Sunday, June 3, 2018

Japanese Wrestling Practitioners of 1891

When it comes to historical Sherlockian scholarship, there are definitely two kinds: Taking references from the Canon and exploring the history behind them and taking references from history outside the Canon and jamming Sherlock Holmes into them with a "This . . . is . . . gonna . . . fit!" determination. What follows is one of those two kinds.

May 4, 1891 -- Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty grapple at Reichenbach Falls, Switzerland to potentially determine who is the greatest mind on crime in the world.

May 13, 1891 -- Farmer Burns and Sorakichi Matsuda grapple in Troy, New York to potentially determine who is the greatest pro wrestler in the world.

A mere nine days separating two of the most important mano a mano battles of the Victorian era. Coincidence?

Sherlock Holmes freely admitted to using a Japanese system of wrestling to beat Moriarty, calling it "baritsu." Sorakichi Matsuda, born in Japan, and trained in sumo, lost to Farmer Burns in what would be his last match. In 1884, Matsuda travelled America, even coming to Peoria, Illinois at one point. In 1884, Sherlock Holmes's whereabouts are unknown, as Watson has none of Holmes's case records dated for that year.

Two years later, in 1886, Sorakichi Matsuda would wrestle a man named Duncan Ross. Four more years later, in 1890, a man named Duncan Ross would show up in London and hire Jabez Wilson for "the Red-Headed League," which Wilson claims just involves copying the encyclopedia and not professional wrestling, though no evidence of his encyclopedia-copying is ever presented.

Matsuda also battled Englishman Joe Acton, whose relationship to Old Acton the Reigate squire, cannot be established, yet there it is. Just one more coincidence.

One would suspect elder brother Mycroft Holmes to be more suited to sumo wrestling and international affairs than his brother, but Sorakichi Matsuda was said to be "the cleverest man in the world at his weight," which substantially less than Mycroft's.

Both Sherlock Holmes and Sorakichi Matsuda began their recorded careers in the early 1880s, but trained and worked in the field before that. Both men died in 1891, but only one of them returned publicly. Like Sherlock Holmes and Jack the Ripper, one might hope that their paths crossed at some point, and perhaps there is a celebrity-cameo pastiche out there somewhere where they did.

(Or maybe Conan Doyle just happened to see a reference to the wrestler Duncan Ross somewhere just prior to writing "The Red-headed League.")

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