The History of Bushido and British Ju Jitsu – Part III: Hit the Road Jack by Sensei Dave Brough

Jack Britten
Jack Britten

Jack Britten was making a living in the boxing booths around London and challenged Tani to a fight, which he lost. After losing to Tani, Britten decided to learn Ju Jitsu and he joined Tani’s Ju Jitsu school in London (1). He trained with distinction, though for how long it is hard to tell. He fought in World War I (1914 – 1918) and was involved in hand to hand combat in the trenches where he suffered a bayonet wound in his hand (2).

Following the end of the war he returned to England and spent some time searching for work until sometime in 1924 he moved to Liverpool to open a pet shop, and a dojo called the Alpha School of Ju Jitsu (2). Here I speculate that the Ju Jitsu taught by Britten will have been the teachings of Tani (Fusen-Ryū influenced by Bartitsu and wrestling) and by his own considerable boxing experience, and by his experiences of fighting in the war.

Jack Britten had many notable students, one of whom is particularly relevant for our story, a man named Robert (Bob) Clark (1946 – 2012)(3). We will talk a lot more about Bob later in the story.

The Alpha School of Ju-Jitsu was not the only Ju Jitsu school in Liverpool. In 1928 Mikinosuke Kawaishi (1889 – 1969) opened a dojo in Liverpool with help from the Budokwai dojo in London (where Tani was now teaching Judo). It is not clear exactly what type of Ju Jitsu he was teaching but he was awarded Dan grades in Kodokan Judo. Kawaishi subsequently moved to Paris and is credited for being one of the judoka leading the development of Judo in France, and also for introducing the coloured belt system for differentiating kyu grades (4).

Mikinosuke Kawaishi (1889 – 1969)
Mikinosuke Kawaishi (1889 – 1969)

After Kawaishi left his club was taken on by his student called Gerald Skyner.

Another Ju Jitsu school in Liverpool, established after World War II (1939 – 1945), was run by James Blundell (1921 – 1989) and his brothers. Blundell learnt martial arts from a Chinaman in Singapore whilst on shore leave in the merchant navy (5), but was also a student of William Green, who learnt Ju Jitsu from Harry Hunter who had, in turn, learnt Ju Jitsu in Japan in 1904 while stationed there with the Royal Navy (6). There is also some suggestion that Blundell may have learnt the unarmed combat techniques taught to World War II soldiers developed by W.E. Fairbairn, who in turn had been influenced by Kano Ju-Jitsu (7,8).

It is not clear whether the Alpha School of Ju-Jitsu run by Jack Britten was influenced by the other dojos operating in Liverpool, but there is a clear influence of Kodokan Judo on many of the techniques we practise today. Subsequent events leading to the development of a new Ju Jitsu syllabus may help explain this. At this point, we return to the role of Bob Clark.

To be continued….

Dojo Scholar
Dojo Scholor

If you missed the first 2 parts of this series, catch up below…

Part I:  The History of Bushido and British Ju Jitsu
Part II: The Man from Japan