Jiu-Jitsu, the Japanese art of self-defence, was firstly introduced to Britain as “Bartitsu” by E.W. Barton-Wright at the end of the 19th century. Despite Barton-Wright and his school were quickly faded away from history, Jiu-Jitsu with Japanese experts started its fad for the British again in the early years of the 20th century. Meanwhile there was another intense fad for “Physical Culture” which was mainly promoted by Eugene Sandow who used to be a famous bodybuilder and was later published a magazine introducing his own fitness system. Those two fads were closely linked to each other because they took a similar route to success; from exhibitions in music halls to commercial objects practiced by ordinary people.Especially, in the beginning of its diffusion, Jiu-Jitsu wrestlers became popular by beating famous western wrestlers and bodybuilders in the music hall matches, who were regarded as the embodiment of Physical Culture at that time.
Physical Culture flourished by increased currency of the discourse about “degeneration” or “deterioration” derived from Darwinism. The experience suffering from the Boer Wars were a shock to the British in those days, because it was clear that the bodies of British soldiers were inferior to Boer soldiers who used to be regarded as just “farmers” with Dutch roots. The sense of crisis for both human bodies and British Empire raised the necessity to improve working class people as potential soldiers. It seemed that Physical Culture could be the chief solution for this problem.
The function of Jiu-Jitsu which enables smaller people to compete against larger ones was also linked by many Physical Culturists to the Japanese victories in the first the Sino-Japanese War and then the Russo-Japanese War. At least from the early years of the 20th century until the time of WWI, the image of Jiu-Jitsu and its practice was linked with Physical Culture and people could dissolve their fears about degeneration of their bodies. However after WWI, as relations between Britain and Japan changed, the representation of Jiu-Jitsu also altered from something inside Physical Culture to a potential threat to Britain.