Victorian Society Ladies Defended Their Honor With Jiu-Jitsu

A lady never starts a fight. But she will finish one.

1. In the early 1900s, Jiu-Jitsu mania swept England and America alike.

The Japanese wrestling technique was very popular with society ladies, as it was considered a sport which improved a lady’s grace and was a practical method of self-defense.

2. Yukio Tani, the great Japanese fighter, began to teach women the art.

Before long, wrestling mats were brought out at fashionable parties and during balls. Jiu-Jitsu masters were in high demand for both entertainment purposes and more practical lessons, with young girls squeezing in practice between etiquette and dance.

3. Soon, illustrated books began to appear, giving middle and lower class women access to this defense technique.

4. The appeal of Jiu-Jitsu was in the lack of muscle strength needed to down a larger opponent.

Even petite ladies could easily dispatch an unwanted advance with aplomb.

5. Many Victorian fashion accessories became deadly weapons in the right hands.

6. Parasols (above) and hat pins (below) were popular choices to inflict pain.

7. Even cheeky police officers weren’t safe from the ire of a society lady.

8. And suffragettes got a reputation for vigorously defending their rights.

9. However, Jiu-Jitsu wasn’t the only aggressive sport enjoyed by society women.

In 1901, Thomas Edison filmed this bout of fisticuffs by the Gordon Sisters.

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