History of Ju-Jitsu in the UK Part 2

Aka Bara
Bushido Ju-Jitsu

In the years to follow further instructors arrived from Japan to sither teach at existing clubs or to run independent clubs of their own. These included Gunji Koizumi, who arrived in 1906 and stayed for nine months before travelling on to America, Myake, Ono and Maeda who famously went on to travel to Brazil and found what is now known as Gracie Brazilian Ju Jutsu.

Gunji Koizumi (1885 – 1965) arguably one of the most famous Judoka, in British history, a Chinese lacquer expert by trade and master of Tenshin Shinyo Jujutsu, Kenjutsu, Akishima Ryu Jujuisu and Katsu. He was only to stay for a year, training and instructing his martial Arts around the country, notably at the Kara Ashilaga Jujutsu school, the Piccadilly School of Jujuisu, the RNVR, etc. until he decided to journey to the United States. He did, however return in 1910 and eventually founded the London Budokwai, in 1918, offering Jujutsu, Kendo and other Japanese arts to the British public. A year later Koizumi asked Tani to join him as an instructor at his school of Martial Ways and Tani accepted, retiring from his Music Hall bouts.

Akihito Oni & Gunji Koizumi

Gunji Koizumi opened the now famous Dojo on the 26th of January 1918 in 15 Lower Governor Place, Victoria, London. The Budokwai (The Miltary Ways Society) which is still running and teaching today (now mostly Judo). The fortunes of the Budokwai flourished, having such famous members as E.J Harrison who had previously trained in the Kodokan in Japan and holds the honour of being the first Englishman to be awarded Shodan in 1904 by the Kodokan, and later became affliated to the Kodokan. In 1919 another, yet to be famous, Martial Artist anived in Britain. This time it was a Japanese gentleman by the name of Masutaro O’Tani (1899 – 1977), who had worked his passage on a merchant vessel. He was a Ju-Jutsu man, having trained in Japan as well as Ceylon, where he had lived during his passage.

As the name Budokwai (The Way of Knighthood Society) implies Judo and Ju-Jutsu was not the only activities, there was much interest in Kendo. But also for many years there were weekly lectures on all aspects of Japanese culture: Poetry, Buddhism, Swords, Woodprints, History, to name but a few. Because of the strange noises and crashes it became the custom to invite the Society’s neighbours to these lectures and other events to show how odd but harmless the members were. Many years later there is a comment in the Budoknai Bulletin about the early days of the Society when, “… ardous neighbours, horrified by the thuds and shrieks and fearing someone was being tortured, hastily summoned the the police.” One lecture was devoted to the art of the Kiai (a rough definition being – a type of shout) it is not recorded how many windows were shattered and why the trains in nearby Victoria Station started early.

From these early beginnings Ju Jutsu became firmly established and spread throughout the UK.

Judo is Accepted

Koizumi and Tani were teaching their Jujutsu method at the Budokwai until 1920, when a delegation formed by Jigoro Kano,the founder of Kodokan Judo, Hikoichi Aida and E.J.Harrison, both Kodokan Dan grades and members of the Budokwai, influenced them to convert to Judo. This was achieved and the Jujutsu men were awarded their Judo 2nd Dans (the grade required to teach at that time), in recognition of their technique and status. From there on Judo was formally taught at the Budokwai and this can be recognised as the starting point of British Judo. Meanwhile Masutaro O’Tani had been looking to continue his Martial Arts training and subsequently joined the budokwai in 1921. Within 5 years he had risen to the position of assistant instruct to Yukio Tani and become close friends with this character.
Most records show Uyenishi retuming to Japan around 1908, it is believed that he was called back to Japan by his family, as being of Samurai decent, the thought of him performing Ju-Jitsu at shows was frowned upon.

I have been told that he was back teaching Ju-Jitsu at the Budokwai in the early 1930’s, supposedly returning to Europe to set up Schools in either France or Germany.