A Chronological History of the Martial Arts and Combative Sports 1860-1899 (rev 01/05)

The National Library of Canada provides an authorized mirror of this e-publication. The base document, however, is the one at Most recent update: December 2004. Copyright © 2000-2004 Joseph R. Svinth All rights reserved.




Kronos; A Chronology of the Martial Arts and Combative Sports, represents my idiosyncratic interpretation of the history of the martial arts, combative sports, and associated philosophical topics. If you have suggestions for improvement, please let me know. If you think you can do better, please do so.

The periods covered are:

0000 to 0499:

0500 to 1349:

1350 to 1699:

1700 to 1859:

1860 to 1899:

1900 to 1939:

1940 to present:

The bibliographies are at:




Online references, a summary of recent changes, and general housekeeping information are found at:

If you prefer reading traditional print format, then please see the abbreviated chronology in Thomas A. Green, Martial Arts of the World: An Encyclopedia (ABC-CLIO, 2001). Meanwhile, if you prefer reading articles arranged topically rather than chronologically, then please see the essays in Green's encyclopedia and the chapters in Thomas A. Green and Joseph R. Svinth, editors, Martial Arts in the Modern World (Greenwood, 2003).

Finally, if you want to see how Kronos has evolved over time, then please see the first edition, which appears online at




About 1860:

Islamic jihadists in northern Nigeria equip their infantry with flintlock muskets. They got the firearms from the Amazigh ("Berbers") of Morocco and the Western Sahara, who were then busily re-equipping with percussion-capped rifles.

East African armorers start making narrow-bladed iron spears. The inspiration for this development was evidently fashion, as the narrow-bladed weapons do not kill any better than the leaf-bladed spears they replaced. The reluctance the same East Africans showed at adopting firearms was also due to fashion. The Masaai and Kikuyu, for instance, viewed firearms as the weapons of cowards and meat-hunters rather than the weapons of men.

A 60-year old man named Yang Lu-ch’an starts teaching boxing in Peking. Although Yang’s style, known as t’ai chi ch’uan or "Grand Ultimate Boxing," used soft, flowing techniques rather than hard, linear techniques, it was quite capable of defeating first-rate Shaolin boxers. Yang was a native of Hopeh Province, and first learned inner boxing from Ch’ang-hsing of Honan Province. He then taught the method to his sons Pan-hou and Chien-hou, and the latter taught his sons Shao-hou and Ch’eng-fu.

The Yankton Dakotas purchase the right to do the Grass Dance from the Omahas. Although a dance of peace, the Grass Dance was originally associated with thunder and performed by warriors. So white observers began calling it the Sioux war dance. And perhaps it was a war dance, as following the Custer fight of 1876, the Dakotas changed the words to mean, "Custer is your friend/Here is his hair."

Japanese wrestlers develop nokori ai, an early type of randori ("free practice") training. In it, the wrestlers practiced one series of techniques on a partner who could only counter with an agreed-upon series of techniques. Novel from a Japanese perspective, the procedure greatly improved players’ ability to adapt during free situations. (Japanese martial art training had previously relied almost exclusively on prearranged sets known as kata, or "forms." While the emphasis on forms made instruction easier and greatly reduced the risk of juniors embarrassing seniors, it also resulted in students having trouble reacting to novel situations -- such as actual combat. Although a decision that the Japanese wrestlers reached through trial-and-error, a century later US Navy study found that "a diversion of ten percent of the operational effort into carefully planned practice can increase the operational effectiveness by factors of two to four.")


A Frenchman named Jean-Joseph Lenoir develops the first practical internal combustion engine. However, the design, which ran on coal gas, was never much used, and as a result the German Nikolaus August Otto is generally credited with developing the first practical internal combustion engine. Nevertheless, the Parisian road network was ideal for motorized carriages, and in 1895, the word "automobile" first entered the French language.

As the Tokugawa army undergoes modernization, a British diplomat writes, "The commonest sound in Edo is the musket and artillery practice of the soldiers."

The National Rifle Association of Britain holds its first annual meeting at Wimbledon, with Queen Victoria firing the first shot; her support reflected the fact that the National Rifle Association was an amateur military organization. The British and Commonwealth shooters, who were gentlemen rather than soldiers or big-game hunters, favored the seated and prone positions. As a group, they were avid tinkerers, and the modern practice of using slings to steady rifles dates to their experimentation. Although there were a few matches with ranges to 2,000 yards, the standard ranges were 800, 900, and 1,000 yards. The target was usually a 36-inch bull, and a 21-inch group at 1,000 yards was considered reasonable accuracy. European shooters, meanwhile, shot at only one range – 300 yards – but fired standing, kneeling, and prone, and their target was a mere 10 centimeters (3.9 inches) in diameter. United States shooters fired in any position, and tended to dominate any pre-Great War competitions they entered. Since then, Russians and Scandinavians also have done very well.

The Americans Tyler Henry and Christopher Spencer secure separate patents for lever-action repeating rifles. Spencer’s rifles, which could fire seven shots in twelve seconds, were much sturdier than Henry’s rifles, and were used in far greater numbers during the American Civil War. Since Henry’s rifles could fire fifteen more powerful bullets in the same length of time as a Spencer could fire seven, they proved more popular with Texans and Indians following that war. Consequently, Spencer went broke in 1869, whereas the Connecticut shirt maker Oliver Winchester, for whom Henry worked, became rich and famous. Despite the movies, the mechanisms of both Henry and Spencer rifles were fragile, and dropping them carried considerable risk of setting off the cartridges in their tubular magazines. They were also expensive weapons, costing US $37 at the factory, and several times that on the frontier.

While preparing for a mill with English champion Tom Sayers, John C. Heenan becomes the first American boxer known to lift weights and punch bags as part of his training regimen. While lacking much practical ring experience, Heenan was superbly fit, and could run a quarter-mile in 56 seconds. Training during this period consisted of avoiding hard liquor, tobacco, spicy food, and sexual intercourse; jogging and wind-sprinting two to four miles a day; and sparring with gloves for an hour or more each day. The inspiration for the regime came from horse racing. In the words of Francis Dowling’s Fistiana, "A man put to training is like a colt to be broken in." Viewing pugilists as human racehorses is not entirely figurative, either, as managers were not above doping fighters to ensure they lost and former pugilist John Morissey was a majority shareholder of the racetrack at Saratoga Springs, New York. Morrissey was undoubtedly the most economically successful pugilist of the nineteenth century. Though his fame came from boxing, his income came from organized gambling. (Morrissey was a pioneer of pari-mutuel ticket selling, English-style bookmaking, and off-track betting.) He was also intimately involved in Tammany politics, and his testimony helped topple Boss Tweed in 1868.

In New York City, the firm of Beadle and Adams publishes Seth Jones, or the Captives of the Frontier. This was the first commercially successful mass-market novel to feature a teenage hero saving damsels in distress in the trans-Mississippi West. While Seth Jones cost readers five cents, by the 1870s, similar novels cost a dime. Hence the term "dime novel." To meet the demand, a handful of journalists using a variety of pseudonyms churned out more than 2,000 sequels between 1860 and 1898. These authors did most of their research in New York saloons, and hardly any had traveled west of Chicago. Therefore, their stories were wildly inaccurate. (In Deadwood Dick, for instance, Edward L. Wheeler put Cheyenne, Wyoming, east of the Black Hills.) Of course, such trivia never mattered to their readers, who, like their literary heroes, were mostly semiliterate youths interested in thrills more than truth.

Wealthy sportsmen establish the Olympic Club in San Francisco. This club sponsored prizefights, provided gymnastics equipment and masseurs, and afforded members the opportunity to stage reproductions of the games of ancient Greece and Rome. The most spectacular of these galas was a full dress masquerade held at the Mechanics’ Pavilion in 1895. A local fencing club provided the gladiators, some cavalrymen from the Presidio provided the trick riding, local boxers and wrestlers did the pankration, and dancing girls provided entertainment during intermission.


A 150-pound Norfolk cabinet-maker named Jem Mace wins the British heavyweight boxing championship. The father of modern gloved boxing, Mace spent much of his career teaching others to spar with gloves rather than brawl with bare knuckles. He learned his trade in the boxing booths in English fairs, where audiences paid to watch a local bruiser try to earn a few quid by going the distance with some pint-sized champion, or fifty pounds by knocking him out.

Under the influence of the physical culture movement, Amherst becomes the first United States college to have a physical education department.

Feng Kue-fen introduces the term "self-strengthening" into the Chinese political lexicon. While the phrase originally meant using European arms and manufacturing methods to defend traditional Chinese values, by 1935, it also meant using foreign calisthenics to strengthen Chinese bodies and spirits for military service.


Belle Reynolds, an Illinois woman who accompanied her husband into battle, describes Civil War battlefield medicine. "The operation would begin, and in the midst of shrieks, curses, and wild laughs, the surgeon would wield over his wretched victim the glittering knife and saw; and soon the severed and ghastly limb, white as snow and spattered with blood, would fall upon the floor -- one more added to the terrible pile."

The Indiana inventor Richard Gatling introduces his famous crank-handled, six-barreled machine gun. Because of its fragile carriage, the United States military is not especially interested in the gun and so does not adopt it until 1866. Therefore, barring a brief appearance at the Battle of Petersburg, the appearance of Gatling guns in books and movies about the American Civil War is anachronistic. Following the American Civil War, Gatling’s guns were popular with industrialists (who used them as mechanical strikebreakers), sailors and imperialists (the guns served as equalizers during gunboat diplomacy), and with the Russians and Turks.

The British press starts a public panic by providing sensationalized coverage to a crime called "garroting." This involved the criminal using a sleeper hold or an armbar choke. Despite the media attention, such strangulation was an uncommon crime, but it did lead to the enactment of new laws aimed at controlling working-class violence and non-white protest. In other words, while aristocratic English rowdies were simply boisterous young gentlemen at play, working-class Jamaican women protesting government repression were ungrateful wretches who deserved whippings on bare buttocks with piano wire.

Peruvian slavers kidnap all but a few hundred people from Rapa Nui, or Easter Island, to work in the guano fields of the Chincha Islands. This effectively destroys the Easter Islanders’ traditional culture. It also gave future anthropologists the problem of deciding whether the Easter Islanders were originally Polynesians, Indians from Ecuador or Peru, or a combination of the two. Although the modern academic consensus is that the Easter Islanders were Polynesians, the Ecuadorians have a tradition about people using balsa rafts to sail west to inhabited Pacific islands. Meanwhile, the Easter Islanders shared some social practices, such as ear-stretching, with the Peruvians. Consequently, a pre-Columbian South American influence is possible.

With the help of businessman Jindrich ("Henry") Fugner, philosopher Miroslav Tyrs creates the Sokol ("Falcon") system of national gymnastics in Bohemia. This system offered women a greater part than German gymnastics, and supported Czech nationalism better than Prussian Turnverein. Tyrs divided exercise into various categories, such as with equipment or without equipment, or with partners or against opponents. He argued that while physical activity could be beautiful, it represented vanity and brutality when used for self-aggrandizement or sadistic reasons. Although the Sokol system became the Czech national method of exercise in 1918, the Nazi Kraft durch Freude ("Strength through Joy") movement replaced it during the late 1930s, and it was not restored until the end of Communism in 1989. Nonetheless, Sokol methods influenced Tsarist Russian sport during the 1890s and Soviet sport after 1918. Internationally known graduates of Sokol schools include wrestler Stanislaus Zbyszko and acrobat Otto Arco.

About 1863:

The United States becomes the second country to produce more energy using steam engines than muscles. Great Britain had passed this point perhaps fifty years before, and by the 1860s was producing perhaps ten times more chemical than human energy.

Despite the tendency of their projectiles to bounce off hard surfaces, tiny single-shot pistols shooting large caliber rimfire cartridges become popular in the United States. Today, such pistols are called derringers, after the brand carried by John Wilkes Booth during his assassination of Abraham Lincoln in 1865.


Toward quieting the public outcry about the morphine-addicted Civil War veterans cluttering city streets, the United States War Department opens the world’s first military psychiatric hospital. However, once the Civil War ends and voter backlash is no longer an issue, then the hospital is closed due to budget cuts.

Richard Francis Burton, who spoke good Arabic and was the first Englishman to visit Mecca, writes that Muslim women enjoyed more real equality than did English women. His reasoning was that customs that did not allow women to appear barefaced before strangers were not analogous to customs that allowed a man to beat his wife or dispose of her property against her will.


In the first volume of Principles of Biology, the English philosopher Herbert Spencer coins the phrase "survival of the fittest." Spencer saw nature as a state of pitiless warfare with the elimination of the weak and unfit as its goal. People who did not read him closely soon applied this theory to social dynamics, and called the result Social Darwinism. Social Darwinism was a very popular theory among white-collar workers whose masculinity (and jobs) were threatened by women and immigrants. Consequently, ever-increasing numbers of middle and upper class parents urged their sons to play combative sports such as football and boxing. The competition supposedly taught young men the value of pain, sacrifice, duty, and glory while keeping them from lapsing into slothful consumption. Although injuries occurred, they were, in Henry Cabot Lodge’s phrase, simply "part of the price which the English speaking race has paid for being world conquerors."

Because actors, acrobats, and puppeteers commonly produced and starred in anti-government theatricals, the Chinese government bans Cantonese stage and puppet theatricals. Meanwhile, Chinese rebels send agents to the United States to buy firearms, which were available in China only at exorbitant prices. With the Civil War in full swing, both arms and ammunition were easily available, and in April 1862 the T’ai-p’ing rebels bought three million percussion caps and 18,000 cartridges from one American gunrunner alone. Such weapons were often smuggled out using the coffins that Chinese laborers purchased so that their bodies would be sent home for burial.

A 57-year old Chinese boxer named Heung Chan begins teaching choy-li-fut ch’uan fa to Chinese immigrants living in San Francisco. (The style was named after Heung’s instructors, a Buddhist monk called Green Leaf and a pair of Shaolin boxers named Choy Ah-fok and Lee Yau-san.) Heung supported anti-government activities in China, and his system was notorious for teaching people how to kill using wooden benches, iron opium pipes, and assorted farm tools. Therefore, he was probably an enforcer for a gambling syndicate or prostitution ring rather than a priest or monk.

Oxford and Cambridge Universities hold the world’s first intercollegiate track-and-field meet. Victory was measured using hand-held stopwatches calibrated to a quarter of a second accuracy. In time, faster stopwatches and electric timers were acceptable to judges, whereas photoelectric finishes were not. The reason was that the judges did not want to admit that the human eye consistently scored competitors as faster than they really were.

The Germans introduce smokeless shotgun shells. The designer was a Prussian officer named E. Schultz (hence the early load, 42 grains Schultz), and the propellant was nitrated wood pulp, a substance that Alfred Nobel later called dynamite.

The Societa Ginnastica Cristofor Columba is established in Genoa. The oldest athletic society in Italy, it taught French Classical wrestling and German gymnastics.

Captain Richard Francis Burton describes the wrestling and vajramushti exhibitions held during harvest festivals at Baroda, India. While the Englishman remembered only blood and sweat, the Indians drank in the dancers, drummers, and spectacle. Perhaps because they had no scruples against eating chicken or lamb (only pork and beef), the Baroda professionals were Sikhs and Muslims rather than Hindus. Examples include Sadiqa Gilgoo, a champion of the 1840s who was later killed by robbers, and Ramzi, who wrestled before the Prince of Wales in 1875. Their patron in 1864 was Maharajah Khande Rao. Their patron in 1875 was Sayaji Rao, a 10-year old peasant boy who was more agreeable to the British than the adult brother of the recently deceased Khande Rao. The arena in which the wrestlers contested was 300 yards long and 200 yards wide. The maharajah and his associates sat in a pavilion at the western end of the quadrangle while everyone else watched from perches in trees or atop the candy-pink walls of the arena.

Prescott, Arizona hosts Anglo America’s first cowboy tournament, as rodeos were then known. While emphasizing the cowboy games that Mexican vaqueros played after roundups and cattle drives, rodeo’s roots lie in the jousting games that Spanish grandees introduced in the sixteenth century. By the 1870s, Texans – both white and African American – were roping, tying, and throwing steers. By the 1880s, cowboys from throughout the American West were riding untamed broncos. And, in 1900, Bill Pickett, a 40-year old African American brush-popper for Oklahoma’s 101 Ranch, helped popularize steer wrestling. Pickett’s trick involved biting the animal on the upper lip and downing it with his teeth. Thus the term "bulldogging," as it simulated the way a dog downed a bull during bull baiting. It was clearly an idea whose time had come, as a man named Chasper Gumper simultaneously introduced steer wrestling into Switzerland. (The English word "wrangler" comes from an Old High German verb meaning "to struggle," and a style of Austrian wrestling is called Ranggeln.) In 1908, Pickett took his lip-biting act to Mexico, where he outraged the Mexicans by lasting eight minutes with his teeth firmly embedded in the lip of a fresh fighting bull. Humane societies eventually banned the trick in the United States. Other skilled technicians associated with the Miller 101 Ranch show included a trick-rider named Tom Mix and a trick-roper named Will Rogers.


With the publication of a book called Researches into the Early History of Mankind, the self-educated English anthropologist Edward B. Tylor becomes the first important prophet of cultural diffusion. Tylor’s premise was that ideas are only invented once, and that cultures grow by borrowing these ideas from one another. These ideas are subsequently applied to the martial arts. Europeans, for instance, often insisted that Greeks or Romans were the source of invention while the Chinese and Indians argued about whether Bodhidharma was the inventor.

General James Miranda Barry, the Inspector General of the British Army Medical Department, dies in London, and is discovered after death to have been female.

Desperate for labor, James Strobridge of the Central Pacific Railroad hires fifty Chinese to build a railroad across the Donner Pass into Nevada. Finding the Chinese loyal and hard-working, Strobridge quickly sent to China for more. The outraged Irish went on strike. Charles Crocker, a co-owner of the Central Pacific Railroad, told the Irish that this wasn’t a problem: "We’ll let you go and hire nobody but them." Consequently, within a few months, Crocker and Strobridge had 2,000 Chinese working on the railroad, a number that grew to 10,000 by 1869. Pay averaged $30-35 a month. (The Chinese wanted $40, but Crocker refused to pay that much.) Avalanches wiped out whole camps during the winter, and blasting accidents killed men by the score. (Their chief explosive was nitroglycerin, manufactured on site by a Scottish chemist named James Hawden.) Unfortunately, no one in California thought to count Chinese dead in those days.


The Amateur Athletic Club is established in London. In athletic usage at this time, "amateur" referred to events with measured, quantifiable results whereas "professional" referred to events featuring faked results followed by exaggerated claims in the newspapers. Therefore, at this level, the establishment was very high-minded. On the other hand, an unstated purpose of the organization was to help British gentlemen avoid practicing and competing with anyone who was, or who ever had been, a mechanic, artisan, or laborer. Therefore, there was more than a little self-interest here, too.

Near Seymour, Indiana, the Reno gang commits North America’s first peacetime train robbery. Toward deterring such outrages, the railroad and express companies start hiring private detectives and special agents. Although the Pinkertons ("We Never Sleep") and the hard cases E. H. Harriman hired to track down Butch Cassidy’s Wild Bunch were the most famous cinder dicks, it was the agents of Wells Fargo who helped change American jurisprudence through their insistence on trials instead of lynchings.

By using black powder to blow open a safe in New York City, Langdon Moore of Natick, Massachusetts becomes the world’s first safecracker. Or, at least so he claimed in his 1893 autobiography.

Japanese gangsters are reported using revolvers as well as swords during their street fights.

After United States buffalo hunters and cavalrymen reject the Model 66 lever action carbine because of its under-powered cartridges and comparatively fragile construction, the Winchester Repeating Firearms Company starts marketing the weapons in Mexico and China. Popularly known as the Yellowboy, after the color of the receiver, the metal used in the construction of these famous rifles was gun metal (an alloy of copper and tin) rather than bronze (an alloy of copper and zinc).

United States and British patents are issued for the Berdan and Boxer center-fire cartridge ignition systems. Boxer-primed cartridges, with their external anvils, were more expensive to manufacture, while Berdan-primed cartridges, with their internal anvils, were harder to reload. Therefore the British-designed Boxer primers were used mainly in the United States, where reloading was popular, while the American-designed Berdan primers were used mainly in Europe, where reloading was less popular.


With the patronage of John Sholto Douglas, the eccentric eighth Marquess of Queensberry, new rules are promulgated for amateur boxing. These rules, which were probably written by John Graham Chambers in 1865, required fighters to wear gloves that were in good condition. They required a referee to move about inside the ring and all seconds to remain outside the ropes. They outlawed wrestling and hugging. They made rounds last three minutes each, with one minute between rounds. They gave fighters ten seconds to stand back up after having been knocked down. Finally, they banned boots having either springs or spikes. Queensberry rules helped pugilism recover its lost popularity, as they reduced the visible injuries and subjected fighters to the whims of the clock, something important to working men who needed to catch the last streetcar home.

US sporting papers begin routinely posting the numbers of hits each player made during a baseball game. Although the innovation is generally credited to Henry Chadwick, an English-born journalist who used cricket-style accounting to illustrate his baseball articles for the New York Clipper, the first known appearance of box scores came during accounts of a New York-versus-Brooklyn series of October 1845. Anyway, their popularity greatly contributed to the modern interest in essentially meaningless sport statistics.

The Pall Mall Gazette notes that for many British males, Good Friday was a day for attending wrestling matches. The Londoners, sniffed the reporter, "smoked inferior tobacco, sometimes in fancy pipes; addressed each other at considerable distances by abbreviations of their Christian names; made small bets at the tops of their voices, with an unnecessary amount of vociferation; and if any difference of opinion arose, expressed their own views with great force and frankness." The rest spoke with North Country accents, "and talked knowingly of previous performances of the heroes of the day, and were evidently more or less connoisseurs." The style was Cumberland and Westmorland, and the venue was the Agricultural Hall at Islington.

The Russian Army develops rifle bullets that explode upon hitting a soft target such as a horse or person. The Czar decides that this is inhumane, and so in the Saint Petersburg declaration of 1868, the use of exploding projectiles lighter than 400 grams is prohibited by international law. However, with the development of high-powered smokeless powders in the 1880s, soldiers on colonial campaigns found that solid high-speed projectiles didn’t have as much stopping power as some of the older, large bore, bullets. Therefore, in 1897 the Indian Army introduced a new soft-tipped cartridge for the .303 Enfield rifle. Designed by Captain Bertie Clay, they were popularly called Dum-Dums, after the armory in Calcutta where they were made. While subsequently banned from military use, Clay’s bullets are ancestors of modern hollow-point bullets.


The Adjutant General of the United States reports that the desertion rate among white troops serving in the American West has almost 57%, while the suicide rate was nearly 8%. Meanwhile, the desertion and suicide rate among Negro troops was only 2-3%. The difference was that the black soldiers, most of whom were recently freed slaves, were used to doing what they were told, and being sober while they did it. On the other hand, German and Irish immigrants often were not. (In those days, comparatively few native-born Americans served in the Army except as officers.) By the way, at least one of the African American soldiers, Cathay Williams, was a woman.

The New York Athletic Club opens in New York City, in part to keep rich white men from having to compete with blacks, recent immigrants, and others without the proper pedigrees.

Masked wrestling appears in Paris. The wrestler in the black mask was a male model named Alfred and the wrestler in the red mask was Pierre the Coachman. The act was so popular that it continued until 1870.

Amid great public controversy, the British abolish public hangings. As Britain only abolished the death penalty in 1964, most of the uproar surrounded the loss of entertainment. (As many as 100,000 Londoners turned out for individual executions, and their merriment caused The Times to complain in 1864 about the "loud laughing, oaths, fighting, obscene conduct and still more filthy language" that reigned around the gallows.)


George Steadman of Ashby, East Westmoreland, wins a prize at a wrestling tournament held at the Agricultural Hall on Liverpool Road in London, a feat that he repeats every year for the next 31 years. Despite packing 275 pounds unto a 5’11" frame, Steadman was a fine all-rounder, and the prizes he took were as often in sprinting, hurdles, and best-dressed as wrestling.

In Copenhagen, a Danish circus strongman named Frederik Safft defeats a German named Wilhelm Heygster in a wrestling match. As the Prussians had defeated Denmark in a war in 1864, the victory made Safft a national hero. The style of wrestling was French Classical. The next famous Danish professional wrestler was Magnus Bech-Olsen. Another circus strongman, he flourished from 1889 until 1903, when he retired to become a circus director. His replacement as national champion was Jess Pedersen. Contemporary pioneers of Danish amateur wrestling included S. Ahlqvist. The best-known Danish boxer of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century was of course the world champion Oscar "Battling" Nelson. However, other pioneers of Danish boxing included Jim Smith, who first learned his trade in Australia during the 1890s, and Smith’s student Richard Christensen, who boxed in the US from 1906-1911 under the name Dick Nelson.

The baseball team known as the Cincinnati Red Stockings becomes North America’s first professional sport club. (Although earlier clubs paid players and charged admission to games, none actively recruited players from elsewhere, or routinely played scheduled games in distant cities.) The Red Stockings were very successful, and equivalent clubs soon appeared in Boston, Chicago, Hartford, Louisville, New York, Philadelphia, and St. Louis. To restrain competition, keep player salaries low, and drive out potential rivals, the National League of Professional Base Ball Clubs was established in 1876. As National League owners objected to beer sales, brewers such as Anheuser-Busch started the rival American Association of Base Ball Clubs in 1882. The American League charged less at the gate, but made up the difference in beer sales. As with most subsequent professional sport leagues, the owners were in the "game" solely for the money, and treated and traded players as if they were cattle.

The New York dime novelist Ned Buntline writes his first imaginative fiction about a hard-drinking Irish-American roustabout named William F. ("Buffalo Bill") Cody. These fantasies were central in creating a world in which people viewed cowboys as hairy-chested Anglo-Saxon folk heroes rather than poorly paid Mexican or African American agricultural laborers. This conversion happened quickly, too, to judge by the great commercial success of The Virginian, a mainstream Western by Owen Wister published in 1902. The Virginian went through 38 printings by 1911, and sold over 1.5 million copies by 1938. It was also a stage play, a movie, and a television series. Its success, says historian Elliott Gorn, was due to working-class men and boys needing virile fantasy heroes in a world increasingly filled with "routinized work, soulless corporations, aggressive women, smothering mothers, rich new industrialists, radical laborers, [and] swarthy foreigners." As for the cowboy’s reputed gunfighting skills, these were based on vaudeville acts rather than coroners’ reports. In 1884, a celebrated American handgunner named Ira Paine publicly boasted of placing five carefully aimed shots into a 2" group at 12 yards, and another five into a 7" group at 50. This feat was mediocre at best by 1934, when Ed McGivern fired from a Smith & Wesson .38 caliber revolver into a playing card set up 7 yards distant in 45/100ths of a second. Of course, when firing a single-action .45 Colt, McGivern’s times doubled. This datum supports Bat Masterson’s theory that a fast gun was anyone who could fire his first shot in under half a second, and all five shots in under two seconds. As for the practice required, certainly no famous gunman ever practiced as much as McGivern, who attributed his feats to common sense figuring and the expenditure of about 30,000 practice rounds. Because this required much time, money, and work, working lawmen and cowboys preferred rifles and shotguns for almost every purpose. Note, too, that despite Hollywood, gamblers and pimps were more likely to carry handguns than were cowboys. For example, Bill Hickok, Wyatt Earp, and Doc Holliday were professional gamblers, while Luke Short was a gambler and pimp. Skill was minimal, too. Notorious man-killers frequently fired four or five times at point-blank range without scoring any hits, and Wyatt Earp once had his weapon fall from its holster when he tipped too far back in his chair.

John Healy and Alfred Hamilton begin selling lever-action rifles and metallic cartridges to the Canadian Blackfeet. These weapons made bows-and-arrows obsolete for both warfare and buffalo hunting on the Northern Plains. Although the Northwest Mounted Police chased Healy and Hamilton out of Alberta during the early 1870s, Healy remained a well-known trader in Alaska and the Yukon into the early 1900s.

A Japanese general named Yamagata Aritomo travels to Europe to discover the secrets of European military power. Impressed by the German victory in the Franco-Prussian War, Yamagata returned home believing that gymnastics, drill, and mass conscription were the way to instill discipline and patriotism into Japanese youth. Still, while General Yamagata liked gymnastics, drill, and mass conscription, most Japanese youths did not. Japanese resistance to military conscription included fifteen riots or uprisings, plus countless self-mutilations and flights to avoid service. (As late as 1889, the Japanese government noted that 10% of the eligible male population changed residences annually to avoid military service.)

German chemists develop bromobenzenecyanide, or CA. Burning CA creates an irritant cloud that irritates the eyes and upper respiratory tract; hence, the name "tear gas." In 1915, the Germans used CA as a chemical weapon on the Eastern Front, but because it was not particularly lethal and had almost no effect on horses, they subsequently used it mostly as a training agent. (The equivalent Allied training agent of the era was chlorine.) During the 1920s, the United States introduced the somewhat less toxic chloroacetaphenone, or CN, for use as a training agent, and by the late 1920s, it was widely used by police forces. Although less lethal than CA, CN can cause blistered skin and nausea, and in confined spaces, it can cause pneumonia, blindness, or death. Propellant charges routinely cause burn injuries and fires, and rifle grenades occasionally cause blunt trauma injuries. These risks are usually considered acceptable during military training, crowd control, and hostage situations. An major advantage of chemical irritants during crowd control and hostage situations is that chemical clouds do not photograph as well as cavalry, fire trucks, and armored cars, nor do they routinely kill as many people as do nervous infantry. For example, when Sikh and Gurkha troops under the command of a British brigadier named Reginald Dyer fired into a crowd at Amritsar, India, in 1919, several hundred demonstrators died. Likewise, four students died and eleven were injured at Kent State University in 1970 when panicked Ohio National Guardsmen fired into a crowd.

About 1870:

Wu Yu-hsiang combines the t’ai chi ch’uan techniques of Yang Lu-ch’an and Ch’en Ch’ing-p’ing to create northern Wu-style t’ai chi ch’uan. (Southern Wu-style t’ai chi ch’uan is slightly different. Wu Chien-ch’uan introduced this style into Shanghai in 1928. He learned it from his father, Wu Ch’uan-yu, who had studied with Yang Lu-chan’s son Pan-hou.) Principles of northern Wu-style t’ai chi ch’uan include continuous, relaxed movement; a solid feeling inside; a straight body; each arm protecting its own half of the body; the hands staying close to the body; and the inner energy directing and guiding the bodily movement. The boxing classic attributed to Wu Yu-hsiang is called "Expositions of Insights into the Practice of the Thirteen Postures." A sample from this classic follows. The translation is by Benjamin Lo and his students Martin Inn, Robert Amacker, and Susan Foe.

Be still as a mountain,

move like a great river.

Walk like a cat.

The form is like that

of a falcon about to seize a rabbit,

and the shen (spirit) is like that

of a cat about to catch a rat.

Viro Small, a 16-year old former slave from Beaufort, South Carolina, becomes North America’s first known African American professional wrestler. Small’s training involved hauling beer kegs and sauerkraut barrels around New York City, and his usual wrestling style was collar-and-elbow. The matches sometimes took place in Vermont and other times in New York City. In New York, the usual venue was a tavern named the Bastille of the Bowery. Owned by a former pugilist named Owney Geoghegan, the Bastille of the Bowery filled a two-story building. Both floors had twelve-foot square prize rings that were constant use day and night. Said one visiting muckraker, "The faces around us are worse than those seen in a bench show of pugnacious dogs, and instinct teaches us to have a care for our nickels, for our pockets are in imminent danger." This description was probably true, too, as in 1863 Geoghegan won a decision over Con Orem by having his seconds point a gun at the referee’s head, and in 1882 Small was shot (but not killed) following a post-match argument.


Australian street gangs, or "Larrikins," become notorious for their violence toward policemen, Chinese, and churches. The Larrikins were working class youths from the Sydney slums, and were identifiable by their high-heeled boots, bell-bottom trousers, and neck scarves.

Pope Leo XIII approves the doctrine of papal infallibility.

The United States trick shooter Fred Kemble popularizes the use of choked bore shotguns. (The first patent for choke bored shotguns was taken out by Walter Roper in 1866.) Choke boring improves shotshell patterns by as much as 100% at 40 yards. Choke boring was an option available in the popular ejector shotguns introduced by the British manufacturer W. W. Greener in 1874.

Ben Thompson, a frontier gambler born in Yorkshire but raised in Texas, invents the shoulder holster. The idea was to allow him to introduce large revolvers into card games.

More Olympic Games are staged in Athens. After the 400-meter race was won by a butcher, the wrestling event by a laborer, and the gymnastics event by stone-cutter, the Greek privileged classes changed the rules so that only university men could enter the Olympic Games of 1875. Unfortunately, that only caused the quality of competition to decline, and resulted in no additional Olympics being held until 1888.

The Scottish strongman Donald Dinnie makes his first of several well-publicized tours of North America. During these trips, he was sponsored by Caledonian clubs, and he later recalled that one season in the US and Canada paid about as well as three years in Britain. An enormously powerful man, Dinnie is credited with inventing the modern style of hammer-throwing, and once carried a rock weighing 340 pounds in one hand for 20 yards. (Obviously, the rock had a handle. A photograph in the July 1996 National Geographic shows Goenaxto II, a modern Basque stone-lifting champion, struggling to lift a 350-pound boulder without handles.) He also wrestled, winning the Police Gazette medal in 1882. His record purse for a wrestling match was the £320, or about $1,600, that he earned for a match with William Muldoon in San Francisco in 1883. (By way of comparison, Dinnie’s record day in New Zealand was about £90.) In addition, Dinnie personified the changing face of sport by becoming one of the first European athletes to make money endorsing commercial products.

In one of Britain’s first international wrestling championships, the Gascon strongman François Bonnet and his partner Dubois traveled to England to compete with the British wrestlers William Jameson and Richard Wright. The first match was in Cumberland style, and the English won. The second match was in the French Classical style, and the French won. A coin was tossed for the third round, and the French won the toss and the match. Then, in a pattern that has not changed in professional wrestling, the English champion George Steadman defeated both Bonnet and Dubois in both Cumberland and French Classical wrestling.

Prussian military advisors introduce gymnastics (Turnbewegungen) into Japanese infantry training programs. Meanwhile, French military advisors introduce dressage into Japanese officer training programs. In Japanese, the gymnastics were originally known as taijutsu ("physical techniques"), but when introduced into the newly organized public schools in 1873, they were renamed taiso. As for mass appeal, while riding horses became as popular as tennis and golf among Japanese aristocrats, gymnastics did not become popular with working-class athletes until the Asahi Breweries begin sponsoring gymnastics competitions during the 1930s.

In a world where clerks and secretaries were increasingly female, Leopold von Sacher-Masoch’s novel Venus in Furs turns male clerks’ terror of what Henry James called "damnable feminization" into a fantastic story of fur-clad, whip-cracking women verbally and sexually abusing men. Besides creating a stock figure for subsequent pornographic fiction, Masoch’s conclusion retains some validity: "Whoever allows himself to be whipped, deserves to be whipped."


Japan’s first modern civil police force is formed in Tokyo. The organizer and first chief was a former Satsuma samurai named Kawaji Toshiyoshi. (About two-thirds of early Japanese police were former Satsuma samurai.) A trained swordsman of the Chiba school, Kawaji believed that martial arts training developed superior policemen. Many Japanese agreed with him, and to this day training in kendo, judo, and jodo (singlestick) continues to play an important role in Japanese police training.

An English soldier named Sir George Tomkyns Chesney publishes a tale about a nearly bloodless German conquest of Britain called "The Battle of Dorking." This fantasy fathered a late-Victorian literary genre and grandfathered Tom Clancy’s post-modern technothrillers.

A New York physician named Jacob Mendes DaCosta reports that many Civil War veterans suffer from panic disorders. At the time, these were diagnosed as "irritable hearts" instead of panic disorders.

An Irish jig dancer named John H. Clark opens a combination dance studio and boxing gymnasium on Arch Street, in Philadelphia. This arrangement was unusual, as most boxing gymnasiums of the 1870s were the back rooms of what polite society called "sporting public houses" and everyone else called saloons. Often run by former pugilists, sporting houses often had a large room that was open on Saturday nights for public sparring. In Britain and Australia, admission was about a tuppence while in the United States it was a nickel or a dime. Smoking and drinking were encouraged, and the first fights started at eight p.m. To keep the crowds as long as possible, the beginners fought the undercards while more highly skilled fighters fought later in the evening. Fights usually went three rounds, with the length of the round being a knockdown, as the fights were conducted according to London Prize Ring rules, not Queensberry rules. Winning amateurs took home any coins that the crowd threw into the ring. Winning professionals, on the other hand, fought for prearranged prizes. These were around £10 in Britain, but usually less in the United States and Australia. Specialized training for professionals consisted of running or walking 30 miles a day when weather permitted (and skipping rope by the hour when it did not), punching sand-filled bags, and striking the air while holding three-pound dumbbells. Diet while in training consisted of oatmeal porridge, stale bread, raw eggs mixed in sherry or beer, and mutton chops or beefsteaks cooked rare. On the other hand, things avoided during training included butter, sugar, pork, vegetables, water, tea, coffee, tobacco, hard liquor, and spices except for salt and pepper.

Feuds between rival Chinese gangs erupt into violence in San Francisco and British Columbia. These lead to lurid tales of "tong wars."

Rahim Sultaniwala, a famous champion of the 1910s, starts his wrestling career at Abbotabad, a British hill station in the Punjab. Rahim’s patron was Brigadier General Charles Granville Bruce, who had a wrestling pit dug near his house. Both the British and the rajahs wagered thousands of rupees on these matches, and took inordinate pride in having the strongest sides. Their wrestlers, of course, earned a few hundred rupees a month, plus room and board. While a piddling sum from the standpoint of a rajah or a general, it was still an amount equal to about seven times that paid a household servant or manual laborer.


The British Army experiments with war games fought upon a map.

The German Army adopts its first Mauser rifle. The Mauser Model 1871 was a single-shot bolt-action weapon firing an 11.15x60mm bullet propelled by 77 grains of black powder. Although later improved with the addition of a tubular eight-round magazine in 1884, by then its cartridge had become obsolete due to the development of smokeless propellants. Therefore, a new 7.9mm Mannlicher rifle replaced it in 1888.

French training officers introduce calisthenics and close-order drill into Japanese military training. At the same time, French jurists revise the Japanese legal and penal codes. Motivations for this French support included doing whatever it took to help the French silk industry.

French Classical wrestlers travel to Germany, where they usually won, thus bringing great joy of the French, who were still reeling from their defeat during the Franco-Prussian War. These French heroes included Fournier, Christol, Rigal, and Joseph Doublier, while their opponents included Carl Kemp, Adolf Grün, and Lepp. This said, the first famous German wrestler was Karl Abs, a hard-drinking carpenter from Mecklenburg who started wrestling professionally in 1881 at the age of 31, and later made his reputation in the United States wrestling William Muldoon.

During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, artists depicted galloping horses with both forelegs stretched forward and both hind legs stretched backwards, as this was how most people thought they moved. Then, in 1872, photographer Eadward Muybridge decided to document this movement using stop-action photography, and to his surprise, he learned that this wasn’t how horses ran at all. Muybridge’s famous photographs were published in 1878, and eight years later, France’s Aimé Morot became the first artist known to have painted a battle scene depicting accurate equestrian movement. Most people hated Morot’s picture, greatly preferring the old, less accurate depictions.


John W. Draper, a British-born professor of chemistry and biology at New York University, writes The History of the Conflict between Religion and Science. In this influential book (it went through fifty printings over the next fifty years), Draper argued that natural science was synonymous with progress while organized religion was synonymous with repression. A believer in progress, Draper believed that science was bound to win. This viewpoint subsequently becomes dogma for disciples of the secular faiths called "pragmatism" and "scientific realism."

The Japanese government adopts a Gregorian calendar for all official purposes. However, the old lunar calendar remained in use for most private and religious purposes.

While taking control of the gambling houses, opium dens, and bordellos of Kuala Lumpur, a Chinese organized crime boss named Yap Ah-loy spends a million dollars paying hired toughs, or samseng, to fight for him. While the 36-year old Yap was enormously strong and skilled at Chinese boxing, his hatchet men fought using swords, knives, clubs, and flintlock muskets rather than fists and feet. Roots of the violence included a hard-drinking bachelor subculture in the Chinese immigrant communities.

Impressed with their high rates of fire, the Chinese government buys lever-action Winchester carbines for its cavalrymen. However, for its part, the United States Army decides to re-equip its own cavalrymen using single-shot "Trapdoor" Springfield carbines. The official explanation for this decision was that the Winchester mechanism was too fragile for military use. However, the real reason was that the Army’s Springfield Armory owned the patents to the Springfield mechanism, and therefore Springfield weapons cost the Army less than Winchester designs. And, in fairness to the Springfield designers, the lowest bidder made the issue ammunition. When placed into a hot, fouled, chamber, the soft copper casing used in the Springfield’s ammunition expanded, and consequently it tended to jam the weapons, thus hindering reloading and firing. Originally, soldiers were told to extract jammed cartridges with their knives, but after the Little Big Horn battle in 1876, the shell was redesigned and thereafter the carbine proved quite satisfactory in combat.

"Fear not, fair maid! By heavens, you are safe with Wild Bill, who is ever ready to risk his life and die, if need be, in defense of weak and defenseless womanhood!" Thus cried the notorious Kansas gunman, Wild Bill Hickok, from the boards of a New York stage. (To Hickok’s credit, only his appreciation for an attractive fellow thespian called Mademoiselle Morlacchi kept him at it.) Champion prizefighters also appeared in touring stage plays. The reason was that these plays allowed the boxers to hold sparring exhibitions in towns where prizefights were illegal. Although they paid well – a champion could make $200 a week -- the crowds could be rough. There was merriment in Seattle during the 1880s when a wit from the gallery responded to John L. Sullivan’s entrance line, "I’ll save you, mudder," with "Save her? You can’t even pronounce her!" And there was equal merriment in Philadelphia in 1904 when a horse kicked Bob Fitzsimmons in the groin. (In addition to sparring three rounds, Fitzsimmon’s act included shoeing a horse).


Impresario P. T. Barnum refurbishes an old New York and Harlem Union Railroad depot and calls it Madison Square Garden. The first boxing match held at Barnum’s Garden was a four-round glove contest between John L. Sullivan and the English fighter Tug Wilson in 1882. Three other buildings have held the name since.

Joseph Glidden, Isaac Elwood, and other American inventors introduce machine-made barbed wire. By 1880, smooth-talking drummers such as John W. ("Bet-a-Million") Gates sold 80 million pounds of double-strand barbed wire in the American West, thereby causing open-range ranching to join the American bison and the passenger pigeon on the endangered species list.

Upon disembarking their troopships at Portsmouth, England, the 102nd Royal Madras Fusiliers stage a "Grand Assault at Arms" that incorporated demonstrations of "broad [sword] and single stick fighting, mounted combat, bayonet and sword fencing, and gymnastics including the flying trapeze and vaulting." The vogue for displays of martial prowess as popular public entertainment was to continue until the outbreak of the First World War.


As part of efforts aimed at modernizing its military, the Ch’ing Dynasty establishes the Nanking Military Academy. This was the first school in China to teach athletic activities to young aristocrats. These activities included German drill and gymnastics, usually with Japanese instructors. Indicative of their military nature, they were called t’i ts’ao, a phrase meaning "exercises" rather than t’i yü, meaning "sports."

Parisian street gangsters are reported shaving their heads and dressing in metal-studded leather jackets. The press responded by called such people "apaches." Originally, this name referred to a Belgian pepperbox revolver that had a blade under its barrel and a knuckle-duster in its butt, but after the American Indian leader Geronimo became a household word, the revolver was forgotten. Around 1890, the apache name also began to describe a sadomasochistic dance genre in which tattooed, scarred women fought knife or saber duels while stripped to their underclothes, or smiled while men slapped them around.

After studying in Germany for a decade, Mauritz Waenerberg establishes Finland’s first gymnastic society. Wrestling was not originally a major portion of Waenerberg’s program, as he believed that athletics should develop the mind more than the body. Therefore French Classical wrestling did not become popular in Finland until 1897, when a Polish circus wrestler named Ladislaus Pytlasinsky began teaching French-style groundwork in Helsinki.

The Sharps Rifle Company of Bridgeport, Connecticut introduces three new cartridges in .50 caliber for its custom-made Model 1874 hunting rifles. Although advertised as buffalo guns, these rifles cost $118 from the factory. Therefore, they were hardly as common on the American frontier as subsequent adventure novels would have you believe. Instead, the .50 caliber Sharps rifles that slaughtered the bison herds and (at least according to legend) made the 1,200 yard shot near Adobe Walls in 1874 were military surplus Model 151 rifle-muskets converted to percussion cap ignition systems and rebored to .50-70 Government.

Mary Baker Eddy publishes Science and Health. Four years later, the First Church of Christ Scientist is established to teach the doctrines contained in this book. Among these doctrines were the principles that illness was error and that evil was imaginary, as the physical world was illusory. Theological influences included Calvinism, Swedenborgianism, and nineteenth century millenarianism.

The Russian mystic Helena Blavatsky and the American lawyer Henry Olcott establish the Theosophical Society in New York and London. Blavatsky was something of a charlatan and Olcott is important mainly for supporting Sri Lankan Buddhism during a time of profound Christian oppression. However, they were also among the first Europeans or Americans to mine Vedic and Buddhist philosophies for religious truths, and Theosophist Katherine Tingley introduced yoga into Southern California in 1899. Unfortunately, the Theosophists’ purported universalism was selective, as Theosophists downplayed orthodox Christianity and Judaism, scorned Confucianism, Islam, Sikhism, and Taoism, and ignored animism.


As part of its modernization program, the Japanese government prohibits civilians from wearing swords. Although swordsmanship then went into a major decline (many of the fine swords and suits of armor in European and American museums were collected during the 1870s and 1880s), jujutsu and sumo continued to be popular.

Scottish rifle designer James Paris Lee patents the spring-loaded, removable box magazine. These eliminated the problem of sharp-nosed bullets setting off the primers of the cartridges in front of them, and increased sustained rates of fire. (The still-standing world’s record for a manually loaded rifle was set in 1914. Using a magazine-loaded Lee-Enfield rifle, Sergeant Snoxall of the British Army’s School of Musketry shot 38 rounds into a 12-inch bulls-eye set 300 yards away in just one minute.) Nevertheless, this excellent design was not incorporated into a military rifle (the Lee-Metford) until 1888, largely because military leaders doubted that an increased rate of fire was necessary.

The United States Marine Corps begins carrying the Stars-and-Stripes into battle instead of regimental colors; the United States cavalry followed suit eleven years later. The reason for the change was that officers thought that the flags would help ensure the loyalty of the immigrants who filled the United States military. The equally jingoistic practice of playing the national anthem and saluting the flag at the beginning of sporting contests dates to World War II. (Although bands sometimes played the national anthem during the seventh inning stretch as early as 1918, this was more spontaneous than expected.)

An Italian traveler named Edmondo de Amicicis describes Moroccan stick-and-sword dancing as "high leaps without object, contusions, leg-actions, and blows, announced a whole minute before by an immense sweep of the arm. Everything was done with a holy phlegm which would have allowed one of our experts to have distributed... a volley of blows without the least risk of receiving one." The problem was that the traveler mistook sword dancing, whose purpose was symbolic and entertaining, for sword fighting, whose purpose was pragmatic and lethal. According to Gary Lind-Sinanian of the Armenian Library and Museum in Watertown, Massachusetts, sword dances remain common throughout the Arab world. In Lebanon and Syria, the dance is a stylized combat between two men armed with swords and bucklers. Training began when the dancers were children. To minimize injuries, sparring was done only with original partners. (Dancers typically retired or danced solo if partners moved, died, or retired.) Sword dances were done at funerals, weddings, circumcisions, and other family gatherings, and symbolized the dancers’ readiness to fight for their friends. Musical accompaniment (flute and drum, typically) was normal. As firearms became more common, emphasis turned away from combat efficiency, and toward athletic spectacle. The modern form, says Lind-Sinanian, "is more impressive-looking, and features a more erect carriage, poses emphasizing strength, elaborate dance steps, and frequent clashes of the sword on the dancer’s own shield and his partner’s shield. The older combat form is virtually extinct."

An Irish journalist named Richard Kyle Fox takes control of a bankrupt New York true crime paper called the National Police Gazette. To increase business, he soon added woodcut drawings of burlesque stars in revealing costumes, a sport section whose motto was, "Be as truthful as possible, but a story’s a story," and free advertisements for the hotels, bars, and barber shops that subscribed to his publication. Along the way, Fox also created the first sports heroes, starting with the boxers Paddy Ryan and Joe Goss in 1880.

"Every month or so," wrote a sportswriter for the Virginia City, Nevada Gold Hill News, "the prizefighters favor us with a mill, which we all go see and then indict the fighters, as a sort of concession to the Puritanical element." Such bouts were usually on Sundays, and pitted the men from one camp against another. Cornish jacket wrestling was also a popular spectator sport in the Western mining towns. Although violence was always a possibility, referees were usually local saloonkeepers. Therefore, as an anonymous Virginia City reporter of the 1860s whose turn of phrase suggests the young Mark Twain said, referees "usually failed to be killed." Instead, the audience was at risk: five men were shot, one fatally, during a riot following a disputed decision at Virginia City’s Washoe Track in 1863. Violence was most likely following fouls, as many gamblers did not feel obligated to pay up following a fight won by foul means. There were two Virginia Cities, and Con Orem fought Hugh O’Neal to a 185-round draw in the one in Montana in January 1865. The purse was $1,000 in gold plus a share of gate receipts. Because the Montana promoter J. A. Nelson recouped his prize-money selling liquor to the audience, one suspects that Orem and O’Neal may not have been in any hurry to knockout anyone. This linkage to liquor sales may partly explain the hundreds of rounds typical of late nineteenth century prizefights. Even so, London Prize Ring rounds rarely lasted more than a minute, and were often less. Typically, a fighter would fall down immediately following a good blow to take his 30-second rest, or fake a slip to avoid a counter.

Inspired by the success of the YMCA at providing urban youth with an attractive alternative to saloons, the Wilson Mission establishes the Boys Club of the City of New York. To attract Catholic and Jewish youths, active Protestant proselytizing was minimal. Rich sponsors including railroad baron E. H. Harriman supported such organizations because they were believed to reduce street crime.


During the Satsuma Rebellion, where Imperial conscripts used rifles and artillery to shoot down tens of thousands of sword-wielding samurai, the exclamation "Banzai!" enters the Japanese political lexicon. (While the expression literally means "Ten thousand years!" it is better translated as "Long live the Emperor!") During this same rebellion, the Japanese yakuza gangs also bought themselves a vast amount of political goodwill by giving their military and financial support to the hard-pressed Imperial forces. The Japanese government repaid this debt following the war by allowing the gangsters to organize and control the Japanese longshore, construction, and rickshaw taxi companies. This mob control over Japanese rickshaw companies is noted because prostitution was not a big business in Okinawa before the arrival of the Japanese in the 1880s. Several turn-of-the-century Okinawan karate men, including Kyan Chotoku (who once claimed that the best place to practice karate was a red-light district, and who went broke due to gambling debts), were rickshaw men. While Kyan’s occupation and gambling debts do not prove any direct links between Okinawan karate men and the yakuza, they certainly suggest them. Circumstantial evidence includes the following. 1) Honda Toshiaki’s complaint in 1798 that the Satsuma clan made more money smuggling copper into China via the Ryukyus than it paid to the Tokugawas in taxes. 2) Richard Kim told stories about karate being used by the bouncers employed by early twentieth century Naha "tea-houses." 3) Douglas Haring had stories about the fights between Japanese and Okinawan laborers on the docks of Amami-Shoto circa 1953. 4) In 1971, Miyazato Eiichi resigned from his post as chief karate instructor to the Naha police following allegations of collusion with underworld figures. 5) Sasakawa Ryoichi, a former World Union of Karate-Do Organizations president, was known as the Godfather of Japan due to his underworld connections.

The residents of the English village of Sutton, near Hull, give a wife-beater a ride on the stang. This involved mounting the miscreant on a sedan chair and then carrying him about town while local wits debated his manly virtues. The practice dated to the fifteenth century, and was usually done in May or December.

While touring Australia and New Zealand, the English pugilist Jem Mace popularizes three and four-round gloved bouts fought according to Queensberry rules. Antipodean fighters who benefited from Mace’s tour included the Australian welterweight Larry Foley, who became a prominent Sydney trainer following his retirement from the ring in 1879, and New Zealand middleweight Bob Fitzsimmons, who eventually became world champion at three different weights. Because Queensberry rules fights were held indoors, with gloves, under close supervision, they usually circumvented local ordinances against prizefights. Their bans on wrestling, meanwhile, protected the traveling professional from most accidental injuries. Plus, if the traveling professional were a media favorite, as was Mace, then fans would pay high prices to see the great man in the flesh. Best of all, such bouts could be held indoors after working hours, which meant that prizefights no longer interrupted the work day. Therefore newspapers decided that four-round exhibitions were good for business, and began promoting rather than discouraging them.

While preparing for a prizefight with William C. McClellan of New Brunswick, middleweight boxer Mike Donovan of Troy, New York places a football inside a canvas cover and ties it to the ceiling and the floor. In 1886, Donovan tried to patent the idea so that he could market double-ended and speed bags. The Patent Office told Donovan that he had waited too long, and that by then, the idea was in the public domain. This was probably just as well, as Donovan claimed to have created just about every move in boxing. In 1904, for instance, he even claimed to have invented Bob Fitzsimmons’ famous shift during a rematch with McClellan held in San Francisco in 1878.

In Brussels, Frenchman Joseph Charlemont introduces new rules to savate. These prohibited direct kicks with the toe of the foot, hitting the opponent’s head while holding it, hitting with the elbow, knee, head, or wrist, or striking anywhere between the groin and navel. There were three rounds of three minutes each, and ties were settled during a sudden-death fourth round. Wrestling was also discouraged, and in 1911, outlawed altogether. Charlemont subsequently returned home to Paris, where his students included future European boxing champion Georges Carpentier. And he also continued working on his rules, which were published in a book in 1899.

A series of violent railway and mining strikes lead to the creation of volunteer militia units throughout the United States. Known collectively as the National Guard, these paramilitary organizations introduced thousands of young Americans to the joys of handling obsolete firearms and drilling to martial music. Military drill also became popular in United States high schools after 1893, although not without opposition from physical educators such as Harvard’s Dudley Allen Sargent, who argued that youths should learn coordination and balance using free rather than mechanical movements.


Ernst von Bergmann, an ethnic German serving in the Russian army during one of its wars with Ottoman Turkey, introduces asepsis to military medicine. In English, this meant he washed his hands and saws between amputations. While doing so may sound obvious, the idea was novel at the time, and is important because historically more soldiers died from disease than wounds or enemy action.


During one of the largest mass migrations in human history (the twentieth century East Asian migration into Manchuria may have involved more people), fifty million European, Asian, and African American settlers pour into Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, and North America. Why? Mainly, says historian Alfred Crosby, because life in those lands promised lots of land, political freedom, and meals with meat several times a week. And how did these people know that these things awaited them in America or the Antipodes? Because railroad and steamship company advertisements told them so.


Nicholas August Otto and Eugen Langen make the first high-speed, four-stroke, internal combustion engine. In 1885, the German engineer Gottlieb Daimler put a half-horsepower version on a bicycle to create the first motorcycle. Also in 1885, another German engineer named Karl-Friedrich Benz mounted a .85 horsepower version on a three-wheeled carriage to create the first modern automobile.

Pacific Northwest Coast Indian warrior societies are described as waging dance battles instead of gun battles. The Indians’ reasoning was that the side with the fittest dancers and strongest war magic would win the contest -- and by extension, the war. Similar dance battles also have been reported in Indonesia, and are a staple of Hollywood and Hong Kong musicals.

During its most violent year as a cow town, Dodge City, Kansas, witnesses the shooting deaths of four gamblers and two sporting ladies. ("Sporting ladies" is not euphemistic, as in 1878, calling a white, English-speaking dance-hall girl a whore was a good way to get your face slapped. From a legal standpoint, a prostitute was not someone who trafficked in sex acts, but any unmarried working-class female without a "respectable" job such as factory hand or maid. Therefore, in everyday terms, a sporting lady was any working-class woman having independent income whose idea of a good time included drinking, smoking, and gambling. Therefore, sporting ladies included the wives and daughters of community leaders. Consequently, North American frontier saloons usually had separate rooms for ladies, and some in Canada still do. Beneath sporting ladies on the social scale were "pretty waiters" and "hurdy-gurdy girls." These were working-class females who preferred dancing with strangers for a dollar a dance plus tips to picking cow chips or working in factories. Non-whites could be included in this group. One of the first students in Robinson, Colorado, for instance, was a 10-year old black girl named Pearl, who went to school during the day and sang in saloons at night. If hurdy-gurdy girls had sex with a man, it was for the usual reasons, including love, payment for a good time, and rape. Beneath hurdy-gurdy girls came "women of easy virtue." These were usually Mexican, Indian, or African American prostitutes employed by saloon owners. Finally, lowest of all, were crib-style prostitutes. Most of these were alcoholics, drug addicts, or Chinese children.) Anyway, while all this mayhem caused Dodge City’s homicide rate to approach the sustained homicide rates of the Bowery and the Barbary Coast, it was also an aberration. For one thing, the shooting victims were white instead of African American, Mexican, or Chinese. For another, several of the victims were carrying guns at the time of their death. (Would-be badmen almost always preferred shooting unarmed men to shooting armed men, and, due to the unequal homicide laws of the day, usually tried to shoot blacks or other minorities rather than English-speaking white men.) Finally, Dodge City did not report another homicide for the rest of the decade. Therefore, Western novels and movies notwithstanding, alcoholism, suicide, and disease were the biggest killers on the American frontier.

Sam, the 220-pound Negro cook of a Texas cattle outfit, is reported wrestling with the white drovers. The bet was that no man in the outfit could ride him without spurs. Sam won his bet. Black cowboys were also observed wrestling with white cowboys in the Black Hills in 1883. In 1884, a giant black man named Jim, a rider for John G. Slaughter’s outfit, boxed with John L. Sullivan in Tombstone; Jim went down in one. Meanwhile, other African Americans were reported fighting one another with bullwhips for prize money. During a match held on Dodge City’s main street in 1877, "Blood flowed and dust flew and the crowd cheered until Policeman Joe Mason came along and suspended the cheerful exercise."

The New York Athletic Club hosts the United States’ first amateur wrestling championship. While the style it patronized was Irish collar-and-elbow wrestling, the patriotic New Yorkers said the style came from Vermont and New Hampshire rather than Ireland. The club also sponsored the first amateur boxing championship in the United States. The club trainer was former middleweight champion Mike Donovan. Professionals routinely gave boxing lessons to wealthy businessmen and lawyers. For instance, Jake Kilrain gave lessons at Boston’s Cribb Club during the 1880s, while James J. Corbett gave lessons at San Francisco’s Olympic Club during the 1890s. The reason was that newspaper columnists claimed that pugilistic training would help old men lose weight while simultaneously sustaining or even increasing their will power, fortitude, and courage.

Maurice and Will Thompson, two former Confederate soldiers who had lived for a time as survivalists in the Everglades, establish the National Archery Association in Crawfordsville, Indiana. The idea caught on, and a year later, the National Archery Association holds its first tournament at White Stocking Park in Chicago.

J. R. Headington argues in the American Christian Review that female athletics represented a nine-step path to ruin. For example, a croquet party led to picnics, picnics led to dances, dances led to absence from church, absence from church led to immoral conduct, immoral conduct led to exclusion from church (no forgiveness here!), exclusion from church led to running away, running away led to poverty and discontent, poverty and discontent led to shame and disgrace, and shame and disgrace led to ruin. While many middle-class women heeded Headington’s advice, fewer upper-class women did, causing female athleticism, especially in golf, tennis, and cycling, to become increasingly common throughout the late nineteenth century.


An Anglo-Irish philologist named John Mahaffy invents the myth of ancient Greek amateur sports. Mahaffy justified this theory, which argued that Hellenic athletes, unlike their Hellenistic successors, competed solely for honor and pride, with out-of-context translations from the classics. The invention was designed to keep white-collar workers and their children from having to compete against working class workers and their children. Mahaffy also invented the idea of "the intrinsic pleasure of sport for its own sake," again as a way of excluding working class athletes from competing with middle and upper-class athletes. In fairness to Mahaffy, he was a man of his times, and his ideas were an outgrowth of late Victorian philosophy rather than eccentric bigotry.

The Vatican responds to the intellectual challenges provided by Marxism and Darwinism by affirming that Hell is eternal and that the Devil is real. While most Protestant theologians denounced such literal interpretations of the Bible, during the 1920s the evangelistic North American sect known as the Fundamentalists enthusiastically adopted them.

The Argentine dictator Julio Roca opens Patagonia to European sheep ranching. Roca forgot to tell this to the Tehuelche and Mapuche Indians, and a war erupted. In 1883, Roca declares the "Conquest of the Desert" complete, saying that "the wild Indians, then, have disappeared, with no danger that they can return." Again, he forgot to tell the Indians, and shortly after the declaration a band swooped down and killed eight German ranchers and took their 3,000 cattle. Therefore, in reality it was not the Argentine army and its Remington rifles but a smallpox epidemic that did in the Patagonian Indians.


The Italian government reports 2,759 duels. All but about 200 were fought with swords rather than pistols, and fewer than 50 combatants died.


After militarily annexing the Ryukyu Islands in 1879, the Japanese introduced new laws and taxes to the archipelago. The Japanese also brought land reform and ended subsidies to members of the local aristocracy. Occasionally Ryukyuan youths would get into fistfights with Japanese tax collectors, some of whom were former Satsuma samurai. (About two-thirds of the police in early Meiji Japan were former Satsuma samurai.) These tax riots were probably a root for subsequent stories about unarmed Okinawan peasants using their karate against armed Satsuma samurai.

About 1880:

Korean urban males combine a popular kicking game called gakhui, or shuttlecock, with a hand-clapping game called subak. The result is a new activity called tae kyon. In tae kyon, the feet swept opponents who kicked too high or kept their balance too far forward, and the hands were used mainly for blocking and balance. Little movement was allowed, and the rules allowed players to move only one foot out of the starting position. Thus, for practical purposes, players took turns attacking and defending. The object of the game was to cause the opponent to fall. There were three ways this could be achieved. The least impressive was sweeping the opponent’s feet from underneath him. A more impressive method involved standing flat-footed and kicking the opponent in the chest or shoulder. The most impressive involved jumping up and kicking the opponent in the head. There was no great spiritual value attached to the activity, and spectators often bet on the outcome of matches. With its emphasis on high circular kicks, during the 1960s the game may have influenced the development of competitive taekwondo. That said, nineteenth century Korean farmers practiced another, much bloodier, combative sport called pakchiki. In this game, the competitors butted their foreheads together until one or the other became unconscious or quit.

Nilotic peoples throughout the southern Sahara are reported fighting with sharpened wrist bracelets. The object of this fighting was to cause cuts to the head, as the bloodshed supposedly guaranteed bountiful harvests. The blood that ran during such duels was considered virtuous, and the sick often tried to touch it. Although the symbolic value of these weapons is indicated by their Shangan name, bagussa, meaning "things that cause fear," Europeans thought that the Africans wore these sharpened bracelets for self-defense against Swahili slavers.

Commercially rolled cigarettes become popular in the United States. The cigarettes were popular mainly with urban youth. Tobacco-chewing moralists were outraged, saying, "Begin smoking at 10, mind shattered by 14!" And how had these urban youths acquired the smoking habit? Probably by taking jobs stripping tobacco and rolling cigarettes in New York City sweatshops.


In deference to the political Left, the French government makes Bastille Day the French national holiday. Although the urban proletariat liked the idea (the 12-hour work day was standard in France until 1904, and the six-day work week was not introduced until 1906), French landowners and manufacturers did not, as they feared that workers with too much time on their hands would get drunker than usual and start riots.

To facilitate newspaper sales (the more controversial the anticipated bout, the more papers sold), Richard Kyle Fox’s National Police Gazette begins ranking boxers. The Gazette’s sporting editor, William Edgar Harding, was a staunch supporter of boxing, and worked hard to repair pugilism’s unsavory reputation. Therefore, he downplayed cases of fixed fights and pistol-whipped referees, and instead wrote books in which he urged readers to return pugilism to the "honesty" of pre-Civil War times. Gloved bouts fought under Queensberry rules were suggested as one way of achieving this.

Middle-class London sportsmen establish the Amateur Boxing Association. This organization effectively set international amateur standards until 1946, at which time the Amateur International Boxing Association was created to replace it. The English rules emphasized style rather than knockout, and caused amateur boxing to become a modern combative sport.

With the support of the head of the British Army, a businessman named John Raffety stages a military tournament and assault-at-arms at the Agricultural Hall in Islington. According to the London Times, "The Competitions, which are 53 in number, are to be open to all the regiments within range, and the profits are to be given in aid of the Funds of the Royal Cambridge Asylum for Soldiers’ Widows. They include tilting at the ring, sword v. bayonet, lemon cutting, etc. This is the first time that a tournament of this kind has been organised." Under various names, this tournament continued to be held annually, except in times of war, until 1999.

By defeating Thiebaud Bauer of Germany, William Muldoon becomes the United States’ first famous wrestling champion. An avid physical culturalist, Muldoon also had done some prize fighting. He preferred wrestling, though, as the purses were larger: seven dollars to the winner and three to the loser, instead of three dollars to the winner and two to the loser.

Battle Studies by Charles Ardant du Picq teaches three generations of French and Japanese soldiers that enough élan during the attack can neutralize an enemy’s technological superiority. Although this is probably true when the resolve of the side with the technological advantage is weak, it is not necessarily true when both sides’ resolve is strong.


Treaties and smallpox end 300 years of warfare between the Chileans and the Mapuche Indians. This opens south-central Chile to European settlement and economic exploitation.

In Tucson, Arizona, saloonkeeper George Hand notes in his diary that the body of a stranger was found alongside the railroad track. "A coroner’s jury was summoned and they found both of his legs cut off and both arms cut off. His back was broken and the bone was sticking out. His liver and heart were torn out and lying beside the body. The jury said he was dead." A year later, the bullet-riddled body of Frank Stilwell was found near the same railroad tracks. Wyatt Earp later said that he did it. This is likely true, as Stilwell had been implicated in the murder of Earp’s brother Morgan three days earlier. "Stilwell’s guns were in plain sight and I figured he’d jerk them," Earp told Stuart Lake fifty years later. "As I got closer, his right hand started down, but quit halfway and he stood as if paralyzed... I’ve never forgotten the look in Frank Stilwell’s eyes... [as] I let him have it." Although Earp attributed Stilwell’s sudden paralysis to cowardice, one suspects that his being shot twice with Earp’s ten-gauge shotgun and four times by Doc Holliday’s rifle played a greater role.

Korea’s King Kojong hires a Japanese soldier named Horimoto Reizo to train the Pyolgigun, or Special Skills Force, to march and shoot in the European fashion. The Korean royal bodyguard was not amused by this threat to its existence, and in 1882, it had Horimoto killed and his Special Skills Force disbanded. Payback came in 1910, when the Japanese Army disbanded the Korean royal bodyguard and ordered its surviving members returned to their home provinces. According to the traditions of a modern Korean combatives system (Kuk Sool Won), a former bodyguard named Suh Myung Deuk subsequently began teaching koong joong mu sool ("aristocratic martial arts") to his grandchildren as a way of preserving the old ways. Cynics, however, say that the leader of the Kuk Sool Won, Suh In Hyuk, trained in hapkido during the 1940s and only invented the story of his grandfather being the sixteenth generation master of the Kuk Sool Won after opening a chain of commercial martial art academies in 1961.

Japanese ultra-nationalists establish the Black Ocean Society in Tokyo. Killers associated with this organization assassinated the Korean queen in 1895, and as late as 1931, Prince Saionji Kimmochi described them as "villains and roughnecks." The society had strong underworld connections. This was partly because military intelligence was easily collected in whorehouses and gambling dens and partly because the Japanese subsidized the expenses of their Chinese adventures by selling thirty tons of Iranian opium a year. Japanese martial art instructors whose lives intersected with this society and its successors include Shorinji kenpo’s So Doshin, aikido’s Ueshiba Morihei, and Goju Kai karate’s Yamaguchi Gogen.

A Swedish woman named Martina Bergman-Österberg becomes the Superintendent of Physical Education for London’s public schools, and by 1886, she had trained 1,300 English schoolteachers in the methods of Pehr Ling. However, physical fitness was not her sole purpose. Instead, said Bergman-Österberg, "I try to train my girls to help raise their own sex, and so accelerate the progress of the race."

Author Charlotte Perkins Gilman of Providence, Rhode Island, perhaps best known for her short story "The Yellow Wallpaper," becomes the United States’ first known female body-builder. Besides lifting weights, Gilman ran a mile a day and boasted of her ability to "vault and jump, go up a knotted rope, walk on my hands under a ladder, kick as high as my head, and revel in the flying rings." By 1904, fencing was also popular with Rhode Island society women. The instructor was Eleanor Baldwin Cass. Students included Marion Fish and Natalie Wells.

By defeating the Austrian strongmen Franz Stahr and Georg Jagendorfer, a French Classical wrestler named Joseph Doublier popularizes Greco-Roman wrestling in Austria. ("Greco-Roman" was what French Classical wrestlers called their style when wrestling in Germany and Austria. The style itself was doubtless introduced into Austria by Gypsy circus wrestlers, but those matches never received the publicity of these "international" matches.)

The National Police Gazette coins the phrase "the championship of the world." The idea was to sell newspapers describing a bare-knuckle bout between the Irish-born Paddy Ryan and the Boston-born John L. Sullivan. According to the Cuban poet José Martí, who witnessed the fight, the rules included Sullivan and Ryan agreeing to "fight on foot, without rocks or irons in their hands… It is agreed, with an eye to decorum, that this time there will be no biting or scratching, and that no blows are to be struck while an opponent has a knee and a hand touching the ground, nor while he is held by the neck against the ropes or ring posts." Poet Oscar Wilde also was present at this fight, which was the first sporting event to be widely covered by the international press.


The Japanese government decides that the four overriding principles of public education were: (1) to form a strong constitution through physical exercise, (2) to fill students’ hearts with loyalty and patriotism, (3) to inculcate necessary knowledge, and (4) to produce the strength necessary for military men. Toward making these things happen, Kano Jigoro, a 22-year old teacher at the Peers’ School at Shitaya (the future Gakushin University), starts teaching his young charges, all eight or nine of them, to wrestle. (While attending the Imperial University from 1877 to 1881, Kano had studied Tenjin-Shinyo-ryu jujutsu under Fukuda Hachinosuke and Iso Masatomo. Kano also studied Kito-ryu jujutsu under Ikubo Tsunetoshi until 1885.) Kano believed that wrestling built character as well as fitness. (Kano spoke English well, and his influences included German gymnastics, English Muscular Christianity, and his father’s Shintoism.) Because he was more interested in health than combat, Kano took pains to eliminate obviously dangerous moves. To reflect this break with tradition, Kano called his new method Kodokan judo, a phrase meaning "the Imperial Method for Learning the Flexible Mind Necessary to Gain Final Victory." Nonetheless, there were still many traditional aspects in Kano’s training program. For example, students were required to live according to Buddhist monastic principles and swear blood oaths. These oaths affirmed that students would never quit judo without reason, dishonor the training hall through misconduct, teach others without permission, or break with the style after receiving permission to teach.

The Japanese Army replaces neo-Confucian bushido with tokuho, a Prussian-inspired "Soldiers’ Code." (Although their early military trainers were French, the Japanese found that they preferred German and Austrian political philosophy.) After making some additional changes that emphasized the primacy of the emperor, the "Soldiers’ Code" was renamed bushido, or "the Way of the Warrior," in 1909. Thus, the brutal excesses of the Greater East Asian War, as the Japanese call World War II, owe more to early twentieth century German military codes than the Neo-Confucian bushido of the Tokugawa-era samurai.

Peter Jackson fights his first bare-knuckle bout in Australia. Because Jackson was a black man from the West Indies, his camp was located away from the white sections of town. His trainers, on the other hand, were white, and included the Bakers of Lane Love River and the M’Mahons of Stoney Creek Corner. Jackson’s usual venue was Larry Foley’s White Horse Saloon in Sydney. Foley’s ring was located in his cellar, and the risk of boxers hitting their heads on the concrete floor caused the Sydney police to close the place in 1893.

Stretched canvas floors are added to Coney Island boxing booths after a man named Fred Johnson dies from hitting his head against a wooden floor.

William F. Cody convinces his hometown of North Platte, Nebraska, to hold an "Old Glory Blowout" each Fourth of July. Acts included the riding and roping tricks that later formed the basis for Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show and Congress of Rough-Riders.

About 1883:

Kano Jigoro decides to divide his judo students into two separate groups, ungraded (mudansha) and graded (yudansha). The first students to achieve graded rank (shodan, or first step) were Tomita Tsunejiro and Saigo Shiro. Around 1886 or 1887, Kano’s ungraded judoka began wearing white belts while his graded judoka began wearing black belts. Although Kano apparently left no explanations for why he chose these two colors, perhaps it was color symbolism, as in Japanese metaphysics white represents base metals (e.g., raw materials) while black represents steel (e.g., a relatively finished product). Another possibility is that it was based on the way that Japanese teachers distinguished advanced and beginning athletes in their physical education classes. Or it might simply have been that white belts and colorfast black dye were cheap at the time. In any case, Kano’s ranking system was innovative, as previously Japanese martial art schools had awarded rank using scrolls (menkyo) rather than colored belts. Kano’s precise reasons for introducing belts that did more than keep a jacket shut are also unknown. Possible motivations, however, could have included German sport pedagogy, which urged educators to classify athletes by ability and achievement, and the Japanese honorific language, which does not allow people to easily talk to one another without previously knowing each other’s exact rank and social status. Also, regardless of motivations, the use of color belts in a Japanese setting encouraged wa, or mutual cooperation, as it allowed players to learn and experiment without risking much loss of face. (Explained historian Carlin Barton aptly, although in a different context, "The more anxiously competitive the situation, the more importance attached to victory, the more likelihood of collusion -- of those who risk a loss of status -- in the formation of elaborate status differentiations. The average athlete, for instance, is willing to put the extraordinary one ‘in a class by himself.’ The third-grader is willing and happy to be ‘outclassed’ by the sixth-grader against whom he or she would otherwise be compelled to compete. The more fierce the competition, the more numerous the statuses accepted voluntarily. Clear and distinct differences in class and category can be a relief, allowing one to remove oneself, without loss of face, from an unhappy comparison of skills.")


Due to increasing numbers of crimes involving firearms, the constables of the London Metropolitan Police are told that they can carry firearms for defense. However, most constables continued to prefer truncheons, in part because they received no firearm instruction until 1966. Nevertheless, in "The Adventure of the Speckled Band," Sherlock Holmes observed that revolvers provided an excellent argument against gentlemen who could twist steel pokers into knots. In "The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet" Holmes also noted that clapping pistols to suspects’ heads made them so much more reasonable during questioning. Pockets were obviously stout in those pre-civil rights times, too, as the weapon Holmes carried was Watson’s Army-issue .476 caliber double-action Adams revolver loaded with Eley’s Number 2.

Thomas A. McCarthy, formerly of the British Army, publishes Quarter-Staff: A Practical Manual. This is the first book to detail the sport of fencing with bamboo poles, using safety equipment adapted from fencing, boxing, and cricket.

The New Orleans Picayune describes professional wrestling as "the most commendable of athletic exhibitions as there is but little brutality connected with it, and agility, coolness, strength and science are the winning points." This was in contrast to boxing, where in 1892 a writer for the New Orleans Weekly Times-Democrat saw a boxer’s nose, mouth, and eye "disfigured past recognition and hear the ugly half-splashing sound as [the other boxer’s] blood-soaked gloves again and again visited the bleeding wounds that had drenched them." The reason for the detailed description was that the loser was a white man and the winner black, and the writer did not think that such spectacles provided good entertainment.


Hiram S. Maxim, an American living at No. 57 Hatten Garden in London, patents his first belt-fed machine gun. Although an eminently practical design, navies liked Maxim guns more than armies did. This was mostly due to expense. In other words, while a cruiser captain might feel well-equipped with a handful of Maxim guns, an infantry battalion commander required dozens, and one gun, without cart or spare parts, cost $1,800, plus another $25 per minute to shoot.

The patronage of the Meiji Emperor brings professional sumo out of its twenty-year economic slump. (Although the Japanese public liked sumo, the Meiji-era aristocracy preferred Western sports such as baseball and golf, and the new mercantile class was not yet rich enough to squander huge sums of money on stables of sumotori.)

Britain’s Egerton Castle publishes a history of European swordsmanship called Schools and Masters of Fence. The first major review of European historical swordsmanship, and probably the most influential swordsmanship history of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Castle’s theories came under savage attack during the 1990s. Particularly contentious aspects included the following. First, that Renaissance Italy was the birthplace of systematic European fencing. Second, that older German swordsmanship was mere "rough, untutored fighting." And finally, that nineteenth century sport fencing represented linear evolution toward final perfection.

The British polymath Captain Richard Francis Burton publishes The Book of the Sword. An idiosyncratic discussion of swordsmanship in Europe, north Africa, and southwest Asia, it was originally intended as part of a trilogy. Unfortunately, it was released the same year as Egerton Castle’s better-received work. Thus, it sold poorly, and so Burton never completed the other two books. This is too bad, too, as the Burton was a man of far-flung interests who delighted in esoteric footnotes. One, for example, mentioned that the Chinese enjoyed betting on fights between praying mantises. I suspect, but cannot prove, that these insect battles, which Burton compared to battles between human saber fencers, were a source of inspiration for the Chinese martial art known as t’ang-lang ch’uan, or northern Praying Mantis. (While tradition says that a Shantung master named Wang Lang created this style during the late seventeenth century, there is no documentary evidence of the style’s existence before the 1850s.)

The British scientist Sir Francis Galton tests 500 men and 270 women to see how fast they could punch. He found that the men averaged 18 feet per second, with a maximum speed of 29 feet per second, while the women averaged 13 feet per second, with a maximum speed of 20 feet per second. In other words, while some women could hit harder than the average man, most women could hit only 55% as hard.

British missionary activity near Cape Horn causes the Argentines to annex the eastern portion of Tierra del Fuego. The annexation outraged the Chileans, who had been active in the region since 1843, and caused friction and armed border disputes until 1978. Other than nationalist pride, the main use either side had for the desolate area was housing penal colonies.

The German Army becomes the first major European military to issue repeating rifles to its soldiers. This was a bolt-action Mauser rifle loading 11mm cartridges from a tubular magazine.

After a white boxer named Alick Ager dies of injuries received while fighting an African American boxer named Jimmy Lawson, bare-knuckle boxing is banned in Melbourne, Australia. In the United States, however, it was more common to ban mixed-race fighting. In Texas, for example, mixed-race fights were banned until 1953, and even after the ban was lifted, a mixed-race fight was not actually held in Texas until 1955. (The first was a match between Regan Turman and Sporty Harvey that took place in Dallas on February 24, 1955.)

In Bodie, California, "Some sport was had in Joe Rowse’s back parlor between two well-known businessmen of Bodie. An Irishman thought, $20 worth, that he could throw a certain French gentleman twice out of three times, catch as catch can. He was right."

A 20-year old American woman named Etta Hattan adopts the stage name of Jaguarina, and bills herself as the "Ideal Amazon of the Age." Whether Hattan was all of that is of course debatable, but she was certainly Amazon enough to defeat many men at mounted broadsword fencing during her 15-year professional career.


Professor Edmond Desbonnet establishes a school of physical culture at Lilles, France. Glove boxing, wrestling, gymnastics, and weight training were among the activities offered. In 1910, Desbonnet also published a history of nineteenth century French Classical wrestling called Les Rois de la Lutte, or "The Kings of Wrestling."

In St. Petersburg, a Polish-born physician named Vladislav Krayevsky (Krajewski) establishes the Petersburg Amateur Weightlifting Society for the purpose of determining the effects that weightlifting and other "heavy athletics" had on the human physique. The wrestling style his club featured was Greco-Roman, probably because it was French, and therefore "better." (Traditional Slavic wrestling included both loosehold and belted, and the Leipzig strongman Arthur Saxon [real name: Artur Hennig] was a noted belted wrestling champion of the day.) While the most famous wrestler to come from Krayevski’s school was George Hackenschmidt, other athletes who trained there included Ivan Padoubny, who advertised himself as a Cossack, and the Polish wrestlers Stanislaus and Wladek Zbyszko. Excepting Padoubny, who was a plank-carrier, most of these athletes were from the landed classes. The reason was that working men worked 12 to 14 hours a day, six days a week, and lacked the time, money, or energy for recreational bodybuilding. The Russian government also opposed working-class sport clubs, as it feared that they would support Prussian-style nationalism and then become hotbeds of sedition.

Japanese sugar cane workers stage a sumo match for King David Kalakaua of Hawaii. The players were local, but in 1914, ranked rikishi from Tokyo stables gave formal exhibitions in Hawaii.

Karl Abs of Germany defeats William Muldoon of the United States for what the American press billed as the heavyweight championship of the world.

A 24-year old exhibition shooter from Ohio with the stage name of Annie Oakley (her birth name was Phoebe Ann Moses, and she called herself Mrs. Frank Butler) joins Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show. Although the charismatic Oakley preferred shooting .22 caliber rifles, she also fired double-barreled shotguns during her shows, not because she needed help, but because light shot was less likely to break windows or injure bystanders.

A French engineer named Paul Vielle patents the first colloidal single-base propellant. (In less-technical terms, this means high velocity, smokeless gunpowder.) At about the same time, enormous quantities of nickel ore are discovered near Sudbury, Ontario. These particular ores were non-terrestrial in origin; instead, they were part of a large meteor strike about 1.7 billion years earlier. Anyway, their discovery quickly leads to the development of nickel steel and nickel copper. At sea, nickel-steel armor quickly led to an arms race, as navies replaced ironclads with armored cruisers. Meanwhile, a Swiss army officer named Eduard Rubin developed a nickel-copper coating for bullets that did not shred at high velocities. This also led to a European small arms race. The French led this race by introducing the 8mm Lebel cartridge in 1886, while Britain, Austria, and Germany followed suit by introducing their .303 Enfield, 8x50Rmm, and 8x57J (subsequently 7.9x57 JS) cartridges in 1888. The United States (which was still just a third-rate power) fielded the comparable .30-40 Krag-Jorgenson rifle following the Spanish-American War of 1898. Before the 1898 war, US soldiers believed that their .45 caliber Springfield was more lethal than the smaller, faster Mauser cartridge. However, fights with the Spanish soon convinced them otherwise. First, smokeless powder did not reveal hidden positions. Therefore, it was more useful during ambushes. Second, it did not obscure officers’ ability to see enemy lines. Therefore, it was more useful during sieges. Finally, a soldier wounded was, in the words of the New York World, "more of a burden to his comrades than a dead one. In the latter case no attention is paid to the man till after the conflict, when he receives proper burial. In the former case it requires the services of one or two men to carry the man off the field." Yet, although it is true that it takes more soldiers to treat an injured soldier than it takes to bury a dead one, generals and politicians rarely care about such things except during speeches. Consequently, the real problem was that in Western republics with representative governments, cripples demanded pensions and offended the voters. The dead, on the other hand, were out of sight, never asked for more money, and could be made to serve any glorious purpose desired.) Unfortunately, due to different ballistics, judging range became considerably harder. To fix this problem, marksmanship instruction was increased, and new rules of thumb were developed. For example, British instructors said, "At 600 yards the head is a dot, the body tapered. At 300 yards, the face is blurred. At 200 yards, all parts of the body are distinctly seen." Instructors also noted that ranges were often overestimated when the enemy was kneeling or at the end of a long straight road, and underestimated when the target was viewed over level ground, across a chasm, or up or down a hill.

The United States Government Printing Office publishes The Soldier’s Handbook. This reassures the Indian-fighting cavalryman that dying from arrow wounds was not so horrible. After all, the soldier shot through the abdomen with an arrow generally "lives a day or two, with perfect clearness of intellect, and often not suffering greatly." The Army’s observation (which was actually a lie, since most Indian war arrows were made of chipped flint or barbed steel for maximum effect) had its basis in the opiate analgesic peptides that the human body releases under extreme stress. For example, one 1946 study on wounds found that 57% of the United States Army casualties in Italy during World War II reported little pain from battlefield wounds when questioned about them within 12 hours of their occurrence. There are also psychological factors to consider. For example, during World War II, the United States Army sent the wounded home to recuperate, unless they were horribly disfigured. In that case, the Army sent them to a hospital in Greenland to die. Of course, the Army didn’t publicize that. Anyway, receiving serious but not crippling wounds was frequently cause for celebration. Finally, a warrior’s courage was traditionally measured by the number of wounds he survived, and as late as the 1880s, old soldiers happily showed their sons the tables or houses where their limbs had been amputated during some earlier war. Thus, in 1910, the obituary of the British fencing master Alfred Hutton reported that relatives included a brother "twice wounded at the Charge of Balaclava." Nonetheless, those same heroes just as often complained bitterly about toothaches or cold feet. So all this is to say that pain is a sensation that requires interpretation, and that those interpretations depend almost entirely upon the situation and the culture to which the victim belongs or identifies.


Afraid that they would lose jobs to Chinese labor, white labor organizers use terror tactics to drive the Chinese out of the West. Although a few brave politicians backed by Federal troops blunted the worst of the violence in Seattle, Welsh miners in Rock Springs, Wyoming, killed about thirty Chinese and wounded scores more. Over the next two decades, there was similar anti-Chinese violence in British Columbia and California, and organized labor’s fear of the Yellow Peril ensured that the Chinese martial arts were not publicly practiced in North America until the 1960s.


Belgian gunsmith Charles François Galand spurs handgun sales to French bicyclists by advertising his "hammerless" 5.5mm (.22 caliber) centerfire revolvers as the perfect cure for pursuing dogs. (Actually, the weapons had hammers, they just were enclosed within the frame. The advantage of this was that the weapons were less subject to snagging upon being quickly pulled from a pocket.)

The French Académie d’Armes contributes to the continuing stylization of European fencing by introducing the grand, or formal civil, salute.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Police host a tournament meant to resolve the question of which was better, Kano Jigoro’s Kodokan judo club or a Yoshin Ryu jujutsu school headed by Totsuke Hikosuke. By winning thirteen of fifteen matches and drawing the other two, the Kodokan athletes firmly established their primacy. A 1943 Kurosawa movie made Saigo Shiro the most famous of the early Kodokan wrestlers. Saigo’s favorite technique was said to be the yama arashi, or mountain storm, technique of aiki jutsu, but there is debate over what this technique was. Yokoyama Sakujiro was another powerful Kodokan judoka, and his 55-minute bout with Nakamura Hansuke during the 1886 police tournament remains the longest judo match on record. (Modern matches only go 20 minutes, with the possibility of a 10-minute extension.) Uniforms of the era were similar to modern uniforms except that sleeves and trouser legs were much shorter. The dignified silence that the wrestlers and their fans maintained greatly impressed foreign visitors.

About 1887:

The J. Stevens Arms & Tool Company develops the .22 Long Rifle cartridge. Being both cheap and comparatively powerful, this quickly became the most popular rimfire cartridge ever made.


A royal decree establishes physical education departments at Thailand’s new Western-style military academies and teachers’ colleges. Among the mandatory subjects was muay Thai, practiced two times a week for one-and-a-half hours. Most boxers, though, were working class youths training in their villages or at nearby temples. Trainers, both in villages and in temples, were generally retired boxers. Before major festivals, aspiring fighters trained daily and to encourage excellence, they often received training stipends from local government officials or landlords.

Winchester Repeating Firearms introduces its first repeating shotgun, the Model 1887. While few hunters found much value in the lever-action weapon, it did find some popularity among peace officers and railroad guards. Thus, the first truly important repeating shotgun was Winchester’s Model 1897, an exposed hammer, pump-action weapon chambered for smokeless powder released a decade later.

Circus magnate P. T. Barnum hires wrestler Ed Decker, the Little Wonder from Vermont, as a sideshow attraction. Barnum offered to pay $100 to anyone who could pin Decker, and $50 to anyone who could avoid being pinned within three minutes. Despite weighing only 150 pounds and standing only 5’6" tall, Decker reportedly never lost to a paying customer. Of course, some matches were harder than others, and as a British sideshow boxer told a reporter year later, "I still pray, ‘Oh, Lord, let me win the easy way.’" Women also fought as booth boxers. According to Ron Taylor, a Welsh sideshow promoter of the 1960s, "My grandmother used to challenge all comers. She wore protectors on her chest, but she never needed them. Nobody she ever went up against could even come close to hitting her." The most famous of these British fairground pugilists was probably Barbara Buttrick, who was the women’s fly and bantamweight boxing champion from 1950-1960. This said, not all the female pugilists were female. For instance, a carnival shill named Charles Edwards told A. J. Liebling about a turn-of-the-century Texas circus that had a woman stand in front of the tent promising $50 to any man who could stay three rounds with her. Once inside the dimly lit tent, the mark then found himself boxing a cross-dressing male look-alike.

According to Ring historian Nat Fleischer, wrestler William Muldoon body-slams boxer John L. Sullivan, thus settling the old argument about who would win a fight between a boxer and a wrestler. Although there is scholarly debate about whether this match ever occurred outside Fleischer’s imagination, the outcome is plausible. For instance, Martin "Farmer" Burns pinned Billy Papke in 1910. Ray Steele pinned Kingfish Levinsky (real name: Hershel Krakow) in 1935. And Nature Boy Buddy Rogers pinned Jersey Joe Walcott in 1956. "Which proves," said Charles B. Roth in a related article in the June 1949 Esquire, "if it proves anything -- that boxing, far from being the best system of self-defense, is actually the worst."

A longhaired sheriff named Commodore Perry Owens shoots three men and a boy in a matter of seconds during what was arguably the Arizona Territory’s wildest shoot-out. These killings, which were part of the larger Tonto Basin war, later became a staple of cowboy movie lore.

The memoirs of a retired New York police chief named George Walling turn the phrase "the third-degree" into a euphemism for police brutality. Rationalized Thomas Byrnes, New York’s superintendent of detectives, "I believe in any method of proving crime against a criminal." Tools of the policeman’s trade included water torture, rubber hoses, and crank-handled electric telephones.


British and Canadian missionaries introduce Muscular Christianity (and sports) into China.

James Sullivan establishes the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) in New York City. While the organization claimed that it protected athletic amateurism, what it did in practice was discriminate against non-whites and recent immigrants. To circumvent this problem, African American educators establish the Interscholastic Athletic Association in 1905 and the Colored (now Central) Intercollegiate Athletic Association in 1912.

The AAU hosts its first national wrestling championships. Because the tournament had no cash prizes and excluded foreigners, exactly four men participated.

Toward helping Greco-Roman wrestling gain approval in Britain and the United States, wrestlers were ordered to wear shirts and tights. Sniffed the English wrestlers Walter Armstrong and Percy Longhurst in 1912, Greco-Roman was perhaps "productive of some excitement when witnessed by the uninitiated; but apart from that it may be asked, ‘What useful purpose does it serve?’ …for, instead of being the art of standing up against an adversary, it is simply the art of getting down in a certain position, so as to avoid being thrown in a backfall." Most Anglo-American sportswriters agreed with them, and Greco-Roman wrestling never became especially popular off the Continent.

The Maharajah of Jodhpur holds a contest to see who can do the greatest number of deep knee-bends. (Like many rich and powerful people, Indian rajahs often enjoyed strange recreations. Maharajah Sir Pertab Singh of Kashmir, for instance, once held a contest to see which of his wrestlers could hold the rods of a hand-cranked electrical generator the longest time. The winner, Kikkar Singh of Amritsar, had his hands badly blistered by the charge, and received in return a prize worth about £20. Still, this was nothing compared to the actions of Sir Jai Singh of Alwar, who used human babies as bait when hunting man-eating tigers. When asked about this, he justified the action by saying that he never missed a shot.) Anyway, the winner of this contest, a Punjabi boy named Gulam Muhammad, remained bedridden for a week following the event. Gulam’s exact age at the time of this contest is not known, but was between six and ten, and while he was not sure how many squats he had done, he thought it was over 2,000. (The guess seems reasonable, too, since the modern record stands at about 3,200 in an hour.) Since the contemporary Maharajah was a child, the real patron of the event was probably Sir Pratap Singh, the Rajput cavalry general who introduced Jodhpur breeches to London in 1887. Pratap Singh’s guru was Swami Dayananda Saraswati, who reassured his martial followers that killing tigers and eating meat would not exclude them from heaven.

Peter Jackson fights George Godfrey in San Francisco for what the Police Gazette called the "Colored Heavy-Weight Championship of America." Jackson won the fight in nineteen rounds, and probably ruined Godfrey as a boxer, as Godfrey lost most of his subsequent fights by knockout. Jackson’s style was essentially defensive, and featured a short left jab followed by straight rights. A few months later, Jackson knocked out the white boxer Joe McAuliffe in 24 rounds. The black community of San Francisco erupted into celebration, but Jackson subsequently got few offers to fight in America.

"Be a gentleman, you son-of-a-bitch!" cries John L. Sullivan after the British boxer Charlie Mitchell repeatedly drives his spiked shoes into Sullivan’s foot during a 39-round London Prize Ring fight fought near Chantilly, France.

After discovering that sexually-transmitted diseases caused 37% of the Indian Army’s hospital admissions, the British Women’s Christian Temperance Union starts a "just say no to sex" campaign. This does not help much, however, as even at home the British Army reported a 20% admission rate for venereal infections. Therefore, in India at least, the British turn to licensing brothels, and that in turn caused British hospital admissions to drop to a more acceptable 7% by 1905. Meanwhile, United States forces stationed in the Philippines before World War I, with their 17% admission rate, duplicated the British domestic experience. The American response was to add more chaplains to the service, which led to the US Army having a 30% admission rate due to venereal disease in 1916. Now, as gonorrhea is the most common bacterial infection in the world, the problem of soldiers becoming unfit for service due to sexually transmitted diseases was not resolved until the introduction of penicillin in 1944. Then, just as that problem appeared resolved, in 1959 a 25-year old British sailor became the first European to die from the Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome, or AIDS. Unfortunately, the licensed brothels were hardly a perfect solution, either, as they dehumanized everyone involved (the Korean and Filipino "comfort women" of World War II are a worst case example) and encouraged the spread of organized crime. As for AIDS, although it is commonly accepted that the Human Immunodeficiency Virus, or HIV, is its cause, this has not been actually documented. Instead, it was simply something that Robert Gallo of the National Institutes of Health claimed in order to patent an enormously lucrative test -- the Pasteur Institute later successfully disputed Gallo’s primacy -- but that has nothing to do with HIV. For discussions of all this, see the work of Peter Duesberg and Kary Mullis. The latter’s writings are particularly fun, as he states quite matter-of-factly that medical science is "universally corrupt with widespread falsification of data to obtain grants."


Hooks become common in Australian and North American boxing, as do corkscrew punches and combinations of three to five punches thrown in rapid succession. Queensberry rules were the reason. Padded gloves protected knuckles and thumbs from breaking on the opponent’s head, while 10-second knockouts and rounds that did not end when a player fell to the ground encouraged boxers to throw flurries rather than carefully aimed single shots.

Female boxing becomes popular throughout the United States. Champions included Nellie Stewart of Norfolk, Virginia, Ann Lewis of Cleveland, Ohio, and Hattie Leslie of New York. The audiences were male, and the fighters sometimes stripped to their drawers like men. Savate fights in which kicking was allowed were also popular. Girls as young as 12 years headed the bills. Cuts were stitched on the spot, and the women often fought with broken noses, jaws, and teeth. There were occasionally matches between female boxers and female savate fighters. In 1902, for instance, a Mlle. Augagnier beat Miss Pinkney of England during such a bout. Pinkney was ahead during the first ninety minutes, but then Augagnier managed to kick Pinkney hard in the face, an advantage that she immediately used to send a powerful kick into Pinkney’s abdomen for the victory. There were even a few mixed-gender bouts. For instance, when a drunken John L. Sullivan stomped into San Francisco’s Midway Plaisanceon vaudeville saloon and cried, "I can lick any son-of-a-bitch in the house!" bartender Bessie Hall walked around the counter and laid him out. (A gentleman didn’t swear in Bessie Hall’s bar.) Hall was not the only fighting woman in the American West, and film star Gary Cooper told a similar story about Mary Fields, a cigar-chewing African American laundress who lived in Cascade, Montana, circa 1903. While downing a shot in the saloon, Fields saw a defaulting customer. She grabbed the man by the collar, spun him around, and knocked him down with her fist. She then returned to the bar, saying, "His laundry bill is paid."

Female wrestling becomes popular in France and England. Masha Poddubnaya, wife of Ivan Poddubny, claimed the women’s title. Said journalist Max Viterbo of a female wrestling match in the Rue Montmartre in 1903, "The stale smell of sweat and foul air assaulted your nostrils. In this overheated room the spectators were flushed. Smoke seized us by the throat and quarrels broke out." As for the wrestlers, "They flung themselves at each other like modern bacchantes -- hair flying, breasts bared, indecent, foaming at the mouth. Everyone screamed, applauded, stamped his feet."

During the last nationally ranked London Prize Rules fight held in the United States, John L. Sullivan beats Jake Kilrain. The media circus surrounding the fight (which featured Bat Masterson as a timekeeper and a future mayor of New Orleans as the referee) established Sullivan as America’s first sports icon. The fight itself lasted 2 hours, 16 minutes, and was distinguished by more hip-throws, foot-spiking, and name-calling than clean punches. Put another way, "Mr. John started a-sweatin’ about the second round," said a witness named Miss Mattie many years later. "He grunted and snorted a heap. Mr. Jake danced like a bridegroom at his weddin’ dinner. Finally Mr. John hit Mr. Jake so hard Mr. Jake just didn’t get up and that all it was to it."

Under the direction of Florenz Ziegfeld of Ziegfeld’s Follies, a Prussian strongman called Eugen Sandow (his birth name was Friedrich Müller) becomes the first modern strongman to make his living from homoerotic showmanship. Sandow allowed small groups of paying customers to touch his bulging pectorals. "These muscles, madam," Sandow told one customer in 1894, "are hard as iron itself, I want you to convince yourself of the fact." Sandow then took the woman’s gloved hand and ran it across his chest. "It’s unbelievable," she gasped before fainting. So goes the story published in the National Police Gazette, which ignored the fact that most of the people who ran their hands across Sandow’s chest were male. Sandow is also remembered for devising a training program that isolated and perfected individual muscle groups. That said, Charles Édouard Brown-Séquard, a contemporary French physiologist who believed that injections of serums made from bull testicles could increase physical performance, was ultimately as important to twentieth century body-building. The reason was that Brown-Séquard’s research led to the development of synthetic testosterone in 1935.

Alfred Hutton publishes Cold Steel. This is the first of three works. (The other two were Old Sword-Play in 1892 and Sword and the Centuries in 1901.) In this body of work, Hutton tried to apply lessons gleaned from antique sword manuals to the practical requirements of British soldiers and police officers.

Toward encouraging working class British youth to engage in middle-class games such as cricket instead of working-class games such as football and boxing, someone (probably Sir William Fraser, in his book Words on Wellington) creates the Duke of Wellington’s famous dictum about Waterloo having been won on the playing fields of Eton. Wealthy Americans viewed sport similarly. Henry Lee Higginson, for example, donated the money to build Harvard’s "Soldiers’ Field" in 1890. Five years later, US Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. said that to learn heroism, one must practice heroism, adding that the occasional broken neck suffered by football players "was a price well paid for the breeding of a race fit for headship and command." Broken necks were common in late nineteenth century American football, too, a game in which unnecessary roughness meant hitting another player with the fists more than three times. The modern game, with its highly ritualized violence, dates to the 1880s. Its pioneers included Walter Camp of the New Haven Clock Company and sportswriter Caspar Whitney. Whitney created the "All-American" category in 1889, and Camp believed that American college football was "the best school for instilling into the young man those attributes which business desires and demands." In other words, the ability to do mindless, repetitive tasks for low pay under the watchful eye of a verbally and physically abusive supervisor.

In response to a question from a New Zealander about the morality of killing prisoners of war, an elderly Maori warrior replies that letting prisoners live was "a wasteful expenditure of strength and science, and a future source of trouble." Instead, he said, "If ever you go to fight, fight for results; if not, stay at home and do not make a fool of yourself." Originally, Maori women used war prisoners’ bones for making flutes and sewing needles, while Maori men used war prisoners’ skulls for bailing their boats. This said, most of the heads bought by Australians during the nineteenth century were collected solely for the tourist trade.

After spending a summer picking hops for Shaker farmers in the Pacific Northwest, the Paiute prophet Wavoka travels in a dream to the Christian heaven. There, he learns that Jesus is not a stuffy old white man, but an Indian who liked to dance and sing. On his return to his home in Walker Lake, Nevada, Wavoka then establishes the Native American religion known as Ghost Dancing.

About 1890:

An Okinawan rice-basket maker named Higashionna Kanryo establishes the Shorei, or "Enlightened Spirit" school of karate at Naha. This is important because Higashionna’s instruction provided the basis for the subsequent Goju Ryu and Shito Ryu karate styles, and is responsible for popularizing the breathing kata called sanchin (literally, "Three Straight," but usually translated as "Three Battles"). Higashionna’s emphasis on physical conditioning probably owes something to the techniques of Chinese rice-basket making, which required enormously strong fingers and wrists. Still, this emphasis on extraordinary muscular tension may have led some subsequent karate students down the wrong path. First, extraordinary muscular tension has been linked to hypertension and hemorrhoids. Furthermore, medical studies done during the 1920s by the United States physician Edmund Jacobson showed that people whose muscles were tensed were less responsive to unexpected stimuli than were people whose muscles were relaxed.

Despite complaints that they were too strenuous for girls, active sports such as field hockey, golf, lacrosse, and tennis replace gentle calisthenics in British and North American girls’ schools. Pioneers included Rhoda Anstey and Margaret Stanfeld in Britain, Amy Morris Homans and Senda Berenson in Massachusetts, and Genevra Magee in California.


In Tokyo, the Ministry of Education looks into teaching jujutsu and gekken (bamboo sword fencing) in the Japanese public schools. The conclusion is that both activities are pedagogically and morally inappropriate for children.

Bullfighting is banned in Paris. Nonetheless, the sport remained popular in the northern provinces into the 1930s, and along the Spanish border into the present. The French sport differed from the Spanish sport in that the bull was not usually killed in the ring.

A criminal known as Oakland Tommy becomes the first person to use an oxyacetylene torch to break into a safe.

The Brazilian government bans capoeira. This was partly to keep young gentlemen from associating with working-class men and mainly to keep urban street gangs from breaking up government-sponsored political rallies. The game survived, though, perhaps because so many of Salvador’s working class men rowed or sailed boats to work from homes in the less-patrolled Bahian bush.

A Finnish professor named Axel Heikel observes a Mongol national wrestling meet at Urga. The contest lasted a week, and was held near a Buddhist temple. The wrestlers wore only trousers, and they began the contest with a series of little jumps. Their method was strictly standing wrestling, with no leg attacks allowed. Once the two players closed, the first one whose hand touched the ground lost. The competition was single elimination, and the grand champion was rewarded with horses, sheep, and other valuable prizes.


A Swiss cutler named Karl Elsener persuades the Swiss Army to buy its pocketknives from his firm. Elsener’s knives featured a punch, screwdriver, can opener, and a single blade, and are still sold as the Victorinix model 5720.

The Imperial German Army learns how railway field messes should work by observing the logistical support used by Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show. (Cody moved 200 people, 150 horses, and 20 bison like clockwork, so the Germans were correct in appreciating the organizational skill involved.)

Under the guidance of Rudolf Bredemeyer, the Deutschen Athleten Verband ("German Athletes’ Association"; it only later became known as Deutscher Athletik-Sportverband von 1891, or "German Athletic Sport Association of 1891") is established at Duisburg and Cologne. A national organization designed to encourage greater skill and less brute force, its patronage caused Greco-Roman wrestling to replace the old Turner-Ringkampf in most German schools.

The Ministry of Education orders German gymnastic drills (heishiki taiso) introduced into Japanese elementary and middle schools.

Richard Kyle Fox and the National Police Gazette sponsor a women’s championship wrestling match in New York City. To prevent hair pulling, the women cut their hair short, and to keep everything "decent," the women wore tights. (Not all matches were so prim, and in 1932, Frederick Van Wyck recollected some matches of his youth that were between "two ladies, with nothing but trunks on.") Fox’s wrestlers included Alice Williams and Sadie Morgan. The venue was Owney Geoghegan’s Bastille of the Bowery.

By knocking out Cal McCarthy in a fight lasting 22 rounds, featherweight boxer George Dixon of Halifax, Nova Scotia becomes the first black man to hold an American national sporting title. On September 6, 1892, Dixon also became the first black boxer to meet (and beat) a white boxer (amateur Jack Skelly) before a paying audience in New Orleans. Said the New Orleans Times-Democrat the next day, "It was a mistake to match a negro and a white man," and a week later, New Orleans’ Olympia Club decided to permit no more interracial fights. Why? Explained the Chicago Tribune, "A darky is alright in his place, but the idea of sitting quietly by and seeing a colored boy pommel a white lad grates on Southerners." (Northerners, too -- John L. Sullivan stated specifically, "I will not fight a Negro. I never have and never shall." This was a lie, of course, as he had fought blacks as a younger man, but it certainly represented his views as champion.)

The California Athletic Club introduces electric gongs to boxing. The occasion was a Queensberry Rules fight between Peter Jackson and Gentleman Jim Corbett. Although the Jackson-Corbett fight ended in a draw and left fans sleeping in their seats, it still gave Corbett the reputation that he needed to challenge John L. Sullivan for the world title. Jackson, on the other hand, was ruined. Although he had a win by knockout over Frank Slavin in Britain the following year, he was unable to get another fight with a ranking white American boxer until 1898, by which time he was past his prime. To pay his bills, Jackson turned to playing Uncle Tom in stage productions of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and that in turn broke his spirit as a fighter and a man.


According to an article in Outing written by Robert Denig, the yaba, or place for Japanese archery, was usually attached to a Shinto temple. Its caretaker was usually an elderly woman assisted by younger women who brought tea and flirted with the patrons. These women were often competent coaches, too, and their advice was not to be ignored.

During the first Gotlandic Pentathlon held at Wisborg, Sweden, the final event was a wrestling match. The style was a variation of the Old Norse Hryggspena, and was known as Bondetag in German and Ryggtag in Swedish. Both names translate roughly as "Backhold," and the British equivalent is Cumberland and Westmorland. Anyway, the theory was that both men had lost their swords, and were now fighting for battlefield survival. Thus the loser was he whose shoulder hit the ground first. To ensure crowd appeal, matches were limited to 15 minutes. The Swedish heavyweight champion was for many years Arvid Anderson of Stockholm. Similar wrestling matches were also held during the comparable North and South Uist Highland Games in the Hebrides.

The first amateur Greco-Roman wrestling championships take place at Duisburg, Germany. These championships moved to Prague in 1895, then Vienna and Paris in 1898. The Swedes and Finns dominated the sport before World War II, while the Eastern Europeans and Japanese dominated the game afterwards. At the professional level, the first "world" championships took place in Brussels in 1897.

The Oxford University Fencing Club presents an Assault of Arms intended to promote interest in fencing. The event is divided into three sections and a finale, each introduced by a selection of music played by members of the University orchestra. The first section included bouts at foil and "duelling sword" (e.g., epee). The second featured a lecture by Fencing Club President Sir Frederick Pollock "explaining the transition of swordsmanship from the old English Sword and Buckler fight to Rapier and Dagger" that is illustrated by prominent fencing historians Egerton Castle and Alfred Hutton recreating an "Elizabethan prize at verie many weapons." The third section featured more bouts at foil, saber, and dueling sword, and also mixed-weapon bouts at dueling sword against saber. The finale featured combat with Highland broadsword and target.

The British national wrestling champion Tom Cannon tours India. Although he won matches against unknowns in Patiala, Calcutta, and the Punjab, Cannon lost his only known match against a top-drawer Indian wrestler (the young Karim Bux). Cannon’s defeat was partly a misunderstanding of the rules. In European professional wrestling, the wrestler’s shoulders had to touch the ground for a fall to count. Therefore, a neck bridge was a very proper defense. In Indian wrestling, on the other hand, simply being turned upside down on the ground constituted a fall. Consequently, while Imam Bux was probably a good enough wrestler to have beaten Cannon under any rules, having explained the rules to both fans and players before the match would have resulted in fewer hard feelings in the end.

During the world’s first gloved heavyweight championship fight, Gentleman Jim Corbett beats John L. Sullivan by knockout. Although Corbett feinted and jabbed exceptionally well, Sullivan lost because he was out-of-shape, overweight, and chronically drunk rather than because he couldn’t fight while wearing gloves. Indeed, Sullivan wore gloves whenever he could, as he believed (correctly) that gloves let him to hit harder with less risk to his knuckles. Legend aside, the Sullivan-Corbett fight is of importance mainly because it was the first prizefight to be organized like a business and presented as wholesome athletic theater. Although middle-class moralists complained that the growing interest in boxing showed a decline in public morality, it was actually due to newspaper publishers such as William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer realizing the enormous profits to be made pandering to working-class tastes.

Gunmen hired by the Wyoming Stock Grower’s Association shoot to death a pair of suspected cattle rustlers named Nate Champion and Nick Ray. This killing, part of a war between Cheyenne cattlemen and Johnson County grangers, provided the background for the Western novel called Shane, first published in 1949, and turned into an archetypal Alan Ladd movie in 1953.

The United States Army replaces its .45 caliber single-action revolvers with new double-action revolvers chambered in .38 Long Colt. The new weapons proved unpopular with the troops. In the words of Captain J. M. Munro, Third United States Cavalry, they were "not only ineffective as to shock [that is, they would not reliably incapacitate an attacker within 30 seconds of wounding him], but defective as to mechanism. Not one of these pistols in ten [would shoot where aimed]; the mechanism consists of so many delicate parts, especially small springs, that in a single season firing from six to a dozen pistols in a troop go out of action and have to be consigned to the store room. Fully 30 per cent. of them ‘shave lead’ a defect which causes more horses to become incurably gun shy than any other one thing." Such complaints caused the Army to replace the weapons with new handguns chambered in .38 Special and .45 ACP during the 1910s.


Theodore Roosevelt declares that increased emphasis on "vigorous manly out-of-door sports" would revitalize the United States and build a new Anglo-Saxon super-race. Bare-knuckle pugilism was not one of Commissioner Roosevelt’s manly sports. A prizefight, said Roosevelt in 1890, was brutal and degrading, adding, "The people who attend it… hover on the borderlines of criminality; and those who are not are speedily brutalized, and are never rendered more manly." Ironically, Roosevelt was simultaneously a fan of amateur glove boxing under Queensberry rules.

Twelve masked members of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union flog some dance hall girls through the streets of Osceola, Nebraska. Such vigilantism was called "whitecapping" after the pillow cases the vigilantes wore over their heads for courage. Structurally, the violence was part of a virulently anti-foreign, anti-Catholic, and anti-Negro movement that started in Indiana in 1877 and culminated in the Supreme Court’s infamous Plessy v. Ferguson decision of 1896. (That was the ruling that proclaimed that "separate but equal" did not extend to railway cars or employment.) Of course, whitecappers were rarely as powerful as their propagandists claimed, and as early as 1885, an African American newspaper editor named John Mitchell Jr. observed that "the best remedy for a lyncher or a cursed midnight rider is a 16-shot Winchester rifle in the hands of a Negro with nerve enough to pull the trigger."

Winchester Repeating Firearms produces its first rifle designed to shoot smokeless powder cartridges. This was a High Wall single-shot rifle chambered in .30-40 Krag. (John Moses Browning’s better remembered Model 1894 lever-action rifle chambered in .30 WCF, a cartridge Remington subsequently called .30-30, was not introduced until 1895.)

Berlin’s Ludwig Löwe firearms factory (subsequently Deutsche Waffen und Munitionsfabrik, or DWM) introduces the Borchardt M93 pistol, the first self-loading ("automatic") pistol to sell in any numbers. (About 3,000 of the toggle-locked weapon, chambered in 7.63 Mauser, were made.) However, in 1897 the US military rejected the Borchardt M93, and so Löwe engineer Georg Luger set about making improvements. In 1900, the Swiss Army adopted the new Luger-designed pistol chambered in 7.65x22mm. The German Navy also expressed interest in the new design, but wanted a more powerful cartridge. The result was the 9x19mm ("Parabellum") cartridge, introduced in 1902, and the Luger pistol, adopted by the German Navy in 1904 and the German Army in 1908. In 1907, the US Army also tested Luger pistols chambered in .45 ACP, but ultimately opted for John Browning’s M1911 instead. Nationalism may have played a role, but the official reason was one that many Luger owners have noted since, namely the Luger’s tendency to jam. Nevertheless Luger pistols look wonderful and many people like the way they feel in the hand. Thus they remain popular collectors’ items into the present.

Charles Charlemont establishes the Academy of French Boxing and the Cane in Paris. Associated schools included the ones of the Desruilles brothers in Lille and Roubaix, Allart in Marseilles, Boucher in Amiens, and Petit in New Orleans. Charlemont called his method la boxe Française. While it borrowed many techniques from savate, it was taught as a sport like boxing rather than a music hall entertainment. Therefore, it did not enjoy the same sleazy reputation, and became especially popular with military officers, who viewed it as a non-lethal substitute for dueling.

Gulam Muhammad, the youthful Punjabi knee-bend champion, starts wrestling professionally. Gulam’s attention to training increased rather than decreased with age, and within five years, he was an All-India champion known as Gama the Great. As with most Indian professionals, Gama’s training regimen consisted of raking the pit, wrestling with other professionals, lifting wood-and-stone weights, and doing 5,000 deep-knee bends and 3,000 dipping pushups a day. It also involved eating yakhni (boiled-down meat soup), plus several pounds of chicken, mutton, and bread every day, a feast that few other working men could imagine, let alone afford.


In response to Korean riots that threatened Japanese economic interests in Seoul, the Imperial Japanese Navy lands 7,000 Japanese soldiers at Inchon. This example of the Japanese taking up what the Nitobe Inazo later called "the Brown Man’s Burden" starts a power struggle between the Americans, Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, and Russians that remained unresolved a century later.

A Philadelphia man named James J. O’Brien accepts a job working for the foreign settlement police at Nagasaki, Japan. In December 1895, O’Brien was appointed a constable and attached to the Umegasaki Station. He held the position until leaving for Boston in January 1900. In the United States in April 1902, O’Brien showed some jujutsu tricks to President Theodore Roosevelt. This brought him to the attention of sportswriters such as Robert Edgren, and in April 1905, O’Brien helped prepare the professional wrestler George Bothner for his contest with the vaunted Katsukuma Higashi. Other Americans who trained in jujutsu at Nagasaki before 1910 included Risher Thornberry, who trained scouts attached to the 91st US Infantry Division during World War I and afterwards established the American School of Jiu-Jitsu in Los Angeles.

The practice of wargaming naval battles on gymnasium floors is introduced at the United States’ Naval War College at Newport, Rhode Island. The pioneer was a former naval officer named William McCarty Little. Of course, the games were only as good as their tradition-bound umpires, and so they failed to predict the role that submarines (developed by John P. Holland between 1878 and 1883) and aircraft would play in future wars.

On June 14, Thomas Edison of West Orange, New Jersey uses his new Kinetograph camera to film Mike Leonard knocking out Jack Cushing. He then sold copies of the films to Holland Brother’s Arcade in New York, where fight fans paid 10¢ a round to see the fight. Although the novelty of seeing moving pictures was fine, the price was too high for a fixed fight between no-names in a short-round fight. (In Edison’s films, rounds lasted just 1½ minutes each, as that was how long a film reel lasted. Edison also shrank the ring to 12 feet square to keep the fighters in focus.) Therefore, on September 8, Edison filmed Gentleman Jim Corbett knocking out Peter Courtney in six, and Holland Brothers dropped the price per round to a nickel. As this second film made a lot of money, it is often called the first fight film. Over 100 fight films were made between 1894 to 1915. The outcomes of Edison’s studio fights were prearranged, and were filmed in smaller-than-normal rings so that one fixed camera could cover all the action. Although despised by religious leaders due to their "brutal and degrading performances," such films were among the first multi-reel entertainments.

Upon being asked the qualifications of a dead shot, the American trick shooter Annie Oakley replies, "I suppose it’s a gift, though practice helps." (Oakley regularly fired about 40,000 shots a year from shotguns, plus thousands more from rifles and pistols.) Physical fitness helped, too. Oakley could run 100 yards in 13 seconds, and her training regimen included walking, swimming, horseback riding, bicycling, fencing, and weight lifting.

French colonial newspapers describe moringue ("take him") as a cartwheeling martial art practiced by the black African day laborers of Madagascar, the Comoros, and Reunion. Bouts took place at night or on holy days, and were accompanied by drummers whose enthusiasm mirrored the action. While juvenile players were urged to shake hands and fight fair, adult players were free to strike groins, bite, throw sand, or spit. This said, players could quit the match at any time, and did not have to accept challenges from anyone noticeably bigger than themselves. Pre-fight activities consisted of dancing, drinking, boasting, and obtaining protective charms or amulets. As for why the men fought, it was for all the usual reasons, namely honor, reputation, and the love of the ladies.

A giant (6’2", 240 pounds) Turk named Yousouf Ishmaëlo takes up professional wrestling in France. According to the published accounts, Yousouf lost but once in his career, and that due to a foul that the other wrestler (Ernest Roeber of New York) probably faked. The original "Terrible Turk," Yousouf died in July 1898 during a famous shipwreck and from here the story gets confused. For example, the New York papers said that Yououf was dragged to the bottom by the weight of some $8,000 in gold coins that he wore in a money belt. Moreover, the journalists said that in his haste to reach a lifeboat, Yousouf threw women and children overboard. However, while it is true that Yousouf preferred coin to cash, he probably did not have $8,000 on him. After all, his pay in New York was only $20 per week, and he had been spending that much on clothes and food. Furthermore, although the crew of the SS La Bourgogne tossed women and children overboard in their haste to reach the boats, there are no contemporary reports of giant passengers from steerage tossing women and children overboard. Consequently, these are probably tales spun by Yousouf’s promoter William Brady, a man best known for producing melodramas for stage and screen. In A Pictorial History of Wrestling the English wrestling writer Graeme Kent wrote that Yousouf Ishmaëlo was not Turkish, but French. This is not correct either. According to Scottish wrestling historian William Baxter, Yousouf was born in Bulgaria (then part of the Ottoman Empire) in 1857, and thirty years later he won the Kirkpinar tournament. In 1894, the French promoter Joseph Doublier brought him to Paris, and in 1898, Antonio Pierri took him to New York. The story is a cautionary tale: To this day, many "Terrible Turks" are ethnically Armenian (examples include Bob Managoff, Charles Manoogian, and Harry Krikor Ekizian), and promoters still tell tales.


Stephen Crane publishes The Red Badge of Courage. This novel creates the genre of realistic war stories told from a private’s perspective. The alternating bouts of fear and courage that Crane so vividly described were based on his experiences working as a newspaperman in New York City.

Newspaper publishers William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer begin using a new printing process that allows their papers to use yellow ink. One result is the coining of the term "yellow journalism"; another is the advent of colored Sunday comics. One of the first colored comics was Hogan’s Alley, illustrated by Richard F. Oucault. Hogan’s Alley only lasted from 1895-1901, but its cluttered urban landscape contributed to the coining of the term, "as fouled up as Hogan’s goat," and to the naming of the pop-up pistol ranges known as Hogan’s Alleys.

Theodore Roosevelt hires the New York Police Department’s first female employee. The reason was that Minnie Kelly did more work for less money than did the two male secretaries she replaced. In 1896, Commissioner Roosevelt also gave uniforms and badges to the women who processed female prisoners at police stations. However, excepting meter maids and secretaries, the New York and other United States police departments used women mainly as matrons and vice detectives until 1968, when the Indianapolis police pioneered the use of female patrol officers.

Captain Alfred Hutton of London establishes a fencing branch in the British Amateur Gymnastic Association. In 1902, the fencers separated from the gymnasts to form the Amateur Fencing Association. Hutton had served with Hussar regiments around London during the 1860s, and his methods were based on French theory. He stressed thrusting with the point rather than slashing with the edges, and he was one of the first fencers to design a system for fighting with military bayonets. Nonetheless, the British Army ignored Hutton’s system, and instead adopted an Italian saber fencing system designed by Ferdinando Masiello of Florence. For his own part, Tommy Atkins continued to prefer clubbing his rifle to poking people with bayonets.

Korean guerrillas calling themselves uibyong, or "Righteous Armies," attack the Japanese from bases located in Manchuria and the Russian Maritime Territory. Because the Russians didn’t want to provoke a war with Japan, they provided the Koreans with rifles but no ammunition, few explosives, and no artillery. On the other hand, to keep the Koreans occupied, they provided considerable training in close order drill, bayonet practice, and belt wrestling. After 1917, Turkish and Mongol soldiers serving in the Red Army also used belt wrestling as a military gymnastic. In the Turkish game, the contestants met in the ring, shook hands, then grasped their opponent’s belt with both hands. While the players could not twist the other’s sash or trip him, they were otherwise free to do pretty much what they wanted. The most famous early twentieth century exponent of Turkish sash wrestling was Hafiz Baraz; subsequent heroes include the Olympic champions Schazam Safin and Shamil Hisamutdinov.

The Great Japan Hall of Martial Arts Virtue (Dai Nihon Butokukai) is established at Kyoto. The timing commemorated the (legendary) 2000th anniversary of the founding of Kyoto, and organizational leaders included Prince Akihito, the governor of Kyoto (Watanabe Chiaki), a Shinto bishop, and the head of the Kyoto Chamber of Commerce. Following the Russo-Japanese War, the Butokukai started its own martial art school, the Bujutsu Senmon Gakko. This school was registered with the Ministry of Education in September 1911 and became a full-fledged college in January 1912. In March 1942 the Japanese government formally absorbed the Butokukai, and then divided its functions between the Ministry of Public Welfare, the Ministry of Education, and the military. Wartime leaders included Prime Minister Tojo Hideki and the occasional yakuza boss, and under their control the martial arts quickly changed from judo, kendo, and archery to military activities such as glider repair, grenade throwing, and bayonet fighting. Although the Butokukai reverted to a martial arts organization in August 1945, there remained significant confusion and misunderstanding. Therefore the national headquarters of the Butokukai voluntarily disbanded in September 1946 and the last regional branch disbanded by government decree in November 1946.

The first five groups of instruction, or gokyo no waza, are introduced to Kodokan judo. These are followed in 1920 by a second group of seventeen additional techniques known as shimmeisho no waza. The additions were due to the Kodokan wrestlers having absorbed most traditional jujutsu styles and their best techniques in the meantime.

Despite his comparatively small size (he stood about 5’10" and weighed perhaps 170 pounds), Martin "Farmer" Burns wins the United States catch-as-catch-can heavyweight wrestling championship. Following this success, Burns started training other athletes, including Frank Gotch, who was arguably the best North American professional wrestler of the early twentieth century. And if not the best, certainly one of the most popular, as to this day he has legions of fans and sportswriters believing that he gouged eyes and snapped leg tendons during matches. Of course, Grandpa’s memories notwithstanding, Gotch did no such thing. For one thing, even his one-eyed opponents left the ring with as many working eyes as they started with. In addition, amazing numbers of Gotch’s supposedly crippled victims walked just fine when they entered the ring in another town the following night. Finally, in March 1910, Gotch’s longtime manager Joe Carroll went to prison for using the US mails to fix the outcome of wrestling matches.

According to his recollections (which were not always free from embellishment), Captain Bill McDonald, commanding Company B of the Texas Rangers out of Amarillo, goes to Dallas to prevent a prizefight. (Prizefighting was illegal in Texas.) Because he was alone as he stepped from the train, the city officials sent to meet him asked where the rest of his men were. To which McDonald replied, "Hell, ain’t I enough? There’s only one prizefight!" The bout McDonald went to Dallas to stop was the one between Peter Maher and Bob Fitzsimmons that took place on the Mexican side of the Rio Grande on February 21, 1896.


Gangs of Afro-Indian youths led by Rufus Buck and Cherokee Bill terrorize the Oklahoma Territory by robbing and killing more people in a couple months than the Dalton, James, and Starr gangs had robbed and killed in a decade. The mass executions that ended these gangs’ rampages were later immortalized in a Clint Eastwood movie called Hang ‘Em High. However, in this movie, in typical Hollywood fashion, both the gang members and the deputies who arrested them were converted from Afro-Indians into white men.

Analysis of Chinese police reports reveals that North Chinese bandit gangs averaged 8-13 members. Although a few carried firearms or swords, most carried sticks and farm tools. Individual members were aged 12-17, and were usually third or fourth sons with little formal education and no hope of inheriting land. These youths frequently lived with their families, and their victims were usually opium merchants or shopkeepers living in different towns or counties. Crime peaked in January and July, when the planting and harvesting were over. Accordingly, the main difference between the Shantung bandits of 1895 and the Chinatown gangsters of 1985 was that the former did not want to spend their lives planting sorghum and collecting dung, while the latter did not want to spend their lives waiting tables and washing dishes.

As the Chinese government withdraws its soldiers from their provincial garrisons to fight the Japanese in Manchuria and Korea, the local landowners replace them with militia companies called Big Sword Societies. Big Sword leaders were village landlords and rich peasants, and their soldiers were their tenant farmers. (The very poor were excluded, as they were the group against which these organizations were designed to defend.) Fencing masters and cudgel fighters were hired as trainers, rifles and ammunition were stockpiled, and priests and shamans were beseeched to deliver Buddhist mantras, Taoist charms, and prayers to local spirits. As the bandits these militiamen pursued were notorious for converting to Christianity to escape justice, the Big Swords became violently opposed to Christianity. This prejudice was their greatest contribution to the Boxer unrest of 1899-1901.


The First International Games take place in Athens, Greece. The promoters included the French Baron Pierre de Coubertin. Coubertin revered the ancient Hellenes, and believed that participation in amateur sports was an essential part of a liberal arts education. Coubertin also believed that the games should honor the individual athlete, not the country, and that participating was more important than winning. Therefore, unlike the ancient games, athletes received prizes for second and third place as well as first. Modern sport historians often call these games the first modern Olympics. To some extent, this is true, as they were the first modern athletic events to use international amateur sporting competition as flag-waving international theater. Nevertheless, truly modern Olympics, meaning quadrennial games pitting superb athletes against one another in theatrical settings for the purpose of encouraging mass nationalism and consumer spending, only date to the 1920s.

The Spanish close a Manila fencing academy known as the Tanghalan ng Sandata ("Gallery of Weapons"). The reason was that its active students included the rebel leader José Rizal y Mercado. The master of the Gallery of Weapons was Don José de Azes, and his academy was located at a Jesuit private school known as Ateneo de Manila. Since de Azes taught both rapier fencing and Filipino nationalism, either he or his students are probably the creators of the theory that Spanish fencing influenced the development of arnis.

Feng Yü-hsiang, a 14-year old from Chihli Province who later becomes one of China’s most powerful warlords, enlists in the Imperial Chinese army, where his training mostly consisted of thrusting a spear at a target, drinking, and gambling. After narrowly surviving the Boxer Rebellion, Feng decided to join the Right Wing Guards Army of Yüan Shih-k’ai instead, which trained with rifles instead of spears, and close-order drill instead of gambling.

San Francisco’s Mechanics’ Pavilion becomes the first North American boxing venue known to have sold reserved seats to women. (The occasion was a title bout between Bob Fitzsimmons and Jack Sharkey, and Fitzsimmon’s wife Rose was notorious for sitting ringside and shouting advice to her husband.) In this particular fight, Fitzsimmons hit Sharkey a low blow in the eighth that, in the words of the Associated Press, left Sharkey lying on the canvas, "unable to move his legs, though he clutched spasmodically at his groin with his gloved hand... Hardly any one of the spectators saw the foul. It was apparently unintentional." William Randolph Hearst had bet $20,000 on Sharkey to win and so his newspapers subsequently accused referee Wyatt Earp of being "exactly the sort of man to referee a prizefight if a steal is meditated and a job put up to make the wrong man win."


Above decks, Britain’s Royal Navy experiments with ship-to-shore radio. Below decks, it bows to Victorian sensibilities and allows enlisted men to eat with forks instead of knives and fingers.

Reporter Bob Davis of the New York Journal coins the phrase "Solar Plexus Knockout." The term described the left hook to the liver that Bob Fitzsimmons used to drop Gentleman Jim Corbett during the fourteenth round of a title fight held at Carson City, Nevada. As described by novelist Leonard Gardner 83 years later, the technique involved a left feint to the head, a right feint to the head, then a quick step up with the right foot and a nearly simultaneous left hook to the liver or solar plexus.

After a British bantamweight named Walter Croot dies from his head crashing into the solid wooden flooring of the National Sporting Club, laws are passed requiring British boxing rings to have padded floors.

A Japanese student named Suzuki Daisetz ("D.T. Suzuki") comes to the United States, where he remains until 1908. In New York, Suzuki studied philosophy under a German émigré named Paul Carus, whose "Science of Religion" taught that religions should reject dogma, ritual, and formal organizations. During the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905, Suzuki also became fascinated with medieval Japanese warrior culture. So, although he himself formally studied neither Zen nor swordsmanship, Suzuki’s best-known book, Zen and Japanese Culture, devoted several chapters to the putative relationship between Zen and swordsmanship. First given as lectures in 1936 and published in 1938, this text’s blend of philosophy and militarism struck a chord when reprinted in the United States in 1959, and therefore led many non-Japanese to study Buddhism and swordsmanship more closely.


The Spanish-American War becomes the last major war to be fought using black powder, and the first major war to be started by the power of the popular press.

Outside Khartoum in the Sudan, the 21st Lancers make the British Empire’s last important cavalry charge. According to an eyewitness, the Lancers’ command of execution was not "Charge!" but "Right wheel into line," followed by the jerky note of a bugle.

British journalists make "hooliganism" a synonym for working class violence. (The usage probably came from a music hall song that described hooligans as boys who were always on the riot.) The hooligans’ fighting methods emphasized kicking and kneeing, and South London hooligans wore brass or steel-toed boots expressly for the purpose of increasing their killing power. Nevertheless, to judge by contemporary media coverage, the hooligans’ greatest crime was their unorthodox attire, which included bell-bottom trousers, neck-scarves, peaked caps, and donkey fringe, or Mohican, haircuts.

R.G. Allanson-Winn and C. Phillipps-Wolley, both members of London’s Inns of Court School of Arms, co-author Broadsword and Singlestick - with Chapters on Quarter-staff, Bayonet, Cudgel, Shillalah, Walking Stick, Umbrella and other Weapons of Self Defence. Allanson-Winn would later become one of the most prominent British spokesmen for the Islamic faith.

Toward reducing the unnecessary suffering of game animals, the Leipzig ammunition maker Wilhelm Brenneke introduces rifled shotgun slugs. Although very powerful, shotgun slugs do not become popular in the United States until the late 1930s or the British Commonwealth until after World War II.

In Paris, Paul Pons wins the French national wrestling championships; second place went to Ladislaus Pytlasinsky, a Pole from Helsinki. Meanwhile, in Vienna, George Hackenschmidt wins a tournament advertised as the first World’s Championship. This was typical professional wrestling hype, as the participants were mostly German or Austro-Hungarian. (Second went to G. Burghardt of Austria while third went to M. Hitzler of Bavaria.) Venues for such matches included the Folies-Bergère in Paris and the Oxford Theatre in London.

Frank Erne wins the world’s lightweight boxing title. In 1902, Erne retired to Paris, where he opened a boxing gym. At first, it didn’t do well, as few French understood the game. However, during World War I the YMCA spread boxing throughout French military camps and by 1919, boxing was more popular in France than la boxe Française. Other turn-of-the-century promoters of boxing in France included the Americans Richard Klegin and Dan McKetrick; Klegin managed Sam McVey, Herbert Dynot, and Kid Davis while McKettrick managed Georges Carpentier, Joe Jeannette, and Jack Johnson. These professionals worked a circuit and often arranged results. However, for gym owners such as Erne, the real money was made training wealthy amateurs. While Ernest Hemingway is undoubtedly the most famous of the French-trained amateur boxers, a more classic example is the British poet Arthur Cravan, a man who became the Amateur Light-Heavyweight Champion of France in 1910 without ever fighting a round. Jack Johnson and Cravan often drank together in Paris, and in April 1916, they even fought a bout in a Barcelona bullring. There is some question about how long their fight took. Johnson thought that it was over in the first, but contemporary newspaper accounts say that it lasted until the sixth.

Toward limiting the bloodshed during lineage feuds, the Chinese government closes private sword smithies in Shantung Province. This outrages clan elders who earned money from the smithies and increases the popularity of stage plays showing mortals suddenly acquiring almost magical fighting skills. Training for roles in these morality plays took place in schools called ch’uan chang. In general, training was open to all and rank based solely on fighting skill. Instructors in such schools were "Senior Brothers" while students were "Junior Brothers." Practical application of techniques was based on street brawls, as teachers and students were often members of violent street gangs known as hunrhunr, or "dark drifters."

After "Colored men" demand access into YMCA facilities in New York and Chicago, segregated facilities quickly appear in Boston and the District of Columbia, and eventually in Hawaii. Meanwhile, in Tientsin, China, the YMCA embarks on an active program designed to "increase the capacity of the [Chinese] race." This included introducing basketball in 1896 and baseball in 1907.

About 1899:

A Shantung-based martial art society known as the I Ho Ch’uan, or "Boxers United in Righteousness," becomes notorious for teaching members that spirit-possession and faith made them invulnerable to bullets and swords. "In practice," wrote a skeptical Chinese magistrate named Chiang, "some got broken arms, others wounds in their chests. But it was claimed that these people’s techniques were imperfect." Chiang’s analysis seems on the money, too, as the recruiting sergeants’ trick involved a combination of sleight of hand and specially modified weapons. It also could be fatal when done wrong, as the American stage magician Billy Robinson learned in March 1918, when his modified musket malfunctioned and blew a hole in his chest.


Philosopher John Dewey of Columbia University gives a Copernican twist to United States public education by making the child "the sun about which the appliances of education revolve; he is the center about which they are organized."

In Paris, savateur Charles Charlemont fights a former British Navy boxer named Jerry Driscoll. The British media viewed the contest as a novelty act whereas the French viewed it more seriously, and the result was a controversy that marred Anglo-French sporting relations for decades. (In the first round, Driscoll protested that Charlemont has bitten him. There was an immediate uproar and the match was halted for several minutes. When it re-started, the fighters clinched. At that point, for an unidentified reason, the match was interrupted again and the referee refused to continue. When persuaded to proceed with his duties, he declared at the end of the first round that two rounds have in fact been fought. This causes another delay. Eventually, the fight ends in the eight, with Driscoll falling, clutching his groin.)

An English engineer named Edward W. Barton-Wright publishes an article called "The New Art of Self Defence" in Pearson’s Magazine. Barton-Wright had studied jujutsu while living in Japan, and his "New Art," which he immodestly called "Bartitsu," combined jujutsu with boxing and savate. Yet, while Barton-Wright was a good enough rough-and-tumble wrestler, he was no master of Japanese wrestling. This is hardly unusual in itself, but what was unusual was that Barton-Wright was honest enough to admit it, and to hire better-qualified teachers including Tani Yukio and Uyenishi Sadakazu as his instructors. That said, Sherlock Holmes was Bartitsu’s most famous practitioner. In "The Adventure of the Empty House," published in Strand Magazine in October 1903, the Great Detective told Dr. Watson that, on the brink of a Swiss waterfall in 1894, the evil Moriarty "rushed at me and threw his arms around me. He knew that his own game was up, and was only anxious to revenge himself upon me. We tottered together on the brink of the fall. I have some knowledge, however, of baritsu [sic], or the Japanese system of wrestling, which has more than once been very useful to me. I slipped through his grip, and he with a horrible scream kicked madly for a few seconds and clawed the air with both his hands. But for all his efforts he could not get his balance, and over he went."

Bernarr Macfadden takes over a struggling magazine called Physical Culture. Macfadden believed that there "can be no beauty without fine muscles," and so he included many homoerotic illustrations. Within two years this change increased circulation from 3,000 per issue to 100,000 per issue. Judging from the advertisements in the back, the fear of bullies sold as many chest expander kits and barbells as did the desire for beautiful muscles.

At the conclusion of an international peace conference held in The Hague, Netherlands, 26 world governments agree in principle to refrain from making shells that deliver asphyxiating gases, drop bombs from balloons "or similar new machines," or use bullets that expand easily in the human body. The only one of these agreements to survive the Great War of 1914-1918 was the ban on expanding bullets. That restriction survived for several reasons. First, soft-tipped bullets frequently jam the mechanisms of self-loading firearms. Equally importantly, researchers had developed fully jacketed bullets that were equally destructive in living tissue. Examples of such improved military cartridges include the German spitzers of 1908, the British .303 cartridge of 1910, and the Soviet 5.45x39 cartridge of 1974.

During a Boxer attack on a Catholic village in Shantung Province, an eyewitness observes the Boxers carrying flags and dressing like the people in operas. This is not surprising, as the Boxers did most of their recruiting using plays, and promised their followers that they would be possessed by the spirits of the gods and demigods who inhabited those plays. That the prospective recruits believed such things is not surprising, either, as their average age was 16, and at least 60% were illiterate. Their training was minimal, too: at best, they got three months of training, and at worst, they got a single lesson in spirit-possession. Put another way, except for his nationality, the Boxer recruit of 1900 was little different from the American teenager who told Gwynne Dyer in 1982 that he enlisted in the Marine Corps because a recruiter gave him a good line, and then graduated from basic three months later thinking that he could whip the world.


kronos 2005