“Ju-Jitsu Vs. Boxing”: Yukio Tani takes on “Young Joseph” (From The Sporting Life, 13 April 1908)

  • Originally published on the Bartitsu.org site on February 10th, 2017

In a 1950 interview conducted by jiujitsu sensei Gunji Koizumi, Bartitsu founder E.W. Barton-Wright reminisced about trying to teach Yukio Tani to box, noting that Tani had “no aptitude for the sport”. Indeed, the academic question of whether a jiujitsuka could beat a boxer was much debated in the pages of sporting journals during the first decade of the 20th century.

Some of those “in the know” – not least including Barton-Wright and fellow self-defence authority Percy Longhurst – eschewed the nationalistic jingoism that often fuelled this type of debate and advocated for an intelligent combination of both styles for the purpose of self-defence. Under the prevailing law and social sentiment, however, a contest in which both fighters were allowed to strike and grapple as they saw fit might well have been considered “brawling in a public place”. Certainly there was no recognised rule-set nor venue for such a bout, though it’s highly likely that experimental matches of this type did take place “behind closed doors” at venues such as the Bartitsu Club.

This article records a rare mixed-styles contest in which Yukio Tani, who by 1908 had vast experience in applying his jiujitsu against various European wrestling styles, took on a pugilist nicknamed “Young Joseph”.


A really splendid programme was staged on Saturday afternoon at Olympia, Shoreditch, and efficiently superintended the M.C., Mr Jack Henderson, whoso duties were by no means light. In addition to a match between a British exponent of ju-jitsu, Jack Madden, and Yamato Maida (Japan), the public were treated a most interesting contest, in which the boxer Young Joseph opposed Yukio Tani.

The pictures of the championship fight between Tommy Burns and Gunner Moir were shown, and various contests decided between well-known wrestlers. Mr Jack Henderson managed the proceedings on and off the stage, and was timekeeper, Mr R. P. Watson was referee for the ju-jitsu v. boxing, and Mr E. Joseph refereed the rest the events.


Tani cautiously eyed Joseph for several seconds. Joseph feinted repeatedly, and Tani kept out of harm’s way. The Jap cleverly escaped a dangerous lead with right and left. Once Joseph landed the left.

Tani jumped in twice with a leg trip, and just failed to bring the boxer down. All the time Joseph was threatening with the right, which Tani carefully watched and avoided. At last Tani seized a favourable opportunity, and dashing in caught Joseph round the body (time. 4 min.).

There was a fierce scramble the ground, and Joseph escaped with a severe roughing. When they again faced each other Joseph drew close, and often led, but Tani cunningly side-stepped. At last he dashed in with a body hold, and dragged Joseph to the mat.

Joseph tried in vain extricate from this dangerous position, but Tani held him in a vice-like grip. Suddenly the Jap grabbed his arm, threw himself upon his back, his leg over Joseph’s face, and with arm look won in 5 min. 34 sec.

Yamato beat Jack Madden with an arm-lock in 7 min. 32 sec.

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