“Raku, the Japanese Wrestler” (1907)

  • Originally published on the Bartitsu.org site on Friday, 8th March 2019

Sadakazu Uyenishi was the last of four Japanese jujitsu instructors to be employed at the Bartitsu Club.  During 1901, Uyenishi frequently partnered Yukio Tani in Club demonstrations, alternated with Tani in challenge contests and taught self-defence at the Shaftesbury Avenue school of arms.

After the Club’s closure in mid-1902, Uyenishi and Tani largely went their separate ways; Tani especially pursuing a professional challenge wrestling career but also teaching for a few years at the Japanese School of Jujitsu, while Uyenishi opened the Golden Square School of Jujitsu.  Although he was clearly more committed to teaching, Uyenishi did quite often compete in challenge contests, as described in this article from the Folkstone Express of July 24, 1907.

Note that Uyenishi was commonly known by his nickname “Raku”, possibly because Edwardian English speakers had difficulty pronouncing his given names.

Jujitsu, the latest thing in the art of wrestling, seems to have taken a strong hold upon not only the sporting public. but the non-sporting portion also. This was evident at the Victoria Pier on Monday evening, where a crowded audience flocked to the Pavilion ostensibly for the purpose of seeing the wrestling performance of Raku, a very clever and skilful exponent of jujitsu.

Raku created a most favourable impression. Of slight build, his weight being about 9st., and of average height, attired in evening dress and wearing gold-rimmed spectacles, the famous Japanese wrestler looked more like a student than anything else. He appeared to be anything but an athlete, until he practiced a few of his wrestling tricks upon his assistant, who posed for the moment as a hooligan. Then the audience were at once convinced of the great wrestling skill of Raku and the usefulness of jujitsu in a sudden and violent attack upon the person.

Having “thrown” his opponent, Raku gave a demonstration of the various “locks,” by which he finally conquers his antagonists. The neck “lock” is a very effective means of overcoming an adversary, and when Raku applied it to his assistant the latter “tapped” vigorously to be released. A “tap” on the floor or the body with the hands is the Japanese acknowledgment of defeat.

Raku offers to give £50 to any wrestler whom he fails to defeat in fifteen minutes, and the management have given a 2-guinea silver challenge cup in connection with a competition held nightly. The final takes place on Friday night, when Raku will wrestle with three men, and the one making the best attempt will receive the cup. If they beat Raku he will, of, course, hand them the £50.

On Monday evening three wrestlers tried conclusions with Raku, and all three had to acknowledge defeat. Mr. Charles Turnham was one, and was disposed of in three minutes. Lance-Corporal Gray, of the East Yorks, was the next competitor, and being slim and agile, he was something of a match for Raku. The bout lasted four and a half minutes. and was full of exciting incidents. The last competitor was Mr. T. Miles, who was stated to turn the scales at l6st.—almost twice the weight of Raku. This proved a strenuous encounter, and Miles was often ” top-dog.” It lasted longer than any of the others, but the result was the same.

It should be stated that in his demonstrations of self-defence, Raku showed how ladies might defend themselves from an attack in the streets.

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