Introduction to Kodenkan Danzan Ryu Jujitsu
Professor Henry Seishiro Okazaki, founder and Master of the Kodenkan Danzan Ryu Jujitsu System and the American Jujitsu Institute of Hawaii, was born in the town of Kakeda, Fukushima Prefecture, on the island of Honshu, Japan, January 28, 1890. At the age of 16 he moved with his family to the island of Hawaii; and when he was 19 he was diagnosed as having tuberculosis.
In the early 1900’s tuberculosis was called “consumption” or “black lung disease”, and Okazaki was convinced he was going to die. Okazaki writes that “Because of this, I committed ‘sutemi’, self- abandonment to death”. Fortunately, he came under the care and guidance of a great Jujitsu Master and Healer by the name of Kichimatsu Tanaka at his Shin Yu Kai Dojo in Hilo. Okazaki goes on to say: “Assuming I was a dead man, I practiced Judo with all my strength at the risk of my life. During this time, strangely enough, I had a complete recovery of health from the sickness, and I became the owner of a body as if made of iron! Therefore, I was convinced that my whole life was a gift from Judo and thereafter my whole life should be devoted in behalf of Judo”.
In addition to his constant study of Jujitsu under Professor Tanaka, Okazaki also studied under various masters in Hilo, Hawaii, and mastered the Jujitsu styles of Yoshin Ryu, Iwaga Ryu, and Kosogabe Ryu. Furthermore, he learned Ryukyu Karate Jutsu – the Okinawan form of the Chinese hand techniques, as well as Philippino knife arts, Spanish dirk fighting, Mushi Jutsu – the Chinese Praying Mantis Style of Kung Fu, and Hawaiian Lua – the “touch of death” techniques practiced by the ancient Hawaiian warriors. He also studied American boxing and wrestling in order to understand how his Oriental arts compared and contrasted with the American styles of pugilism. In 1922, after 13 years of exhaustive study of martial arts, Tanaka Sensei finally promoted Okazaki to Black Belt.
In 1924, with a letter of introduction from his Sensei, Okazaki toured Japan, where he deeply studied and researched the ‘okugi’ – the very secret techniques, at more than fifty Jujitsu and Judo schools, including Shibukawa Ryu, Yoshin Ryu, Namba Shoshin Ryu, Take No Uchi Ryu, and many others, as well as Kodokan Judo. At the Kodokan he studied Judo under Dr. Jigoro Kano, and was promptly promoted to 3rd Degree Black Belt. During his tour he states that he acquired 675 different kinds of techniques and forms. He also made a special study of kappo and seifukujitsu — restorative body therapy, resusitation, bone setting, and herbology — because he recognized that the virtue of Jujitsu lay in the possibility of reversing the effects of deadly or disabling arts by restorative massage and therapeutics.
Upon his return from Japan, Henry Okazaki taught Judo and Jujitsu on the Hawaiian island of Maui. Gradually, he evolved a system of self-defense Jujitsu comprising courses for men, women, and children, including methods of defense against punching, kicking, and grabbing attacks, as well as defenses against the knife, gun, rifle, sword, and bayonet. In his system, which he called Danzan Ryu, “Sandalwood Mountain Style”, he stressed the ancient principles of philosophical and moral training while retaining the best of the arts of self-defense, and restoration therapy, and combined these with the system of physical culture and mental cultivation now known as sports Judo. He thus achieved a true synthesis of ancient and modern elements which is a complete system of Judo and Jujitsu.
Professor Okazaki decided to call his style Danzan Ryu for two reasons. The first was to keep alive the memory of one of his teachers, Wo Chung, who taught him Mushi Jutsu, because he used to call the Hawaiian Islands “Danzan”, which means “sandalwood mountain”. Sandalwood is a sweet smelling cedar tree that the Chinese exported from Hawaii during the 1800’s which they used to build their Buddhist temples. In view of this, the Chinese named Hawaii ‘Danzan’ – Sandalwood Mountain. The other reason is because most of Okazaki’s studies took place in Hawaii.
In 1929 Okazaki moved his family to Honolulu, on the island of Oahu, and established the Okazaki Seifukujitsu Institute (also known as the Nikko Sanitarium of Restoration Massage), where he subsequently earned an international reputation for his skill as a physical therapist. His fame brought him patients from all parts of the world for relief from so-called “incurable” nerve and muscular disorders. Among his more famous patients were President Franklin Roosevelt, Olympian Johnny Weismuller, actor Charlie Chaplin, and entertainer George Burns.
Also in 1929, Professor Okazaki established his Jujitsu school, which he called Kodenkan, “The School of the Ancient Tradition,” which later became known as the American Jujitsu Institute of Hawaii. His life from that time forward was devoted to instructing worthy Americans, without regard to race, color, national origin, or sex, in the arts and science of Judo, Jujitsu, and Restorative Body Therapy, and to the development of disciples who would introduce his system throughout the world. It is safe to say that when Professor Okazaki died in July, 1951, thousands of students had studied in his school. His system, Kodenkan Danzan Ryu, remains today the most widely taught, and widely imitated, system of self-defense Jujitsu in the United States.
It was Professor Okazaki’s dream that one day there would be a school teaching his system in every state of the United States of America. In 1939, two of his foremost disciples returned to California and began to teach. Ray Law established his school in Oakland late in 1938, and in 1939 Bud Estes started his school in Chico. They were followed shortly by John Cahill, who started his school in Daly City, and Dick Rickerts. In 1940, these dedicated disciples of Professor Okazaki met in Oakland, California to form an organization to promote the Kodenkan Danzan Ryu system on the mainland of the United States. But after several meetings, the beginning of World War II brought a sudden halt to such meetings because of difficulty in traveling.
After the war was over, Professors Law, Estes, Cahill, and Rickerts banded together again with the strong intention of establishing an organization that would be dedicated to the preservation and propagation of the Okazaki system. In 1949 they started the American Judo and Jujitsu Federation (AJJF), which has grown steadily until it now is represented by schools throughout the US and Saudi Arabia. The AJJF is an autonomous, non-profit, national association of judo and Jujitsu schools dedicated to maintaining the highest standards of the arts and sciences of judo and Jujitsu while propagating the techniques and philosophy of Kodenkan Danzan Ryu Jujitsu to all people regardless of age, creed, religion, national origin, race, or sex. It maintains friendly relations throughout the world with other groups which adhere to the same high standards of ethics and sportsmanship, and welcomes them to join as allied members.
Mokuroku of Kodenkan Danzan Ryu – Catalogue of Courses
- YAWARA – Escaping and joint locking techniques.
- SUTEMI – Rolling and falling techniques.
- NAGE TE – Throwing techniques.
- SHIME TE – Constriction and grappling techniques.
- YONENBU NO KATA – Children’s forms.
- GOSHIN JITSU – Advanced self-defense techniques.
- FUJIN GOSHIN NO MAKI – Women’s self-defense course.
- OKU NO KATA – Advanced combination techniques.
- SHINNIN NO MAKI – Scroll of Black Belt techniques.
- TANTO NO MAKI – Knife defense techniques.
- TANJU NO MAKI – Handgun and rifle disarming techniques.
- ATEMI NO MAKI – Striking and knockout techniques.
- KIAI NO MAKI – Scroll of the spirit shout.
- TESSEN NO MAKI – Scroll of the iron fan.
- DAITO NO MAKI – Scroll of the long sword.
- BO NO MAKI – Scroll of the long staff and stick arts.
- SHINYO NO MAKI – Scroll of advanced level Black Belt arts.
- SHINGEN NO MAKI – Scroll of secret Black Belt arts.
- SEIFUKUJITSU – Restorative massage and physical therapy arts.
- KAPPO and KATSU – Resuscitation techniques.