“Jiu-Jitsu Girl”: The Curious Case of Florence “Flossie” LeMar

Around 1914 a Japanese Jiu-Jitsu fighter named Esai Maeda was traveling the world and spreading the gospel of Jiu-Jitsu to the South American country of Brazil where he would meet the Gracie family and history would be made.

A few years before Maeda ventured to Brazil another lesser known Jiu-Jitsu pioneer

wolf_handStandnamed Florence “Flossie” LeMar was traveling throughout Australia and New Zealand performing Jiu-Jitsu demonstrations.  Little is known of Florence’s early life.  It is thought she was either born in New Zealand or Australia around 1885.  She spent her formative years in New Zealand where she became both a champion skater and swimmer.

In 1913 she met and married  Englishman  and professional wrestler Joe Gardiner.  It is believed that Joe may have learned Jiu-Jitsu in England and passed it onto Florence.  The two created a “vaudeville” style act where they traveled and Flossie lectured on the benefits of Jiu-Jitsu for women and children.  In the demonstration Joe acted as the hooligan, while Flossie demonstrated a series of Jiu-Jitsu counters.

Around 1913, the two wrote a book, “The Life and Adventures of Miss Florence LeMar, the World’s Famous Ju-Jitsu Girl”.  The book like their act,  illustrates a series of Jiu-Jitsu counter attacks.  The book includes a series of tall tales describing Flossie’s “hair raising” adventures.  The stories of opium smugglers, crooked gamblers and lunatics are clearly used to teach lessons.


Florence LeMar and her husband Joe would go on to tour throughout Australia and New Zealand demonstrating Jiu-Jitsu.  In 1920, they would separate and eventually get divorced.  Florence LeMar, the earliest advocate for women practicing Jiu-Jitsu would go on to serve as a Jiu-Jitsu instructor for the New Zealand police force.

In 2011, Pauleen Hayes wrote and directed a play based on the life of Flossie LeMar called, “The Hooligan and the Lady”.  Here is a scene from the play in which they re-create the original Jiu-Jitsu demonstration verbatim.

Here’s another early Jiu-Jitsu pioneer from 1930’s, Miss May Whitley

Notice the similarities in the Self-Defense Techniques


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