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Thread: The great jiujitsu vs. boxing debate: 1901 - 1914

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    Default The great jiujitsu vs. boxing debate: 1901 - 1914

    The Bartitsu Society continues to unearth some long-forgotten lore regarding the introduction of the Japanese martial arts to Europe in the early 1900s.

    One item of note is the debate that raged in newspaper columns and in the pages of popular magazines such as "Health and Strength" regarding the relative merits of Jiujitsu and the established "manly British art" of boxing. While there seems to have been a general agreement that jiujitsu offered a nice range of tricks that would supplement the boxer's arsenal in actual self defence, the question of whether a jiujitsuka would beat a boxer in a regulated contest provoked strong disagreement from various quarters.

    In 1903, by which time the debate seems to have been well-established, W.H. Hall wrote:

    "Hitherto there has been some doubt expressed as to the result of a
    boxing v jujitsu (sic) contest. It seems that quite a number of people
    labour under the erroneous idea that jujitsu is more effective than
    boxing as a means of self defence. This notion however, is quite
    unfounded, as there has never been an instance on record where jujitsu
    has gained a victory. In fact, it is very doubtful if such a contest
    ever took place anywhere outside the Japanese Empire. And perhaps
    readers may be surprised to hear that dozens of these contests
    annually take place. Though they do not happen to be specially
    arranged matches, they serve as a very fair criterion to assay the
    result of similar contests between more dexterous opponents of each
    respective science.

    "The contests to which I refer usually take place in the streets of
    Hakodate (the rendezvous port of the cosmopolitan ailing fleet),
    consequently many fights take place between the sailors who meet on
    shore, and who comprise the boxing fraternity; while the Japanese
    police represent the jujitsu exponents. Needless to say, it is the
    duty of the police to stop these unseemly fracas, which block the
    public streets, and in this way the difference of opinion arises as to
    the right of interference, which in its turn generally results in a melee.

    "Before showing the result of an encounter between police, sailor or
    sailors, as the case may be, I should like to point out that the whole
    police force are instructed in fencing and jujitsu by some of the most
    competent instructors in the island. But where the sailors learn their
    boxing is a mystery, and I very much doubt if they have anything like
    the instructional advantages of their op-ponents. "On one occasion,
    after two American sailors had finished fighting, a policeman
    requested the victor (who had left his antagonist in a very bad state)
    to accompany him to the station. Of course the Yankee `guessed' he was
    `not going that way', whereupon the police-man tried to arrest him.
    After giving the plucky little Jap a couple of hard blows, which made
    him leave go, he turned and would have gone away, but again the
    policeman attempted to close with the Yankee, which only ended in the
    policeman being knocked down. By this time assistance was at hand,
    three policemen hurried up and made a combined attack upon the
    resolute seaman. Even then it was not without the greatest difficulty
    that the three (the first had been rendered hors de combat) escorted
    him to the station. This is only one of many similar cases. With one
    exception, I have never seen an arrest effected by less than two
    policemen to one sailor.

    "After witnessing a few similar scenes, what conclusion is one forced
    to arrive at, other than that no jujitsu professor could stand against
    Jim Jeffries, Tom Sharkey, or any other hard-hitting boxer who took
    care not to allow any close grappling?"

    Yukio Tani, William Garrud and police Sergeant G.H. Wheeldon all entered the fray, and their public correspondence reads like an Edwardian version of many "style vs. style" message board arguments. Ultimately, Sergeant Wheeldon, who had argued against jiujitsu, seems to have converted to the Japanese art, while William Garrud went on to develop a series of jiujitsu defences against boxing punches, duly featured in his book "the Complete Jujitsuan". Many years later, E.W. Barton-Wright reported that he had tried to coach Tani in boxing as well, but that the jiujitsuka had "little aptitude for the sport".

    As far as I know, although Tani and fellow Bartitsu Club instructor Sadakazu "Raku" Uyenishi proved their art against numerous challengers in the professional wrestling arena, they never actually went to conclusions against a boxer. The closest thing to a jiujitsu vs. boxing event in Europe during the first decades of the 1900s appears to have been the famous and heavily-hyped match between wrestler-turned-jiujitsuka Ernest Regnier, who fought under the Japanized nom du guerre of "Re-Nie", and savateur George Dubois.

    This match took place in Paris in 1905 and seems to have been treated almost as a formal affair of honour by both parties. It attracted huge interest from the press and public, but was over almost before it began. Dubois attacked first with a low kick, Regnier evaded and closed, they went to the ground, and Dubois was caught in an extended armlock that forced his surrender. Subsequently, Regnier found himself at the centre of a brief but intense jiujitsu craze which lasted until he over-estamated his own ability and was comprehensively defeated by Ivan Podoubny, a huge Russian wrestler who specialized in the Greco-Roman style.

    I would be very interested to hear any other stories of encounters between jiujitsuka and boxers or savateurs that took place during the early 1900s.

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    Have you read about Seishiro Okazaki and KO Morris in Hawaii in the 1920's?
    Tom DeAngelo
    "If you fall down seven times, get up eight."

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    Last edited by Tony Wolf; 7th June 2006 at 00:39.

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    Some more from Graham Noble (albeit a reference to judo as well as jiujitsu):

    "Choki Motobu in Japan

    Motobu was born in Shuri, the old capital of Okinawa, in 1871. He had considerable local fame in Okinawa as a fighter-strongman but it was only after he moved to Osaka in 1921 that he became known in Japanese martial art circles.

    What brought Motobu to the attention of the Japanese was his victory over a western boxer in a kind of all-comers challenge match. In the earlier part of this century such bouts were occasionally held in Japan pitting western boxers against judo or jujutsu men, (karate was unknown in Japan around this time). These were not "official" bouts for any sort of legitimate title, but something more like sideshow attractions. The results of such bouts have even been recorded in a few cases. Boxing historians for example are fond of pointing out that, back in 1928 in Yokohama, top bantamweight Packy O'Gatty KO'd a Japanese jujutsu man named Shimakado in 14 seconds. That 14 seconds included the full count, by the way. E. J. Harrison also mentioned in passing a couple of boxing vs. judo shows in his book, The Fighting Spirit of Japan, first published in 1913. Few of the fighters in these events were champions in their sports, but the shows did arouse interest in a certain section of the populace.

    Anyway, this was the background to Motobu's victory which so delighted the people back in Okinawa when they heard about it. Soon after Motobu settled in Japan he went to watch a boxing vs. judo show in Kyoto. A boxer taking part beat several judomen rather easily and then issued an open challenge. Moreover, the challenge was issued in a boastful and derogatory way. Choki Motobu, who was sitting in the audience stepped up onto the stage (or ring) and in the ensuing battle he knocked the boxer out-probably with a punch, or series of punches, to the head. That is about as much as we can say about it since no contemporary reports of the fight exist."
    Last edited by Tony Wolf; 7th June 2006 at 01:14.

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    Some results that were shamelessly cribbed from Mark Hewitt's "Catch Wrestling" (2005). (PS. Buy a copy, it's good.)

    * Sam McVey, boxer, beat Tano Matsuda, judoka, Dec. 31, 1908, Paris
    * Taro Miyake, judoka, beat Ben de Mello, boxer, Dec. 30, 1916, Honolulu
    * Kayo Morris, boxer, beat S. Takahashi, judoka, Apr. 8, 1922, Honolulu
    * S. Takahashi, judoka, beat Kayo Morris, boxer, May 6, 1922, Honolulu
    * Seishiro Okazaki, DZR, beat Kayo Morris, boxer, May 19, 1922, Hilo
    * Luis Galtieri, boxer, beat Luis Taki, judoka, July 15, 1922, Buenos Aires (NOTE: Taki died of injuries.)
    * S. Takahashi, judoka, beat Kid Carpenterio, boxer, May 12, 1923, Honolulu
    * Seishiro Okazaki, DZR, beat John "Kid" Morris, boxer, Dec. 12, 1925
    * Yasuji Fujita, judoka, beat Jack Duarte, boxer, July 11, 1930, Phoenix

    Also see my chapter on boxing in Imperial Japan in "Martial Arts in the Modern World" (2003).

    Harvey ("Heinie") Miller remembered a contest that took place in Manila in late 1908 or early 1909 as follows:

    "The bout was to be two falls or knockdowns out of three. [The Japanese] was to wear a sort of jiu-jitsu shirt while the American was to wear gloves. [The Japanese] was not allowed to hit but all jiu-jitsu holds were permitted. The American was not allowed to wrestle or hold but all clean blows were permitted." (Miller, "Now You Tell One!", THE RING, December 1922, p 5).

    During these contests, sometimes the boxer won. For example, in the contest described by Miller, the first fall went to the Japanese, via an arm throw. The second fall went to the American, who landed a solid right uppercut to the head just as the Japanese stepped in. The Japanese then refused to go out for the final point. His excuse was "that he did not expect to get hit, being under the impression that the gloves were only used as a handicap for the difference in weight" (Miller, 1922: 5).

    Young Togo Koriyama was a jujutsuka who also boxed professionally. Koriyama "short, squat, barrel-shaped with a round, closely cropped bullet head and possessed of extraordinary strength. Of science he knows little or nothing, but his capacity to wade in, take all that comes his way and cripple an opponent in the clinches cannot be overestimated" (Seattle Times, March 10, 1912: 28). He boxed in Fort Smith (Arkansas) and California, and later helped pioneer American boxing in Kobe. His business partners in Japan included a relative of Jigoro Kano.

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    Joe,

    regarding the "Merikan" mixed boxing/JJ contests in Japan and similar elsewhere, do you know whether the boxers were ever (or typically) required to wear gi jackets? Also, any idea about the show vs. shoot ratio in these bouts?
    --------------------------------
    Professional Boxing

    In June 1887, Shokichi Hamada staged a boxing exhibition between two Westerners in Tokyo, and from the 1890s until the 1920s, a kind of boxing versus jujutsu known as "Merikan" [American] was seen across the Pacific Rim. In 1922, a former US naval boxer named Harvey "Heinie" Miller described a typical "Merikan" bout staged in Manila circa 1909. [EN10]
    The bout was to be two falls or knockdowns out of three. The Jap was to wear a sort of jiu-jitsu shirt while the American was to wear gloves. The Jap was not allowed to hit but all jiu-jitsu holds were permitted. The American was not allowed to wrestle or hold but all clean blows were permitted.

    The gong rang. Quicker’n you can say ‘Sap,’ the Jap grabbed ye scribe by the right arm, twisted and pitched us on our ear in a neutral corner some fifteen feet away. One fall for the Jap. After we got the resin well out of our ear we arose only to find the little brown brother right on top of us again. But this time we beat him to it with a sweet right hand, inside and up. The little rascal only weighed 98 pounds while we displaced some 124 at that time. So we take no credit for the fact that the gent from [Tokyo] folded his tent like an Arab and silently stole out of the ring. He forfeited the third trip to the canvas, explaining that he did not expect to get hit, being under the impression that the gloves were only used as a handicap for the difference in weight.
    Of course, not every boxer was the US Navy’s Pacific Fleet featherweight champion and it wasn’t hard for interested wrestlers to learn defenses against most punches. As a result, it wasn’t long before judo champions started winning most of these mixed matches. [EN11] That wasn’t the result that Western audiences wanted, and so, to maximize profits, promoters simply began arranging the outcomes of matches in advance. [EN12]
    Last edited by Tony Wolf; 7th June 2006 at 03:36.

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    The few pictures I've seen show the boxer in singlet, shorts, gloves, and shoes, and the judoka in uwagi and short pants. In other words, they dressed the same as they always did.

    As for show vs. shoot, I would guess that most publicized matches were essentially works, either though the matchmaking (as is commonly done in boxing) or through prearrangement (as is commonly done in wrestling).

    But, if you're looking for shoots, I'd be inclined to look at pre-WWI Shanghai, with my reasoning being that in Shanghai, the Europeans and Japanese were roughly equal in influence, money, and power.

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    Joe,

    I'm finding the odd reference to ju-ken and ju-kento. I know that kento was the Japanese re-branding of Queensberry boxing and that this was a later development (early '30s) but these names also seem to be associated with the Merikan-style mixed contests. Do you know if this is ju in the sense of "gentle" or "nice", perhaps partly in response to the horror of bloody noses, or is it meant to imply "ju(do, jitsu) + boxing"? The ju-ken reference comes from a Japanese historian and he associates it with Jigoro Kano's nephew, Kenji; ju-kento pops up in an essay by Carl Cestari.

    Tony

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    I don't know the answer to that. However, Kenji Kano was one of the patrons of Young Togo Koriyama. Kano established a boxing club in Kobe in 1909, and in 1922, he was a co-founder of the Japan Boxing Association (the other founders were Koriyama and Yujiro Watanabe). The American connection was via a couple of Issei living in Los Angeles, Kushibiki and Tominaga. Tominaga is probably the same fellow who promoted Tokugoro Ito in Los Angeles. Anyway, this suggests an area for future research, probably at UCLA and the Japanese American National Museum. Japanese-language skills will be required.

    The name "kento" ("fist fighting") dates to the early 1920s. Before that, the sport was known as "bokushingu". The reason for the change appears to have been nativism, nationalism, what-have-you. So, "ju-kento," meaning something along the lines of "amateur boxing," using nativist terminology (e.g., the German Fernsprecher vice Telefon) would certainly be plausible, especially for the Japanese collegiate boxing clubs of the period.

    ***

    Some trivia. Young Togo Koriyama stood 4'7" tall, and had a 17" neck. Gads.

    ***

    E.J. Harrison had this to say about two other Yokohama matches of the same period:

    At … the risk of being accused of an indiscretion, I am going to reveal the fact that somewhat irregularly and while holding the modest post of editor of The Japan Advertiser at Yokohama, I acted as an intermediary in arranging contests between an English bluejacket boxer and a Japanese judoka in one case and between an American bluejacket boxer and a Japanese judoka in the other. These contests were separately staged at a Japanese theatre in the Yokohama native quarter… The Japanese opponent of the British bluejacket was an exceptionally big and powerful Japanese who, though nominally only a first kyu (ikkyu), was well known to be as good as any contemporary 4th Dan extant, but he had been expelled from the Kodokan for unseemly behaviour beyond its borders and had therefore never been promoted to the ranks of the yudansha. Be that as it may, he was a cheerful and likeable ruffian and by his subsequent performance fully justified my choice by throwing the unfortunate [British] bluejacket all over the place. But in the second instance the tables were turned, and the Japanese ikkyu who tried conclusions with the American naval pugilist, a superb physical specimen of the 'killer' type, was so badly battered that before the end of the second round he had to retire to escape a knock-out.

    ***

    And, some more matches. During the spring of 1923, there was a mixed match at the Theatre Royal in Hong Kong. The first match pitted the Australian boxer Nick Boyle against a jujutsuka named Tomikawa. The contest was for six two-minute rounds or the finish; Boyle lost to Tomikawa in the second. The second match pitted boxer James Peets of Manila against Tomikawa. "Peets, although a big fellow," said the Japan Times, "was easy for the Jujitsu man."

    On 10-11 May 1924, there was "a contest of 'Judo' and boxing between Japanese experts and Americans" in Tokyo. Twelve Americans -- so many suggests that most were actually White Russians -- and ten Japanese were scheduled to enter the ring. The results were not announced.

    To welcome Vice-Admiral Sir Alexander Sinclair and his British Asiatic Fleet flagship HMS Hawkins to Yokohama on 18 Sep 1925, city officials organized a display of Japanese swordsmanship and boxing versus jujutsu matches. No results were recorded in Japan Times.

    Toyama Military Academy organized its first boxing class in 1923-1924 (e.g., years before it adopted a sword style). See http://ejmas.com/jnc/jncart_svinth2_0100.htm

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    Joe,

    thanks very much. Based on what I've read so far, I'm picturing a points contest rather than submission, and assuming that the jiujitsuka would gain points for a successful throw or sustained lock, whereas the boxer would score with solid punches. Do we know anything more specific about the Merikan rules?

    Tony

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    Tony --

    Your description seems accurate enough.

    In Japan, the change to knockout rather than point fighting dates to the 1920s. For example, Kari Yado wrote in the Japan Times in 1931 that during bouts between Japanese students, whenever one "delivered a hard blow, he would apologize by bowing his head slightly or by showing a friendly look in his eyes. There was no knockout in those days. When a boxer began bleeding in his nose, a cry of horror went up… [Promoter Yujiro] Watanabe had a hard time explaining to the student boxers that they need not and should not refrain from hitting a groggy opponent. 'You must cultivate the spirit of manliness,' he roared."

    Another example. A major intercollegiate tournament was held at Yasukuni Shrine in Kudan on November 15, 1925. This one pitted boxers from Waseda University against boxers from Meiji University. Although "most of the student boxers failed to counter properly," said the Japan Times, "they are fast, clever, and game, and ought to be good boxers if they continue practicing."

    In the lightweight finals, Waseda's "Sugino carried dream-producing power, the consequence being that Ishikawa at the end of that [tie-breaking fourth] round was minus one tooth. He showed gameness to fight but was so groggy that his opponent hesitated to hit him any more, and the referee stopped the fight."

    Reasons for the changed perceptions include Hollywood. "American movies in which the hero knocks men right and left have taken an important part in the training of the Japanese mind for the reception of the savage Western boxing," Yado added in that Japan Times article (February 21, 1931).

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    Quote Originally Posted by Karl Friday
    ...occurring in the middle 1920s, [Kunii Zen'ya] plunged unbidden into the ring during a series of exhibition matches betwen Japanese judo players and a French boxer, angry because the event had been billed as a test of Japanese versus Western martial art -- and angrier still that the judo players had proven unable to fest the foreigner. After knocking the boxer unconscious with a single strike to the head...
    -pg. 3, Legacies of the Sword: The Kashima-Shinryu and Samurai Martial Culture
    無雙直傳英信流・日本古武道居合研究会 - Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu ・ Nihon Kobudo Iai Kenkyukai
    東京蘆洲会 - Tokyo Roshukai

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    Ju-kento does seem to have been associated with collegiate rather than professional boxing, so it may well have been equivalent to the late 1800s-early 1900s movement towards amateur/scientific boxing in Europe and the USA. As I look into this, it seems increasingly likely that ju-kento was not directly connected to the Merikan mixed style fighting.

    Still intrigued by the specific nature of Merikan rules, though. I've seen references to different point systems - two falls or knockdowns out of three, one fight that was called off "with a score of 19 to 28", and one that was fought as "six two-minute rounds, or to the finish".

    Tony

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    Default Boxing vs. Jiujitsu in Germany

    From Robert Reinberger (pardon my very poor German-English translations):

    ------------------------------------

    2.) On February 8th, 1906, Katsukuma Higashi defeated the British
    boxer R. Fitzsimmons at Zirkus Schumann, Schiffbauer-Damm, Berlin,
    probably with a strangulation-technique.

    "The representative of the Japanese fighting sport of Jiu Jitsu, Higashi, informs us that his commitment at the Apollo theatre has now been concluded. Higashi professes himself ready for a contest with the boxer Fitzsimmons.

    In: o.A., Jiu Jitsu, in: Berliner Tageblatt (morning edition)

    02.02.1906, S. 7

    "the Jiu Jitsu match between Katsukuma Higashi and R. Fitzsimmons takes place this evening in the circus Schumann. The combat rules were determined yesterday afternoon."

    In: o.A., o.T. [ the Jiu Jitsu match between... ], in: Berliner Tageblatt (morning edition) 08.02.1906, S. 7

    "the Victory of the Jiu Jitsu. Circus Schumann had a big day yesterday. Higashi, the representative of the Japanese fighting sport, Jiu - Jitsu, had finally set himself against R. Fitzsimmons, the American boxer. The house was full to overflowing, but the crowd did not quite get its money's worth, because the fight between the Japanese and the American was short. After four minutes Fitzsimmons had to excuse himself because of exhaustion and so was declared defeated. His opponent had packed it to the Gurgel.

    The fight did not make for an edifying spectacle. We would also add that Fitzsimmons has suffered for some time from the consequences of a rather violent cold and has not been in form over recent days. The public displeasure over the surprising shortness of the fight was quite vehement." In: o.A., the victory of the Jiu Jitsu, in: Berliner Tageblatt (morning edition) 09.02.1906, S. 6

    3.) Around 1908 (between 1906 and 1910) Edmond Vary (known as the author of several JJ and self defence books) came up against against the German boxer Paul Matschke alias "Joe Edward" RK Circus shrubs. Erich Rahn, who was Vary's second, wrote: _________________________________________________________________ "One day appeared in Berlin a Frenchman - Edmund Vary - who proclaimed himself to be a master of the Jiu Jitsu style, but who transpired not to be an outstanding exponent of that art. He sought to win a few marks by challenging the boxer Edwards, although he, as turned out later, was not equipped for such a fight in even the smallest measure.

    The meeting took place in the Cirkus Busch. I was asked by Vary at the last minute to function as his second and explained that although I had no idea about his ability, I was willing to serve. The fight was disastrous for the so-called "Jiu Jitsu master". Consequently, both force- and talent-less he stepped forward and was then felled by a straight punch to the nose. He attempted to trip his opponent while on the ground, but the boxer simply evaded these attempts. I realised that he had no prospects for victory and proclaimed that he had been defeated. Automatically I had to think of the famous fight of Higashi against the boxer Fitsimons in the Cirkus Schumann. In neither case had police permission been obtained to stage the fights. Anyhow the final result was that except when opposed to a boxer in an exhibition fight, jiujitsu was still forbidden.

    Later, I was able to interest the police in Jiu Jitsu, and the prohibitions were waived. Edwards used his victory well in advertising, but was never to agree to fight me under these rules, despite repeated challenges"

    In: Rahn, Erich, 50 years Jiu Jitsu and judo; The invisible weapon with Erich Rahn; Pressure Berne pool of broadcasting corporations, Berlin o.D. (1950) S.21

    After WW I. German Jiu Jitsu pioneer Erich Rahn himself fought against boxers at Zirkus Krone, Munich:

    4.) October 11th, 1919: Erich Rahn defeats boxer Joe Dirksen with a
    strangulation technique.

    5.) October 15th, 1919: Erich Rahn defeats the German box-champion
    Dick Armstrong with a strangulation technique.

    6.) October 17th, 1919: In a rematch Erich Rahn defeats Dick Armstrong
    (who this time fought without gloves) with "chin-grip".

    "the well-known champion boxer Joe Dirksen challenged the Jiu Jitsu master Erich Rahn to a fight, to take place on the evening of Saturday, 11 October, in the evening in the Cirkus Krone. This excites the greatest interest, since these two defense methods, mutually applied, will be put to the test. It is absolutely impossible to express any confident opinion over the result."

    Announcement of the Cirkus Krone October 1919. ------------------------------------------------

    "Cirkus Krone. The management of the Cirkus Krone communicates to us that the champion boxer Armstrong has challenged the Jiu Jitsu master Erich Rahn to a match using 6 ounce boxing gloves on Wednesday, the 15. D M. provoked. If Mr. Armstrong should be defeated against expectations, then a revenge fight without gloves will take place on Friday the 17th.

    After that Rahn won against the boxers Harry and Willi Goetz, but these two also have had Jiu Jitsu training, and it seems that the matches were pure JJ-fights.

    Austria probably also have seen such fights, and possibly until short after WWII., when in the late 1940's Austrian Jiu Jitsu men fought against other styles at Zirkus Rebernigg in Vienna, but unfortunately I don't know any details about that fights as yet."

    Tony

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