Suffragettes and Ju Jutsu

I’m Paul Willson I am a brown belt in Ju Jutsu, a centuries old Japanese martial art.

Photo by Anton Belitskiy on

Before the beginning of the First World War Great Britain wasn’t a hugely democratic country. Until the 1867 Reform Act most men didn’t have the vote. The Reform Act changed this but women still most certainly weren’t allowed to vote.

At the beginning of the 20th century, after frustration of continually knocked back and ignored by the political establishment the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), nicknamed Suffragettes, was formed in 1903 which advocated more direct and violent forms of protest, often with weapons. Most famously tying themselves to railings outside prominent peoples houses, assaults and arson.

This direct and violent action didn’t go down well with the political establishment and police and male vigilantes began attacking the Suffragettes. The Suffragettes realised they needed to defend themselves. For this they learned and trained in Ju Jutsu.

Ju Jutsu was brought to the UK at the end of the 19th Century by Edward William Barton-Wright after living in Kobe, Japan for a number of years and a number of Japanese immigrants. Due to its connection with the Samurai it soon became popular with the upper and upper-middle classes.

Two people who learned Ju Jutsu were husband and wife William and Edith Garrud. Soon both began teaching Ju Jutsu and as supporters of the Suffragettes they began teaching them Ju Jutsu. At 4ft 11 inches Edith Garrud and quite a well to do lady she didn’t look like someone who could defend herself against large policemen who at the time had to be a minimum of 5ft 10 inches, however, she was soon throwing them over her shoulder.

Ju Jutsu was mainly used when the Suffragette leader Emmeline Pankhurst made speeches. They would form a barrier around the stage where she was speaking and when the police rushed the stage the suffragettes would use their Ju Jutsu training to protect themselves and Emmeline Pankhurst. They were so successful it was coined Suffrajutsu by the press.

By 1914 the build up of the First World War saw the Suffragettes struggle lose momentum as war fever took over the country. After the war ended in 1918 women were finally given the vote as recognition of their efforts of working to keep the country going during war whilst the men were away fighting.


Published by Paul Willson

I am Paul Willson. I have reached the rank of brown belt in Ju Jutsu. Thanks to Coronavirus I not been able to take my black belt grading stopping my martial art's journey in its tracks which the only polite word I can think of as frustrating. I have created this blog to try and help anyone who is thinking of starting a martial art or has just started a martial art.

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