“Wrestling Wizard Of Iceland Defies All Highwaymen” (New York Tribune, April 4, 1920)

  • Originally published on the Bartitsu.org site on Saturday, 6th November 2010

Johannes Josefsson, Who Fights With His Feet in Ringling’s Circus, Craves Meeting With Bandits

A certain degree of timidity is excusable in almost any person, owing to the increase of thuggery and crime in this city. But there is one man in town who not only refuses to quake when in dark and dangerous byways, but who actually craves the excitement that might go with a brush with a hold-up man.

Johannes Josefsson, the Icelandic wrestling wizard, is the intrepid one, and he has thrilled or will thrill you as one of the star attractions with the combined Ringling Brothers-Barnum & Bailey Circus at Madison Square Garden.

Josefsson thinks with his feet, and can reduce a robust athlete to a frayed-out wreck in the twinkling of an eye by mauling him with his heel and toe. He is so confident of his skill with his feet that he would meet Georges Carpentier and Jack Dempsey in the same ring and would guarantee to toss them both off without drawing a long breath.

However, neither Jack nor Georges being a “feet fighter,” this ambition of Johannes’s life will have to go unsatisfied.

To get back to the Icelander’s indifference to the lurking highwayman or his gang. One has only to see the blond giant of the North in action to realize how much out of luck a fool outlaw would be to tackle him. The glima, the native word for this form of wrestling expert would simply “pile up” his adversary with one or two dexterous kicks and then dance an old fashioned breakdown on the hapless thug’s neck.

Josefsson explained his art yesterday in his dressing room just before his exhibition.

“There is not a man in the world who can subdue a clever glima exponent,” he said, “unless he does it with glima. It is simply the art of using one’s feet and legs instead of one hands. I finish five men at every performance, and, let me tell you, their attack on me is not staged the same way every day. They are continually trying new “stunts” to get me, but it never takes more than two minutes to stop them all.”

“Have you ever met a boxer?” the Icelander was asked.

“Yes,” he replied. “I have fought many. Roche, of France, a heavyweight, was unable to stay more than eighty five seconds with me, and a Belgian heavyweight, whose name I have forgotten, was still easier.”

Josefsson is a catch-as-catch-can wrestler of no mean ability himself,
and he claims a victory over one of the Zbyszko brothers at Lodz, Poland. This bout lasted forty-seven minutes and was ended by Josefsson getting a toe-hold on his opponent. But perhaps the most notable victory In his record was scored by Josefsson in a “grudge bout” with Ota Gawa, a jiu-jitsu expert, in this city in April, 1913.

Josefsson is thirty-eight years old and is the undefeated glima champion of Iceland.

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