Female Jiu Jitsukas
British women: pioneers of Jiu-Jitsu and martial arts instructors
Edith Garrud and Emily Diana Watts
Mrs Roger Watts (left) in sparring. Circa 1905
Photo from her book The Fine Art of Ju-Jutsu. 1906
In fact, real women's sport history started back in the 19th century. By the end of the 19th century several sports were being enjoyed among women in the upper social class in Europe and USA. Before that time few women participated in physical training while women's athletics as a phenomenon was literally inexistent.
The art of Jujitsu (also known as Jiu-Jitsu, Ju-Jutsu, Tai-Jutsu, Yawara and Yawara-Ge) has its roots in feudal Japan and is based on the principle that the soft conquers the hard. Jiu-Jitsu ("soft art" in Japanese) is one of the oldest forms of Japanese martial arts which history goes back many centuries to the past. It is a forefather of many martial arts – Judo, Aikido, Karate, and Sambo.
Edith Garrud and Emily Diana Watts - Jiu-Jitsu Pioneers:
Emily Diana Watts (1867–1968) was among the first female instructors of the Japanese art of jujitsu in the Western world. She was also an innovator in the field of physical culture.
Born into a wealthy family in England during the latter Victorian era, she studied dance from a young age.
Emily Watts also known by her married name as Mrs Roger Watts started learning Jiu-Jitsu around 1903. Her instructor was Sadakazu "Raku" Uyenishi, a first-rate martial artist who wrestled in London music halls, trained in a Jiu-Jutsu club at Golden Square in SoHo and published an excellent "Text Book of Ju-Jutsu as Practiced in Japan" (London: Athletic Publications, 1905).
Once Emily had developed a strong interest in jujitsu, she joined the Golden Square dojo of Sadakazu Uyenishi and Akitaro Ono. By 1906 she was teaching her own class of fifteen boys at Prince's Skating Rink in Knightsbridge on Montpelier Square. Then she also published her first book, “The Fine Art of Jujitsu” (London: William Heinemann, 1906). It was the first book to emphasize women's self-defense and women's martial arts. It also was the first book, written in English, on Jiu-Jitsu by a woman. In her book Emily used techniques of then new school of Kodokan.
While the photographs illustrating the book suggest that her techniques were nothing special, the book itself is interesting for two reasons. First, what Watts was showing was not partner-assisted stretching, but honest-to-goodness techniques. Second, the introduction by Her Grace the Duchess of Bedford and the preface by Sir Lauder Brunton, MD, D.Sc., LLD Edinburgh, LLD Aberdeen, FRS, indicate the social class toward which the expensively bound and lavishly illustrated hardback was directed. By the way, the Duchess of Bedford, who was a Jiu-Jitsu enthusiast, participated in sparring for the book photo session.
When Uyenishi left Britain in 1908, his student William Garrud took over teaching the men in the club at Golden Square while Garrud's wife Edith took over teaching the women and children.
In 1914 Watts produced another book, “The Renaissance of the Greek Ideal”, presenting an original system of callisthenic exercises inspired by ancient Greek statuary and artwork. On the strength of this work, she was inducted into the French 'Institute Marey' and the American Institute of Archeology. Watts spent much of the subsequent four decades touring the international lecture circuit, performing demonstrations of her system. It must have done her good because Mrs. Emily Diana Watts died in 1968 at the age of 101.
Her presentations put a new spin on both the fad for “Grecian” dance (exemplified by Isadora Duncan) and the traditional Victorian poses plastique. In displays of the latter type, athletes, often almost nude with their faces and bodies powdered with white makeup, would assume postures evocative of famous works of classical statuary. This form of visual theatre had been popularized by the famous strongman Eugen Sandow at the turn of the 20th century. '
As explained in “The Renaissance of the Greek Ideal”, her training system went well beyond simple public performance, comprising a detailed method of physical, mental and even spiritual development based on the principles of balance and dynamic tension. It was also promoted as an aid to longevity, turning the tide of middle age and restoring youthful poise and energy.
"I found for myself the Law of Balance in movement, the application of which allows of the greatest rapidity and force with the least expenditure of energy. This law requires the center of gravity of a moving body to be kept exactly and continuously over its base, an impossible achievement except under the condition of Tension already described."
Edith Margaret Garrud (1872–1971) was among the first female professional martial arts instructors in the Western world. She trained the Bodyguard unit of the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU) in Jiu-Jitsu self-defense techniques.
She was born Edith Margaret Williams in 1872 in Bath, Somerset. Five years later, her family moved to Wales, where she remained until circa 1893, when she married William Garrud, a physical culture instructor specializing in gymnastics, boxing and wrestling. They moved to London, where William found work as a physical culture trainer for several universities.
In 1899, the Garruds were introduced to the art of Jiu-Jitsu by Edward William Barton-Wright, the first Jiu-Jitsu teacher in Europe and the founder of the eclectic martial art of Bartitsu. The emphasis on skill to defeat and outwit a larger opponent was what first impressed Edith Garrud about Jiu-Jitsu. She came across it when her husband William attended a martial arts exhibition in 1899 and started taking lessons. Five years later, they became students at the Jiu-Jitsu school of the former Bartitsu Club instructor Sadakazu Uyenishi in Golden Square, Soho. In 1907, Edith was featured as the protagonist in a short film entitled Ju-jutsu Downs the Footpads, which was produced by the Pathe Film Company.
When Uyenishi returned to Japan in 1908, William took over as the owner and manager of the Golden Square school and Edith became the instructor of the women's and children's classes.
The Garruds popularized Jiu-Jitsu by performing numerous exhibitions throughout London and by writing articles for magazines. Beginning in 1908, Edith also taught classes open only to members of the Suffrage movement. From 1911, these classes were based at the Palladium Academy, a dance school in Argyll Street.
In January 1911, Edith Garrud choreographed the fight scenes for a polemic play entitled What Every Woman Ought to Know. Edith normally did the demonstrating, while William did the speaking. In August that year, one of her articles on women's self-defense was published in Health and Strength magazine.
In 1913, the Asquith government instituted the so-called Cat and Mouse Act whereby Suffragette leaders on hunger strikes could legally be released from jail in order to recover their health and then re-arrested on the original charge. The WSPU responded by establishing a thirty-member, all-woman protection unit referred to as "the Bodyguard", the "Jiu-Jitsuffragettes" and the "Amazons", to protect fugitive suffragettes from re-arrest. Edith Garrud became the trainer of the Bodyguard and taught them Jiu-Jitsu and the use of Indian clubs as defensive weapons. Their lessons took place in a succession of secret locations to avoid the attention of the police. The Bodyguard fought a number of well-publicized hand-to-hand combats with police officers who were attempting to arrest their leaders.
On several occasions they were also able to stage successful escapes and rescues, making use of tactics such as disguise and the use of decoys to confuse the police. A number of these incidents are described in the unpublished memoir of Bodyguard member Katherine "Kitty" Marshall, titled "Suffragette Escapes and Adventures". Journalists coined the term "suffrajitsu" - a portmanteau of "suffragette" and "Jiu-Jitsu" - to describe their techniques of self-defense, sabotage and subterfuge.
The Bodyguard was disbanded shortly after the onset of the First World War. WSPU leader Emmeline Pankhurst had decided to suspend militant suffrage actions and to support the British Government during the crisis, and therefore no longer required protection. Later life Edith and William Garrud continued to work as self-defense and Jiu-Jitsu instructors until 1925, when they sold their school and appear to have retired from public life.
Edith Garrud was a tiny woman. Measuring 4ft 11in (150cm) in height she appeared no match for the officers of the Metropolitan Police - required to be at least 5ft 10in (178cm) tall at the time. But she had a poweful secret weapon.
Actress Helena Bonham Carter who performed the main role in the 2015 movie "Suffragette", tried to look like Edith Garrud and insisted to name her character Edith. She said: "Edith was an amazing woman whose fighting method was not about brute force, it was about skill."
It was this skill that helped the suffragettes take on powerful opponents. As Garrud recalled in an interview in 1965, a policeman once tried to prevent her from protesting outside Parliament. "Now then, move on, you can't start causing an obstruction here," he said. "Excuse me, it is you who are making an obstruction," she replied, and tossed him over her shoulder.
Alongside Edith Garrud and Emily Diana Watts, Phoebe Roberts (1887-1955) must be accounted as one of the first female Jiu-Jitsu practitioners and instructors in the Western world. She was certainly the youngest of them. Born in Blaina, Monmouthshire, Miss Roberts began training at the tender age of fifiteen at Sadakazu Uyenishi's dojo around 1903. Within a year or two she had started to teach classes at the Japanese School of Jiu-Jitsu in Oxford Street, which was operated by former Bartitsu Club instructor Yukio Tani and his colleague, Taro Miyake.
Miss Roberts also participated in numerous Jiu-Jitsu exhibitions circa 1906-08, demonstrating with many of the senior jiujitsuka active in the UK at that time, including Tani and Miyake, Akitaro Ono, Sadakazu Uyenishi and Yuzo Hirano. She was frequently billed as the “Champion Lady Ju-Jitsu Wrestler of the World” because she defeated another prominent jiujitsuka Lucy Weston in the British women's Jiu-Jitsu championships of 1906 and 1907.
Phoebe Roberts eventually married her teacher Yuzo Hirano and the couple settled in Portugal.
In fact, “Phoebe Roberts” appears to have been a professional pseudonym of Phoebe Laughton Parry for her work as a Jiu-Jitsu instructress and athlete.
In the beginning of the 20th century, there were many more Jiu-Jitsu practitioners and enthusiast in Britain, including famous actress Marie Studholme, who (wearing the uniform) in 1907 was shown in photos with Yukio Tani, and instructors at the Oxford Street Jiu-Jitsu school run by Tani and Taro Miyake, including Phoebe Roberts. As it was said, Emily Watts' friend and partner, Mary Russell, Duchess of Bedford, was another Jiu-Jitsu practitioner who was sparring with Emily Watts in the grounds of Woburn Abbey.
Florence Gardiner (stage name Florence "Flossie" LeMar) was another early Jiu-Jitsu enthusiast and advocate. She was married Joe Gardiner, an expatriate Englishman who worked as a professional wrestler. Joe is believed to have coached Florence in the skills of Jiu-Jitsu, which he may have learned while in England. In 1910s the two developed a theatrical performance in which Florence delivered a lecture on the benefits of Jiu-Jitsu as a means of self-defense and physical culture, especially for women and children, followed by a series of skits in which she demonstrated a variety of Jiu-Jitsu techniques against Joe, who played the role of the attacker. Described as being "a refined Vaudeville novelty for all the family", the act toured music halls and variety stages throughout Australia and New Zealand.
Society Women Wrestlers:
Craze ladies practicing Jiu-Jitsu in a London West-End drawing room
Article "Society Women Wrestlers: Ladies’ Craze for Japanese Jiu-Jitsu" (Daily Mirror, April 4, 1904)
Yukio Tani, the great Japanese exponent of Jiu-Jitsu, who is quite confident of beating his English opponent in the great match for 200 pounds a side, puts in several hours a week instructing the dames and damsels of Mayfair in the noble art of (Japanese) self-defense. Lady Clara Vere de Vere has taken up Jiu-Jitsu, as the science is called, with vigour, and is rapidly making herself competent to tackle the burliest hooligan who ever donned cap and muffler. The writer on Saturday received the testimony of “Apollo,” the Jap’s manager, on the subject.
The strong man was at breakfast when our reporter called at his cozy flat in Shaftesbury avenue, but he readily consented to talk.
Makes Women Graceful
“Jiu-Jitsu”, said he, “is particularly adapted for ladies for several reasons. In the first place, no muscular strength is required, for it is all a question of ‘knack’ and quickness. In the second the science, apart from its usefulness as a means of self-defense, induces grace of carriage and develops the’ figure. You see, to be a competent Jiu-Jitsuist you must hold yourself upright. Whereas, in other styles of wrestling, one has to adopt a crouching attitude, which contracts the chest and makes the figure ugly.”
The fad, it appears, commenced when Tani began to take engagements to appear at private houses and give exhibitions’ of wrestling in the Japanese style. Fashionable hostesses began to vote Hungarian fiddlers and Polish tenors altogether out-moded after they had seen the lithe and graceful Jap and his manager give a glimpse of Jiu-Jitsu. Sometimes, at dances, the wrestling-mats were spread on the ball-room floor between waltzes, and looking on at a bout of Jiu-Jitsu gave the dancers a rest. The grace, the quickness, and the absence of violence which are the distinguishing marks of Jiu-Jitsu fascinated Lady Clara Vere de Vere, and from seeing it done to wanting to do it herself was but a step. Now, Tani has his hands full putting fair and aristocratic aspirants up to the various locks and holds which constitute the Japanese art of self-defense.
Keenness of the Ladies
“A girl,” says the authority, “will learn Jiu-Jitsu in one-third of the time, and with one-half the trouble, compared with a man. For one thing, they are keener about it; and for another, we cannot get the men to take it seriously enough to moderate their drinking, smoking and late hours – all of which are not conducive to excellence in Jiu-Jitsu.
“Again, a girl is more anxious to improve her general physique than the male thing – and there is no doubt that this style of wrestling is a first-class thing for health and beauty.
An ever-present terror to women living in the country is the prowling tramp. But, armed with a knowledge of Jiu-Jitsu, madame or mademoiselle may take her unattended walks abroad, and in the event of an encounter with the ‘hobo,’ may give him the alternative of crying quarter or having an arm broken.”
So fashionable is the new craze becoming that some West End stationers are printing invitation cards with “Wrestling” in the corner where “Dancing” or “Music” was wont to stand.
Photo at right: 1905: Jiu-Jitsu or the Japanese scientific wrestling, now being taught by a Japanese professor, Professor Uyenishi, of Seibouhan, Japan, to the Aldershot Gymnastic Staff, formed, perhaps, the greatest attraction at the annual gathering of the public schools at Aldershot on Friday last. The wrestling display was given after the boxing championships at the Gymnasium, Queen’s Avenue. One of the professor’s lady pupils from London more than once triumphantly floored her male opponent. Those who witnessed the exhibition came away with the conviction that the Japanese system of training wrestlers will long hold the field against all comers. Our photograph is by Charles Knight, Aldershot.
More about Suffrajitsu
More than 100 years before the UFC made women’s MMA chic, the streets of London were filled with a tough troupe of women who knew how to crack bones and close airways.
British women fighting for their voting rights were exposed to violence and intimidation as their campaign became more militant. So they taught themselves the martial art of Jiu-Jitsu. Edith Garrud who was a Jiu-Jitsu pioneer and martial art teacher helped suffragettes learn self-defense techniques to defend themselves from police and crowd violence.
In the run-up to World War One, Garrud became a jiu-jitsu instructor to the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU), better known as the suffragettes, taking part in an increasingly violent campaign for votes for women.
Sick of the lack of progress, they resorted to civil disobedience, marches and illegal activities including assault and arson.
The struggle in the years before the war became increasingly bitter. Women were arrested and, when they went on hunger strike, were force-fed using rubber tubes. While out on marches, many complained of being manhandled and knocked to the ground. Things took a darker turn after "Black Friday" on 18 November 1910. Image caption Black Friday protest, 1910: Suffragettes were assaulted by police and men in the crowd
A group of around 300 suffragettes met a wall of policemen outside Parliament. Heavily outnumbered, the women were assaulted by both police and male vigilantes in the crowd. Many sustained serious injuries and two women died as a result. More than 100 suffragettes were arrested.
"A lot said they had been groped by the police and male bystanders," says Elizabeth Crawford, author of The Women's Suffrage Movement: A Reference Guide. "After that, women didn't go to these demonstrations unprepared."
Some started putting cardboard over their ribs for protection. But Garrud was already teaching the WSPU to fight back. Her chosen method was the ancient Japanese martial art of jiu-jitsu. It emphasized using the attacker's force against them, channelling their momentum and targeting their pressure points.
The first connection between the suffragettes and jiu-jitsu was made at a WSPU meeting. Garrud and her husband William, who ran a martial arts school in London's Golden Square together, had been booked to attend. But William was ill, so she went alone.
"Edith normally did the demonstrating, while William did the speaking," says Tony Wolf, writer of Suffrajitsu, a trilogy of graphic novels about this aspect of the suffragette movement. "But the story goes that the WSPU's leader, Emmeline Pankhurst, encouraged Edith to do the talking for once, which she did." Image copyright Jet City Comics/Joao Vieira
Garrud began teaching some of the suffragettes. "At that time it was more about defending themselves against angry hecklers in the audience who got on stage, rather than police," says Wolf. "There had been several attempted assaults."
By about 1910 she was regularly running suffragette-only classes and had written for the WSPU's newspaper, Votes for Women. Her article stressed the suitability of jiu-jitsu for the situation in which the WSPU found itself - that is, having to deal with a larger, more powerful force in the shape of the police and government.
The press noticed. Health and Strength magazine printed a satirical article called "Jiu-jitsuffragettes". Punch magazine showed a cartoon of Garrud standing alone against several policemen, entitled "The suffragette that knew jiu-jitsu". The term "suffrajitsu" soon came into common use.
They wouldn't have expected in those days that women could respond physically to that kind of action, let alone put up effective resistance," says Martin Dixon, chairman of the British Jiu-Jitsu Association. "It was an ideal way for them to handle being grabbed while in a crowd situation."
The Pankhursts agreed and encouraged all suffragettes to learn the martial art. "The police know jiu-jitsu. I advise you to learn jiu-jitsu. Women should practice it as well as men," said Sylvia Pankhurst, daughter of Emmeline, in a 1913 speech.
As the years went on, confrontations between police and suffragettes became more intense. The so-called Cat and Mouse Act in 1913 allowed hunger-striking prisoners to be released and then re-incarcerated as soon as they had recovered their health.
"The WSPU felt that as Mrs. Pankhurst had such a vital role to play as motivator and figurehead for the organization that she was too important to be recaptured," says Emelyne Godfrey, author of Femininity, Crime and Self-defense in Victorian Literature and Society. "She needed protectors so Garrud formed a group called The Bodyguard. It consisted of up to 30 women who undertook dangerous duties," explains Godfrey. "Sometimes all they would get would be a phone call and instructions to follow a particular car." The Bodyguard travelled overnight from London by train, their concealed clubs making the journey uncomfortable.
The Bodyguard travelled overnight from London by train, their concealed clubs making the journey uncomfortable. A crowd was waiting to see Emmeline Pankhurst speak at St Andrew's Hall. But police had surrounded it, hoping to catch her.
Once, a crowd was waiting to see Emmeline Pankhurst speak at St Andrew's Hall. But police had surrounded it, hoping to catch her. Pankhurst evaded them on her way in by buying a ticket and pretending to be a spectator. The Bodyguard then got into position, sitting on a semi-circle of chairs behind the speaker's podium. Suddenly Pankhurst appeared and started speaking. She did so for half a minute before police tried to storm the stage. But they became caught on barbed wire hidden in bouquets. "So about 30 suffragettes and 50 police were involved in a brawl on stage in front of 4,000 people for several minutes," says Tony Wolf Author of "Suffrajitsu: Mrs. Pankhurst’s Amazons". Eventually police overwhelmed The Bodyguard and Pankhurst was once again arrested. But the difficulty they had in dragging her away showed just how effective her guards had become.
Garrud did not just teach them physical skills. They had also learnt to trick their opponents. In 1914, Emmeline Pankhurst gave a speech from a balcony in Camden Square. When she emerged from the house in a veil, escorted by members of The Bodyguard, the police swooped in. Despite a fierce fight she was knocked to the ground and dragged away unconscious. But when the police triumphantly unveiled her, they realized she was a decoy. The real Pankhurst had been smuggled out in the commotion.
The emphasis on skill to defeat and outwit a larger opponent was what first impressed Garrud about Jiu-Jitsu. She came across it when her husband William attended a martial arts exhibition in 1899 and started taking lessons. While learning Jiu-Jitsu, William shared knowledge with Edit; she was soon teaching it herself and became one of the first female martial art instructors in the West. In exhibitions, she would wear a red gown and invite a martial arts enthusiast dressed as a policeman to attack her.
"As far as the suffragettes were concerned, she was very much in the right place at the right time," says Wolf. "Jiu-Jitsu had become something of a society trend, with women hosting Jiu-Jitsu parties, where they and their friends underwent instruction."
Garrud and her Jiu-Jitsu students continued their fight for the vote until a bigger battle engulfed them all. At the outbreak of WW1, the suffragettes concentrated on helping the war effort.
At the end of the war, in 1918, the Representation of the People Act was finally passed. More than eight million women in the UK were given the vote. But women would not get the same voting rights as men until 1928.
Advertisement, circa 1910: Ju-Jutsu (self-defense) for Suffragettes, private or class lessons daily, 10.30 to 7.30; special terms to W. S. P. U. members; Sunday class by arrangement; Boxing and Fencing by specialists. — Edith Garrud, 9, Argyll Place, Regent Street