Taas uusi Catch vs JJ/Judo tarina Hewitiltä.
Here's an updated account of Olson versus Ono in Asheville, NC in 1905:
East Meets West Part II-Olson and Ono
The same year as Katsukuma Higashi’s two contests with members of the American mat fraternity, namely George Bothner and Alex Swanson, a match took place in western North Carolina that was indeed “anything goes.” Yet again the catch wrestler came out as the best man. The combatants were the legit Kodakan judoka Akitaro Ono and one of professional wrestling’s most notorious barnstorming side bet “shooters” Charles Olson.
Charles Olson, born in Germany in 1879 and raised in Chicago, was as good as it ever got when it came to brutal catch-a-catch-can wrestling. He was also well-versed in rough-and-tumble fighting. His real name was Max Flaskamp but he used a number of handles as he traveled about and eventually had his name legally changed to Charles M. Olson. After turning pro in Chicago, he hit the road as a “ringer.” Using various monikers, his modus operandi was to show up unannounced in a town that had a wrestling hero and seek work as a machinist or a cook. Olson would slowly let it be known that he considered himself something of a wrestler and was more than willing to engage any local competition in a side bet match. It wouldn’t be long before the local sporting men jumped at the offer and arranged for their “local pride” to face the newcomer. Standing a lanky 6’ 1” and weighing around 170 pounds, Olson did not look intimidating. The eager town sports fraternity saw him as easy picking: this beanpole wouldn’t stand a chance against their “boy.” Olson’s backers would next show up with cash in hand to cover any and all wagers. If things worked out right, a whole series of lucrative matches could be held. Eventually Olson would wear out his welcome and move on with his pockets full.
This barnstorming wrestler gimmick was part and parcel of early professional wrestling. Such mat stalwarts as Farmer Burns, Frank Gotch, Joe “Ole Marsh” Carroll, Emil Klank, Al Ackerman, Ed Adamson, Frank Coleman and Fred Beell were all veterans at this game. The late J Michael Kenyon referred to these barnstormers as “cross-roaders.” Their justification was that if the locals didn’t want to lose their money, they shouldn’t be betting it in the first place. And furthermore, weren’t the towners trying to take the traveling wrestler’s money. In other words, in true carney logic, they deserved to be fleeced. As the author previously wrote in an earlier volume, “Olsen’s livelihood necessitated he remain an unknown without any reputation to proceed him or hint at his actual prowess. Tall and thin and without the musculature of a typical professional wrestler, Olsen’s appearance offered no threat to any potential opponents.” (1.) A Seattle sports writer commented, “Olsen is a past master of the punishing game. He is a terror to every foe against whom he is in earnest. All the bone-breaking, nerve-wrecking, heart-rending tricks of this torturing of all sports are at his command. Olsen has long stood in his own light as a wrestler. He has eked out a fortune…by wrestling under aliases in the ‘bushes.’” (2.)
Another reporter offered, “He has more aliases than the most desperate criminal, and his defeated opponents lie in forlorn heaps…from one end of the country to the other…He does not care for the laurels of fame. Though a championship might be his for the asking, he prefers the ‘coin’ that lies in his methods of winning from the ‘innocents’.” (3.) Besides Charles Olson, his noms de guerre included Harry Mayes, Lawrence Miller, Jack Carey, Otto Wagner, Joe Cox and Jim “Kid” Cutler, and he often used the added sobriquet of “the Terrible Swede” or “the Montana Cowboy.” Early in his career he was dubbed “the New Jersey Strangler.” (4.) One commentator summed up Olson by saying that he was like the proverbial singed cat, “better than he looks.” Olson and his manager William H. Barton had “cleaned out” all their prospects in the mid-west and were looking for fresh fields to conquer. They caught wind that the mountain city of Asheville, North Carolina had recently adopted a hefty Japanese jiu-jitsu expert as their hometown pride, so they set their sails in a south-easterly direction. Barton prepared for their arrival by firing off a challenge letter to the Asheville Citizen newspaper in mid-summer 1905.
Akitaro Ono had arrived in San Francisco aboard the steamship Korea in May of 1905. He stated that he had been engaged to teach jiu-jitsu at West Point. However, the military academy, after initially allowing judokas Tsunejiro Tomita and Mitsuya Maeda to give a demonstration, opted to hire former heavyweight catch-as-catch-can wrestling champion Tom Jenkins to teach the cadets wrestling, boxing and self-defense instead of a Japanese martial artist. Ono became an assistant to Yamashita Yoshiaki, a high-ranking Kodokan judoka who was teaching judo to the cadets at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. When the academy’s school term ended for the summer, Ono moved on. In July, “Professor” Ono and an entourage including “Professor” H. Koizumi, I. Sezawa and “Dr.” I. Hirano arrived in Asheville and visited with local Christian Church pastor Reverend Y. Minakuchi. Hirano, who spoke perfect English and was supposed to be a Yale student, acted as the troupe’s manager. Koizumi was said to have taught jiu-jitsu at Harvard University. As the martial artists settled into the picturesque city, Ono wasted no time in proclaiming himself “the world’s greatest exponent of the jiu-jitsu” and “the world’s challenger”, giving exhibitions and defying all comers to wrestle him, offering $100 to anyone who could throw him. Though just 5’ 6 ½”” tall, Ono was heftier than most of his fellow traveling Japanese martial artists, weighing in at a bulky 205-215 pounds. Ono and Koizumi declared that they were ready to face anyone, even boxers.
The wandering martial artists gave an exhibition on July 20that the Grand Opera House with demonstrations of jiu-jitsu, fencing, and “sword dancing.” They repeated their open challenge. Their defis were met soon enough. First up was Koizumi, who agreed to meet a 170-pound Columbia University athlete named Phelan D. Beale at the Imperial Hotel Ball Room in nearby Hendersonville. Beale was back home for the summer. A large crowd was in attendance for the bout. As the action commenced the Japanese jiu-jitsu expert locked up his opponent and sent him sailing high in the air. Beale adroitly landed on his feet and went right after Koizumi. The collegian secured a half Nelson on his adversary and leveraged his shoulders and hips flat on the mat. Beale was declared the winner of the first fall. The bout had lasted about eight minutes. Koizumi insisted his arm had been injured in the struggle and he refused to continue. The contest was considered a victory for the young American.
Talk had been buzzing around the environs about Ono coming to grips with the “mountain giant” Big Tom Frisbee. Big Tom, well-known throughout western North Carolinawas hailed as “the strongest man in the whole state”. Living in Hot Springs, NC, Frisbee stood 6’5 ½ ” and weighed over 300 pounds. He is said to have been trained in Greco-Roman wrestling by William Muldoon and to be undefeated on the mat. Surely Big Tom could put the “Japs” in their place, or so the local sports figured. Frisbee was willing but wanted to wrestle in alternating falls, Greco-Roman and jiu-jitsu. Ono was adamant that they would both wear gi jackets throughout the contest and that he would be allowed to make use of his full jiu-jitsu arsenal from start to finish, choke holds included.
The two powerhouses finally came to an agreement about the rules and a contest was set. It would be for the “world’s championship”, best two out of three falls, American wrestling (catch-as-catch-can) versus jiu-jitsu. They would wear the customary Japanese jackets and Ono was free to utilize all the jiu-jitsu he wanted. Falls could be won by forcing one’s opponent into submission, holding his body down for five minutes, or pinning both his shoulders or both his hips to the mat at the same time. Striking of all kinds and “finger and wrist holds” were not to be allowed. The mat would measure 16’ by 19’ and be spread over six inches of saw dust. A double rope ring would surround the mat. Well-known “champion all-around athlete” and gym operator Professor Otto B. Schoenfeld from New Orleans was brought in to serve as the referee.
The bout was scheduled for August 4, 1905 at the Auditorium in Asheville and attracted an enthusiastic crowd of over 2000. Included in the throng were some 500 of Big Tom’s fellow Madison Countyresidents. There was heavy betting on the outcome with Frisbee the popular favorite. It was also advertised that there were “special seats reserved for colored people in gallery. “ An Asheville newspaper labeled the contest, “the most important sporting event that has occurred in this city for many years,” (5.) The festivities commenced with a “Japanese sword dancing” demonstration by Sezawa, followed by a jiu-jitsu exhibition with Sezawa and Koizumi. Schoenfeld addressed the crowd and explained that a fall would be registered if one man’s shoulders were held to the mat for two seconds. This may have been an allusion to the controversial flying falls from the Bothner/Higashi battle, four months earlier in New York. Time for the main event was called at 9:20 pm. The combatants shook hands and the action got under way.
The two men locked up, pushed, pulled and tugged at one another, scrambling to secure a hold. Ono tried to get a firm grip on the giant’s neck, while Frisbee worked to latch on a half-Nelson. Unable to lock on that hold, the big North Carolinian grabbed Ono’s belt and attempted to leg-sweep him. The squat Japanese fighter held his ground, went on the attack and downed Frisbee. Big Tom jumped right back up, as the crowd cheered wildly. Frisbee secured a half-Nelson and leveraged Ono to his knees. Staying aggressive, the giant strove to work his grip into a full-Nelson. Ono fought off his efforts and regained an upright position. A lively exchange followed with both grapplers trying to trip each other and get their man down on the mat. Ono also tried to utilize shoulder throws but he couldn’t budge the over-size mountain man. They continued grappling about on their feet. Ono finally secured a choke hold using the collar of Frisbee’s jacket to commence strangling him.
What followed next was a bit confusing. Frisbee tapped Ono on the shoulder three times. Ono assumed he was signally his concession, released the grip and left the ring thinking he was victorious. Frisbee later explained that he had loosened Ono’s lock around his throat and was able to continue breathing and had tapped Ono to let him know, the choke hold wasn’t working. When Ono left the ring, the mountaineer thought he’d given up. Schoenfeld did his best to restore order and demanded Ono return to the mat, threatening to award the contest to Big Tom otherwise. The match resumed and Ono wasted no time in getting another collar-choke on his giant opponent. Apparently, the martial artist had his number. Frisbee struggled to resist, but as Ono twisted and tightened the folds of the collar and pressed his thumbs into the big man’s neck, he was slowly choked down to the mat from where he gave up the first fall. The audience was at a fever pitch with excitement. A five-minute break was taken.
Back in his dressing room, Frisbee was ready to call it a night. He had to be convinced to return to the fray. A reporter noted, “Tom appears much worse for the wear.” (6.) Ono immediately went after another choke hold, secured it and brought the man mountain to the mat. Frisbee raised his hand in submission, the referee stopped the battle and declared Ono the winner. The martial artist had triumphed using collar chokes, “the Jap’s ‘strange holt’” as one local described it. They had contested for a grand total of 59 minutes. Frisbee’s backers reportedly lost quite a bundle betting on their hero. Frisbee later offered, “He would never have bested me if it had not been for my shirt; that is where he got his hold.” (7.) The giant also bragged that he’d have won if the referee had allowed him to simply pick up Ono and toss him over the ropes. Frisbee voiced his desire for a return match though stipulating that he would never wear a gi again.
Phelan Beale, who had been recruited to help train Frisbee for his bout with Ono, opined, “Frisbee has a yellow streak in him. He was scared the day before the match. I discovered that and tried to brace him up. There is nothing to Jiu Jitsu to alarm any one.” (8.) Beale got another chance to prove his claims about jiu-jitsu in a rematch against Koizumi. The return contest was held August 29, 1905 in the Hendersonville Opera House. A packed throng of some 800 people turned out to witness the tussle. The match-up was to be held best two out of three falls, alternating between jiu-jitsu and catch-as-catch-can; with no holds barred. G.C. Westervelt of the Annapolis Naval Academywas slated to serve as the referee. Someone identified as “Prof. Fenolloski” gave a short address on the history of jiu-jitsu before the match.
The combatants, clad in traditional jackets, shook hands and then got underway. Koizumi reached out to grab Beale, who evaded his grasp and rushed in himself. Like a bolt of lightning he secured a hammerlock, took his opponent to the ground and pinned him clean. A mere three seconds had elapsed since the call of time. Koizumi protested but the ref ruled it a fair pinfall. The crowd cheered and hurrahed with abandon. The grapplers took a ten-minute break. For the second fall, the men wrestled bare-chested. Koizumi went on the offense, charged at his adversary and took him down to his hands and knees. Beale grapevined the jiu-jitsu expert’s legs and brought him to the mat. What followed was a steady display of furious grappling as Koizumi went after leg, knee and crotch holds. Beale tried to secure a half-Nelson. The combatants rolled about the mat, switching top and bottom positions back and forth. Tussling around like a pair of bulldogs, they scrambled off the mat at one point and had to be restarted.
Beale quickly gained control with a half-Nelson, converted it to a full-Nelson and methodically leveraged Koizumi flat to the mat, pinning his “head, shoulders and hips.” (9.) The second fall had taken up about one minute’s time. Despite the brevity of the match, the fans seemed fully satisfied with the night’s festivities. Beale’s delighted supporters carried him away on their shoulders. Three cheers were offered up for Koizumi in the spirit of good sportsmanship. Big Tom Frisbee was in attendance and was said to have been ecstatic about the outcome.
Western North Carolina had played host to three jiu-jitsu versus wrestling bouts so far. The locals had taken a liking to their Japanese visitors and made them feel welcome. Jiu-jitsu was the talk of the town. Ono’s clear victory over Big Tom had won him a lot of popularity and he began giving jiu-jitsu instructions at the Asheville YMCA. But a grappling tornado using the name Charles Olson was heading in the mountain city’s direction and a lasting impact would be left behind. It was later reported that some of Frisbee’s backers had sent word to Olson about coming to Asheville and settling their score with Ono.
Olson and Barton arrived in town and quickly made their presence known, beginning negotiations right away for a showdown with Ono. Barton was an old hand at generating publicity and made the claim that Olson was originally from High Point, NC. Olson worked out with Frisbee in Hot Springs. The jiu-jitsu expert and “the Terrible Swede” agreed to face off, wearing jackets, in a “jiu-jtsu rules” contest, basically meaning “anything goes.” Olson readily consented to don the traditional Japanese “kimono”, as he did “not want to have a single hitch in the arrangements.” (10.) The bout would take place on September 15, 1905 at the Asheville Opera House under the management of Gudger and Reynolds. They’d be contesting for an eight hundred dollar purse, $500 to the winner and $300 to the loser. A lot of side bet money was wagered as well. The New Orleans physical culturist Professor Schoenfeld was brought back to Asheville to perform the refereeing chore.
The Olson/Ono fracas was billed as a “Blood Match”, meaning it was “the real deal” and the contestants “were out for blood” with money on the line. The Asheville Citizen reported of the camps, “Both are confident that their man will win and both have plenty of money to back their opinion.” (11.) Barton intimated that if Olson indeed proved victorious , they would likely remain in Asheville through the winter. The upcoming contest was said to be the main topic of conversation in the “clubs, hotels and street.” A preliminary match was planned with Koizumi meeting “a local amateur” for a $50 purse. It was hoped to bring Beale back to battle Koizumi yet again. Beale initially expressed his willingness to tackle Koizumi in a third rematch, but insisted that any winnings he received would have to be donated to charity, so as not to affect his amateur status. There is no record of the prelim ever occurring, so apparently things fell through and the main event served as the night’s only entertainment.
A huge throng of some 1200 people packed the venue for the contest, filling the main floor, gallery and balcony. An eighteen-foot square mat was spread on the ground with just 2.5 inches of padding by request. It was determined that the lesser cushioning would allow for faster footwork. Double ropes separated the mat from the press tables, the special seating and the big crowd of spectators. It was noted that betting had continued right up to the opening of the doors. Barton remarked, “I never saw so much money bet on a wrestling match in my life.” then added, no doubt with dollar signs flashing in his eyes, “It’s a great town, Asheville.” (12.) Schoenfeld addressed the crowd, explaining that “jiu-jitsu rules” basically meant that “each man must look out for himself and that everything is permissible.” (13.) The Professor further clarified that actually “finger holds”, meaning single digit manipulations would be barred, and that “unless it appears to me there is unfair practice, the man who suffers loses…pin holds count, this is while I count one, two, three.” He then proceeded to introduce Olson as “one of the best wrestlers in America.” (14.)
The combatants lined up on opposite ends of the mat. One sportswriter noted that Ono “looked like a solid rock wall in comparison to the slender build of his opponent.” (15.) The men, both clad in jiu-jitsu jackets, shook hands and then separated. Olson instantly shot in low for a leg takedown. Ono cleverly dodged the incoming wrestler, grabbed a neck hold and forced Olson face-down on the mat as the crowd cheered wildly. Olson powered himself free and sprang up like a flash, again to the loud applause of the spectators. Excitement was definitely in the air. The catch wrestler launched a head butt at Ono, but succeeded in only ramming his neck. Both combatants fought for arm holds in a display of stand-up grappling. As the Japanese martial artist struggled to secure a grip, Olson responded with a flurry of head butts, or as the Asheville Citizen called them, “the head ram.” (16.) Ono gained control of his adversary and threw him down, locking on a half-Nelson and attempting to pin him. Olson resisted, kept his shoulders off the mat and bounced back to his feet, immediately nailing Ono with another butt.
Olson locked up Ono with a body hold and tried to get a strangle hold. Ono was having none of Olson’s offense and promptly hip-locked him. The catch wrestler landed on one shoulder but “quick as lightning came up again.” (17.) The fans were exuberantly cheering both men. Fast-paced grappling and rough-housing continued into the 40-minute mark. Both contestants went after neck holds, strangles, hammerlocks, hip-locks and shoulder holds. Olson continued to batter Ono with head butts. In fact, one sportswriter noted that he was “butting mercilessly.” (18.) Ono was bleeding from his face and mouth and the blood began to splatter on the mat and on Olson’s jacket. “The claret flowed”, using the terms of an old-time prizefight. It was a fierce and brutal competition, with both fighters giving and taking punishment, attempting leg trips and choke-holds. Olson managed to secure the better grip and started to twist Ono’s collar around his throat. Hirano and another cornerman rushed into the ring, screaming that their man was being horribly fouled. Attending policemen chased after them and forced them back to the other side of the ropes. It was noted that Ono’s face was “rapidly swelling and one eye was closed.” (19.)
Hirano again frantically ducked under the ropes and charged into the ring. Olson saw him coming and quickly nailed him with a swift kick, sending Hirano flying across the mat. The fans were at a fever pitch, standing and yelling wildly. Olson’s corner was shouting, “Put the Jap out!” Schoenfeld asked Ono if he’d had enough and was ready to give up. Ono gamely declined the referee’s offer to end the battle. “The wrestling and butting continued.” (20.) Olson had a tight grip around Ono’s collar, twisting it around his neck while smashing him with butts. Ono managed to stagger to the edge of the mat, both men still gripping one another firmly, and conceded the first fall. It had been one hour and ten minutes since the combat commenced. Ono’s eyes were swollen shut and his face was bloodied.
The crowd was mad with excitement with a quite a few standing on their chairs yelling and screaming. Schonefeld announced that Ono had given up the first fall. Olson, smeared with Ono’s blood, stood tall and smiled at the crowd. Hirano helped Ono make his way to the dressing room. It was soon announced that Ono was completely done in and was unable to return for a second fall. Olson’s backers went “wild with joy.” (21.) Ono had gotten a taste of North American rough-and-tumble fighting combined with catch-as-catch-can wrestling at the hands, and head, of a skilled practitioner. Schoenfeld told the crowd that he was sorry that they had witnessed such a brutal fight. Olson declared that he had come a long way to meet Ono under “the Japanese style.” He stated that his opponent “tried to break, and would have broken his arm if he could and that he had defeated the challenger under the rules of jiu-jitsu.” (22.) Schoenfeld added to the excitement by challenging Olson to a contest, with catch wrestling rules. (23.)
Thousands of dollars are said to have changed hands on the outcome. The Madison County men, in particular cleaned up, with Frisbee alone pocketing $1500. Olson reportedly picked up $10,000 in backing himself to win. A Charlotte writer labeled the contest “a butting and biting contest.” (24.) Another newspaper man called it “a battering match.” (25.) Schoenfeld went on to defend his officiating, saying that it was mutually held under “jiu-jitsu rules” and that at any time either men could have given up. Hirano was busy protesting that his man had been horribly fouled with finger holds, punches and biting. Olson replied that he only started his butting tactics after Ono had attempted to break his arm, and further that Ono had bitten him twice, exhibiting teeth marks on his arms. A Charlotte editorial summed up the general feeling, “Mr. Ono lost at his own game to a smaller man.” (26.) As Ono left town to recuperate, Hirano made his way up to Washington DC to lodge complaints with the Japanese legation and attempted to take the matter all the way to President Theodore Roosevelt, a known jiu-jitsu enthusiast. The Asheville political authorities ruled that no more “blood matches” would be allowed in their environs.
The Asheville Citizen ran an article exposing Olson as having previously used the names Harry Mays, Lawrence Miller and Jack Carey. It cited a rumor that he was also known as “Spider-Legged” Kelly, “a rough professional wrestler” who had recently appeared in Norfolk, VA. “The trail of the clever wrestler with the spindle shaped legs is lined with broken pocket books from Montana and Washington to the wilds of Iowa...Names are immaterial to Olsen; he plays to win money, not fame, and when Olsen or Mays wins in one place and makes a reputation, Miller or Smith or some other man goes to another place where odds are against him as an unknown and then Olsen-Mays-Miller-Smith gets some more cash.” (27.)
In true barnstormer fashion, Olson quietly slipped off to St. Louis, Missouri where a private side bet contest had been set up. St. Louishad a local amateur wrestling star in the person of Frank X. Kugler, a young German immigrant. Kugler represented Americain the 1904 Olympics Games held in St. Louis and competed in wrestling, weightlifting, and in the tug of war event. Winning three bronze medals and one silver, Kugler remains the only individual to have medaled in three different sports at the same Olympics. A group of wealthy backers arranged a match between Kugler and “L.M. Miller” to take place for a $1000 a side at the St. Louis Turner Hall on September 23, 1905. “Miller”, Olson in a farmer disguise, showed up ready for action, best two out of three falls. Beyond the side bet purse, an undisclosed amount of additional money was also wagered.
Olson had played his country bumpkin part to the hilt, and Kugler’s backers were convinced that they had a sure thing. Some hayseed had come to town thinking he could out-wrestle their world-class champion athlete. When time was called, Olson unleashed his prowess and gained straight falls at eleven minutes and two minutes respectfully. Kugler got desperate trying to protect his backers’ money and actually attempted to eye-gouge the ringer. Olson, though victor, was left with a badly scratched up nose. Olson, pockets bulging with cash, returned to Asheville. Olson and Barton would set up their headquarters there for the next year. Some of the greatest wrestlers in the country were brought to town to square off with Olson, including heavyweight champion Frank Gotch, Farmer Burns, Lancashire wrestler Jim Parr, “Baltimore Strong Boy” Shad Link, and Emil Klank, who appeared under the name Dan McDonald. Klank had been one of Olson’s early mentors, back in his Chicago days. Olson faced Gotch twice in the city, actually winning the second fall from him in a three falls contest and holding him to a draw in a return bout. In two matches against Burns, he won once and lost the second time. From their mountain city base, Olson also made occasional forays around the southeast. For a brief span, Asheville became the wrestling capital of the nation. Groups of children would follow Olson as he walked around the streets.
In early October, Olson was badly cut up during a street brawl, suffering knife wounds in his leg, hand and chest. Sam Murbarger, a capable wrestler from Indianapolis, was brought in to fill mat dates already planned for Olson while he recovered. Olson remained in Asheville until August of 1906, after losing a bout to Farmer Burns. Ono returned to Asheville himself in November, bringing along fellow Kodokan judoka Mitsuyo Maeda. Maeda, of course, would go on to become an international legend as the “grandfather of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.” But at this stage of the game he was just one of several itinerant Japanese martial artists giving exhibitions, taking part in challenge matches and dabbling in professional wrestling. Ono resumed giving jiu-jitsu lessons at the YMCA. At an Elks Lodge “smoker” Ono and Maeda gave a demonstration of their art, “The spectators watched with much interest as the Japs showed the various forms of attack and watched the big men throw each other on the mat from all conceivable positions.” (28.) Maeda and Ono headed to Atlanta and gave an exhibition match at the Atlanta Athletic Club on December 5, 1905. A mixed-style match was arranged between Maeda and Olson/Barton associate Sam Murbarger. The bout took place at the Grand Theater on December 18, 1905.They would wrestle alternating “Japanese style” and catch-as-catch-can falls with Olson serving as the referee. Olson, billed as “the Montana Cowboy” was also ready to meet all comers and offered $50 to anyone he couldn’t throw in 15 minutes.
The opening round was held under jiu-jitsu rules with both grapplers wearing jackets. Maeda tossed his opponent in twelve minutes. Next up was catch wrestling and Murbarger proved the winner after a 28-minute struggle. Back in Maeda’s specialty, the jiu-jitsu exponent beat the American in 8 minutes and won the contest. There were no takers for Olson’s open challenge. It was observed, “Outweighed by twenty pounds at least, the athlete from the Orient, carried off all the honors of the evening, and before the finish of the three falls had won the sympathy of the major part of the audience…In the catch-as-catch-can fall, which style of wrestling Atlantans understand better than the jiu-jitsu, Murburger seemed confident of winning, but apparently relied more upon bodily strength and weight than he did upon skill at the game. Once he almost locked a full nelson and then lost it, several times his half nelsons failed to work, while the hammerlock was totally ineffective. The fall which he finally obtained came more as the result of the gradual pressing of his body against that of the lighter Jap than as the result of any particular grip or hold.” (29.). A sportswriter reported, “Score another one for the wily Jap…When Professor Maeda is under a full head of steam, greased lightning should be classed with the ‘also-rans’.” Murbarger commented after the match, “If you ever hear of that Jap mixing it up with anyone else soon, just let me know, I’d like to put all my money on this unbeatable phenomenon. (30.)
Maeda was next reported to be headquartered at the YMCA in Selma, Alabama. Both he and Ono ventured to England and on to continental Europe, where they would participate in numerous contests at both wrestling and jiu-jitsu. In Englandespecially, Maeda participated in many catch-as-catch-can bouts and became quite proficient at this style of grappling. Maeda’s greatest successes would come in Mexico City, Havana, Cuba and then later in Brazil, where he left a lasting legacy. Ono used the name Diabutsu while appearing on the British music hall circuit, offering a cash prize to anyone who could last ten minutes with him on the mat under jiu-jitsu rules. He eventually returned to Japanwhere he died of typhoid fever in 1921.
Olson had a second encounter with a Japanese martial artist a year after his wild and wooly bout with Ono. The encounter took place at the Greenwall Theater in New Orleans on June 4, 1906. This time the match seemed to be typical professional wrestling fare and was billed as “mixed-styles.” His opponent was a regular on the circuit and used the names Koto Harada and Arata Suzuki. The arrangements were that jiu-jitsu rules would prevail until Harada won a fall and then they’d switch to catch-as-catch-can. There was some pre-match haggling over wearing jiu-jitsu jackets. After his bout with Ono, Olson had promised that he'd never wear a jiu-jitsu jacket again. Harada was adamant that he wouldn’t compete unless jackets were worn during the jiu-jitsu periods of the contest. Olson finally consenting to wear one, said, “I will give in to show the Jap that the Americans can give the Japanese all they want at their own style of jiu jitsu wrestling” (31.) Olson wore a pair of cloth rubber-soled shoes into the ring and Harada objected to the footwear. Again, Olson conceded and removed the shoes. At the start of the bout Olson immediately seized Harada’s collar and began going after a choke hold. His opponent did the same. Olson slipped one hand onto Harada’s sleeve-“good old ‘collar-and-elbow’ tactics.” Harada kicked Olson twice in the ribs and tripped him to his hand and knees. Olson only grinned and the jiu-jitsu expert made no follow-up; ”it became apparent that Olsen could have terminated it on half a minute’s notice at any stage of the game” (32.) Back upright, Harada rammed his head into Olson’s midsection, Olson grabbed him around the body, upended him, flung him around, smashed him head first into the mat, and pinned him; time: 13:00. Harada won the second fall by quickly seizing Olson’s collar and throwing him with a lightning-fast hiplock. It was only a flying fall, but such counted under the jiu-jitsu rules of combat, the time: 2:00. The style now changed to catch wrestling and the men removed their jackets.. “Olsen started after his man as if he meant business.” (33.) ”Harada never had the ghost of a chance.” (34.) Some rapid-fire grappling ensued with the men rolling about the mat until Olson pinned Harada by use of a leg half Nelson and body lock at the four minute mark. It was noted that despite his loss, Harada was “as active as a cat…The match...served to demonstrate one thing. That if the Jap was a master of the famous art of jiu jitsu, the wonderful Japanese science is not quite as terrible as has been painted.” (35.)
The itinerant barnstormer returned to the Carolinas in the summer of 1907 ready to defend his claim to the Championship of the South. Back in Asheville he defeated Chris Pearson in a “genuine blood match.” A rematch held the following month, with the strangle hold allowed, saw Pearson conquer Olson. The contest turned into a rough-and-tumble with “shoving, slapping and butting.” Pearson commented, “I simply beat Olson to it with the strangle hold, that’s all. He would have used it on me if I had given him the chance.” (36.) It was noted that there was heavy betting on the match, with the odds favoring Olson, possibly indicating a betting scam. That was not an unusual thing in early 20th century pro sports.
Olson had a very rough bout with James Prokos in St. Louis, MO on November 25, 1907. It was a private match held at the Missouri Athletic Club gym. Each wrestler put up a side bet of $450 and veteran mat man George Baptiste handled the refereeing job. Olson won two straight falls in what was described as “the fiercest wrestling contest ever witnessed in St. Louis.” The first fall was won in seven minutes with a full Nelson. Olson threw him for the second fall in just three seconds. Prokos was “almost killed” and was left unconscious and bleeding from his ears, nose and mouth. It took a half-hour before Prokos could be revived. (37.) Later reports indicate that Olson had been tasked by Harvey Parker to teach Prokos a lesson for supposedly running out on a match in Brockton, MA with Dan McLeod that he had arranged. Parker boasted that he had “tipped off his St. Louis friends to entertain Prokos royally.” (38.)
Early in 1909, the Bulgarian steel workers in Granite City, IL had their own champion wrestler named Vari Dabroff. They considered him invincible at his weight of 175 pounds. One of the Bulgarians had come to St. Louis to purchase a wrestling mat and met up with George Baptiste. Baptiste related the information to Frank Quinn, who was managing affairs for Olson at the time. Quinn quickly made arrangements for the Bulgarian pride to meet his “boy” for a $500 side bet. The match was made. Olson, Quinn, Baptiste and the latter’s father Alex who served as the stakeholder, ventured to the St. Louis gym where the private match would be held. George served as the referee. Olson’s identity wasn’t initially revealed. When the Bulgarians saw “a gangling, tousle-headed youngster whose abnormally long arms dangled almost to his knees...snug-fitting wrestling trunks and gym shoes with a sweater draped over his shoulders”, the steel workers thought they had an easy mark. Quinn called for the bout to begin and announced, “Vari Dubroff versus Charley Olson. Two falls to a finish. Let’s go!” The steel workers immediately balked at the mention of Olson’s name and refused to allow their man to face the renowned grappler. They knew Olson’s reputation even if they didn’t what he actually looked like. Quinn declared that the match had been made, the money had been put up and failure to go through with it would result in a forfeit. Olson stepped on a scale and weighed in at a mere 171-pounds. With Dubroff still unwilling to lock horns with Olson, Quinn called for any challenger to step up, adding, “Nobody is barred.” The Granite City men called a 210-lb. Russian named Alex Stephanson, also a burly wrestler, to represent them. Quinn and party quickly agreed. The contrast between the big, muscular Russian and the lean, awkward-looking Olson gave the Bulgarians confidence; but it was an oft-repeated story. Olson quickly won two straight falls, the first with a hammerlock and the second with a hammerlock and scissors, 7:00 and 1:00 respectively. The Bulgarians went into frenzy, stormed the ring and began mauling, pummeling and kicking Olson. It was general free-for-all as Baptiste, Quinn and a few others began pulling the attackers off of Olson. A call had gone out to the police, who arrived promptly and broke things up. Olson, Quinn and party, along with their winnings, were escorted to safety by the police. When Olson arrived back in Indianapolis, he simply said that he’d won a private side bet match in St. Louis, and mentioned nothing “of rough treatment.” (39.) That same year, Olson was out with a challenge to the big, barnstorming self-proclaimed “jiu-jitsu champion of the world” Leopold McLaglan, when the latter made an appearance in St. Louis. McLaglan was more bluster than bite and after making a show of accepting the defi moved on to safer surroundings. It was noted, “Olson likes nothing better than to meet a jiu -jitsu man.” (40.)
Olson offered some comments about jiu-jitsu. He told a reporter in Albuquerque, New Mexico, “I have seen the Japanese system of wrestling, the widely heralded jiu-jitsu, tried out pretty thoroughly a good many times and my conclusion is that it is a false alarm. In my opinion jiu-jitsu got its vogue while the Japanese were in the limelight during the war with Russiaand there is a great deal of superstition about it. I have seen the Japanese go up against some of the best catch as catch can wrestlers in America and in no instance have I seen the Jap make good or even make a creditable showing against the ordinary method of wrestling. As a means of getting the best of an ordinary man who is not a trained wrestler the famed jiu-jitsu may be all right; but try it out with a man who knows the game and the Japanese is quite out of the running.” (41.)
Though called “one of the most dangerous men on the American canvas” by no less than Frank Gotch, Olson was easy-going and unassuming in everyday life. Over his mat career, tragically two of his opponents were fatally injured with broken necks while engaged on the mat with him. He invested his wrestling earnings in the motion picture/theater business and was able to retire a well-to-do man, passing away in 1945.
In 1905 George Bothner, Alex Swanson and Charles Olson met the first jiu-jitsu invasion head-on with their North American-style catch-as-catch-can/rough-and-tumble fighting skills and proved victorious. (42.)
1.) Catch Wrestling/Mark S. Hewitt; Paladin Press, Boulder, CO, 2005, pages 69-70
2.) Seattle Daily Times, 2/7/1911
3.) Rock Island Argus, 7/3/1905
4.) Olson claimed to be Professor Lawrence Miller from Jersey City, specializing in the strangle hold.
5.) Asheville Citizen, 8/4/1905
6.) Asheville Citizen, 8/5/1905
9.) Asheville Gazette-News, 8/30/1905
10.) Asheville Citizen, 9/10/1905
11.) Asheville Citizen, 9/8/1905
12.) Asheville Gazette-News, 9/16/1905
14.) Asheville Citizen, 9/8/1905
20.) Landmark, 9/19/1905
21.) Asheville Gazette-News, 9/16/1905
23.) Olson accepted Schoenfeld’s defi. A handicap contest was arranged for 9/29/1905. Schoenfeld agreed to throw Olson twice in one hour. Schoenfeld weighed 185 pounds to Olson’s 170. The barnstormer pinned the professor for the first fall in 25 minutes. Schoenfeld insisted he hadn’t been thrown and that furthermore Olson was using foul tactics. Barton offered to restart the match with a clean slate, but Schoenfeld refused to get back on the mat. An unsuccessful attempt was made to have Frisbee fill in and finish out the bout with Olson, but the mountain giant wanted no parts of "the Terrible Swede."
24.) Charlotte News, 9/17/1905
25.) Asheville Gazette-News, 9/16/1905
26.) Charlotte News, 9/17/1905
27.) Asheville Citizen, 9/17/1905
28.) Asheville Citizen, 11/8/1905
29.) Atlanta Constitution, 12/19/1905
31.) New Orleans Item, 6/4/1906
32.) New Orleans Times-Democrat, 6/5/1906
33.) New Orleans daily Picayune, 6/5/1906
34.) New Orleans Times-Democrat, 6/5/1906
35.) New Orleans Item, 6/5/190634.)
36.) Asheville Citizen, 8/27/1907
37.) Western Sentinel,11/29/1907
38.) Lewiston Daily Sun, 11/6/1907; Waterbury Evening Democrat, 12/3/1907
39.) Indianapolis Star, 2/2/1909; St. Louis Star and Times, 12/21/1932
40.) Indianapolis News, 1/22/1909
41.) Albuquerque Journal, 7/21/1909
42.) For a list of early contests between Japanese martial arts and western combat sports see East Meets West-Part 1.
Mark S. Hewitt/Combat Sports Research 2023