Aka Bara

Jujitsu reached the West via two main routes: America and England. Many thousands of Japanese immigrants settled on the west coast of America and as might be expected these included Jujitsu exponents. Barring a few exceptions, the practice of Ju-Jitsu did not spread much outside of the Japanese enclaves into the general population for very many years.

In England there were only a small number of Japanese residents (the greatest number until after the Second World War was about 1,600 in the mid thirties) living mostly in London but also in the Newcastle area. Jujitsu spread into the native population within weeks of the arrival of Tani. From London Jujitsu spread to France, taken by French pupils of Uyenishi and Tani; and then further a field to Portugal and Spain. It appears from records, that Britain was the first nation to receive Japanese Anstsu instructors, but that these instructors did not come to the UK as Jitsu experts but as bankers, clerks, military men, students, etc. The first to identify him-self and declare his art was Takashima Shidachi (Yoshin Ryu) in Apri 1892 while working as the secretary to the London Branch of the Bank of Japan.

About 7 years or 30 later in 1899, a gentieman called W. E. Barton-Wright was due to retum to the UK having been working in Yokohama for the last 9 years as an engineer. During this fime he had studied Tenjin Shin’yo Ryu Ju Jitsu with master Yukio Tani and his brother. Just prior to his retum Barton- Wright asked Tani to retum with him to the U.K. and start an academy of Ju-Jitsu. The original reception to the Japanese was not favourable, the academy failed mainly because the British peapie had never heard of Ju-Jitsu let alone seen it, When Tani and “a fellow countryman” (un-named) first made an appearance at the Tivoli Theatre, “the art was described as farcical, and the demonstrators as knockabout comedians.” According to William Bankier, who handled Yukio Tani’s affairs a few years later, these original displays were badly managed and the Japanese had very littie opportunity of showing their true worth, or of testing their sil against well knawn men. Apart from this the British public, who were used to boxing, wrestling, and the music hall strongman, failed at first to appreciate the special qualities of the Japanese art, and ridiculed claims (later justified) that a 9-stone Ju-Jitsu expert could defeat men twice as heavy in contest. This resulted in most of Tani’s associates retuming
home, leaving just Yukio Tani and his brother.

Barton-Wright decided to tour the country showing the art of Ju-Jitsu and placed challenges to all comers to defeat the Japanese pair. Yukio Tani (1881 – 1950) only a young exponent of the Japanese art of Jutsu and a natural showman, led the two men into touring the Music Hall circuit, where Tani would challenge anyone willing to test his sk. With the temptation of winning £1 for lasting each minute, for about of up-to 5 minutes, or £5 for winning, there was never a shortage of challengers. However, at a diminutive 5 feet 6 inches (1.67m) Tani allegedly lost only one music hall match and that was to a fellow Japanese national (Taro Miyake in 1905). In 1900 Sadulazu Uyenishi, who appeared in the music halls under the name “Raku” (believed to have been brought over to replace Tanis brother, who retumed to Japan), joined the circuit, but soon after began teaching self defence and physical education at the Amy Gymnastic HQ in Aldershot. Soon, other Japanese experts arived, those being Taro Myale, Akhitaro Ohno, and Gunji Koizumi, “The Father of British Judo.”

Yukio Tani & Sadukazu Uyenishi

During one of these shows, Yukio Tani met a Scotsman — William Banker. Banker was a ‘physical culturist’ and became rapidly interested in Ju Jitsu and in 1903 persuaded Tani to leave the Barton-Wright relationship and work with him.

Gradually people came to accept Jujitsu for the splendid art that it was, but this change in attitude came not only from a better appreciation of its principles, but also from the hundreds, and perhaps even thousands, of contests in which the Japanese engaged during their tours of the British music halis. The nightly challenge to the audience was a feature of both Tanis and Uyenishi’s performances. Bankier noted that during one week at the Oxford Music Hall, Yukio Tani met and defeated thirty-three men, some of whom were well known continental wrestiers. In one six-month tour Tani defeated an average of 20 men a week, a total of over 500 challengers over the period of the tour. Regarding Uyenishi, the
edition of Health and Strength magazine wrote: ‘I have been fortunate to witness many of these encounters and have never known him fail to polish off any six antaganists well within the space of 15 minutes. In fact I once saw him account for 5 men within 10 minutes, including the necessary waits between the separate bouts. And this, mind you, following on a lengthy and fairly exhausting display of the tricks and resources of Jujitsu.”

True, many of the challengers were rank amateurs, who would have caused a Jutsu expert little trouble, but others were athletes and local wrestling champions, and virtually all were bigger than the Japanese. The rules of fair play might occasionally break down, as they did in Tani’s contest against Tom Connors at the Free Trade Hall in Manchester. Immediately follawing the customary handshake Connors attacked Tani, intending to lift him up bodily and dash him to the ground with all his strength. Tani however swung out of the hold and both men went over into the orchestra pit. As they remounted the stage Connors struck Tani with his fist, a foul for which he was booed by the audience. When they
came to grips again Tani took hold of Connors by the collar of his jacket, brought him down on top of himself and secured a stranglehold. Connors lost hie temper and again struck Tani with hie fist. The referees were about to diaqualify him when he auccumbed to Tani’s hold. Total time: 1 minute 55 seconds. Connors left the stage to a chorus of booing.

When he came to London, he did his training at the Appollo-Saldo club in Great Newport Street, where at times I did my own training. Bill Klein, the able instructor and masseur who was employed by Monte Saido, tokd me that Hackenachmidt had refused to have a bout with Tani saying that he might strain a muscle and so be Incapacitated for the music hall exhbitions which he gave nightly’.

To amuse the habitues of the famous club, I agreed to have a contest with the wiry Jap. First we wreatied, and Tani was very fair and made no attempt to use his ju-jutsu locks. in a couple of minutes I had him pinned flat on hia back. This had been expected of me and so I laughingly donned the apecial canvas jacket that one wears when indulging in the art of Jujitsu. Seventeen seconds later I was not smiling, but choking, while I tapped the mat with my hand as quickly as I could. The Jap had neatly tripped me as I applied a hold to his jacket. I hit the mat and before I could spring to my feet, his two feet were at my neck, choking me. The feet were naked and all my strength failed to pull them apart. Not only strength, but some peculiar knack was in that hold. “I tried once more, but as I seized Tani’s canvas jacket he fell backwards, a foot was applied to my abdomen and I salled through the air as he hit the mat with his back. Again I had no chance of getting away, and again those sinewy feet held me by the neck and more strongly than any man’s hands could! This time only fifteen seconds had elapsed before I was choking and tapping the mat with both hands as fast as I could.”

“As I walked off with my arm over the shoulders of the little “Yellow Peril” I asked him if he was really the Japanese Champion. “No, no,” came the immediate reply, “that is only publicity talk in Japan I’m only third rate. The great champions are amateurs and they never give public shows of our art. To the masters of Ju-Jutsu, our science is almost a religion.”

By 1911 some of the Japanese had returned home but the basis for martial arts development had been laid.

The years of the First World War were a difficult time and much of the great impetus for Ju Jitsu died, most of the well known instructors returned to Japan, it is believed that a few, not so prominent Japanese, stayed on military camps courtesy of HRH. After the War a British Diplomatic figure, E.J. Harrison and W. E. Steers returned from Japan the first of the westemers to be graded shodan in Kadokan Jado. They both consistently campaigned for Kodokan Judo and Hanison gave the impression that Judo was just another term for Jiu Jitsu.