Grappling Historical

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.

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