In the beginning…
The story of Bushido needs to start somewhere, but perhaps the most relevant place for us to start is in the early 1800s in Japan with Motsugai Takeda (1795 – 1867) who founded the Fusen-Ryū style of Ju Jitsu. Fusen-Ryū specialised in wrist locks and ground fighting, but practised a full syllabus including throws, strikes, and weapons including bo, jo, sword, and scythe.
In the late 1800s Ju Jitsu schools were being dominated by Kano Ju Jitsu (founded by Jigoro Kano (1860 – 1938)). In 1881 the Fusen-Ryū gained notoriety when their top master Mataemon Tanabe (1869 – 1942) defeated Takisaburo Tobari from Kano Ju Jitsu in a challenge match, mainly thanks to his vastly superior ground work. A result of this was Jigoro Kano studying the newaza (ground fighting) of Fusen-Ryū and incorporating it into Kano Ju Jitsu, and his subsequent establishment in 1882 of Kodokan Judo, which evolved in to Olympic Judo.
Meanwhile back in the UK…
At this point we meet Edward William Barton-Wright (1860 – 1951). Barton-Wright spent several years (c 1895 – 1898) working in Japan where he studied Ju Jitsu of the Shinden Fudo Ryū and Kodokan Judo.
Upon his return to England Barton-Wright combined the Ju Jitsu he had studied with elements of cane fighting, boxing, and French kick boxing (La Savate), to form his own martial art called Bartitsu. Bartitsu was very short lived (1898 – 1902) though did last long enough to influence the Ju Jitsu learned by the suffragettes.
Bartitsu is also very important to the development of Ju Jitsu in Britain. It was BartonWright who invited Yukio Tani (through correspondence with Jigoro Kano) to come to London (as a 19 year old) and to teach at his school. Remember Yukio Tani was a student of Fusen-Ryū and so must have been very highly regarded by Kano to have been recommended – the Japanese only exported their very best martial artists.
While at the Bartitsu club the instructors of the various styles were encouraged to train and learn the other martial arts being taught, and so it is very likely that during his time at the Bartitsu club Yukio Tani became proficient in other fighting styles. As Bartitsu declined Yukio Tani split with Barton-Wright following a fight and teamed up with a promoter called William Bankier.
William Bankier was a businessman and was able to capitalise on the publicity generated by Bartitsu to promote Yukio Tani as a wrestler in music hall contests and shows. Tani challenged anyone to a contest, and paid them £1 for every minute they lasted (up to 5 minutes). On the music hall circuit Tani would have up to 20 opponents a week, often notable wrestlers.
The rules were Ju Jitsu, he had to submit his opponent. His only condition was that his opponents had to wear a jacket. Tani was defeated only once, and this was to a fellow Japanese and Fusen-Ryū student Taro Miyake (1881 – 1935). To fight so prolifically over a period of years and to be beaten only once is truly remarkable, even more so given his small stature standing only 5 feet 6 inches tall.
In 1904 Tani and Miyake opened the Japanese School of Ju Jitsu in London. Ultimately Yukio Tani did convert to Kodokan Judo and in 1918 became the first Judo teacher at the London Budokwai dojo. It was during a visit to London by Jigoro Kano in 1920 that Tani was awarded nidan (2nd Dan). Of importance to the Bushido story is one of Tani’s students, a Londoner called Jack Britten (? – 1978).
Jack Britten was making a living in the boxing booths around London, and challenged Tani to a fight, which he lost. After losing to Tani, Britten decided to learn Ju Jitsu and he joined Tani’s Ju Jitsu school in London. Sometime in 1924 Jack Britten moved to Liverpool to open a pet shop, and a dojo, called the Alpha School of Ju Jitsu. Jack Britten had many notable students, one of whom is particularly relevant for our story, a man named Robert (Bob) Clark (1946 – 2012).
The Alpha School of Ju Jitsu was not the only Ju Jitsu school in Liverpool. In 1928 Mikinosuke Kawaishi (1889 – 1969) opened a dojo in Liverpool with help from the Budokwai dojo in London (where Tani was now teaching Judo). It is not clear exactly what type of Ju Jitsu he was teaching but he was awarded Dan grades in Kodokan Judo. Kawaishi subsequently moved to Paris and is credited for being one of the judoka leading the development of Judo in France, and also for introducing the coloured belt system for differentiating kyu grades.
After Kawaishi left his club was taken on by his student called Gerald Skyner. Another Ju Jitsu school in Liverpool, established after World War II (1939 – 1945), was run by James Blundell (1921 – 1989). Blundell learnt martial arts from a Chinaman in Singapore whilst on shore leave in the merchant navy, but was also a student of William Green, who learnt Ju Jitsu from Harry Hunter who had in turn learnt Ju Jitsu in Japan in 1904 while stationed there with the Royal Navy.
Evolution of the art
In the 1960s Bob Clark was a student of Jack Britten’s and took his early grades there, maybe up to blue belt. At some point in the late 1960s Bob Clark left the Alpha Ju Jitsu club of Jack Britten and went to train with James Blundell, who had initially founded an organisation called the British Ju Jitsu Association in 1956 and then further developed it when Clark, and another Ju Jitsu student, Richard Morris, teamed up with him.
Richard Morris had been a student of Alf Morgan, who had in turn been a student of Yukio Tani. Together, Blundell, Clark, and Morris, developed a new syllabus and a new organisation, the World Ju Jitsu Federation, for which the BJJA was the British Branch (in 1976).
Clark is the man mainly credited with the development of the new syllabus, and was the chief instructor of the BJJA/WJJF. The syllabus developed by Clark is ‘essentially’ the same core syllabus we use today in Bushido. By all accounts, Clark was an excellent martial artist and with Clark as chief instructor, Blundell as founder and figure head, and Morris as the Chairman the BJJA/WJJF grew in popularity.
Bob Clark and the BJJA/WJJF produced many outstanding students, too many to mention here, but of greatest relevance to our story are Senseis James (Jimmy) Pape, Paul Geoghegan, Eric Marshall, and Bob Ashworth.
Lineage of British Ju Jitsu. The three different colours used pre-1976 represent the three main clubs
in Liverpool at the time; Britten’s, Skyner’s and Blundell’s.
A new dawn….
In the late 1980s a number of splits in the BJJA/WJJF were occurring. Many new organisations and federations were being established, including the now governing BJJAGB led by Sensei Martin Dixon, which was established in 1988.
In 1991, a consortium of some of the best of the BJJA/WJJF split to form the Bushido Ju Jitsu Academy. At this time the BJJA/WJJF was being driven by financial motivations, and senior students were growing concerned about a dilution in standards. This consortium led by Paul Geoghegan included Charles Allmark, John Steadman, Eric Marshall, Kenny Blundell (James Blundell’s son), and Jimmy Pape.
In 1997, Senseis Richard Asbery, John Idle, and Philip Atkinson, students of Sensei Bob Ashworth (who had left the WJJF and the BJJA in 1986 prior to the formation of Bushido), joined Bushido. Further splits brings us to the present day where Bushido Ju Jitsu Academy is led by Senesis Jimmy Pape (10th Dan) and Paul Geoghegan (9th Dan), with senior Senseis John Idle (7th Dan), Richard Asbery (7th Dan), Philip Atkinson (6th Dan), Philip Rhodes (6th Dan), and Andy Pryce (6th Dan) actively involved in the management of the organisation.
Sensei Pape is one of only two 10th Dans in the BJJAGB and is one of only 5 National Tutor Coaches. Sensei Pape is also a founding member of the United Nations of Ju Jitsu (UNJJ), an international umbrella group formed in 1991, through which the international competitions are organised.