This page is here to provide you with a summary of what British Jiu Jitsu is all about, how it came into existence, and who’s behind it.

Introduction of Jiu Jitsu to England

Although the principles of Jiu Jitsu can be traced back in Japan to the HoJo regime (12th to the 14th centuries), the introduction into the U.K. didn’t take place until the 1890’s. E.W. Barton- Wright who had been living and working in Japan for nine years planned to establish his own Jiu Jitsu club upon return to the U.K. Barton-Wright had studied Tenjin Shin’yo Ryu Jiu Jitsu with Master Yukio Tani and being very entrepreneurial in nature, saw the opportunity to bring something special to the British people along with earning income. He brought back with him the 18 year old Master Instructor Tani who along with his skills, was a natural showman. The original plan was to open a permanent club and to call the art Bartitsu after himself. The original school failed due mainly to the British people not being aware of what Jiu Jitsu was and had never previously seen it. Barton-Wright staged many publicity events by touring the country showing the art of Jiu Jitsu and placed challenges to all comers to defeat the Japanese martial artist. Many other Japanese experts joined the musical hall circuit including Japanese wrestler Taro Miyake, Akhitaro Ohno, and Gunji Koizumi, “The Father of British Judo.” Koizumi eventually founded the London Budokwai in 1918 teaching Jiu Jitsu, Kendo and other Japanese arts. Yukio Tani became an instructor at the school one year later and retired from the music hall tours. The Budokwai was direcly affiliated to the Kodokwan of Tokyo, which was the prominent school of authority on the art in Japan. All certificates issued by the Budokwai were fully recognized by the Kodokwan.

Bill Underwood

During Tani’s tenure on the music hall circuit, a friendship was formed that would forever influence how self-defense would be taught. A young boy named Bill Underwood who worked as a Cue boy at the Liverpool Vaudeville Music Hall befriended these skilled martial artists and exchanged goods such as cigarettes and tea for backstage Jiu Jitsu lessons and demonstrations. Bill easily understood the principles of the Japanese system and learned the necessity of leverage and balance to displace bigger, stronger opponents. As he only had limited exposure to the Japanese system, Bill moved away from the Japanese roots and began to experiment with his own concepts and created a unique system specializing in creating excruciating pain to facilitate compliance.

In 1911, Bill emigrated to Canada and began the long Military history of his system:

  • During World War I Bill served with the Royal Montreal Regiment and his unarmed combat techniques saved his life on numerous occasions behind enemy lines.
  • In 1940, Bill was commissioned to give instruction at several military bases and his system which began in 1907 was officially named “Combato”.
  • Research has shown Bill taught Combato to the American Rangers and the Federal Bureau of Investigation
  • Research has shown Bill taught at Allied Secret Agent Training School STS #103 (Camp-X)

In 1945 at the request of several law enforcement agencies Bill’s focus moved away from Military training and began to specialize in the training of Police forces. Bill recognizing Combato was not suited for the defensive tactics needed by civilians began to remove the lethal techniques and focused on control and compliance. The system was renamed Defendo, a name chosen by Bill’s daughter Pat Underwood.

The Defendo system continued to be taught to law enforcement and at the Toronto School of Defendo while at the same time, Bill became a known celebrity with several media appearances including The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, Mike Douglas and That’s Incredible. A short documentary film about Bill’s life entitled “Don’t Mess With Bill” was nominated for an Oscar in 1980 at the Academy Awards.

Bill passed on in 1986 at the age of 90 however his legacy lives on.

Adam Sutherland

Adam Sutherland -   Adam Sutherland has been the Chief Instructor of British Jiu Jitsu for 10 years. Adam brings real world and a very practical approach to teaching this one of a kind system.  Adam has studied various Marital Arts and Combatives in his life it was not until he met Mike Mandel and a one of a kind friendship ensued that Adam chose to dedicate himself to mastering what is now called British Jiu Jitsu. Adam has a true gift of Teaching . Chief Instructor Adam is both dedicated and passionate about carrying on the legacy of what can be argued as the first reality based self-defense system.  Many of Adam’s students have moved on to  various positions from Heads of security ,RCMP officers to Canadian Military serving in Afghanistan, all of whom can confirm that what they learned from Adam has always served them well both on and off the job. Adam is currently one of only 3 persons in the world to hold a level 2 Black belt in this system and the only one who’s diploma has no expiration date.  Dr. Mike Mandel as the System Head and after long years of training with Adam  has every confidence that the system is safe with Adam as it’s number one instructor, a responsibility that he takes seriously.

Mike Mandel

Mike Mandel is the only known Defendo Instructor Trainer in the world that learned directly from Bill Underwood.

Mandel comments,

“ I met Bill in the early 1970’s when I was a young man studying karate and kung fu. I stepped on the mat with Bill and he systematically took me apart. He was in his seventies at the time. I fell in love with this incredible system that doesn’t depend on strength or size. We’ve run Defendo past numerous highly skilled people, including martial artists, and American Marine and a former SAS soldier. Everyone loves the system”

In the early 1980’s Bill Underwood re-connected with his former student and paid instructor to ask Mike to once again instruct students at the Toronto School of Defendo. After Bill’s death in 1986, it is Mike Mandel alone who preserved the entire system.

In 2002, there was a fear that this incredible self-defense system would not be taught again. Mike with access to all of Underwood’s rare published works and original training material and foremost; his incredible memory and actual experiences with Bill Underwood easily reconstructed the entire system.

Mandel went on to teach many students including Britain’s Clive Elliott in much of the system, thus becoming the primary modern source for Bill Underwood’s techniques. Mandel founded Defendo International and the Toronto School of Defendo in 2003 and toured England teaching Underwood’s methods. Mike has continued to impart all of his knowledge to Defendo International’s “Pat Underwood Award of Excellence” 2003 and 2004 winner Adam Sutherland who became his new protégé. It can be easily demonstrated that all of Bill Underwood’s Defendo being taught worldwide today can be traced back directly through Mike Mandel.

Read about Mike Mandel in print:

  • Martial Arts Illustrated July 2003 Vol. 16 No. 2
  • Martial Arts Illustrated December 2003 Vol. 16 No. 7
  • Martial Arts Illustrated February 2004 Vol. 16 No. 9
  • Martial Arts Illustrated June 2004 Vol. 17 No. 1
  • Eye Spy- Volume III Issue Nineteen 2003

Also read more about Mike Mandel at his website.