Perhaps the first mention of Ju-Jitsu in Great Britain was an article published in the ‘Idler’ in October 1892 by G.B. Burgin. It was called: ‘Japanese Fighting: Self Defence by Sleight of Body’. In this article Burgin had been aided by Takashima Shidachi of Tokyo. Shidachi had given a lecture on JuJitsu to the Japan Society of London in 1892.
It was only a few years after the publication of the article in the idler before a Railway Engineer called Edward William Barton-Wright introduced the practice of Ju-Jitsu in London. Barton-Wright developed an eclectic fighting system called Bartitsu. Part of this Bartitsu system was Japanese Ju-Jitsu, with instruction delivered by a couple of young Japanese experts called Yukio Tani and Sadakazu Uyenishi who both arrived in London in 1900.
Yukio Tai and Sadakazu Uyenishi
After only a few years Barton-Wright’s Bartitsu club ceased operating. Tani and Uyenishi would now be managed by Scottish strongman and promotor William Bankier (stage name of Apollo). Banker would tour the music halls with Tani and Uyenishi (stage name of Raku) challenging all comers to wrestling contests. Appearances in music halls greatly increased the popularity of Ju-Jitsu. In 1903 Sadakazu Uyenishi opened what can be considered the first Ju-Jitsu dojo in the U.K. and possibly Europe. Uyenishi’s club was called the School of Japanese Self Defence, and was located at 31, Golden Square, Piccadilly Circus, London. In 1905 Uyenishi wrote one of the first authentic English texts on Ju-Jitsu (Text Book of Ju Jutsu as Practised in Japan) and was the subject of many other articles written about his teaching and demonstrations. Uyenishi recognised that Ju-Jitsu was for everyone and stated:
After a violent storm, it is generally the heavier and sturdy trees which have suffered most, whereas smaller plants, possessing plenty of elasticity, easily withstand the rough usage, because they offer the minimum of resistance to the opposing force. For this reason Ju-Jitsu enables light and weak men and women to withstand heavy and strong adversaries. [Uyenishi c1905]
The ‘Golden Square Dojo’ has a very important place in British martial arts history and would influence British society in a number of ways; famously the suffragettes, who, in addition to using Ju-Jitsu as a means of self-defence, used Ju-Jitsu politically to show that women can be the physical equal of men.
A picture from Punch, July 6th, 1910, called ‘The Suffragege that know Jiu-jitsu’ depicting Edith Garrud, former student of Uyenishi, and Ju-Jitsu instructor to suffragettes]