“… the Latest Trick in Jiu-jitsu”: Cartoons from Punch Magazine (1905-12)

  • Originally published on the Bartitsu.org site on Wednesday, 14th October 2015

During the decade following E.W. Barton-Wright’s introduction of jiujitsu to England, the Japanese martial art was thoroughly absorbed into English popular culture – most famously when Sherlock Holmes made use of “baritsu” to defeat the evil Professor Moriarty at the Reichenbach Falls.  

Jiujitsu was also the means by which the titular heroine of H.G. Wells’ Ann Veronica defended herself against a male assailant, and it was written in to several of the Judith Lee detective stories. Japanese unarmed combat was poetically fetishised in D.H. Lawrence’s novel, Women in Love and showcased in polemic plays, such as What Every Woman Ought to Know (1911).  Jiujitsu eventually became the subject of novelty postcards, the punchline of jokes, the theme of music hall specialty dances and even futurist paintings.

Jiujitsu and Bartitsu also proved natural targets for the satirists at Punch, or the London Charivari, a hugely popular, weekly humour magazine. This gallery of Punch cartoons demonstrates another way in which jiujitsu penetrated the Edwardian English zeitgeist …

The unfortunate subject of this cartoon explains, via the slang of his time and place, how upset he is to have been rejected by his girlfriend:

Punch cartoon
More jiu jitsu

The Professor (to pupil): “I need hardly impress upon you, Sir, the necessity of carefully watching everything I do!”

A police constable in dire need of an audience:

P.C. Jones

P.C. Jones, having mastered his opponent by the latest trick in Jiu-jitsu, is now wishing the Inspector would turn up to witness his triumph!

Punch cartoon

(Japanese wrestling is now being taught in night schools all over the kingdom.)

Mistress: “May I ask what is the meaning of this disgraceful behaviour?”

New Buttons: “The butler and me, Mum, ‘ad a little difference of opinion, Mum, so I give ‘im a little Joo-Jitsoo, Mum!”

Political jujitsu

“President Roosevelt’s trainer, Mr. O’Brien, is teaching him Jujitsu, the Japanese Method of self-defence. Jujitsu consists of bending the joints of the arms or legs of an adversary in the direction opposite to that intended by nature. A small man who understands the trick can snap the elbow joints of a man twice his size.” – American correspondence.

Fired by this example, Mr. CH_MB_RL_N, we understand, though abstaining from all other exercise, spends two hours daily with his trainer, Mr. D_LL_N, in Jo-jitsu, the Birmingham method. A slim man who understands the trick can dislocate the hyphen of a Pre-Boer twice his circumference.

Mr. B_LF__R has created considerable surprise by practicing his peculiar method of contortionist gymnastics and telescopic dislocation (Balf-itsu) on the Treasury Bench.

The most famous of Punch’s jiujitsu-themed cartoons is certainly Arthur Wallis Mills’ The Arrest, or, The Suffragette that knew Jiu-jitsu, satirising the jiujitsuffragette phenomenon:

Suffragette that knew jiujitsu

… but Mr. Punch also offered a useful training tip for the police constables who had to grapple with suffragette protesters:

One man one suffragette
Fiscal jiu-jitsu

FIRST MOVEMENT – The Friendly Approach

Once you can persuade a man to take your hand, and let you slip your arm under his –


– it is quite easy, by a little adroit leverage, to remove him from the premises.

This entry was posted in Edwardiana, Humour, Jiujitsu. Bookmark the permalink.