Watts: Fine Art of Jujutsu


Book Review

Mrs Roger Watts; The Fine Art of Jujutsu (1906) William Heinemann

Review by Peter Clarke (2016)

The book is the first English book to emphasise women's self defence.  Its author, Emily Diana Watts (1867-1968), would have been one of the very first teachers of judo in the Western World.

The book is very well produced on the photographs by G W Beldam very well done for the time

The book can be read online at scribd.com -


The publication of this book by a woman has to be placed in the political context of its time.  Legislative reform in Great Britain in 1884 did not extend suffrage (the right to vote) to British women.  Activist women who challenged this gender based inequality were labelled "suffragettes" by the British press.  Further, there was considerable vulnerability for women in simply using the streets and public transport in the cities around this time.

Cartoon -Suffragette-that-knew-jiujitsu_opt

This was just at a time when jujutsu and judo were becoming known in Great Britain.  This aspect of its popularity is discussed in the earlier book review ofNorman: Fighting Man of Japan.  Watts began her training in 1903 with Sadakazu Uyenishi and his associate, Akitaro Ono.  By 1906 she was teaching in Knightsbridge which also coincided with the publication of the book.  Uyenishi was also uke for some techniques in the book.

It details for the first time in English a number of the kodokan judo techniques despite its title of jujutsu.  This is a matter that was also mentioned in the earlier book review of Norman: Fighting Man of Japan - the conflation of jujutsu and judo.  Although the title of the book and the reference throughout is always to "jujutsu", it concerns, and is completely about, Kodokan judo.  It is not just this book; it is just very common through this early period.

A self defence capability and a philosophy of the how the smaller can overcome the larger made jujutsu an attractive proposition to link it to the suffragette movement.  Apparently, following a demonstration to campaigners, the magazine Health and Strength coined the term "jujutsusuffrette" in 1909.  Some clue to the politics may be found in the fact that the book is dedicated to "her Grace the Duchess of Bedford".  At that time the Duchess was Dame Mary Russell.  She was an English aviator and ornithologist.  Further, she was a member of the Women's Tax Resistance League, a group established in 1909 and a member of the Women's Social and Political Union.  The former organization used tax resistance to protest for women's suffrage.  The Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU) was established in 1903 and was the leading militant organisation campaigning for women's suffrage in the United Kingdom.

Edith Margaret Garrud was a member of the WSPU.  Edith married William Garrud in 1893.  In 1899, the Garruds were introduced to the art of jujutsu by Edward William Barton-Wright, the first jujutsu teacher in Europe and the founder of the martial art of Bartitsu.  They were training at Uyenishi's dojo in Soho in around 1904/5 and I assume with Watts.  Edith Garrud was later responsible for training the bodyguards for the suffragettes.  So the timing of the book and the gender politics make it an interesting publication from that point of view.

It is also a very well presented book on judo, superior to similar books of the era.  The preface to the book is written by Sir Lauder Brunton, a Scottish physician.  He writes of the mind-body connection and the merits of jujutsu as an exercise compared to other activities.  I have not been able to find any connection he may have had to jujutsu.

The book has its humourous aspects.  There is the consistent reference to "Ladori Kata" for "Randori no Kata".  Wrestling was not the order of the day … apparently … and we can discern the meaning of the book title when Watts says at  p.107 -

"The branch of jujutsu which is devoted to wrestling on the ground is what I would term the gross art of Jujutsu as opposed to the fine art, and as such has no place here; besides, although it may be very useful for men, it cannot, or rather, should not appeal to women, for anything more rough and ungraceful it is hard to imagine."

When looking at what the randori exercise was all about, the rules for "loose play" are set out on pages 143-4.

A book deserving of some attention.