Family Jujutsu Heritage Part 2 1948 – 1958

Gunji Koizumi opened up the first Jujutsu Dojo in the North of England in 1906. Bill Nelson, the great uncle of Bushinkai head Simon Keegan trained there some years later

In part 1 of the Family Jujutsu Heritage we looked at the Kawaishi Ryu in Liverpool. Here Bill Nelson (great uncle of Bushinkai headteacher Simon Keegan) trained from around 1944-1948, attaining his blackbelt in Jujutsu under Professor Gerald Skyner, successor to Mikonosuke Kawaishi. After this Bill joined the Koizumi Jujutsu club at Arnot Street, Walton. This subsequently became a BJA Judo club called Arnot Street Judo Club. Gunji Koizumi himself, who first came to Liverpool in 1906, officiated gradings there in the 1950s.

The great Gunji Koizumi

The records of this club have recently resurfaced thanks to the correspondence of BJA officer Richard Bowen (1926-2005) being donated to the University of Bath. His first mention of a Liverpool event says a “Judo Vacation School” on 22-27 April 1946.

Bill Nelson’s second Jujutsu school was part of the Koizumi branch

The records detailing Arnot Street are as follows:

  • Black and white photograph showing G. Koizumi being presented with a portrait, Arnot Street Judo Club, Liverpool, UK, ca 1950s [this was at the first annual grading in 1950].
  • 2nd Annual Grading, Arnot Street Evening Institute, Liverpool, UK, 14 April 1951.
  • Arnot Street Evening Institute Judo Club 3rd Annual Grading, Liverpool, UK, 5 April 1952.
  • Black and white photograph of five seated individuals, including G. Koizumi, endorsed ‘Arnot Street Evening Institution Judo Club’, 5 April 1952.
  • 4th Annual Grading, Arnot Street Evening Institute, Liverpool, UK, 2 May
  • Arnot Street Evening Institute Judo Club 5th Annual Grading, 8 May 1954.
  • [British Judo Association North West Area 1st Annual Display, 1956]
  • British Judo Association North West Area 2nd Annual Display, 20 July 1957.
  • British Judo Association North West Area [3rd annual] Judo Display, Liverpool, UK, October 1958.
  • British Judo Association North West Area [4th annual] Judo Display, Liverpool, UK, 12 September 1959.

Gunji Koizumi in Liverpool

Gunji Koizumi (小泉 軍治 8 July 1885 – 15 April 1965) started studying Jujutsu in 1901 under Tago Nobushige at the Tenjin Shinyo-ryu. His name ko izumi means “little spring.”

In 1904, he trained under Yamada Nobukatsu, a former samurai. By now, Koizumi had decided that he wanted to study electricity, and that the best place to do so was in the United States of America. He travelled through Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore, and India, working as he went. While in Singapore in 1905, he trained under Tsunejiro Akishima.

In 1906 Gunji Koizumi left Japan and sailed via Bombay and North Wales to Liverpool. On 4 May 1906, Koizumi arrived in Mostyn, North Wales, aboard the SS Romsford.

The Kara Ashikaga advert

There he saw advertised the post of chief instructor to Kara Ashikaga’s school of Jujutsu. Mr Ashikaga never materialised but Koizumi briefly took up teaching and was the north of England’s first known martial arts school. He soon left Liverpool, travelling to the USA, then back to London.

In 1918 Gunji Koizumi created the Budokwai as a society to teach Jujutsu, Kendo and other Japanese arts to members of the public. He founded a dojo at 15 Lower Grosvenor Place, Victoria, London SW1 and the club official opened on Saturday, January 26, 1918 with 12 members, making it the second oldest judo club in Europe. It is also the second oldest Japanese martial arts club in Europe. The first 36 members were Japanese, the first English man didn’t join until March. Koizumi became the first president of the Budokwai and Yukio Tani the first chief judo instructor.

In July 1920, Dr. Jigoro Kano (the founder of Judo) visited Britain and the Budokwai for the first time, he was accompanied by Hikoichi Aida who stayed in Britain and instructed at the Budokwai for two years. A member named Tanabe received his first Dan, becoming the Budokwai’s first home-grown black belt. Tani and Koizumi were promoted to Nidan, despite technically never having studied Judo, but clearly their Jujutsu was up to par.

Professor Jack Britten was a London born student of Yukio Tani who moved to Liverpool in about 1920. He established the Alpha Jujutsu school in the Kensington area.

In 1928 another Japanese master came to England. His name was Mikonosuke Kawaishi. Like Koizumi and Tani he was originally a Jujutsu man who later converted to Judo. The history of Kawaishi in Liverpool is covered in Part 1.

Kawaishi in Liverpool where he competed in pro wrestling under the name Matsuda

The spread of Jujutsu in England naturally stagnated during 1939-1945, but in this time many members of the merchant navy sailed to places like Japan and Singapore and brought back with them exotic methods of pugilism.

Bill Nelson trained with the Kawaishi Ryu first (circa 1944-1948) then the Koizumi school (circa 1948-1950s).

Bill Nelson’s teacher Prof Skyner

In 1948, Koizumi was promoted to 6th dan in judo. He helped establish the British Judo Association on 24 July 1948. He served as the association’s inaugural President. By the end of the decade, he had retired from business and had turned his full attention to teaching judo in the UK. In 1951, he attained the rank of 7th dan in judo.

The late and much loved Bill Nelson

You can download the Arnot Street Judo records here.

Manchester: Karate & Jujutsu

Circle Martial Arts
Marlboro House
52 Newton Street, Manchester M1 1ED
Monday evenings: 8:30pm
Sunday mornings: 10:00am
Shihan: Simon Keegan (5th Dan Renshi Karate & Jujutsu)
Sempai: Philip Jennings


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