Mitsuyo Maeda vs. Hjalmar Lundin

This account of the January 1910 Mexico City match between Hjalmar Lundin and Mitsuyo Maeda of Brazilian jiu-jitsu fame (Konde Koma here, a common alias he used) comes from On the Mat-and Off by Hjalmar Lundin.

First, some comments are in order. Lundin says he won. However, a wikipedia entry gives a Mexican Herald reference of January 23, 1910 claiming the match was ruled a draw. Unfortunately, while I have dozens of Mexican Herald accounts from 1909 and a handful describing the tournament, I don’t have any that late in January. That said, I don’t have any reason to doubt the reference, and wouldn’t be surprised if Maeda claimed he won the match as well, cause that’s pro wrestling, folks. Don’t forget that there were not that many wrestlers involved in this tournament, so both accounts may conceivably be correct but discussing matches on two different nights.

Another point is that while Lundin describes Maeda tossing Auvray around like a child, after the previous week’s match the newspaper described Maeda’s head “playing a tattoo on the canvas” from the number of times Auvray slammed him down. So we could be looking at little give-and-go to keep the paying customers interested in a tournament that lasted multiple weeks.

I love that Lundin credits his familiarity with Cornish/collar and elbow wrestling as the element that allowed him to win the match. The jacketed throws and handholds are not dissimilar, and I’ve long thought that it would make an interesting matchup to see a Cornwall native or an American collar and elbow player go up against a judoka.

Lastly, I should point out that Lundin does use the term “Jap” to refer to Maeda, which may be offensive to some. This was written in 1937, before the outbreak of WWII, which is when I believe the term began to form its derogatory sense. I believe the passage shows that Lundin had much respect for the worthy competitor he found in Maeda and certainly was not using the term as an ethnic slur.

Here and There

THE Graeco-Roman Wrestling Tournaments which took place in December, 1909 in Havana, Cuba, and the following month in Mexico City, bring back many memories.

Although the majority of the wrestlers were Europeans, a Jap named Konde Koma competed during the final week of the Tournament in Mexico City. Because Konde, a Jiu-jitsu wrestler who had been in Mexico for some time prior to the Tournament had gained a fine reputation for himself, the fans more or less expected that he would fulfill his challenge to throw any one of the contestants in ten minutes, using his own style of wrestling. He claimed to be the Champion of his country and although he could not back up his assertions with any proof in black and white, his actions in the ring were sufficient!

His first appearance during the final week was with a huge Frenchman named Auvray who tipped the scales at 265 pounds. The Jap weighed about 170, but the way he tossed the Frenchman around, one would have thought one’s eyes, and not Konde, were doing the tricks. Despite the difference in their avoirdupois, Auvray went sailing back and forth across the stage for almost four minutes before the Jap was declared the winner, much to the Frenchman’s relief. After the match I asked Auvray, whom I knew to be strong as an ox, why he didn’t grab the Jap and hold him. (I might mention here for those who have never witnessed a Jiu-jitsu match, that contestants in the famous old Oriental sport always wear a jacket.) Auvray replied that everytime he tried, the Jap would grasp the former’s sleeves, go down upon his back and put his feet up until they met the Frenchman’s middle, and, with a quick but hard shove, would send the French contestant flying!

The Jap continued to beat his opponents until the sixth night, when my turn came. Of course I had profited a little by watching the others, but nevertheless I admit I was a bit nervous. I didn’t want him to make a monkey out of me as he had done the others.

My early training in the collar, elbow and Cornish methods I knew would aid me, because they consisted mostly of tripping and hip-locking. The Cornish wrestling in particular had been very popular among the Irish and Scotch and it was through a few of them I learned what I did of the style. Those tactics and the quick-tripping which I had often practiced were foremost in my mind when I went on the mat with Koma.

Having been accustomed to handling the big Graeco-Roman wrestlers with ease, the Jap thought he could do likewise with me, but in the first mix-up I got the better of him, after which my confidence returned. I had no trouble then in winning the match. It was a surprise to the crowd and a set-back for Koma. He had been the hero all week, but as soon as he was beaten the fans, true to form, called him a bum. The Mexicans had thought he could beat anyone, but they had not taken into consideration the fact that I was trained in the catch-as-catch-can style as well as the Graeco-Roman.

I am glad to know that our police-force is taught many of the Jiu-jitsu tricks and holds, for with lightning-speed a man can down another by fast foot work, or even break an arm or leg, should the occasion demand it.

Was Savate’s Drop Kick from Pro Wrestling?

Of course that begs the question: Does savate possess the drop kick?

Unless you’re a youngster, you’re probably familiar with the numerous books Bruce Tegner published primarily in the 1960s, one of which was a text on savate. Therein, Tegner demonstrated first a jumping drop kick from the standing position and then a leaping sidekick from a moving start. Click on the thumbnail below for a close-up:

Drop kick

So is this a savate technique? If not, from where may it have derived? First, I am skeptical that the drop kick is a technique common in savate. I could easily be mistaken, but I don’t recall seeing the drop kick in either modern boxe francaise or in any classical savate manuals.

So where did it come from? Well, the obvious jumping ability and the high knee chambering does remind the reader of savate. A further reading of the history section of Tegner’s book reveals that he did go to Quebec at the age of fourteen for a year to learn savate from Jean-Claude Gautier. Tegner was born in 1929, so this was during WWII. Tragically, Gautier later died in that war as did so many other French savateurs. In fact, savate instruction was so severely depleted at that time that the art was nearly lost.

While Tegner may have very well learned the drop kick from Gautier, it may instead have been an anachronism. Tegner did not publish his savate book until seventeen years after his early training with Gautier. In the preceding thirty years, wrestling had introduced the drop kick as part of its aerial theatrics. Then once WWII began wrestlers were tasked with much of the hand-to-hand combat training and later published their methods, often including lip service to savate methods (think D’Eliscu, Cosneck, etc.).

“Jumping Joe” Savoldi had begun using the drop kick in the squared circle as early as 1933 and took credit for its invention. Likewise, wrestler Abe Coleman claims he invented the drop kick after seeing kangaroos on a visit to Australia in 1930. Either way, the method was firmly established well before Tegner went to Canada to learn savate.

In 1934, the press made a to-do over an anonymous wrestler complaining about Savoldi’s use of the drop kick. (Washington Post, Jan. 30, 1934). This was likely Jim Londos complaining before his January 31, 1934 rematch with Savoldi. Savoldi won the rematch after previously double-crossing Londos earlier in 1933, although in the meantime Savoldi had lost the title to Jim Browning.

But back to the relevant point: in 1934, the press referred to the drop kick as the “American savate,” giving initial credence to the idea that the drop kick may have been a technique introduced to wrestling from savate, but I think that also is a red herring. My take is that the term savate was just being used as a generic term for a foot technique in the article because of savate’s strong association with kicking techniques. I don’t believe the term was used to indicate an actual connection to savate.

Therefore, I conclude that Tegner’s use of the drop kick was idiosyncratic and not a widespread technique commonly used in savate. I suspect that instead the drop kick was incorporated at some point from the influence of wrestling. I’d love to be proven wrong, though, so if any of you savateurs can set me straight, don’t hesitate to speak up!

On the Mat-and Off by Hjalmar Lundin (1937)

A new reprint is now available that offers a nice counter balance to Fall Guys because it deals with wrestling in the days leading to that transition to complete entertainment rather than after.

Lundin arrived in the U.S. in 1893 and was touring as a strongman by 1894. For decades following, he toured the U.S. and other countries as an exceptional wrestler. Lundin documents his associations with the most famous wrestlers of his time, such as Farmer Burns, Frank Gotch, Mitsuyo Maeda (Konde Koma), Ed “Strangler” Lewis, Tom Jenkins, George Hackenschmidt, Jim Londos, and many others.

Lundin describes the differences between the “shooting” matches and the “works” that came later. He tells who could wrestle and who couldn’t, and discusses everyone from Olympians to those who made their living purely as entertainers in the rasslin’ ring.

Included is Lundin’s account of his defeat of Mitsuyo Maeda, the man responsible for Brazilian jiu-jitsu.

Unfortunately, the cover photo renders poorly on the sale site, but it actually looks fine, more like is seen here.

Fire Sale and Free Book Downloads

I recently marked down all of the print reprints to cut-rate prices. I also enabled free downloads for electronic versions as well [Update- downloads are now cheap, with some available online by clicking “REPRINTS” at top right].

Please note that the downloads are optimized for printing, rather than reading online, but it should still be a good experience. I don’t know offhand how some of the current ebook readers will handle the more graphics-intensive downloads, but if it’s a problem, print it out on a good printer and you’ll have a nice read.

I had originally hoped that the sale of reprints would subsidize the purchase of future rare books to reprint in turn, but the time and cost of making a reprint compared to the miniscule return is simply not worth it.

Therefore, I cut the paperback reprints prices and enabled free downloads in order to better disseminate this information, which was the goal to begin with.

Click here or on the reprints tab at the top of the page to see all available titles.

Bartitsu FAQ

This is the Frequently Asked Questions post Tony Wolf publishes every now and again for the benefit of new members to the Bartitsu Forum. I thought this would be a good introduction and a good time to spread the word because work is now underway on Volume II of the Bartitsu Compendium.

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Q – What is Bartitsu?

A – An eclectic martial art founded in the late 19th century by E.W. Barton-Wright. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bartitsu for the basics, http://www.bartitsu.org for a more thorough summary and buy the Bartitsu Compendium for the whole story. The Bartitsu Forum message archives, Files and Photos sections are also full of information and the best place to get involved.

Q – What is the Bartitsu Society?

A – An informal, international community of Bartitsu enthusiasts who communicate via this email list. Since 2002 we have been active in the research and restoration of Barton-Wright’s “New Art of Self Defence”. Our major project to date has been the publication of the Bartitsu Compendium in 2005 and our major interests include:

* the early history of European jiujitsu

* the eclectic Japanese/European self defence methods developed between 1899 and the early 1920s, and the lives of their founders and practitioners

* street gangsterism, the suffragette movement, “physical culture” exercise programmes and other Victorian and Edwardian-era social phenomena, as related to the martial arts

Q – What is the difference between canonical Bartitsu and neo-Bartitsu?

A – Canonical Bartitsu refers to “Bartitsu as we know it was”; the specific self defence techniques and sequences demonstrated by E.W. Barton-Wright and his colleagues between 1899-1904. Today, canonical Bartitsu is practiced as a mark of respect for Barton-Wright and as a form of living history martial arts training. It also serves as a common technical and tactical “language” amongst contemporary Bartitsuka.

Neo-Bartitsu refers to “Bartitsu as it might have been” and to “Bartitsu as it can be today”; to modern, individualised interpretations of the art, potentially including sport, self defence and performance applications. We are currently developing the second volume of the Bartitsu Compendium to provide resources towards neo-Bartitsu. In any case, we hope that neo-Bartitsu forms will hold to the spirit and feel of the c1900 methods.

Q – What is the Barton-Wright memorial project?

A – E.W. Barton-Wright died penniless in 1951, and was buried in a “pauper’s grave” in Kingston Cemetery, Surrey, England. In 2006, Bartitsu Forum member Phil Giles discovered the exact location of B-W’s grave-site. All proceeds from sales of the Compendium and Kirk Lawson’s Bartitsu DVD have been dedicated to creating a suitable memorial for B-W as a pioneering martial arts innovator. We have nearly reached our target figure!

Q – How can I get involved?

A – Easy! Post your questions, ideas and comments to the Bartitsu Forum (and by all means, an introductory post will be welcome). The Forum is an active and notably positive venue for communication on all matters Bartitsuvian.

The Chopper: The Pugilist’s Backfist

The backfist, and by that I mean the direct backfist, not the spinning one, often gets a bad rap. Many view it as a technique that is useful for TKD practitioners to get a quick point in tournaments, but one that has little value otherwise. Boxers and kickboxers are particularly skeptical of its effectiveness because there is little point in throwing a backfist with gloved hands when you could throw a jab instead.

However, it may surprise some readers that the backfist, once called “the chopper,” was a common technique in western pugilism for a few hundred years. By pugilism, I’m referring specifically to bare knuckle boxing rather than the modern gloved boxing that took over at the end of the 19th century.

Daniel Mendoza, active primarily in the late 18th century, has long been associated with the chopper. As a smallish man in a dangerous sport with no weight classes, Mendoza relied on quickness, a deft defense, and fast, multiple strikes rather than size and power. His manual, The Art of Boxing (1789), does cover the chopper, but copies are rare and the pages found online contain only a reference rather than the actual instruction.

An anonymous boxing manual from 1825 by “The Celebrated Pugilist” does contain a discussion of the advantages of the chopper and goes on to describe the blow as Mendoza’s favorite:

 

A Back-handed Blow or Chopper,

with the large knuckles of the right hand and a straight arm, is very effectual, as these blows, upwards or downwards, cut, and it is better to hit with them than the middle knuckles of the fingers, which are apt to be much injured. This blow was Mendoza’s favourite, and the power of striking it with dexterity often enables you to return with the same hand with which you parried the hit of your adversary. Thus, if you are struck at either side of the face, you may successfully raise up your elbow, catch the blow upon it, quickly bring round your arms, and give the chop. When the elbow is pointed a little upwards, it is the most favourable time for striking the chopper; because, by affording your arm a swing round, it gives a greater impulse to the blow.The chopper may be happily used in giving the return; and should a pugilist engage with a person ignorant of the science, it will certainly prove successful.

A round blow is easily perceived on its approach, and of course readily stopped. It is not a strong or quick way of fighting, and only resorted to by indifferent boxers; but the chopper is a blow out of the common line of boxing, and is found most effectual. For this purpose, the arm is to be drawn back immediately after giving this blow, so as to recover your guard. It generally cuts where it falls, and if hit but moderately hard on the bridge of the nose, or between the brows, produces disagreeable sensations, and causes the eyes to water, so as to prevent your adversary from seeing how to guard against two or three succeeding blows. If struck with force on the bridge of the nose, it splits it in two parts, from the top to the bottom; if on either of the eyes, it causes a temporary blindness, and if on both, it disables the person who receives it from continuing the fight.

The rear elbow stop from which a backfist can be thrown:
chopper1Rear Elbow Stop

Not all pugilism authorities were fond of the chopper. Lord Headley (R. G. Allanson-Winn), author of Boxing (1897), observed the transition from bare knuckles to gloves and not surprisingly found the chopper useless following the changeover. What was somewhat surprising was that Lord Headley thought it a weak blow even for bare knucklers:

A chopping hit from the elbow was made use of by some old timers, and though such a hit was capable of splitting a man’s nose, it was a poor hit and never could do much real damage, and in the present day it would be quite useless even for disfiguring purposes on account of the gloves.

I see the merit in both sides of the debate. It is a weak blow, in the sense that a knockout will not be scored from chopping the opponent. On the other hand, a strike breaking and splitting the nose or cutting the eyebrows or striking the eyes would be useful in an all-day bare knuckle match or a modern street encounter. A nice shot to the nose can be both disorienting and disheartening, resulting in the recipient watching through watery eyes as the claret flows down his chest. As the celebrated pugilist states, it also arrives in an unexpected manner because the line it takes is not “normal” in boxing.

A faithful reproduction of the chopper description from the Celebrated Pugilist’s Art and Practice of Boxing is depicted in the second sequence on this page: http://ahfaa.org/technique.htm [Update- Uh oh, looks like the American Heritage Fighting Arts Association may have went the way of the dodo. However, Pete Kautz was the man behind it and it looks like his overall site is still up.]

While that sequence does correspond with the image above of the rear elbow stop, it is not my preferred way of using the chopper. I prefer an elbow stop with my lead arm, rather than rear, because throwing a backfist from the rear hand is awkward for me and I often find myself out of range when doing so. From the front, however, it works well and I throw it like Terry Brown teaches on p. 197 of his excellent treatise English Martial Arts.

Basically, when you are at distance in a left lead and a right from your opponent comes in, you raise your left arm, blocking the strike with the elbow as below:

Mendoza stopFront Elbow Stop

This does NOT have to be a complicated move. From my regular boxing guard, I keep my hands in place and simply rotate my left elbow up into a position as if I were throwing a left hook to the head. The elbow works as a great stop because it has a solid structure behind it, lining up with the shoulder. If you are stopping a bare hand right, the consequences of your opponent hitting the point of your elbow should be easy to imagine.

So, after you raise your elbow and stop the blow, you keep your elbow in place and swing your forearm around and strike the face of your adversary with a backfist.

Another variation can be used when the action is a little closer. A common defense against a right hook is a left elbow cover wherein you raise your left arm and cover the left side of your head by reaching back and placing your hand on the back of your head. The motion is similar to throwing an elbow directly upwards from a guard.

Here’s a pic I found on the interwebs something like what I’m talking about, although it’s not the tightest cover in the world: http://www.lockflow.com/images/article_images/5381.JPG

From that position, the backfist goes directly out and strikes the opponent in the face.

I was recently shown another method of using the chopper, and it was in a “modern” boxing match. My brethren on the MMA.tv History Forum recently discussed the Pancho Villa vs. Jimmy Wilde fight (1923). You can see the clip here. The first inkling of a backfist comes at about :53, but then at 4:18, Pancho Villa misses with a huge backfist. Throughout the fight, it looks like Villa throws a left hook at a little distance, then follows up with a backfist from the same hand. He may have also been throwing a left jab/left backfist combo at times, but the grainy, jerky film footage makes it difficult to tell. It doesn’t appear to have been too successful, and it’s not the reason he won the fight, but it does show another application of the chopper: a backfist off a missed hook. That makes perfect sense to me, as it is launched from almost the same position as an elbow stop with the lead arm as described above.