Sarah Mayer

Sarah Mayer was the first non-japanese woman in the world to be awarded black belt rank in Kodokan Judo, an achievement that made the headlines of The Japanese Times on 1 March 1935. During her two-year stay in Japan, she wrote several letters home to Gunji Koizumi, Founder of the Budokwai dojo in London where she had begun her training. These reproductions of the letters are well worth reading as memoirs of martial arts practice in Japan in the inter-war period, especially for someone who would have stood out from the vast majority of practitioners in two ways, as a woman and as a gaijin (non-Japanese). They are written with a wonderfully understated dry English wit, perhaps exemplified by the passage

[A] strapping young man of 5th Dan had been called in to practice with me. For awhile we pranced around and he let me throw him about a bit and dropped me fairly gently on the mat and then the Professor said something to him and he threw me all over the place, and not content with throwing me, he gave me that extra push when I was on my way down that makes the floor come up quicker than usual. […] I was beginning to think that it was too much of a good thing and to wonder how best I might escape from his clutches without letting down the British Empire by asking him to be a bit less rough with me, when it occurred to me that although I was being thrown with some violence, I had not yet hurt myself, so I decided that it would be better to wait until I died before I complained.

Sarah Mayer

Advertisements