Weaponless Self-Defence (lost early ju-jitsu television program; 1936-1937)

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Issue 689 of Radio Times listing the first episode.

Status: Lost

Weaponless Self-Defence is an early television show broadcast on BBC Television Service from 1936 to 1937. Presented by professional wrestler Bob Gregory, it provided some of the earliest televised demonstrations of ju-jitsu.


Weaponless Self-Defence was conceptualised during the early days of BBC Television Service, which was looking to broadcast a variety of sports like darts and snooker.[1] Bob Gregory was selected as the main demonstrator for the show, having been an expert in ju-jitsu, and also achieving success in sports like boxing, professional wrestling, and swimming.[2][3][4] The show had an educational attribute attached to it, considering that not only would Gregory demonstrate the various moves in ju-jitsu, but he would also teach the viewers how to perform the moves themselves, should they require them in a dangerous situation and lacked available weapons.[3][4]

The first episode was broadcast on 17th December 1936, known simply as A Ju-Jitsu Display.[5][6] While issue 689 of Radio Times did not provide a synopsis of the program,[5][6] issue 696 states it involved Gregory being tossed around by a female partner, who he had trained for a few hours beforehand.[7][8] The issue noted that she "hurled him about the studio almost as if he were a baby".[7][8] The second episode was aired on 6th February 1937, featuring Gregory and partner Barbara Lombard, which lasted for ten minutes and repeated later in the day.[7][8] The last known episode was broadcast on 5th April.[3][4] Here Gregory worked with fellow professional wrestlers Micky Flack and King Curtis;[9] and Helga Brandt, a professional ice-skater, with issue 705 of Radio Times noting the weight difference of the eight stone Brandt compared to the seventeen stone Curtis.[3][4] This was used to further highlight the value of ju-jitsu, with issue 696 noting that the techniques rely little on strength and weight overall, but of skill.[7][8]


Like all early television transmissions, the ju-jitsu demonstrations were televised live and there were limited viable means of recording television prior to the Second World War, with recording seldom having occurred until videotape was perfected in the late-1950s.[10] Thus, all footage of Weaponless Self-Defence is likely permanently missing. Nevertheless, Gregory did record a judo demonstration for British Pathé, which was recorded in 1937. It perhaps showcases that Weaponless Self-Defence was intended primarily for women, with Gregory claiming that while boxing might not be appropriate, judo be would allow a woman to have sufficient means of defending herself against attackers. Additionally, the Radio Times issues helped to document the show.[6][8][4]



Bob Gregory presenting Woman Judo Self Defence.


See Also

Early BBC Television

Early BBC Sports Television