Phoebe Roberts and Emily Diana Watts: Edwardian women's judo pioneers

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This paper considers two early pioneers of women’s judo in Great Britain; Phoebe Laughton-Parry (Roberts) and Emily Diana Watts. The emerging role of women in sport at the turn of the twentieth century in Great Britain has been seen to parallel the emerging role of women in politics and wider society. The efforts of Roberts and Watts laid the foundations for the role of ju-jitsu in the women’s suffrage movements, leading to the term ‘suffrajitsu’.
The Women’s Social and Political Union was formed in 1903 by Mrs Emmeline Pankhurst. Focussing on the period 1903 – 1908 when Roberts and Watts played an important role in popularising ju-jitsu and judo in London, the paper presents original research based on archival documents.
The popularity of Japanese wrestling in the UK can be attributed in part to the Japanese victory in the Russo-Japan war.
By around 1903 Phoebe Roberts and Emily Watts had joined the Golden Square School of Jujutsu, in Piccadilly, London run by Uyenishi Sadakazu, and Ohno Akitaro. Uyenishi, had been brought to the UK by Edward Barton-Wright, the founder of Bartitsu in 1900. Later Roberts trained at the Japanese School of Jujitsu, in Oxford Street, where she was taught by Tani Yukio, who had arrived in England in 1899.
Tani performed extensively alongside Uyenishi in theatres such as the Tivoli. By 1902 he split with Barton Wright and was promoted in the music halls by William Bankier.
The paper chronicles and analyses the role of these two women in the early introduction, and popularisation of ju-jitsu and judo in the West.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the University of Chichester Annual Research Conference
EditorsAndy Dixon
Place of PublicationChichester, West Sussex
PublisherUniversity of Chichester
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 7 Jul 2017


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