It is no secret that I am all for everyone practicing martial arts with no bias. Man, woman, child, elder, monkey, elephant, amoeba or anything else that might have the urge. I believe in martial arts as a fitness, a spirituality, and as a mentality. I actually have the belief that everyone should have to practice at some point in their lives. Off my tangent, I found an article about a recently translated book describing an interesting aspect of women’s martial arts from 1914. Needless to say, I was intrigued.
The article talks about a translation of a martial arts book published in 1914, which was written by a woman for women, describes a group of Japanese women who banded together to form the Women’s Self-Defense League in order to fight off attacks from men. Nobatake Yaeko, a Japanese female wrote the book whose title translates as “Self-Defense for Women”, under the pen name Nohata Showa, and she published it in May of 1914. In the book, she describes and illustrates a number of martial-arts techniques that women can use to fight off attackers.
“These techniques include throws, ways to break an attacker’s arm and a technique that strangles the abdomen of an attacker who is trying to rape a woman.”
The moves look familiar as they are derived from traditional martial arts with a practical approach. Judo and Jiu-Jitsu are the core of the moves.
Not only are there moves, it has a detailed chart showing the weak spots on a man (called Kyusho). “Kyusho are points on the body that can cause damage if struck hard, or they can be used to resuscitate a person. If you violently strike any of these Kyusho, it can render a person unconscious and even stop their breath. Good and proper people would do well to learn these points,” Showa wrote. The book, written in Japanese, was translated by Eric Shahan, who specializes in translating 19th- and early 20th-century Japanese martial-arts texts. Shahan also holds a San Dan (third-degree black belt) in Kobudo.
The techniques described in the book are derived from a martial art called Jujutsu, which is the combination that I mentioned above of Judo and Jiu-Jitsu. “The fundamentals of Jujutsu is to use the opponent’s power. You can win by moving nimbly at the right time, without using much power. Should you ingrain these techniques into your body, even a cute weak girl can wrap up a large man and achieve a win!” wrote Showa, according to Shahan’s translation. Showa wrote in the book that she had used the techniques successfully. “While I was returning to my abode from running an errand just the other night I encountered a frightful situation. I was able to imitate the handful of Jujutsu moves I learned and, despite my slight form, was able to avoid falling prey to a dastardly scoundrel. It was an absolutely thrilling experience.”
The book was empowering to women in a male-dominated society. In the book, Showa decries what she described as a surge of violence against woman in Japan and talks of an organization called the Women’s Self-Defense League, which was formed to combat it. The Women’s Self-Defense League not only trained women to defend themselves against attackers, but the organization also handed out awards to women who successfully stopped an assault. So far, Shahan’s research has revealed little additional information on Showa or the Women’s Self-Defense League beyond what is given in the book, he said. In the book, Showa “claims to have been a women’s historian,” Shahan told Live Science in an email. Given the Jujutsu techniques that Showa describes in the book, it’s possible that she ran a dojo dedicated to teaching martial-arts techniques to women, Shahan said. Fascinating stuff to me.