A Woman’s Self-Defence for Women



Health & Vim, May 1912.

A highly interesting and vivid account by PERRY PEAKE of a young girl whose jujutsu methods of self-defence are arousing widespread comment.

In common with most men, I suppose, I had always held the opinion that the athletic feat-performing woman was of the Amazon type—a heavy, fleshy person of powerful build and unattractive appearance, the contour of whose form was spoiled by overdeveloped muscles and disproportionate girth. When therefore it was understood that I should be introduced to Miss Frances Weste as the typical “Jujutsu Girl,” I confess to no sense of pleasant anticipation, but rather to a feeling that I had before me something in the nature ‘of a call to duty with which I had no choice but to fall in. I knew what it would be—a big, muscular, large-handed and large-footed sort of elderly body, and I had visions of her shouting at and hauling unsophisticated pupils about with more energy than grace.

“Jujutsu,” I knew, was a scientific application of the knowledge of the susceptible and vulnerable part of the body to methods of protection and defence against personal attack. “That is Miss Weste,” said my cicerone.

We stood in a hall at Queen’s Gate, South Kensington, and a party of young women before me were engaged in a number of evolutions that were quite foreign to me. I looked for the lady, but there was no stoutly-built, muscular phenomenon that I could see. In fact, the person taking most interest in the proceedings was a beautifully made young girl with flowing golden hair, who stood smiling at what was going on. I could not see Miss Weste, and said so.

“There — standing on the right — that young girl with fair hair.”

That Miss Weste—that slender little lady a Jujutsu exponent—it was past belief.

But it wasn’t when I saw the lady herself take a hand in the proceedings. I sat down and watched, and soon became fascinated at the sight of this delicately-nurtured girl initiating her pupils in some wonderful ” tricks”—for that is what they seemed to me. I saw them release themselves from one another’s grips on the wrists, throat, body, hair, arms, and legs, by the simple process of “touches,” or knocks on nerves here and “locks,” “trips,” and ” throws ” there. They went through the facings in the art of “breaking their fall,” and I was told that this prevented broken bones and dislocated joints should they happen to slip and fall in a scrimmage with an assailant.

I saw an elderly woman throwing herself down on the mat in such a fashion that it looked as though she must break every bone in her body. But what I did not observe was the outstretched palm of the hand, which touched the mat a fraction of a second before the body so as to take the force of the fall. She sprang up again with the nimbleness of a kitten. On another section of the mat space a young girl of about fifteen was rolling head over heels and beating the mat with hand and foot which method, I afterwards learned, was a “breakfall ” for the “stomach throw” and prevented concussion of the brain or a broken spine, which would probably occur to a burglar who was stomach thrown” as a defence for an attack on the throat.

On another corner of the mat two ladies were exercising their muscles and acquiring a supple and graceful body by means of resistant movements. These movements were executed by the pupils taking it in turns to resist in a mild way each others endeavours to raise an arm or bend the body, or to gently force each other back or pull forward. These are really splendid developing exercises, and are the more interesting as they are done by two people, although there are many movements which may be done individually.

After waiting a few well-spent minutes watching the pupils, Miss Weste came up to us and initiated me into a few of the mysteries of this marvellous Japanese art. In answer to questions, Miss Weste informed me that she had been trained principally by Professor Garrud, of the well-known Jujutsu Institute, in Golden Square, W., although she has had many lessons from the Japanese themselves. She has taught hundreds of ladies how to defend themselves, and has given numerous exhibitions of Jujutsu at garden parties, gymnastic displays, and concerts, and a little while ago gave a demonstration at the Institute of Hygiene before a large audience of physicians and doctors, who complimented her highly upon her most useful accomplishments.

“Look,” said the dainty little lady, quite suddenly, beckoning to a pupil. Quick as thought she had fallen to the ground, curled one foot round her companion’s ankle, and rested the other just over the other’s knee-cap. “Look — the slightest push and I can send my opponent backwards to the ground. That is the back-throw, for use when one is lying apparently ready to be trampled upon.” (Fig. 1.)

Fig. 1.—Seemingly at her opponents’ mercy, Miss Weste (on the ground) can yet throw the other.

She released her companion, and changed her tactics.

“This,” said Miss Weste, suiting the action to the word (Fig. 3), “is another arm-lock produced by twisting your opponent’s right arm in an outward and downward direction. The right hand grasping your opponent’s right hand, and your left forearm going under and grasping your own right wrist.”

Fig. 3.—Another arm-lock by Miss Weste.

” And here again,” she continued, motioning to her companion to lie down, and joining her on the ground (Fig. 4) “is the arm-lock with leg across throat. The leverage is brought to bear upon the elbow joint which has been brought across the upper thigh. It would be the simplest matter for your adversary to snap his own arm if he resisted this lock.”

Fig. 4.—The arm-lock, with leg across throat.

“Now let me show you how to throw a man who attacks you from behind”. Miss Weste crossed the ” dojo,” as the practice hall is called, and spoke to Professor Garrud. As she returned, the Professor walked behind her and, within a few feet of where we were standing, suddenly threw out his hands and caught the lady by the throat from behind. But if he was quick the lady was quicker still, for her little hands shot out, she bent low, and her assailant went flying over her head. (Fig. 5.)

Fig. 5.—The shoulder-throw, used when the throat is caught in a an attack from behind.

“What did you do ?” I asked, feeling that this display of strength bordered on the uncanny.

“It was very simple — only a shoulder-throw. I caught him by the wrist and coat sleeve, and my stooping low gave me the advantage. He had to go.”

In the grouped picture on the previous page [see below] (Fig. 2) the “Jujutsu Girl” is showing an arm-lock on Prof. Garrud, whilst two lady pupils are showing another form of arm-lock. On the left Prof. Garrud’s arm has been twisted up the back, and Miss Weste has placed her foot upon the upper arm and the shin behind the forearm. The assailant is now held firmly by the foot and the shoulder can be easily dislocated by a pressure of the shin against the forearm. The arm-lock by the two pupils is done by placing your right arm under your opponent’s left elbow, holding the wrist with one hand and your assailant’s coat with the other.

Fig. 2.—Showing Miss Weste holding an adversary down with one foot, and two of her pupils in an arm lock.

Miss Weste went on to say that Jujutsu was immensely suited to ladies, inasmuch as it did not call for great strength. All the methods in the Japanese art were accomplished by skill and scientific application.

Jujutsu was only practised in Japan by the Samurai, or fighting men, and all its secrets were guarded jealously by them and handed down from father to son until about forty years ago, when the Mikado decreed that it should be taught in the public schools, and that the methods should be secret no longer.

Now nearly all the Japs practise the art as a sort of a national pastime, and it is as well known in Japan as boxing, football, and cricket are in England. We have been fortunate enough in securing some very excellent photographs by Jacolette which we reproduce here.

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