Suffrajitsu & The Bodyguards
As the actions grew increasingly more aggressive, and civilians on both sides more bitter, many women began to comment on the growing violence from men and cops police alike. One prominent instance was on a Black Friday protest in 1910, where roughly 300 suffragettes confronted police outside the Parliament. It was here, many of the protesters were violently assaulted, with a few women found dead in the aftermath.
This event triggered many women to realize they would no longer be safe by simply going out ill-prepared. One woman named Edith Garrud who had experience such violence began to help the WSPU by becoming the official jiu-jitsu instructor for the organization. While initially serving as the demonstration body, Garrud ended up teaching the women herself and contributing to WSPU’s newspaper – Votes for Women.
At that time, it was completely unexpected for women to physically fight back, which helped empower many more women who were unfamiliar with the cause. Dealing with angry hecklers and aggressive authorities was the vital focus in learning jiu-jitsu for the suffragettes. As this became increasingly more known amongst the public, a satirical article was later published illustrating Garrud fending for herself with the caption: “The Suffragette that Knew Jiu-Jitsu.” It was then the term suffrajitsu came to.
Besides the basic jiu-jitsu techniques that allowed a practitioner to fend themselves from a larger, potentially more powerful attacker, Garrud also taught the suffragettes how to cleverly trick opponents. This ability to outwit the opponent was one of the more appealing attributes of jiu-jitsu that had attracted her to it.
As the movement grew and protests became more violent, so did the desire to capture Emmeline Pankhurst. Authorities believed she played such a major role in inspiring the WPSU that they made sure to make every attempt in capturing her. For this reason, Garrud formed a group within the WSPU known as ‘the Bodyguards’ – thirty women that were willing to take on more dangerous duties and focused on protecting Pankhurst. These individuals equipped themselves with clubs beneath their dresses and were some of the more notably stronger fighters.