By JL33

The Martial Arts of “Enola Holmes”

Enola Holmes: Netflix Poster With Millie Bobby Brown Teases New Mystery | ColliderThe new Netflix movie Enola Holmes stars Stranger Things actress Millie Bobby Brown in the title role as Sherlock Holmes’ younger sister.  Based on the popular book series by Nancy Springer, the movie is the first mainstream production to feature suffrajitsu-style action as a major plot point (not counting the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it self-defence training scene in the 2015 movie Suffragette).

The first martial arts shout-out comes very early in the film.  During a montage in which Enola admiringly describes her famous older brother’s many talents, viewers are treated to a cute animation based on Bartitsu founder E.W. Barton-Wright’s 1901 “Self Defence with a Walking Stick” article.

Bartitsu (or “baritsu”, as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle rendered it) was immortalised in Doyle’s 1903 short story The Adventure of the Empty House, in which Holmes explains that he’d used the art to defeat his arch-nemesis, Professor Moriarty, during their infamous battle at the brink of the Reichenbach Waterfall.  The animation is especially notable in that Barton-Wright’s face has been replaced with that of Superman/The Witcher star Henry Cavill, who plays Sherlock Holmes.


Having absconded from the Holmes family estate in search of their mysteriously missing radical suffragette mother Eudoria (played by Helena Bonham Carter), Enola makes her way to London where her investigations lead her to a women’s jiujitsu class taught by Edith Grayston (Susan Wokoma).  Edith’s first name is clearly inspired by that of Edith Garrud, who was the first female professional jiujitsu instructor in the western world.  It’s worth noting that Helena Bonham Carter’s character in Suffragette, self-defence instructor Edith Ellyn, was also named in honour of Mrs. Garrud, at the actresses’ own requestEnola Holmes is, thus, the second film in which Carter has been cast as a jiujitsu-fighting suffragette!


Allowing for the artistic license of portraying a women-only Japanese martial arts class in London during the year 1900 – the Bartitsu Club was open for business then and did offer women’s classes, but it would be another nine years before Edith Garrud started her “Suffragette Self Defence Club” – the  class itself is highly accurate.  The trainees’ uniforms are period-accurate hybrids of Japanese martial arts do-gi and Edwardian ladies’ physical culture kit and even the mats on the floor are typical of the quilted style used in circa 1900 gymnasia.  The techniques being practiced by the jiujitsu trainees in the background of this scene are also entirely plausible for this time and place.

Retiring to the school’s office, Edith and Enola engage in a wary parlay – Edith clearly knows much more about Eudoria Holmes’ whereabouts that she’s prepared to reveal – and an impromptu, semi-playful physical challenge during which the frustrated Enola attempts a takedown nicknamed the “corkscrew”.  This occasions another quick pictorial interlude, featuring a section of a (fictional) book titled Jujutsu: The Martial Art, whose cover may well have been inspired by the (real) Fine Art of Jujutsu, which was written by Emily Diana Watts in 1906.



We’re treated to a quick riff through the pages – which are montages of photographs from actual early 20th century jiujitsu magazine articles – and then a step-by-step guide to performing the corkscrew manoeuvre, which will clearly be significant later on in the story.



After some further skullduggery, Enola finds herself engaged in a desperate back-alley fight with walking-stick wielding assassin Linthorn (Burn Gorman) who is stalking her friend, the young Viscount Tewskbury, Marquess of Basilwether (Louis Partridge).  This is, by far, the movie’s most elaborate and spectacular fight scene, well-choreographed by stunt co-ordinator Jo McLaren:

Although Enola again fails in attempting the corkscrew technique during this encounter, the astute viewer suspects that she’ll pull it off in the end … which is exactly what happens when, after many more machinations, she finds herself again at a disadvantage in taking on the same assassin, this time in the shadowy hallway of Viscount Tewksbury’s family manor:


Having rescued the hapless Tewksbury, it only remains for Enola to solve the Mystery of the Missing Mother – which does happen, after a fashion, though we suspect that there is more to discover in that regard during the inevitable and welcome sequel.

In the meantime, here’s a featurette on the fight scenes of Enola Holmes:

The Hidden History of the Radical Suffragette Bodyguards

Suffrajitsu author Tony Wolf will be offering this live online lecture and presentation via the Atlas Obscura’s Online Experiences program on October 21, 2020:

Established during the volatile summer of 1913, at the height of increasingly militant suffragette activism and of repression by the police and government, the outlaw bodyguard team was nicknamed “Mrs. Pankhurst’s Amazons.” They employed disguise and deception tactics as well as hand-to-hand combat when necessary to protect their leaders against assault and arrest, such as during the infamous “Battle of Glasgow,” when they brawled with a much larger contingent of police constables and detectives in front of a shocked audience of 4,500 people.

Our presentation will include a slideshow of rare archival photographs and documentary film reenactment footage as well as a question and answer session.

The Life and Fantastical “Crimes” of Spring Heeled Jack – a New Novel by Suffrajitsu Author Tony Wolf

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Announcing The Life and Fantastical “Crimes” of Spring Heeled Jack, a new prose novel by the author of the Suffrajitsu trilogy!

In the great tradition of penny dreadful adventure tales, this action-packed novel reimagines the Victorian urban legend of Spring Heeled Jack as a superhero origin story, told as the memoir and confession of Spring Heeled Jack himself:

London, 1865. Falsely imprisoned for high treason, Captain John Ashton escapes execution by hanging – but finds himself on the run from the law.

Unable to return to his old life and desperate to redeem his good name, Ashton assumes the guise of Spring Heeled Jack, an agile, phantomesque figure of folklore. He begins a campaign of harassment and intimidation against those who framed him.

Quickly, however, he finds himself drawn into the intrigues of London’s shadow-world, including a deadly game of cat and mouse against a rooftop-dwelling serial killer …

The Life and Fantastical “Crimes” of Spring Heeled Jack is now available from

In Memoriam: Honor Blackman (22 August 1925 – 6 April 2020)

English actress and self-defence advocate Honor Blackman has died at the age of 94 years. After studying at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, Blackman landed small feature film and television parts until her 1962 breakout role as Cathy Gale in the popular Avengers action/mystery series. Playing opposite Patrick Macnee as the dapper, umbrella-wielding spy John Steed, Blackman took up judo for her role and so pioneered the model of the martial arts-trained television action heroine. She left The Avengers to play glamorous villain Pussy Galore opposite Sean Connery in the 1964 feature film Goldfinger, also earning the distinction of being the first female character to (briefly) gain the upper hand in a physical encounter with James Bond: In 1966 Blackman again drew upon her martial arts experience to author Honor Blackman’s Book of Self-Defence, a handy compendium of fighting tips and tricks for swinging chicks. Her post-Avengers and Bond film roles included parts in Jason and the Argonauts (1963), Shalako (1968) and The Virgin and the Gypsy (1970), and she made guest appearances in Columbo, Minder and Doctor Who. In 1990, she was cast in a regular role in the ITV sitcom The Upper Hand, playing the glamorous mother of the lead female character, and in 2014 she was the inspired choice to host a short suffrajitsu documentary for the BBC’s One Show: Honor Blackman was also a committed political activist on behalf of the Liberal Democrats and was against the institution of the monarchy, turning down a CBE in 2002.  She is fondly remembered by her family, friends and many fans. May she rest in peace.

“The Unstoppable Letty Pegg” – an Upcoming Jujitsuffragette Novel for Young Readers

Letty Pegg

Something to look forward to  – writer/academic/comedian Iszi Lawrence’s new novel The Unstoppable Letty Pegg has just been made available for pre-order and will go on sale on Jan. 6, 2020.  According to the publishers, it’s:

The story of the suffragettes with the Jiu Jitsu and roller skating left in… this impeccably researched debut novel from Iszi Lawrence shows the fight for women’s suffrage as it really was.

Lettice Pegg’s father is a working-class policeman and her mother is a middle-class suffragette. Stuck between them (and her terrifying grandma) as they argue, Lettice mostly cares about trying to fit in at school and convincing her parents to let her have roller skates and go to the music hall. But, when Lettice sees her mother brutally thrown to the ground by a policeman while on a protest march, her life changes forever. Not all of the women on the march are vulnerable to attack. Some of them have a secret weapon: Jiu Jitsu.

As the suffragettes welcome Lettice to the fight back, things at home go from bad to worse. Can Lettice bring her family back together and keep her new friends?

“No Man Shall Protect Us” Photo Release Form

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A BBC Radio Interview On Suffrajitsu, the Upcoming Play by Horse + Bamboo Theatre

England’s Horse + Bamboo Theatre Company is currently developing Suffrajitsu, an original play celebrating the suffragette Bodyguard through puppetry, music and film.  Aimed at young audiences, the play will begin touring the UK in Autumn 2018; you can learn more about, and support the project via this Crowdfunder site.

In this interview, Horse and Bamboo executive director Esther Ferry-Kennington offers a history of the company and discusses the historical influences and artistic aims of their Suffrajitsu project.

Suffrajitsu Back in the News as UK Celebrates 100 Years of Women’s Suffrage

February 6, 2108 marks the centennial anniversary of (limited) women’s suffrage in the UK.  As numerous cultural and media organisations mark the anniversary, here are some current and upcoming projects that focus particularly on “suffrajitsu” – the use of jiujitsu by radical suffagette Bodyguards, circa 1913-14.

The Good Fight

Chicago’s Babes With Blades Theatre Company is currently staging Anne Bertram’s play The Good Fight, which details the history and missions of the suffragette Bodyguard team.  Women’s jiujitsu pioneer and Bodyguard trainer Edith Garrud appears as a character in the play.

Suffrajitsu by Horse + Bamboo Theatre

England’s Horse + Bamboo Theatre Company is currently developing Suffrajitsu, an original play celebrating the suffragette Bodyguard through puppetry, music and film.  Aimed at young audiences, the play will begin touring the UK in Autumn 2018; you can learn more about it, and support the project via this Crowdfunder site.

“The Awesome Art of Suffrajitsu”

The UK fashion and lifestyle magazine Stylist has featured suffrajitsu, including some great original illustrations, in its suffragette centennial issue.

No Man Shall Protect Us

Currently in production, the documentary No Man Shall Protect Us: The Hidden History of the Suffragette Bodyguards will make use of narration, rare archival media and dramatic re-enactments.  Successfully crowdfunded in late 2017 and co-produced by Tony Wolf, author of the Suffrajitsu graphic novel trilogy, the completed documentary will be made freely available online later this year.

Suffrajitsu at the Royal Armouries

The Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds, England will be showcasing Edith Garrud’s suffrajitsu as part of the Warrior Women exhibition during mid-late February.

Kitty Marshall: Suffragette Bodyguard at the Museum of London

The Museum of London’s year-long Votes for Women exhibition includes a showcase for Katherine “Kitty” Marshall, who was an active member of Emmeline Pankhurst’s Bodyguard team.  Marshall also wrote the memoir Suffragette Escapes and Adventures, which currently exists in manuscript form as part of the Museum’s suffragette collection.

Kitty and the Cats: Mrs. Pankhurst’s Suffragette Bodyguard and the London Police

Author Emelyne Godfrey’s book on Kitty Marshall and the Bodyguard will be released later in 2018.

Thanks to all the “No Man Shall Protect Us” backers!

Money shot

The producers of the now-funded documentary No Man Shall Protect Us wish to salute and thank the following people, whose generosity and enthusiasm have allowed the project to enter production:

philip baker
Steven Townshend
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Helen Young (In Memoriam)