Nottheface's The Martial Chronicles: Jiu-Jitsu Conquers Australia

The story of the early origins of mixed martial arts is one that is intertwined with that of jujutsu's. Wherever jujutsu landed during its migration from Japan to the Western World a similar pattern arose, one of early exponents and demonstration, giving way to mixed contests against wrestlers and boxers, to finally converging with catch-as-catch-can wrestling and giving birth to the earliest form of mixed martial arts with all-in, anything goes contests.

The story of the early days of jujutsu in Australia was no different, although perhaps nowhere else was the story quit as interesting.


The introduction of jujutsu to Australia is often credited to Mr. Cecil Elliott, who's story resembles that of Edward Barton-Wright, the founder of Bartitsu, and his introduction of jujutsu to England and Europe. [EN1] Like Edward Barton-Wright, Cecil Elliott was an Englishman, having been born in the village of Hackelton, North Hamptonshire on May 20, 1875, and also like Wright he traveled extensively, having enlisted in the Royal Navy as an Apprentice Seaman at age 16. Eventually he would become an officer and his duties would take him to Japan where, just as Barton-Wright had done before him, he took up the study of jujutsu, obtaining first dan in Yokohama in 1904. The next year he left the Navy and relocated to Sydney, Australia, where he found employment at Mr. R.F. Young's School of Physical Culture. The school's primary focus had been on the Sandow system of physical exercise, but Mr. Young had not failed to notice the interest jujutsu was garnering around the globe (partly thanks to the efforts of Barton-Wright), advertising that [EN2]

"Schools have been established in England and America. His Excellency President Roosevelt has evinced great interest in the method by taking instruction therein from a well-known Japanese Instructor, and the United States Government are having it specially taught as SCIENCE to the young officers of the Army and Navy." [EN3]

The School of Physical Culture soon added jujutsu to the curriculum, and in early 1906, Elliott hosted a jujutsu exhibition before an audience that included the New South Wales Commissioner of Police, Mr. Mackay. It is often reported as having been the first such public demonstration of the Japanese martial art ever held in Australia. [EN4] It also proved to be a success and soon the school was flooded with inquiries from potential students. When in need of instructors for his Bartitsu club, Barton-Wright had imported jujutsukas from Japan, and so Elliott wired Yokohama, looking to do the same.

Around May of 1906 the S S Taiyan sailed in to Sydney's harbor carrying with it a pair passengers who were advertised as:

"two of the best Japanese Exponents of JU JITSU (The Gentle Art). MR JINKICHI OKURA, for the past Five Years Instructor to the Japanese Police at the Central Police School, Yokohama, and MR RYUGORO FUKISHIMA,thirteen years at Hagiwara School Yokohama during eight years of which term he was Head Assistant thereat. Also late Instructor at Kotobuki Police Station ,Yokohama. These INSTRUCTORS have ACTUALLY TAUGHT in JAPAN the home of Ju Jitsu." [EN5]

Elliott had made their acquaintance while they were both serving as instructors at the Kotobuki Police Station in Yokohama. At his invitation they would now perform the same task at the School of Physical Culture. It would the youthful Fukushima, who would make the greatest impact on jujutsu on the continent. [EN6]

Under the supervision of Mr. Elliott, the school soon added a separate branch for jujutsu where "the Japanese methods of attack and self defence" was taught by Okura and Fukushima, with private and group classes offered for gentlemen, ladies, and children alike five days a week and an evening class being held on Thursdays. [EN7] Soon they were also giving public demonstrations in jutusu for the dual purpose of advertising the art and the school. [EN8]

By 1909 Mr. Elliott and Okura had left the school, Elliot having relocated to Atherton, Queensland, while Okura returned to Japan, leaving the "Ju-jitsu" branch under the sole supervision of Fukushima. The position would end up being a part time one for in March of 1909 Shima - as he was now often referred to in the papers - signed with Harry Rickard's New Tivoli Vaudeville Company. [EN9] Working alongside a pupil of his from Northern Japan named Kiyo Kameda, he headlined a theater tour of Australia with a troupe that included comedians, performers in black-face, and a hand illusionist.[EN10} For their part, Fukushima and Kameda "gave a unique exhibition, showing the methods of throwing, attacking, and defending against an adversary."[EN11] It would begin with a brief explanation of jujutsu to the audience, after which "Mr. Shima at the outset attacks his assistant from every quarter, and is steadily checked or thrown on his back or on his head with a swiftness which for a moment makes the spectators wonder how any man can recover from such wrenches." [EN12]


After successful runs in Sydney and Melbourne (where they filled the 4,000 seat Opera House nightly), the show was brought to Adelaide where they soon made a change to the act. Shima now "offered £5 to any man whom he could not throw in 15 minutes". He would not have to wait long to find a taker, for the challenge was immediately accepted by a prominent local wrester named Kopech.

Although the match was held under "jiu-jitsu rules", with Kopech being required to wear a jacket, many in the audience gave the advantage to the local mat man, who outweighed his Japanese opponent by more than 15 pounds. As the match got underway their suspicions seemed to be confirmed when Kopech used his strength and size to take Shima down several times, forcing him into the floor boards. The wrestler's victory seemed assured but with less than three minutes left in the allotted time, "Shima secured a fall by the "strangle" hold. Kopech protested that this hold was not legitimate, but the referee ruled that though it was not usually allowed in English wrestling, in straight on ju-jitsu it was perfectly legitimate." [EN13]

You can read the rest of the article by clicking here or by paying a visit to Head Kick Legend.

\The FanPosts are solely the subjective opinions of Bloody Elbow readers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Bloody Elbow editors or staff.

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