Is Magnetism the Same as Ki?

Lulu Hurst, "The Georgia Magnet"

“The Georgia Wonder Meets the Great Japanese Wrestler”

One of the new students in our dojo happens to be a professional magician of note. Last evening we had a discussion that touched upon a variety of different topics. The name of “The Georgia Wonder” came up. This refers to a diminutive woman named Lulu Hurst who performed amazing feats in vaudeville acts in the latter part of the 19th century. She had many imitators and a legion of researchers who attempted to debunk her show as nothing more than physical and mind tricks. My student sent me this link about Lulu Hurst that I thought our readers might find interesting.

One of the branches of aikido, popularly known as “Ki Aikido” established by Koichi Tohei, 10th dan, uses demonstrations of such things as the “unbendable arm” and the “unliftable posture” as part of the curriculum. These are learnable skills that involve focus the mind and body in specific ways. Is this “ki power” related to what Lulu was doing in her “magnetic act”?

Lulu Hurst, also known variously as the “Little Georgia Wonder” and as the “Georgia Magnet”, was a music hall sensation during the mid-late 19th century. Claiming to possess a supernatural power of electrical or magnetic force, but in fact skilfully exploiting subtle principles of physics, anatomy and the ideomotor effect, the apparently frail “Magnet” was often matched against heavyweight strongmen, boxers and wrestlers in carefully controlled “tests” using simple props such as pool cues, wooden chairs and umbrellas. The results were often both spectacular and amusing to the “Magnet’s” many fans.

Later, Bartitsu founder E.W. Barton-Wright was to produce a written expose of the “magnetic act”, including many of the feats first popularised by Lulu Hurst.

There follows an account of one of the “Georgia Magnet’s” New York performances, pitting her skills against the strength of sumo wrestler Sorakichi Matsuda….

Click here to read the entire article


  1. I had asked Mr. Pranin about this a while back, thinking that perhaps Sokaku Takeda may have used similar “tricks” when travelling with the circus. I wonder if Lulu Hurst could use her off-balancing techniques against multiple attackers.

  2. and a little more…..


    also in old books on jujutsu/jiujitsu Waza were called “Trick’s”

  3. I think I have gone full circle on the ki tests. The ki test is not about you having to pass a test…there is no test as you unbalance the person doing testing on contact so they cannot do anything. Thus I don’t think it’s a ‘trick’ to unbalance someone without them being aware of it, maybe this is what Tohei sensei was getting at, but we missed the point somehow

  4. Long ago in the 1950`s….. We in my Country of England, generally called our development exercises of Judo and Ju jitsu tricks. Over the years many martial arts refer to Waza; Undo; and many other Japanese terminology. So we should not be predjudist or upset at the at the reference or the word or the term “tricks.” It is simply a generalisation of other words similar to the vernacular words of “stuff or even car.” Although we do need to understand what a person means by their choice of the term “tricks.” To our association of Banyu Hatten Aikido Yuishinkai Aikido, we accept a persons use of the term trick, but further qualify this by adding a trick or exercise is to be developed to be of use practically in our comprehensive system of learning our martial art of Aikido.

    Certainly Master Tohei`s exercises are also practical self defense exercises in themselves, although many Sensei do not teach them in this way, as we do. Thank you for reading this reply.

    In answer to whether the young lady is utilising similar principles, I believe so, but an explanation would be in terms of her development in her lifetime, her verbal capacity, and her experience of the use in which she made of such principles.

  5. I just read Lulu Hurst’s autobiography, where she explains in full detail how she fooled the world into believing in a mysterious “Power”.

    She claims not to have known about the underlying principles in her tests, but I seriously doubt that, considering the subtle skill required to keep the strongmen off balance. Either way, she came clean due to her feeling obliged to rid the superstitious tendencies from the minds of thousands.

  6. http://www.bartitsu.org/index.php/2013/04/e-w-barton-wright-vs-the-georgia-magnet-1895-1899/

    A more in-depth article describing an encounter between “Annie May Abbott”, another performer of the Georgia Magnet act, and Bartitsu founder E.W. Barton-Wright in 1899.

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