brown.  She took the professional name “Nellie Falco” and, as “Falco and Eida”, the couple revived the Ju-Jitsu Waltz, touring music halls throughout the UK.

S.K. Eida fades from the historical record during the second decade of the 20th century, but it’s not unlikely that he is among the uke/fall guys who appear as “Apache” muggers during this 1912 French Pathe film clip:

He died at the age of forty, in 1918.

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