“The Claims of Ju-Jitsu” (The Sportsman, 4th May 1906)

  • Originally published on the Bartitsu.org site on Saturday, 2nd September 2017
Above: a technical illustration from Percy Longhurst’s article “Has the Boxer Any Chance Agaainst the Ju-jitsuite?” (1906)

The following letter to the editor of The Sportsman was written during the ongoing “jujitsu vs. boxing” controversy of 1906-7.

The “boxing vs. jujitsu” debate was typically argued from a theoretical point of view, the consensus being that, as the Sportsman correspondent notes, a true contest between those styles would not be allowed in London at that time.  Although Pierre Vigny himself also publicly challenged a jujitsuka, nothing came of it; however, about a year before the above letter was published, another French savateur had tried conclusions against Japanese unarmed combat.

It’s worth noting that experimental contests of this nature probably had been carried out “behind closed doors” in London, as evidenced by the pragmatic assessments offered by E.W. Barton-Wright and Percy Longhurst, both of whom allowed that each method had its advantages and advocated for a fusion approach.

In his February, 1901 lecture for the Japan Society of London, Barton-Wright said:

In order to ensure as far as it was possible immunity against injury in cowardly attacks or quarrels, (one) must understand boxing in order to thoroughly appreciate the danger and rapidity of a well-directed blow, and the particular parts of the body which are scientifically attacked. The same, of course, applies to the use of the foot or the stick …

Judo and jiujitsu are not designed as primary means of attack and defence against a boxer or a man who kicks you, but (are) only supposed to be used after coming to close quarters, and in order to get to close quarters, it is absolutely necessary to understand boxing and the use of the foot.

Some years later, Longhurst amplified Barton-Wright’s realistic take on the boxing vs. jujitsu scenario via an article for Sandow’s Magazine, titled “Has the boxer any chance against the jujitsuite?”, which was re-published in the second volume of the Bartitsu Compendium (2008).

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