Harry Cook

Oriental Martial Arts in the West: The First Contacts

Written by Harry Cook
Created: Thursday, 23 February 2023 21:48

By Harry Cook

Although it is a common belief that Western interest in Chinese and Japanese martial arts is largely a post WW2 phenomenon this is not strictly true, and in fact there are references to various systems being demonstrated to Westerners in the middle of the nineteenth century.


HARRY COOK ARTICLE EnhancedProbably the first demonstration of Chinese fighting methods in Great Britain occurred in the 1850s. The Keying was a 160 ft., 800-ton teak-built Chinese junk, named after the Chinese Imperial Commissioner in Canton. She was bought in Hong Kong by a group of British entrepreneurs and sailed around the Cape of Good Hope with a mixed crew of 30 southern Chinese and 12 English sailors. Arriving in London in 1848, the ship was moored in the Thames at Blackwall, where it rapidly became established as one of the most popular attractions in London. Visitors were entertained by singing and playing music on Chinese instruments, conjuring tricks and an exhibition of Chinese martial arts. “The first act consists of a set of grotesque posturings, in which the performers disport themselves severally one after the other, each succeeding one striving to outdo the other in the wildness and extravagance of gestures - flying and leaping round the deck, thrusting out the arms right and left, threatening, retreating, &c. the musicians all the time keeping up a terrific clang. Next come a series of somewhat similar performances, with long poles or lances; this scene closing with a set-to between two performers, which we have endeavoured to embody in our engraving. Swords are also introduced, and brandished about in the same manner, which, if intended to give any idea of the military science of the Chinese, shows them to be very far behind any other known nation in the world in that respect. One young hero, in the course of his war demonstrations, afforded great amusement every now and then, particularly after some very startling efforts at cut and thrust, by throwing himself down, and turning a somerset (summersault) over his shield.” 1

The exhibit was visited by some of the most elevated of British society, including Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, the Prince of Wales, the Princess Royal, the Prince of Prussia, Charles Dickens, and the Duke of Wellington, who was impressed by what he saw. “When the Duke of Wellington visited the Chinese junk the other day, the crew went through their pike and shield exercise, illustrating, by a variety of rapid motions, the national method of attack and defence. His Grace appeared much pleased with the gymnastics of the executants, remarking to Lady Wilton how quickly they came to the guard, and how effectually they defended themselves when supposed to be surrounded by enemies. The shields are made of plaited rattan, and being light, a disarmed man can use two of them with facility and effect, parrying thrusts, before, behind, and at either side, almost at one and the same moment. The Duke, after witnessing the performance of the men made them a present of three sovereigns.” 2

It is likely that this was the first time that something like a kata (‘set of grotesque posturings’) and associated pre-arranged sparring drills/bunkai (‘set-to between two performers’) were seen in Great Britain.

In the nineteenth century Britain was the dominant naval power and many foreign governments commissioned British shipyards to build their warships. The Imperial Chinese government ordered a number of warships from the Elswick shipyard on the Tyne and sent crews to Britain to sail the vessels back to China. A team of Chinese sailors demonstrated various Chinese martial skills including “throwing the sandbag” at a military tournament held at North Shields in the north-east of England on the 19th and 20th of July 1887. A crowd of over 4,000 people watched British troops demonstrate a range of armed and unarmed martial skills including sword versus bayonet fighting and wrestling on horseback. Of particular interest to the crowd was a demonstration of Chinese martial arts performed by a team of thirty sailors drawn from the crews of two Chinese warships, H.I.M.S. Chin Yuen and H.I.M.S. Ching Yuen, then under construction at Elswick. “The Chinese sports… were watched with great interest. The first game was engaged in was that of throwing from one to another a canvas bag of sand, weighing sixteen pounds. Four out of the thirty seamen present took part in this contest… The competitors were of really good physiques, so far as one can judge them with their wide-fitting garments on, and displayed considerable strength of arm and agility of body in the weight throwing and catching. When the weight was being thrown it was twirled over the head of the one who was throwing, and sent to the next man with considerable force. The bag was only half filled with sand and the great point appeared to be to catch hold of the slack part of it, and, retaining the grasp, swing it round the head and toss it in a backward manner, to the next competitor. The most points in the competition were awarded to the one who dropped the bag the least number of times.” 3 A sailor named Yang-sheu “gave a sword exercise… for which he was warmly applauded” and a group of sailors performed “various gymnastic feats which proved most interesting.”

This kind of training was commonly undertaken by those with an interest in developing practical martial skills. John Henry Gray (1823-1890), the inaugural Archdeacon of Hong Kong (1868), described Chinese martial artists training with strength building equipment in China. “At Pekin, I saw young men, evidently of great strength, amusing themselves by throwing a large stone into the air, and catching it as it fell by a ring which was attached to it. The feat was performed with much ease and grace.” He pointed out that “Athletics are mostly confined to candidates for military degrees, who by constant practice acquire great strength of body. This is especially true of the Mongolians, who are naturally very strong. I remember being much astonished at Jo-hole on seeing the ease with which a cavalry officer upwards of seventy years of age, pulled the strongest bows, and armed with a sword and lance, went through parts of the cavalry exercise.” 4

Gray’s work includes two drawings of training with the stone lock, known to the Okinawans as an ishi-sashi and the barbell or tan which are still used in many Okinawan systems of karate. The lock weight is also a feature of training in the southern system of Wu Tsu Ch’uan (Five Ancestor Fist).



Although it is a commonly repeated opinion that methods of Chinese Boxing were a secret not intended to be shown to non-Chinese, there is a lot of evidence that in fact Westerners were at least watching demonstrations of Chinese fighting methods in the late 1860s. American audiences were impressed by the abilities of a group of ‘Chinese Athletes’ in 1869. “A company of Chinese athletes astonished the people of San Francisco, recently, with an exhibition of their agility. About 15 of them appeared on the stage amid the din and clangour of gongs and kettle-drums. They first fought a sham battle with swords, cleavers, pole-axes, lances and short knives. The fencing was very rapid, and each fighter was an expert. Still one warrior stood against a host. He disarmed his antagonists as fast as they came; hurled them about the stage; stabbed them, hewed them with broad-axes, hacked them with swords, butted them with his head, kicked them in the breast with both feet at once, and yet found time to execute handsprings and vaulting somersaults among them as he fought. At last he vanquished all his foes and the half-naked rascals took to flight. He pursued. Some rough tables were ranged along the front of the stage to represent hedges, rocks, logs, and banks, which must obstruct pursued and pursuer alike. The runners vaulted the tables, turning lofty summersaults over each, landing indifferently on their feet, hands, heads or backs, as the case might be, and that too on a hard stage, covered only with a few strips of matting. The victorious fighter, a splendid acrobat, was always after them. Several times one of his foes would turn and face him, when he would bound high in the air, and plunging down, plant both feet in the breast of his adversary with such force as to send him headlong across the stage. The Alta says that if ever a troupe of these sturdy and well-trained athletes were put to a fair test of physical activity and strength, they could handle a regiment of the lazy, lank-limbed, whisky-sodden ruffians and cowards who make a pastime of stoning, beating, and throwing about Chinamen in the public streets of this city.” 5

An exhibition of Chinese Boxing was held in the Comique Theatre, Butte Montana in 1887 before an audience composed primarily of miners and labourers. “The most amusing soft glove contest that ever took place in the Territory came off at the New Comique last Monday night. Before the meeting of the Celestial gladiators one of them went through an imaginary fight with dozen or more enemies. His weapon was a pole or stick about six feet in length, which was supposed to be a spear, and the lively manner in which he impaled his unseen combatants would have made a Roman warrior die with envy. He then took two murderous looking knives and showed how a disciple of Confucius carved up his man. It was a novel and interesting exhibition and simply proved that the Chinese were several thousand years behind the times in warfare with small arms. 

But the soft glove act took the immense house by storm. They knew as little about the “manly art” as they did of Greek, and swung their arms and pushed each other like two great overgrown babies. It was a bloodless affair, not a blow that would injure mosquito being struck, but their antics and awkward movements furnished a car-load or fun for the audience, and kept it in a continuous roar of laughter. It was announced they would appear again.” 6

A number of challenge matches took place in Chinese communities in the USA at the end of the nineteenth century and were reported in British and American newspapers. According to a report of a match which took place in New York in 1890. “A Chinese fight is a peculiar affair; it differs from the American and the English prize fight materially. The Americans use their fists, which the Chinese consider brutal; the Celestials use their feet and considers that method, which to every American appears inhuman, perfectly fair and allowable. The champion Chinese fighter, the John L. Sullivan of New York’s Mott Street, is Ah Giang, also female impersonator of the Suen Tien Lok Theatrical Company. Le Toy, a heavy weight Mongol, and Foo Jung, head acrobat of the company, will testify that Ah Giang is a dandy with his pedal extremities. They have bumped up against him to their sorrow. Giang and Jung fought recently in the Chinese quarters of New York. They appeared in full ring costume, which, by the way is very elaborate. Each of Giang’s legs was wrapped in about fifteen yards of black tweed, an inch wide, his green silk blouse was sleeveless, but tight fitting, and his arms were bare. Half a dozen yards of soft cotton material was twisted around his head and his feet were encased in thin sandals bound with thongs. Foo Jung was similarly attired. The fighting costumes are very costly. The one which Giang wore was worth $150.

 HARRY COOK ARTICLE4 EnhancedThe Chinese boxing rules will allow a man to do everything but bite. The only unfair advantage which can be taken of an opponent is to kick him when down. Everything else goes.

 Giang’s methods are peculiar. Here is one: Jung reached for Giang’s face with both hands. In an instant he was seized by one wrist and made to spin around like a top, and as he came face about he received a swinging right hander on the cheek bone and a kick which was landed by the agile Giang somewhere under the right armpit. It was almost a knock out at the start, for as he fell to his knees Giang rushed at him and struck him under the chin with his knee. He fell over backward, and the few spectators on the stools signified approval: ‘Ho sho shay.’

Another scheme was to drop suddenly on the knees and butt Jung in the stomach. Here the ability of the acrobat was brought into play. Jung jumped over the kneeling form with one bound, at the same time giving Giang a terrific kick In the ribs. This made Giang mad. He kicked, cuffed, punched and butted the unfortunate Jung unmercifully. Frequently Jung would be obliged to jump over Giang in order to escape punishment, but the wiry athlete was on the lookout, and he would no sooner gain the floor than a kick back of the knee joint would send him rolling over and over. Although it may seem ridiculous to call such style of fighting scientific, nevertheless it is so considered by all Chinese, who in return stigmatize American boxing as brutal, inhuman and utterly devoid of science or merit.” 7

Ah Giang and Foo Jung demonstrated Chinese boxing to fans of Western boxing. “A boxing exhibition took place at No. 91 Orange Street, Brooklyn, last night… The most interesting and amusing feature of the evening’s entertainment, however, was the set to between Ah Giang and Foo Jung, Chinese athletes. It was said to be the first time that two Chinese ever gave an exhibition in public in America of the art of self-defence. The Oriental scrappers were introduced by Mr. Wong, who in a well-spoken address to the audience asked the indulgence of those present for what they might consider the ludicrous side of the bout. He explained that the Chinese and American styles of fighting were as different as the physiognomies of the races. Giang was a champion light weight in his native country. He had never yet been vanquished. Foo Jung was less noted, but was still rated well.

The Chinamen then got to work. They fought without gloves and used hands and feet in gaining points. When Jung would poke Giang in the side Giang would kick Jung in the hip. Both were fantastically arrayed in Eastern garb, neither showed any part of their body except their hands. Two mattresses were used to prevent their being hurt by falling. Jung had a comical way of stepping about the ring that would have afforded Comedian Wilson, had he been present some good points for arousing laughter.

The idea on the part of the contestants seemed to be to avoid as much as possible hitting each other. Every once in a while they would forget themselves and land a slap on the other fellows face or neck or body. Every time Jung received such a whack be would put his hand to the place struck and his face would assume a most surprised look. Several times when one of the Chinese would get thrown be would give a kick that sent his adversary in turn on his back. Jiang seemed the quicker of the two with feet and hands. There were four rounds, at the end of which both combatants seemed to be pretty well winded.” 8

One match was presented as a Chinese version of a Western ‘prize fight.’ “Pugilism is not the rage it was not so long ago, but the desire of the Chinese to do what Americans do, resulted in the first prize fight ever known in Chinatown of the metropolis. It happened on a night last week in a room of a grocery store and was witnessed by the local celestial sports, every one of whom, as it happened, aptly illustrated the old saying of the fool and his money being soon parted. Nominally the fight was for a $20 purse, the fight being to a finish without gloves. But the bare knuckles as weapons do not adequately describe the regular Chinese prize fight. No Marquis of Queensbury rules or those of the London prize ring govern such contests.

Indeed, a ring is regarded as a superfluity. The combatants may and generally do kick, punch, claw, bite, wrestle, jump upon each other or dig each other’s eyes out. Weapons alone are barred. It may well be supposed that under such conditions a Chinese prize fight is a lively affair. It is; but then every laundry man wants lots for his money. Such a thing as a foul is unknown in the Chinese prize ring. The oriental considers every species of assault with the natural weapons justifiable, and it is not until one of the bruisers is a temporary corpse that the sponge is allowed to be thrown up.

It seems that Lee Yen is the champion boss athlete of Chinatown. He stands six feet two and weighs 225 pounds. So when the Connecticut champion, Wong Hoy, of five feet three and 120 pounds, issued a sweeping challenge for the Chinese championship of America, Lee Yen boasted, with much merriment, how he would ‘do’ Wong Hoy with one hand. When time was called by… the referee, Wong dodged a gigantic kick and hurried round to Lee’s back, where, after a sounding kick in the small of the back, he buried his sharp claws in Lee’s face, raining kick after kick on his body all the time. Then, suddenly releasing his hold, Wong dived under Lee’s legs, and the first the giant knew he was lying like a log on the floor. A few jumps up and down upon Lee’s stomach and sundry digs at his face to start the blood, deprived him of his senses for the time being, and the referee awarded Wong the fight and the stakes. As he was his sole backer, his winnings were enormous, comparatively. Such is Chinese pugilism, and its essential features, if adopted in the American prize ring, would doubtless relieve the community of its pugilists. What feather, middle or heavy weight could stand such tactics as those allowed in the case of Wong Hoy and Lee Yen?”  9

A similar event took place in San Francisco in 1892. “The heathen have enjoyed a sensation in the shape of a prize fight, which took place recently at San Francisco. The two exponents of the Chinese method of pugilism… were Ng Ah Goon and Shoy Fung. The pair had been boasting of their prowess with bare knuckles, and finally arranged a match. The time set for the contest was half-past eleven o’clock, and the roof of the three-story structure on Fish-alley, adjoining the Jackson Street Restaurant, was chosen for the scene of the fight. Upon the roof of the neighbouring building the Chinese sports gathered in great numbers, and had taken up their stations fully an hour before the programme was to be commenced. Punctually at half-past eleven p.m. Ng Ah Goon and Shoy Fong appeared at the scene of the contest. Without shaking hands, and dispensing with the other edifying formalities practiced in civilised prize contests, they advanced to the fray. At first there was a showing made to comply with the Marquess of Queensbury rules, but after a few onslaughts they were totally disregarded. The combatants swung their arms about like windmills but the changed their tactics at the signs of dissatisfaction that were being manifested by the audience. Then stepping back a few paces, they lowered their heads, extended their arms and made a rush for each other. A painful collision resulted and both men were thrown to the roof. Shoy Fong took up a sitting position, being thrown backward and Ah Goon fell over him. Both men looked dazed, but they were encouraged to resume operations. The prize fighters arose, looked about at the spectators, and then turned their heads to glare at each other. All endeavour to separate the rounds failed when the combatants got together for the third time. It was a mill on a grand scale. The spectators were driven into ecstasy, and would have cheered if it not for fear that the police would be attracted to the scene and end the contest.

For over half an hour Ng Ah Goon and Shoy Fong clawed, hammered and scratched each other like demons. They attempted to pinch the flesh from each other’s faces, and, failing to do so, scratched with their long nails. An effort was made to separate the enraged men, but they were seized with frenzy, and they rushed at each other like tigers. They sprang upon each other’s necks and tore at each other’s ears and lips. The pain occasioned by the wounds from which blood was flowing had transformed the friendly contest into a frenzied fight. As their furious onslaughts became more frequent the combatants weakened. They were only too willing at last to be carried away by friends. And they were pitiable spectacles to behold. Ng Ah Goon’s ear had been nearly torn off in the struggles. His lips were torn and his face was frightfully furrowed by his opponent’s nails. Shoy Fong also bore strong evidence of his connection with the contest. His cheeks were torn, and there was a great gaping wound under his right eye. His ears bore evidence and having been wrenched and wrung. Both men were covered in blood. They were carried away and it will be many days before they are fit to bring themselves about the streets of the Chinese quarter. Though the fight was fast and furious yet it was a draw. As yet no Chinese spectator has been found who is willing to express and opinion as to the superior merits of either man.” 10

Fights were arranged by the Chinese community in Honolulu, Hawaii. “It is seldom one runs across Chinese wrestlers in this city, but when he does, and two of them come together for a friendly encounter, then he is ready to say in good faith, he has ‘seen a circus.’ In a dirty lighted room on Nuuanu street the other night a little knot of a dozen or so Chinese sports gathered together to see two recognized professional Chinese wrestlers try conclusions with each other. The two out from a little ante-root each with but a scrap of clothing on. Upon arriving in the middle the floor they bowed and eyed each other for fully two minutes. Recognizing that time was passing they set to work. The wrestling was very peculiar and it was learned, was the kind used in the north of China, from which place the best exponents of the art come. 

It consists of a series of pushes, kicks and dodges which follow quickly upon one another that it hard to tell which is which. The climax was capped by one of the contestants hitting the other in the face flat-footed. He sprawled over and the victor put his foot on the vanquished, imitating at the same time the crowing of a cock.” 11

Western interest in Chinese martial arts was stimulated by the Boxers who, in accordance with the Biblical injunction (Deuteronomy 13) to use ‘the edge of the sword” on all those who tempt the population to worship other gods, rose in revolt against Western influence in China at the end of the nineteenth century.

In August 1900 an American newspaper published an article on “Chinese ‘Boxer’ vs. American Boxer.” “The attention of the whole civilised world is at present attracted by the Chinese Boxers. One of the principal features of the society is boxing. It mingles the manly art with superstitious rites and strange practices.  But boxing as practiced by the members of the Chinese secret society is very different from the art as known in America and Europe.  To illustrate the differences between the occidental and oriental pugilistic methods the Evening World brought a Chinese Boxer and an American boxer face to face in actual combat. The Chinese Boxer was Loy Fun, who is an expert in the peculiar methods used by the famous society. He is a Chinaman of powerful build weighing nearly 170 lbs., lithe and agile, and an athlete from the Chinese standpoint.

His opponent was Chuck Connors, the well-known Chinatown character. Chuck is an ex-pugilist. The Evening World photographer ensured snapshots of the men while they were fighting. The Chinese Boxer does nearly all of his fighting with his hands open. He does not wear gloves. He closes his fist on rare occasions, ordinarily using his hands with the fingers doubled from the second knuckle. He fights with hands, feet, elbows and head.


HARRY COOK ARTICLE6 EnhancedAn effort to blind an opponent is shown in picture No. 2. The blow by which this is done is very similar to the throat blow except that the fingers are fully extended. A very peculiar Boxer blow is shown in the third illustration. Using the left leg as a pivot the Boxer gives his opponent a terrible kick with the side and heel of his foot, and throwing his body forward lands both fists together with the backs of the hands upward in his antagonist’s solar-plexus or the pit of his stomach. The camera caught Loy Fun just as he started to deliver the blow. In the bout shown in No. 4 Loy Fun dodging a jab from Chuck’s left, threw his right knee behind Chuck’s left, and swinging his body around, landed his right elbow in the American’s solar plexus. A somewhat similar leg movement is used when the Boxer seized the left wrist of his enemy with his left wrist, gets the extended arm back of his head and throwing his own right forearm against the back of his antagonist’s pinioned arm breaks it as he falls backward.

In No. 5 Chuck led with his left for the Chinaman’s head. Loy Fun swiftly swept his left around and grabbed Chuck’s extended arm at the wrist. Then throwing his own right knee forward so as to get leverage the Boxer with his right seized Chuck under the left thigh and in a moment threw him on his back. By this movement a Boxer is often able to give his enemy such a heavy fall that he is completely disabled.” 12

Chinese Boxing techniques were described in 1900. “The mighty Chin On, the Chinese Sharkey, now in New York, is revelation to those who have looked upon the Celestial as a weakling. The Chinese method of fighting is entirely different from ours. No blows are barred, and the only idea is to knock your man out as quickly as possible. If a kick on the shin or a drive below the belt will do it, those are the tricks considered proper. Their system is the most vicious to be found anywhere today on the globe. The scientific Chinese fighter has a repulsive way of jabbing his extended first and second fingers into his opponent’s eyes, thus blinding him, while with the other hand he chokes his victim by crushing his windpipe between the knuckles. The first and second fingers of the right hand are almost invariably used for the blinding process, and the windpipe is usually caught between the knuckles of the left hand, or the fingers, extended, are pushed deep into his neck in an effort to strangle the victim.” 13

Sometimes Chinese Boxing methods were used for self-defence. Although the following report refers to “a jujutsu twist” it is more likely that it is actually describing a Chinese method of self-defence. “William Josephs, who is twenty-five years old and lives at No. 49 East Ninth street, was arrested in a Harlem shopping crowd last night on the charge of having robbed Timothy T. Lew, a Chinese upper class man of Columbia University

Mr. Lew, who lives at No. 512 West 122dstreet, went into 125th street with Miss Yoeh Ndoo Yu, a Chinese girl, who is a student at Teachers College and lives at Whittier Hall. She is short in stature and Mr. Lew is not much taller.

They went into a department store to make some purchases and as they entered several suspicious looking young men followed. Miss Yu cautioned her companion to look out for pickpockets. Hardly had she spoken when someone jostled Mr. Lew. Miss Yu turned and sprang upon one of the men, seizing him by the neck with a firm hold. With a jujitsu twist Miss Yu threw him to the floor and placed her knee on his chest, still maintaining her grip.

The other young men tried to force the Chinese girl away from her prisoner, but the vigorous work of Mr. Lew and other men in the store prevented. Someone ran for a policeman, and the prisoner’s would-be rescuers disappeared. When Detective Bloom arrived he tried to persuade Miss Yu to release her hold. The man was pale and choking for breath, but that didn’t make a particle of difference to the girl. She said she would release him as soon as a policeman came in uniform.

Bloom figured that he had better call a policeman or in a few minutes he might have to call the Coroner, so Policeman Gabel was summoned. At sight of the uniform the girl released her hold and allowed the weakened prisoner to get up. He had been choked for fifteen minutes.

At the West 123d street station the prisoner was accused of robbery. Cash and two money orders for $65 and $58 that Mr. Lew had in his wallet were missing.”14

What is probably the first English language account of jujutsu was written by the American Dr. William Elliot Griffis who worked as a teacher in Japan in the early 1870s. In his work The Mikado’s Empire he described the kendo and jujutsu training he witnessed. “At one end of the buildings were large, open places devoted to physical exercise. Several exhibitions of trials of skill in fencing and wrestling were then made for my benefit. Six of the students repaired to the armoury and put on the defensive mail, to shield themselves in the rough work before them - as Japanese swords are for use with both hands, having double-handed hilts without guards. The foils for fencing are made of round, split bamboo, and a good blow will make one smart, and bruise the flesh. So the fencing-master and students first donned a corselet, with shoulder-plates of hardened hide padded within, and heavily padded gauntlets. On their heads were wadded caps, having a barred visor of stout iron grating. Taking their places, with swords crossed, they set to. All the passes are cutting blows, thrusting being unknown. Pretty severe whacks are given, and some bruising done, spite of armour. Foils are used up like lances in a tournament. The young men kept up the mimic battle for fifteen minutes, or as long as their wind and muscle lasted, and the severe ordeal was over, the victory being won by those who had given what would have been disabling wounds had swords been used. Then followed, by another set of students, the spear exercise. Long spears were used first, and several fine passes in carte and tierce were made; the offensive and defensive were tried alternately, to show me all the various thrusts and foils of the science. The party having short spears succeeded, the manoeuvres being different. So far it was mere scientific display, no one being severely punched. At a signal of the clappers another set took blunt spears, leaped into the arena, and a sham fight began, the thrusts being real lunges that knocked down and bruised the limbs or damaged the breathing apparatus of the man put hors du combat quite badly. In about five minutes half the party were down, and the remainder, all crack lances, continued the battle for several minutes longer, with some fine display, but no mortal thrusts. They were called off, and the men with sword and cross-spear began a trial of skill. The cross spear is long, like a halberd, with a two-edged blade set at right angles across it within six inches from the top. It is intended especially for defense against a sword, or a horse soldier. In this instance, one or two of the swordsmen were jerked to the floor or had their helmets torn off; while, on the other side, the halberdiers suffered by having their poles struck by severing blows of their opponents’ swords or actually received the “pear-splitter” stroke which was supposed to cleave their skulls. Next followed wrestling. Though a cold day in winter, the students were dressed only in coarse sleeveless coats of hemp cloth. Approaching each other, they clinched and threw. The object seemed to be to show how an unarmed man might defend himself. Wrestlings and throwings were followed by sham exhibitions that bore a frightful resemblance to real choking, dislocation of arm, wringing of the neck, etc. Throughout the exhibition, the contestants, while attacking each other, uttered unearthly yells and exclamations. I was highly impressed with the display, and could not fail to admire the splendid, manly physique of many of the lads.” 15

Women and girls training in jujutsu 1911
Women and girls training in jujutsu 1911

Jujutsu was seen to be an effective self-defence method for women. An account from 1905 described what happened to a professional boxer when he behaved inappropriately towards a young Japanese woman in New York. “A little 90 lb. Japanese maiden gave an exhibition of jujitsu in a crowded New York police court recently. Miss Misako Sota one afternoon was annoyed in the street by John McCullum, a sparring partner of the famous prize-fighter Terry McGovern. Instantly she seized him by the wrists, threw him over her head on the pavement, and asked a policeman to arrest him for insulting a lady. The Harlem magistrate, who was hearing the case asked Miss Sota, since she could not speak English, to illustrate what she did. At first she demurred, but the superintendent of police joined the magistrate in his demand, and an interpreter weighing 160 lb. stepped forward. McCullum moved back, fearing that the experiment would be tried on him. Miss Sota grasped the interpreter’s wrist and sent him flying through the air, landing on the floor with a thud that shook the room. The spectators, who had climbed upon the court benches, loudly cheered, and the magistrate laughed heartily, McCullum remarking drily, ‘She threw me even higher than that.’ Defendant was fined 5 dols., while Miss Sota left the court with a broad smile.” 16

Jujutsu 1905. The similarity to karate stances, punches and blocks is clear
Jujutsu 1905. The similarity to karate
stances, punches and blocks is clear

 Women were able to defend themselves against ruffians in the street. “While inspecting the books in a friend’s library six months ago Miss Mary Steckler of 161 West Sixty-third Street saw a work treating of the Japanese art of self-defense, jiu jitsu. Miss Steckler read the book carefully, and practiced some of the grips and holds described. Last night Miss Steckler had an opportunity to test what she had learned, and she afterward told the police of the West Sixty-eighth Street Station that she thought every woman should learn jiujitsu. Miss Steckler was walking in Central Park West near Sixty-third Street about 10 o’clock last night when she was attacked by a negro, who grabbed at her pocketbook. Miss Steckler didn’t scream and then faint. Instead she showed fight and seized her assailant. He pushed her against the stone fence and growled: ‘Give me that pocketbook; if you don’t I’ll kill you.’

‘I’ll do no such thing,’ replied Miss Steckler. ‘I’ll hand you over to the police.’ Then she called for help, meantime holding the negro so that he could not strike her. Patrolman Donohue of the West Sixty-eighth Street Station heard her and arrested the negro… 

At the police station the man gave the name of Harold Parker of 328 West Sixty-first Street. Miss Steckler was commended for her bravery. ‘It’s a wonder you didn’t faint when this man attacked you,’ said the desk Sergeant. ‘Not at all,’ she replied, coolly ‘I wouldn’t run from any man of that kind who lives.’” 17

HARRY COOK ARTICLE9In July 1922 Hironori Ohtsuka (1892-1982) became a student of Gichin Funakoshi and began training at the Meiseijuku. Ohtsuka says that in the early 1920s there was a lot of interest in karate, so much so that “I seriously considered traveling to Okinawa to find out about karate. 18

Ohtsuka’s extensive experience of the atemi (attacking the vital points) methods of Shinto Yoshin Ryu jujutsu helped him to quickly assimilate the techniques of Funakoshi’s karate. Ohtsuka explained “There was an amazing similarity to Funakoshi’s karate. In fact, he was astonished when he saw me demonstrate atemi and was sure I had been practising karate.” 19

Although jujutsu is often perceived simply as a form of grappling or wrestling Ohtsuka’s comments draw attention to the fact that jujutsu practitioners utilise a wide range of kicks, punches and strikes. An American journalist explained in 1905 that “An advanced form of jiu jitsu includes boxing, the blows being studied to produce either instant death or prolonged unconsciousness by reaching certain points on the body and head known only to advanced Jiu Jitsu trainers.” 20

According to Dr. R. Tait McKenzie writing in 1906 “It is to be remembered that blows with the edge of the hand across the larynx, gouging and other tactics, which we bar in our boxing and wrestling, are important manoeuvres. Kicking the face or groin, stepping on the leg or arm so as to break it are not only permissible, but are part of the art. It was never considered from the standpoint of a play, but as the last resort of a disarmed man whose life was threatened; and one cannot stop to consider the rules of fair play under such circumstances.” 21

The same technique shown by Gichin Funakoshi in 1925  and a British jujutsu instructor teaching troops in 1915
The same technique shown by Gichin Funakoshi in 1925 and a British jujutsu instructor teaching troops in 1915
Jujutsu knife hand strike 1904
Jujutsu knife hand strike 1904
Jujutsu 1904
Jujutsu 1904

An article in The Sporting Life (1909) discussed the type and efficacy of the blows used in jujutsu. “Every blow that the wiliest professional fighter is acquainted with for achieving so much - kidney, solar plexus, point of the jaw, upper cut, heart punch - is known to the Japanese ju-jitsuan, besides several others the boxer knows nothing of at all. Certainly this will be news to many, but none the less such are the facts. True, the ju-jitsuan does not strike his blows with his clenched fist; he has evolved, what, to him, appears a far more formidable means of delivery. Some of the blows are made with the edge of the hand, the wrist, and the finger-tips. He has physiological reasons for believing that his blows are the more effective. Certainly they do not disfigure as a punch with the clenched fist may, but they do the trick; they knock the man out, and when he recovers he has no immediate wish for further fighting. Nay, so powerful are some of the blows the ju-jitsuan can deliver that death even will result; but these he will never make use of except it be when his own life is in danger. No doubt it will be scoffingly said that a blow given with the edge of the hand cannot be so heavy or disastrous in its effects as one dealt with the full strength of the arm with all the weight of the body behind it. Precisely, but the pugilist knows himself that it is not the force of his pile-drivers which knock a man out, it is those blows which land on a vulnerable spot, and those blows need not be with all the strength and weight of the body behind them… 22

Front kick from a jujutsu book published in 1913
Front kick from a jujutsu book
published in 1913
Elbow strike from a jujutsu book  published in Osaka 1913
Elbow strike from a jujutsu book
published in Osaka 1913

E. J. Harrison says that he was taught a kind of front kick (mae-geri) when he began training in Japan in 1898 in the dojo of the Tenshin Shinyo Ryu jujutsu teacher Ryoshinsai Hagiwara. He wrote “On an Atemi chart bequeathed to me by my first Jujutsu teacher of the Tenshin Shinyo Ryu at Yokohama, this spot (suigetsu - the solar plexus) is described as the most secret of that school. When kicking your opponent in this spot, keep the toes curved and deliver the blow with the ball of the foot.” Harrison explains “The method being based upon the assumption that the combatants would be barefooted, the kick is not delivered with the toes, but with the ball of the foot: the kick is given with a swift staccato movement, the foot being withdrawn like lightning after the kick. Constant practice on these lines renders the expert’s soles so hard that he can kick not only human flesh but inanimate objects of wood or even stone with comparative impunity.” 23  “Hagiwara was assuredly a kicker par excellence, for I have seen him with the ball of his bare foot kick one of the wooden corner posts of the dojo with what such force as seemingly to shake the house to its foundations. What is more, whilst squatting in front of another squatting vis-a-vis he could release one of his legs with lightning-like rapidity, deal his victim a kick in a vital spot but so lightly as not to hurt him, and almost as swiftly restore his leg to its original position.”24

In an article on “The Japanese Art of Jiu-Jitsu” (1905) H. Irving Hancock (1868-1922) includes a photograph of Katsukuma Higashi demonstrating a front kick as part of a defence to a lapel grab.25 Katsukuma Higashi was asked how he would defeat the then world heavyweight boxing champion Jim Jeffries. He replied “I know Mr. Jeffries is the strongest man in America, but his boxing would not beat a good jiu jitsu man… he would box, maybe I would kick. There are many kicking tricks. 

Training dummies used in ju-jutsu to develop impact. From a work published in Tokyo in 1921
Training dummies used in ju-jutsu to develop impact. From a work published in Tokyo in 1921

Maybe I would go to the ground and so he could not hit me and roll in where I could take a first hold on his leg. It is easy to break a leg with a kick from the ground.” 26

Hand and arm blows taught in jujutsu
Hand and arm blows taught in jujutsu

An article in a September 1930 edition of Popular Mechanics Magazine referred to the use of strikes in jujutsu. “If you knew how to disable a man with a slight punch from the stiffened fingers of either hand, or to knock him senseless with a light stroke of the thin side of that hand, would you consider yourself well equipped to defend yourself. If you knew how to grip a man, with one hand, so as to paralyse his arm or his leg, you would be well prepared for any attack. Yet there are twelve such blows and more than twelve such grips in the art of self-defense as developed in Japan and called jiu-jitsu… The master of jiu-jitsu has at his command some 250 holds, punches (more properly ‘pokes’), blows and tricks of falling. It is doubtful if one-tenth of these have been exhibited or demonstrated outside Japan. More than a score of them are known only to a very limited number of Japanese athletes, who are sworn never to reveal them. At least ten of the really deadly blows - remembering that there are twelve capable of causing death - probably never will be seen outside Japan. One of these is a comparatively light blow, given with the side of the hand which has been hardened by long pounding on a plank, delivered directly at the base of the nose. Another is a powerful punch with the stiffened fingers and arm (usually the right) just under the jawbone and beneath the ear. A third is a slashing blow with the side of the hand across either side or the back of the neck, as close to the skull as possible.”27

Techniques which are sometimes thought of as modern developments were taught in the nineteenth and early twentieth century. For example the hook kick or reverse roundhouse kick was demonstrated in Great Britain in the early 1900s. The strongman and jujutsu promoter William Bankier (1870-1949) asked Sadakazu Uyenishi (1880-?) of the Tenshin Shindo Ryu to demonstrate how to defend against a punch. Bankier writes “Uyenishi… was standing in front of me in the attitude of a boxer. I made a lunge at his face with my left arm. Like a flash he turned a complete pirouette or circle. As the circle is completed his right leg was in the air. It was then brought back with all his power and met me a crashing blow.”28

HARRY COOK ARTICLE19 EnhancedH. Irving Hancock, author and student of jujutsu and Japanese methods of physical training, included an exercise in one of his works published in 1917 that closely resembles the way basic punching is taught in karate. He wrote “First position is taken by clenching the fists and bringing the elbows smartly and well back over the hips, forearms horizontal, palms up. From this position make a quick thrust forward, arms horizontal on a level with the shoulders and palms downward. In striking out to the second position one should use real striking vim, as if the head of an arch enemy were in exact range. On recovering to the first position the elbows should be brought smartly back. Repeat the combined movement briskly fifteen or twenty times, inhaling as the fists are shot forward and exhaling as the elbows are brought back.” 29

There is evidence to show that tameshiwari was practiced in Japan well before karate was introduced in the 1920s. William Bankier referred to what we would now call a shuto or “knife hand.” He observed “Few people are aware that a blow struck in such a way by a man who has made a speciality of this peculiar form of assault, the knockout blow as we know it is nothing by comparison. A downward cut… across the carotid artery running down the side of the neck, could fell the strongest man, provided it was delivered by one who understood how to do it. This form of striking was used by the Samurai or soldiers of Japan, but has now pretty well died out for want of practice. Some of the Japs who made a study of this sort of thing have been known to actually break very large stones with their bare hand. To such an extent had these men developed the heel or side part of the hand that it became almost as hard as stone, and in many cases death has been known to ensue as the result of one of their terrible blows.” 30

In a similar way to karateka conditioning their hands and feet on the makiwara and related training tools, practitioners of jujutsu also toughened their natural weapons. H. Irving Hancock, writing in 1904, said “This work of toughening the hand may be carried on at all times, and the importance of doing it should never be forgotten. One may do the work as well by repeatedly striking the edge of the hand against the wooden arm of a chair, or upon the surface of a desk. At the outset this work should be done with the lightest blows possible, and the force of the blow should be but very gradually increased as the weeks go by. Whenever the edge of the hand becomes lame it is a sure sign that this exercise is being too severely done. A fairly hard edge of the hand should not be expected within six months. A student who devotes a few minutes at a time to this hand work, on three or four occasions through the day, will find that a year’s persistence will enable him to duplicate the Japanese performance of breaking a stick with the edge of the hand.”31 According to an account published in 1916 “many bone-breaking tricks are done with a sharp blow delivered with the side of the hand. The jiu-jitsu student practices hitting a board until in time he can break a heavy plank with his hand. After that an arm or a collar-bone is as easy to break as a match.”32

Japanese jujutsu teacher Teiichi Yamagata taught that a student who persevered in this kind of training would develop a weapon that could break a boxer’s wrist; “boxing has no real value when opposed to jiu-jitsu… no matter how swiftly and hard the boxer hits out, his wrist can be readily dislocated or broken by a blow delivered with the open hand of the jiujitsu-shi.

This blow, as delivered with the edge of the open hand, is marvellously efficacious when properly given. One teacher of jiu-jitsu, whom I knew at home, had his hand so well trained that with this blow he was able to break a marble table an inch and a quarter in thickness. I have seen him do it.”33

Katsukuma Higashi also mentioned breaking marble. “A number of masters of Judo can break a pretty thick piece of marble tablet with a blow dealt by the edge of their open hands.”34 He also referred to attacking with nukite (spearhand). “Jiu jitsu experts execute a trick that might well be termed a first cousin to the boxer’s solar plexus punch. It consists of a blow in the solar plexus delivered with the fingers straightened and stiffened, the forefinger (or pointer) and the middle finger. These fingers are projected violently into the solar plexus and twisted in a peculiar manner, completely paralyzing this nerve centre… The blow also produces breathlessness, and, in cases of poorly trained men, nausea.” To develop the ability to perform such techniques “the hand must be toughened by at least six months exercise, so that with the edge a blow may be struck to break the arm or neck.”35 Once correctly conditioned the hand became a lethal weapon. “The expert in jiu-jitsu can, with a single swift blow with the edge of his hand, break a man’s spine, dislocate his wrist or ankles – in fact, kill him with the most perfect ease.”36

Conditioning and developing the natural weapons of the body was cultivated in jujutsu. Lady Katherine Lawson visited Japan in 1910 and took lessons from Jigoro Kano and senior teachers of the Kodokan. One of the training methods she practiced was to condition the edge of her hand. She wrote “In jujutsu the clenched fist is not used as in boxing. The Japanese tried boxing many hundreds of years ago, and… they discovered… that a blow from the little finger edge of the palm was much more deadly, because a blow from the fist distributes itself over too great a surface… the clenched hand has less deadly power than the edge of the palm. That being the case, of course the first thing is to harden that particular part, and during my initial enthusiasm for the art, English friends might have laughed to see me on the veranda outside my room, reading a book held in one hand, and striking the other violently meanwhile against any hard substance. It seemed ridiculous, but one day I was consoled by watching an athletic-looking newly-arrived Englishman at the hotel doing exactly the same thing. I felt then that what a strong man did publicly and without any evident feeling of abasement, one of the weaker sex might also venture to do.”37

Many writers commented on the importance of conditioning the hands, in particular what a modern karate ka would call a knife hand strike. Yae Kichi Yabe wrote that “skill in the use of the ‘hand’s edge’ may be acquired by striking a stick suspended by a cord or one thrown in the air. This practice will also harden the edge of the hand which is essential to the successful application on the hand’s edge.’”38  This kind of training was taught to Western jujutsu students; W. H. Garrud observed in 1914 that “The Japanese always strike with the edge of the hand, and they practice striking a stick or piece of wood for the purpose of making the edge of the hand hard.”39 Manly P. Hall refers to striking a piece of “polished hardwood” which may hint at something like a makiwara. “One of the methods used to harden the hand is to strike its percussion edge a certain number of times a day against a panel of polished hardwood, gradually increasing the force with each blow struck. At first this bruises the hand and causes considerable pain, but later a hardened condition sets in which finally permits the jujutsuka to strike the wood with every ounce of strength he possesses without serious discomfort. It is readily apparent, therefore, how the hand when so trained can kill an opponent with a single blow.” 40

HARRY COOK ARTICLE20 EnhancedK. Yamanaka included a comprehensive section on atemi in his book written in 1918. “Not only, therefore, must you learn where and how to hit, and practice it, but also you must try to acquire skill in striking, poking and kicking by constant practice. But atemi-waza is not like any other trick, as its exercise is very dangerous, so beginners should not attempt the practice of these tricks before they have improved and trained their muscles and learned how to move about freely by the practice of other methods. We would suggest for the practice of these tricks, however, hitting upon the points of a figure of a man drawn upon the wall, or some other idea, with their fists, elbows, knees or feet. Even beginners can gain benefit by indulging in this practice, without injuring anybody. In this way you can do this practice by yourself any time when it is convenient.

Where and How to Apply

Every kind of atemi-waza is performed by striking, poking or kicking your opponent. It must be kept in mind that you should always bring back your fist or the foot with which you kicked to its original position, and absolutely must not leave it where it struck him. Now this is very important. If you do not do so, it would not be effective, even if you hit in the right place; on the contrary, you will be in a dangerous position.

 These tricks may be applied whether your opponent is standing or lying. See Fig. 88, which shows the points where to apply the fist, elbow and knee.

At the front:

  1. Uto. This trick is to poke or strike just between the eyebrows of your opponent. Of course, you may use your fist to hit him, but there are two ways of striking him; one with your fist, and the other with the outer side of your palm. The latter is the more effective of the two. 
  2. Jinchu. This is accomplished by striking the forehead of your enemy with the outer side of your palm. He will faint if struck with force. 
  3. Sui-getsu. This is performed by kicking just below the breast bone of your antagonist or the spot known in boxing as the ‘solar plexus.’ You may also poke the same place with your fist, elbow or knee. This is a very effective trick of atemi-waza. When you kick him, you must have the toes of the foot turned up, so that the end of the sole and not the toe is used. 
  4. Denko and Tsugi-Kage. The former is done by poking or kicking the right side (that is, somewhere about the lowest rib) of your opponent, while the latter is performed by poking or kicking the left side. 
  5. Myo-jo. This is accomplished by kicking hard the spot about an inch below the navel of your opponent. 
  6. Tsuri-gane. This trick is done by kicking the tender part of the opponent’s anatomy with your foot or your knees.”41

Unlike modern martial artists Victorian and Edwardian combat athletes did not suffer from the existential confusion caused as a result of  trying to perceive combat sports (entertainment and rules) with self-defence methods (survival and no rules) as more or less identical. It was the practicality and effectiveness of jujutsu that led the boxing writer Bohun Lynch (1884-1928) to point out that in a self-defence context “a knowledge of jujitsu is undoubtedly the most useful accomplishment. But whereas boxing can occasionally be useful in practice (though over-rated), and is a first-rate sport, jujitsu at its best can never be a true sport in the European sense, for it entails breaking bones and the infliction of all sorts of more or less serious injuries.”42 He expressed his reservations on the relevance of boxing as self-defence in his excellent Knuckles and Gloves, “But apart from war in which we now know that “fair play” is ridiculously impossible, a little friendly hurting of each other in a roped ring and cold blood will do no harm to any two men. Not as a preparation for the hardships of warfare, not necessarily as a means of self-defence, but in view of a fine ideal of physical fitness, the strain and pain of violent athletics should be perpetuated. And this, apart from the fun of the thing (which after all matters most) is the excuse and reason for amateur boxing. So let boxing be regarded as a sport, and let us leave it at that.”43

British fencer, boxer, and stick fighter R. G. Allanson Winn (1855-1935) expressed similar sentiments “the best man in a competition, conducted under particular rules, is not necessarily the best under other rules... in practical self-defence – i.e. the everyday row or assault of brutal rough or hooligan - something a little beyond the actual fair and square boxing... may come in handy, and therefore you should not neglect the practice of all kinds of catches and throws, and should be fully aware of all the mean and brutal tricks which may be played upon you... learn also all you can from first-class wrestlers of all schools - Cornish, Cumberland and Westmoreland, Japanese etc. - for your knowledge cannot be too wide and extended.” 

He advocates learning how to grapple while engaged in boxing training “on account of its great utility in actual fights.” Although he was writing about gloved boxing, the contents of his book are something of a return to the tactics and methods of the Prize Ring, as he shows the use of the ‘head in chancery’ (a headlock), ‘the back fall’, ‘the cross-buttock’, and the ‘back-heel.’ He also advocates a very direct method of dealing with knife attacks, which he deplores as ‘un-English.’ “If a man attacks you thus armed, you must get hold of his knife-hand at any cost, and then it will be a question of strength, in which wrestling would stand you in good stead; and if you can get him down you would be quite justified in hitting him, whilst on the ground, with half a brick, a stone - or doing anything in short - to completely incapacitate him. Sentiment and fine feelings should be absolutely nowhere with the ‘knifer.’”44

The same point was made by an Australian writer in 1911. “Ju-jitsu is brutal in the extreme as a sport and is degrading as a spectacle. This is a sweeping statement to make, but after being mixed up in sports of various degrees of forcefulness, I make it without the slightest hesitation.

Boxing is classed in certain quarters as a brutal pastime… There is not a single case in my memory in which a man has suffered a lasting hurt from boxing. But as for ju-jitsu - well, I think it would be hard to conceive anything more brutal; anything more barbaric, or anything more inhuman than the art the Japanese have introduced to the white races.

Ju-jitsu is a science, and as such has everything to commend it. As a means of self-defence it is a fine thing, and no person would be overburdened with the possession of some knowledge of it. But it should go no further. It should be confined to self-defence purposes. No one would have any cause to complain were that the case. But when it is brought forward as a ‘sport,’ it is up to someone to get busy and prevent this barbaric form of amusing the people from getting a hold. A few years ago it was unknown to Australians as a form of ‘amusement.’ It was recognised as a magnificent method of protection from sudden attack by footpads, but the thought of it being staged did not occur to many people.”45

The author of a letter published in an Australian newspaper in 1910 deplored the idea of allowing men with the power to kill with a single blow to fight in a jujutsu match. He wrote “I see that another jiu-jitsu match is to take place in Broken Hill. It is a crying shame that the police allow such contests to take place wherein two men come forward in public and try their utmost to maim each other for a considerable time, if not for life. Such items as kicking, and eye gouging cannot be called science, no matter how skilfully they are applied... I hear that one of the contestants in the proposed match in which ‘all-in’ tricks are to be allowed in a private demonstration recently broke a brick with his open hand. Is it possible the authorities will allow such tricks to be dealt out to another for the sake of making money? In all justice to sport I hope not.”46

Jujutsu was seen to be effective even when the attacker was armed. “Germany’s champion cat burglar has been caught in remarkable circumstances... He is Willi Kassner, who, with his brother Paul, really invented “cat burglary,” and for years practised it successfully over the country. Eventually they were arrested and sentenced to severe terms of imprisonment, but Willi recently escaped from gaol and again took to “façade-climbing” as the Germans call cat burglary. Late at night he turned his attention to the Kaiserhof Hotel, one of the best known hotels in Berlin. He clambered up to open the first-floor window and entered a room occupied by a Swiss insurance company, its director named Hollinger, and his wife. Kassner, elegantly dressed and masked, drew a revolver with the intention of holding them up while he helped himself to their belongings. But Hollinger, who happens to be a jujutsu expert, closed with the man, who fired and missed. “You came in by the window and out by the window you are going,” said the Swiss as he grappled with the intruder. Kassner struggled determinedly, but was no match for his opponent who soon had him on the balcony, where he lifted him and threw him over the railings onto the pavement below. There the police found him, badly hurt but likely to survive his unpleasant experience and to join his brother in prison again.” 47

In many ways a great many of the techniques and methods found in the ‘new’ art of karate introduced to the West after WW2 was actually already known to Western students of martial arts, but it was not organised in a coherent body of knowledge that could be taught. Something of the nature of karate was explained in what may be the first British newspaper article on karate, published in 1950. “Occupation security officers in Japan are alarmed at the increasing popularity among young Japanese of ‘Empty Hands,’ the art of using hands, feet, knees and elbows in combat, and probably the most murderous of all sports. The Japs call it Karate. Most Allied Commandos learned something about the technique during the war. It was invented in Okinawa, when the natives were forbidden by their Japanese masters to carry weapons or any sort, and now, for the same reason, the Japs are developing the technique themselves. Students in universities can be seen any day systematically pounding their fists against the trunks of trees, or wooden and cement posts. Beginners swath their hands in bandages or wear light gloves, but the advanced learner scorns such protection. After proper toughening a karate man can break a bamboo pole four inches in diameter, or shatter a roofing tile with one balanced blow of the side of his hand. Authorities estimate that at least 50,000 Japanese youths, some of them girls, are systematically practising the sport of Empty Hands. A Formosan expert, Tsai Chang-Keng, has pointed out that Empty Hands is not a truly democratic sport. ‘It has no rules,’ he explains, smiling. ‘But no matter - it is bad for an art to have rules. Rules restrict the true artist. Besides, boxing gloves spoil the blow. The karate man likes to feel and hear the ‘crunch.’”48

 1Anon, “Chinese Performance on Board the Junk,” The Illustrated London News, August 2, 1851 p148.

2Anon, “The Duke of Wellington and the ‘Celestial’ Warriors,” Illustrated London News, Vol. XII No. 318, May 27, 1848 p348.

 3Anon, “Military Tournament at North Shields,” The Shields Daily News, Tuesday July 19, 1887 p3.

 4John Henry Gray, China: History of the Laws, Manners, and Customs of the People Vol. 1, Macmillan and Co. London 1878 pp384, 397.

5 Anon, “Chinese Agility,” The Evening Telegraph, New York, Vol. 3 No. 634, July 17, 1869, p1.

6 Anon, “Chinese as Boxers,” The Semi-Weekly Miner, Butte Montana, Feb. 26, 1887 p1.

7 Anon, “A Chinese Fight,” Rome Daily Sentinel, Thursday Feb. 20, 1890.

8 Anon, “Chinese Athletes Box. They Disdain Gloves And Use Their Feet As Well As Their Hands,” New York Herald, February 28, 1890 p8.

9 Anon, “A Chinese Mill,” Rome Daily Sentinel, Tuesday Jan. 20, 1891.

10 Anon, “Chinese Pugilists A Mongol Pair Engage In A Bloody Contest,” Western Mail, Thursday 14 January 1892 p7.

11 Anon, “Chinese Wrestling,” The Pacific Commercial Advertiser, Honolulu, November 29, 1895 p3.

12 Anon, “Chinese ‘Boxer’ vs. American Boxer,” The Evening World, August 1, 1900 p5.

13 Anon, “Here is a Real Chinese Boxer,” The Bowbells Tribune September 14, 1900 p6.

 14 Anon, “Man is Choked by Chinese Girl,” New York Herald, Sunday December 21, 1913.

 15 William Elliot Griffis, The Mikado’s Empire, Harper & Brothers, Publishers, New York, 1876 pp432-433.

 16 Anon, “Ju-Jitsu in Court: How a Japanese Lady Threw A Prizefighter,” The Waterford Standard, Wednesday Morning October 25, 1905 p4.

 17 Anon, “Woman Grabs Highwayman. Uses Jiu-Jitsu to Capture Negro Who Tries to Rob Her,” The New York Times, October 21, 1905 p1.

 18 Liam Keeley “Professor Hidenori Ohtsuka,” Fighting Arts International, Vol. 5 No. 1 p28.

 19 Andy Adams, “Gichin Funakoshi,” Black Belt, Vol. IX, No. 10, October 1971 p44.

An article in a September 1930 edition of Popular Mechanics Magazine referred to the use of strikes in jujutsu. “If you knew how to disable a man with a slight punch from the stiffened fingers of either hand, or to knock him senseless with a light stroke of the thin side of that hand, would you consider yourself well equipped to defend yourself. If you knew how to grip a man, with one hand, so as to paralyse his arm or his leg, you would be well prepared for any attack. Yet there are twelve such blows and more than twelve such grips in the art of self-defense as developed in Japan and called jiu-jitsu… The master of jiu-jitsu has at his command some 250 holds, punches (more properly ‘pokes’), blows and tricks of falling. It is doubtful if one-tenth of these have been exhibited or demonstrated outside Japan. More than a score of them are known only to a very limited number of Japanese athletes, who are sworn never to reveal them. At least ten of the really deadly blows - remembering that there are twelve capable of causing death - probably never will be seen outside Japan. One of these is a comparatively light blow, given with the side of the hand which has been hardened by long pounding on a plank, delivered directly at the base of the nose. Another is a powerful punch with the stiffened fingers and arm (usually the right) just under the jawbone and beneath the ear. A third is a slashing blow with the side of the hand across either side or the back of the neck, as close to the skull as possible.”

M. K. Otoro, “Secrets of Jiu-jitsu,” Popular Mechanics Magazine Vol. 54 No. 3 Sept. 1930 p360.

20 Anon, “Japs Will Hold Jiu Jitsu Meet” Los Angeles Herald, May 8, 1905 p5.

 21 R. Tait McKenzie M.D., “The Legacy of the Samauri” (sic), American Physical Education Review Vol. XI No. 4 December 1906 p223.

22 A Special Correspondent, “Knock-Out Blows,” The Sporting Life, Tuesday August 31, 1909 p1.

 23 E. J. Harrison, The Manual of Judo, W. Foulsham & Co. Ltd, London 1953 p157.

 24 E. J. Harrison, “Famous Judo Masters I Have Known,” Judo Quarterly Bulletin (Budokwai) Vol. 1 No 4 January 1946 p39.

25 H. Irving Hancock, “The Japanese Art of Jiu-Jitsu” The Review of Reviews For Australasia, March 1905, pp253-256. 

26 Robert Edgren, “How Higashi Might Kill A Man,” Evening World, March 28, 1905 p8.

27M. K. Otoro, “Secrets of Jiu-jitsu,” Popular Mechanics Magazine Vol. 54 No. 3 Sept. 1930 p360.

 28 William Bankier, Ju-Jitsu: What it Really Is, London 1905 pp126-7.
     The same technique is shown in Joseph Charlemont, La Boxe Francaise, Traite Theorique Et Practique, Librairie Militaire De J. Dumaine, Paris 1877 pp60-61. 

29 H. Irving Hancock, Physical Training for Business Men, G. P. Putnam’s Sons New York and London, 1917 p62.

30 William Bankier, Ju-Jitsu: What it Really Is, London, 1905 pp147-150.

31 H. Irving Hancock, Japanese Physical Training, G. P. Putnam’s Sons New York and London, 1904, pp8-9

 32 Anon, “The Jap’s Training,” The Sporting Chronicle, Friday, December 29, 1916, p3.

 33 Teiichi Yamagata, “Jiu-Jitsu, The Art of Self-Defense,” Leslie’s Monthly Magazine Vol. 59 No. 1 Nov. 1904-April 1905 p96.

 34 H. F. Leonard and K. Higashi, “American Wrestling vs Jujitsu,” The Cosmopolitan, May 1905 p38.

35 Katsukuma Higashi, Jiu Jitsu the Effective Japanese Mode of Self-Defense Illustrated by Snapshots of K. Koyama and A. Minami, American Sports Publishing Company, Warren Street, New York 1916 pp6, 8.

 36 Anon, “Jiu-Jitsu”, Weekly Irish Times, Saturday, April 22, 1905 p20.

 37 Lady Katherine Lawson, Highways and Homes of Japan, Frederick A. Stokes Company Publishers, New York 1910 pp120-121.

 38 Yae Kichi Yabe, A Course of Instruction in Jiu-Jitsu, Clark, Dudley & Co. 1904 p588.

39  W. H. Garrud, The Complete Jujitsuan, Methuen & Co. Ltd. London 1919 p34.

40  Manly P. Hall “Jujutsu, a Secret of the Samurai,” The Overland Monthly and Out West Magazine Volume LXXXVI, December 1928 p411. Emile Andre also refers to striking a wooden block every day for a ‘reasonable period’ in the section on attacks and defences in his work, 100 Coups de Jiu-jitsu, Ernest Flammarion, Paris 1906, p42.

41 K. Yamanaka, Jiu-jitsu, Rikko Art Company, Cleveland, Ohio 1918 pp209-212

42 Bohun Lynch, “Practical Self-Defence,” The Illustrated Sporting And Dramatic News, January 5, 1924 p34.

In 1932 middleweight boxer Mike Gibbons was appointed to teach St. Paul, Minnesota policemen fighting techniques. Simply teaching them to box was not considered to be sufficient. He stated “I will teach them aggressive fighting. When one of the boys meets a tough mug in an alley he doesn’t want to box an hour to win a decision. He wants to beat him quick.” If fists fail, the phantom suggests a kick in the shins. “There is a right way and a wrong way to kick a man,” he said, “the right way being to shoot the foot straight ahead, not up, as in booting a foot-ball.”

Anon, “Mike Teaches Police Tricks - Gibbons, Ex-Ring Phantom, Informs Cops How to Subdue Thugs,” News Pilot, San Pedro, California October 16, 1932 p7.

43 Bohun Lynch, Knuckles and Gloves, W. Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. London 1922 pp201-202.

44 R. G. Allanson-Winn and C. E. Walker, Self-Defence, Lawrence & Bullen Ltd. London 1903 p53. See also R. G. Allanson-Winn, Boxing, George Bell and Sons London 1891 pp47-62.

45 ‘Jayjell,’ “Modern Barbarism. Ju-Jitsu Not a Sport. A Devilish Japanese Invention,” The Hawera and Normanby Star, August 5, 1911 p12.

46 Humanity,’ Barrier Miner, Broken Hill, NSW, Tuesday 13 December 1910 p3.

47 The Lancashire Daily Post, Monday, November 16, 1925 p8.

48 Anon, “Japs have a New and Deadly Way of Fighting,” The Liverpool Echo, Thursday June 1, 1950 p3.