Yukio Tani vs. the Cornish Wrestlers (Western Morning News, 12/11/1926)

  • Originally published on the Bartitsu.org site on Tuesday, 7th August 2018

There follows a detailed account of three encounters between former Bartitsu Club instructor Yukio Tani and a trio of Cornish wrestling champions. Although the rules aren’t entirely clear, they may have combined both styles in catch-as-catch-can fashion, to the effect that victory could be achieved either by a clean throw onto the back, a “pin” position in which the opponent was held so that both shoulders and one hip were pressed to the mat, or via a submission hold. Tani, as the visiting champion, was required to defeat his opponents within a particular time limit, or to pay a forfeit to them.

It’s worth noting that Tani was about 45 years old in 1926, and almost certainly had more experience in jiujitsu vs. European wrestling contests than anyone else alive at that time.

Noting, as usual, that the term “Jap” did not hold any pejorative meaning at this time, being rather a simple abbreviation like “Brit” for British.

Watching closely the opponents who have faced the celebrated Jap Yukio Tani at the Palace Theatre, the difference in the style of wrestling was most marked. Although the Japanese wear a jacket, it is close fitted to the body, held with a strap or girdle round the waist, and not like the loose jacket which is proverbial in the Cornish contests.

The Cornishman depends upon his supreme strength, strong holds, and hitches (throws) which are essential to bringing his man square down on his back. Ju-jitsu is well known to be an elaborate system self-defence based upon scientific knowledge of balance and anatomy, applied with quickness and cunning.

Fred Richards, of Old Found, age 27, weight 177lb., who is one of the finest wrestlers Cornwall has ever produced, was one of Yukio Tani’s challengers on Monday evening. Tani, knowing that he was meeting such a skilled exponent of the Cornish style, was a little wary and would not rush in. Richards, however, quickly embraced an opportunity and endeavoured to bring his man down with the fore hip, for which he is famous.


Here was seen the great cleverness the Jap. Tani, swinging round, endeavoured to get an arm hold and back heel. Richards’ strength enabled him to bring Tani under him, and he cleverly held him down. Tani immediately applied the under grip and leg hold, from which Richards extracted himself. Both rising rapidly, they locked again in a deadly grip.

Coming down again under Richards, Tani applied the leg half-nelson. Richards, grasping Tani, again swung him under with great determination, the Cornishman shaking the Jap and bouncing him back several times on the mat. The ten minutes in which Tani had pay forfeit had now elapsed.

Tani endeavoured again make Richards throw himself, but being wary the Cornishman eluded his wily opponent and lasted out 11 and 3/4 minutes, to the great delight of the large assembly, both wrestlers receiving a great ovation for the spirited display.


Harry Gregory, St. Wenn, age 22, 5ft. 8in., weight 156 1b, who also tried his skill against Tani on Tuesday, is a well-known exponent of the Cornish style, and was only narrowly defeated for the middleweight championship in September last.

Tani was very cautious, and Gregory also exercised care. Four minutes elapsed ere Gregory endeavoured to trip the Jap, but he lost his balance, and the Jap, following, was on top instantly. Gregory, by sheer strength, rose, turning over the Jap and holding him down for three minutes, during which time was an extreme trial between the Eastern and Western trials of strength and cunningness. Tani extricated himself and applied the deadly arm lock which Gregory got out of on two occasions, the second time dragging Tani down behind, a result which he had scarcely contemplated.

The ten minutes had now elapsed and cheers showed the great appreciation of the sterling contest which was taking place. Gregory, taking his man off the ground, brought him down with tremendous force on the mat, making the house ring with the thud, but, the Cornishman slightly losing his balance, the Jap was quick to embrace the opportunity of the outstretched arm and locked him in ll minutes 5 seconds.

Yukio Tani has promised to visit Cornwall next season and try his skill against the Cornishmen in their own style. He expressed great appreciation the temperament and skill of his opponents, and hoped they would not match him too heavily when competing for the first time at Cornish tournament. Such a great exponent of the art as the Jap is certain to receive a hearty welcome to Cornwall.


There was exciting contest between George Bazeley, of St. Dennis, and Yukio Tani at the Palace Theatre, Plymouth, last night. The Cornishman had the Jap down for considerable periods, and tried desperately to pin both shoulders and a hip to the ground, but Tani wriggled free before this could be done, and in turn made every effort to bring into force his ju-jitsu service. For just over the prescribed ten minutes Bazeley held the Jap, before succumbing to the arm hold.

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