“Self Defence for Women” by Nohata Showa (1914) Now Translated and Re-Published

  • Originally published on the Bartitsu.org site on June 3rd, 2017

Although Emily Diana Watts’ Fine Art of Jujutsu was first published in 1906, Self Defense for Women (1914) may well have been the first booklet written by a female author to specifically deal with jujutsu as self-defence for women, as distinct from treating it as an athletic accomplishment.

Above: an armlock restraint technique from Self Defence for Women.

Nohata Showa was the pen-name of Nobatake Yaeko.  Her booklet is a short compendium of martial arts techniques selected to be of particular use to women who are attacked by men:

The fundamental (principle) of Jujutsu is to use the opponent’s power. You can win by moving nimbly at the right time, without using much power. Should you ingrain these techniques into your body, even a cute weak girl can wrap up a large man and achieve a win!

She also wrote that:

While I was returning to my abode from running an errand just the other night I encountered a frightful situation. I was able to imitate the handful of Jujutsu moves I learned and, despite my slight form, was able to avoid falling prey to a dastardly scoundrel. It was an absolutely thrilling experience.

Additionally, Showa referred to the foundation of a Women’s Self Defence League:

Should any reader of this book have, by chanced toppled, restrained or otherwise through self-defense measures thrown a ruffian or [man] attempting mischief, this organization will award you … a large certificate reading “Meiji Imperial Achievement Award”.

Given the time she was writing, it’s possible that Showa was inspired by the Suffragettes Self Defence Club of London, which was organised by Edith Garrud under the auspices of the Women’s Freedom League from circa 1909 onwards.

Above: Suffragette jujutsu instructor Edith Garrud demonstrates a restraint hold.

The newly translated, full-colour edition of Self Defence for Women is now available here.

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