The History of Bushido & British Ju Jitsu – Part II: The Man from Japan by Sensei Dave Brough

At this point in the story, we return to the UK, and London where we meet Edward William Barton-Wright (1860 – 1951). Barton-Wright spent several years (c 1895 – 1898) working in Japan where he studied Ju-Jitsu of the Shinden Fudo Ryū and Kodokan Judo (1).

Upon his return to England, Barton-Wright combined the Ju Jitsu he had studied with elements of cane fighting, boxing, and French kickboxing (La Savate), to form his own martial art called Bartitsu. Bartitsu was very short lived (1898 – 1902) though did last long enough to influence the Ju Jitsu learned by the suffragettes (2). Bartitsu is also very important to the development of Ju Jitsu in Britain. It was Barton-Wright who invited Yukio Tani (through correspondence with Jigoro Kano) to come to London (as a 19-year-old) and to teach at his school. Remember Yukio Tani was a student of Fusen-Ryū and so must have been very highly regarded by Kano to have been recommended – the Japanese only exported their very best martial artists.

While at the Bartitsu club the instructors of the various styles were encouraged to train and learn the other martial arts being taught, and so it is very likely that during his time at the Bartitsu club Yukio Tani became proficient in other fighting styles (3). That is to say, Bartitsu will have likely influenced the way he fought and the martial arts he taught subsequently. As Bartitsu declined Yukio Tani split with Barton-Wright following a fight and teamed up with a promoter called William Bankier.

William Bankier was a businessman and was able to capitalise on the publicity generated by Bartitsu to promote Yukio Tani as a wrestler in music hall contests and shows. Tani challenged anyone to a contest and paid them £1 for every minute they lasted (up to 5 minutes). This was not an inconsiderable amount of money at the time!

On the music hall circuit Tani would have up to 20 opponents a week, often notable wrestlers. The rules were Ju Jitsu, he had to submit his opponent. His only condition was that his opponents had to wear a jacket (4). I’m sure you can imagine some of the techniques he will have used

Watch below, at this unbelievable footage of Yukio Tani demonstrating ground fighting techniques. *There is a suggestion however that this footage is of Gunji Koizumi, Tani’s colleague at the Budokwai in London)! It is also tempting to speculate that Tani would have incorporated a lot of wrestling skills into his training and fights, taking the best bits from the men he faced.

Indeed 20% of modern Judo moves owe their origins to wrestling. Tani was defeated only once, and this was to a fellow Japanese and Fusen-Ryū student Taro Miyake (1881 – 1935).

To fight so prolifically over a period of years and to be beaten only once is truly remarkable, even more so given his small stature standing only 5 feet 6 inches tall. In 1904 Tani and Miyake opened the Japanese School of Ju Jitsu in London that lasted for just over 2 years (4). Whilst it was named the Japanese School of Ju Jitsu school we can speculate that the Ju Jitsu taught will also have been influenced by Bartitsu and wrestling. Ultimately Yukio Tani did convert to Kodokan Judo and in 1918 became the first Judo teacher at the London Budokwai dojo.

It was during a visit to London by Jigoro Kano in 1920 that Tani was awarded nidan (2nd Dan) (4). However, I think it was his time teaching at the Japanese School of Ju Jitsu that is most important to our story. During this period one of Tani’s students was a Londoner called Jack Britten (? – 1978) (5).

To be continued….

If you missed part 1 of The History of Bushido and British Ju Jitsu by Sensei Dave Brough – catch up here.

Dojo Scholar © Knutsford Ju Jitsu
Dojo Scholar © Knutsford Ju Jitsu