During the the Meiji period (1968-1912) as Japan was quickly modernizing, it experienced a cultural fascination with the west, and vice versa.
Political society was completely transformed to function like a modern western democracy. Western fashion and music were widespread and the traditional Japanese arts were becoming more esoteric.
Combating this Emperor Meiji ordered the codification of Japanese martial arts, which happened with the formation of the Dai Nippon Butoku Kai in 1895.
Master Shihan Yoshinori Eguchi of Kyushin Ryu Jujitsu instructed Edward William Barton-Wright, an Englishman, in self-defense.
Barton-Wright was an early advocate of mixed marital arts, and developed the odd marriage of British chivalry with Japanese Jujutsu, founding the “the gentleman’s art” of Baritsu. Think jujutsu with a cane and top hat.
Barton-Wright was an entrepreneur and member of the Japan Society. He was well traveled in Japan during its exciting new embrace of all things foreign.
In his travels and martial arts training Barton-Wright befriended a young jujutsuka (Jujutsu practitioner) named Uchida Ryogoro, and invited him to visit the UK.
President Theodore Roosevelt was even an emphatic practitioner of Judo. Mixing up the nuances that distinguished the two art forms at the time, in 1905 Roosevelt said “The art of Jiu-Jitsu is worth more in every way than all of our athletics combined.”
His instructor, Yamashita Yoshitsugu, regularly sparred with the president in the White House basement. Yamashita said Roosevelt was his best pupil, but lamented his sheer size and his brash, stiff, intense sparring style, which caused Yamashita much pain and anxiety. Teddy Roosevelt was America’s first brown belt in Judo.
Suffrajitsu: London Feminist Jujutsu
When Edward Barton-Wright returned to London he was joined by his young friend Uchida Ryogoro. Barton-Wright opened a Baritsu training club in London where Uchida and fellow jujutsu and judo instructors Yukio Tani and Sadakazu Uyenishi trained students.
Among the first students were Edith Margaret Garrud and her husband William Garrud. The Garruds were first instructed by Barton-Wright, and then later by Sadakazu Uyenishi.
After Barton-Wright’s Baritsu closed 1902 Sadakazu founded his own dojo in 1903 called the School of Japanese Self Defense, at 31 Golden Square in the London commercial hub of Picadilly Circus.
Sadakazu returned to Japan in 1908, leaving ownership of the dojo to William who began teaching men’s classes. Edith was the trainer of women’s and children’s classes. Their efforts popularized jujutsu in turn of the century London.
Edith began working with The Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), teaching self defense to Suffragette activists in 1913.
These lessons moved from the Golden Square dojo to a dance school on Argyll Street called Palladium Academy, and were held in secrecy to avoid police detection.
Suffragette leaders and activists, malnutritioned from long hunger strikes, were legally released from imprisonment to rest and rover, before being re-arrested and imprisoned. The WSPU established a thirty-member, all-woman activist army known as “the Bodyguard,” the “Jiujitsuffragettes,” and the “Amazons,” which fought with police in the streets of London to protect fugitive women’s rights activists from re-arrest.
Edith’s hand-to-hand fights with police officers attempting to arrest suffragettes are well-publicized in political cartoons of the day.
British journalists coined the term “suffrajitsu” to describe the tactics of self-defense, sabotage and subterfuge that Edith Garrund’s Bodyguard utilized in their subversion of state authority.
Emmeline Pankhurst leader of the WSPU, suspended their campaign of militant suffrage direct action at the onset of World War 1, to support the British Government during the crisis. In 1918 women won the right to vote in Britain, thanks in part to the instruction of E.W. Barton-Wright, Sadakazu Uyenishi, and the Garrunds.
Judo in Latin America: Mr. Impossible vs the World
Mitsuyo Maeda, one of Kanō Jigorō’s most talented students and founding father of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, also traveled the world.
He visited New York City in late 1904, and spent the next year giving giving Jujutsu and Judo demonstrations all over the US to soldiers, businessmen, Japanese expatriates, and university students.
Maeda preferred Jujutsu’s dominating ground game and sparring intensive training methods to Judo.
On his travels Maeda compete in challenge fights for prize money, and soon earned various nicknames, including Conde Koma (Spanish for Count Combat) and Mr. Impossible.
Maeda’s small stature and friendly demeanor made his dominance in the ring, against much bigger and stronger opponents, seem impossible. Mitsuyo Maeda was one of the greats of proto-MMA.
Maeda returned to Cuba in 1910, where he joined forces with Soishiro Satake, Akitaro Ono, and Tokugoro Ito as The Four Kings of Cuba. This wrestling troupe dominating the prize fight scene, earning much fame and fortune for themselves, for Japan, and for the arts of Judo and Jujutsu.
Maeda fell out of favor with some of his professors at the Kodokan for his competition in “professional wrestling” and for personally profiting from fighting. Controversy aside, in 1912 he was promoted to 5th dan by the Kodokan.
In 1913 Maeda and Satake left Cuba and traveled throughout South America, fighting in El Salvador, Costa Rica, Honduras, Panama, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. While in Peru Maeda and Satake were joined by a fellow Japanese jujutsuka named Laku. In Chile they were joined by Okura, and in Argentina by Shimitsu.
In 1914 the troupe of traveling jujutsuka arrived in Brazil, where Maeda stayed for the next five years, and where he would eventually permanently emigrate to. It was during this first visit to Brazil where Maeda met Gastão Gracie, a businessman and politician in Belém, Brazil.
Gastão Gracie’s eldest son Carlos saw a Jujutsu match of Maeda’s and was inspired to learn Judo and Jujutsu himself. Maeda agreed to take him on as a student, teaching the 17 year old Carlos the techniques and philosophy of the gentle art.