“London Athletic Academy Where Ladies Learn Jujitsu” (1908)

When Edward Barton-Wright ceased promoting the Japanese martial arts in England, the cause was taken up by the music hall strongman William Bankier, known professionally as “Apollo, the Scottish Hercules”. This series of photographs shows female students at his Great Newport Street academy being trained by Phoebe Roberts (shown standing at the far right). Miss Roberts was, along with Edith Garrud and Emily (Diana) Watts, one of the first female jujitsu instructors in the Western world.

During the very early 1900s the English media was generally supportive of women learning jujitsu as self-defence and for exercise, but there was a notable change in attitude some six years after this photograph was taken. When Edith Garrud began training members of the radical suffragette Bodyguard team in martial arts, the mainstream media reaction veered markedly towards a kind of hostile condescension.

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