Origins of Jujitsu (Jiu Jitsu)

It has been said that the origin of Japanese wrestling dates back 1,960 years when two men stood up face to face and kicked each other, one kicked the other in the ribs and stamped on and crushed his waist and killed him. This has been regarded as the origin of jujitsu.

About 400 years ago the Takenouchi school of jujitsu was systemized. Sixty years later a Chinese came to Japan and taught the art of boxing. And forty years later another Chinese visited Japan and introduced an art of seizing one's opponent. Through the process of elimination and harmonization a new art known as Yawara was created and popularized. This is the origin of the present day jujitsu.

Jujitsu is the term which has been applied, at different times, to the whole of the ancient Japanese national art of unarmed self-defense practiced by the Japanese Samurai. The basic principle of this art is to avoid or give way before an opponent's superior weight and strength in order to overcome him by using his weight and strength to his disadvantage.

The older term Jujitsu (gentle art) gave way in later years to the word Judo (gentle way) which stressed the ethical and philosophical concept of Do, or a way in harmony with natural law. When the Japanese Ministry of Education adopted a limited form of the national art (Kodokan Judo) for sports instruction in the secondary schools, Judo came in time to denote only the sport based on Jujitsu, and Jujitsu remained the only word to denote the entire art.

Henry S. Okazaki, Father of American Jujitsu

The founder of Kodenkan Jujitsu was born in Fukushima Prefecture, on the island of Honshu, Japan, January 28, 1890. Okazaki went to Hawaii when he was 17 years old. He studied under various masters in Hilo, Hawaii where he mastered the Yoshin, Iwaga, and Kosogabe schools of jujitsu by practicing diligently six nights a week. In addition, he studied Okinawan Karate, Chinese Kung-Fu, Hawaiian Lua, and Filipino Knife Play, as well as American boxing and wrestling. In 1924, he toured Japan, making an exhaustive study of the Shibukawa Ryu, Yoshin Ryu and Namba-Shoshin Ryu, as well as Kodokan Judo, in which he was ranked sandan (3rd degree). During his tour of Japan, he visited more than 50 dojos and acquired 675 different kinds of techniques or forms. He made a special study of Kappo and Sefukujitsu (restorative massage), because he recognized the virtue of jujitsu lay in the possibility of reversing the effects of deadly or disabling arts by restoration and treatment.

Gradually, Professor Okazaki evolved a system of jujitsu comprising courses for men, women, and children, and including methods of defense against the knife, sword, club, gun and bayonet. In this system, called Danzan Ryu (Cedar Mountain System), Professor Okazaki stressed the ancient systems of philosophical and moral training while retaining the best of the arts of self-defense and of restoration together with the system of physical culture and mental cultivation now known as sport judo. Cedar mountains was the Chinese term for Hawaii. Professor Okazaki chose this name out of respect for his Chinese martial arts instructor.

Professor Okazaki achieved a true synthesis of ancient and modern elements, a complete system of judo and jujitsu.

In 1930, Professor Okazaki opened the Nikko Sanatorium of Restoration Massage in Honolulu, where he subsequently earned an international reputation for his skill as a physical therapist. That same year, he opened his school, now known as the American Jujitsu Institute of Hawaii. His life from that time forward was devoted to instructing worthy Americans without regard to national origin, the arts and sciences of judo and jujitsu and to developing disciples who would introduce his system throughout the United States.

It is safe to say that when Professor Okazaki died in July 1951, thousands of students had studied in his school. His system, Danzan Ryu, remains today the most widely taught system in the United States.

On the mainland over the years, a number of disciples who Professor Okazaki had initiated into the highest arts of the Danzan Ryu system began to teach and attempted to make a reality of Professor Okazaki's dream to have a school teaching his system in every state of the Union. One of the first, Professor Ray L. Law had established the Oakland Judo School in 1939, and had been followed shortly by Professor Bud Estes (Chico), Professor Richard Rickerts and Professor John Cahill. Others followed and taught over the years, and today, there are a variety of organizations, founded by different Okazaki students dedicated to perpetuating their interpretation of his system.

Kodenkan, the name of Professor Okazaki's physical school, may be translated as The School of the Ancient Tradition, and in fact the Kodenkan system is a synthesis of the best arts of the ancient Jujitsu schools. However, Kodenkan may be rendered as The School in which Seniors Transmit the Tradition. This translation describes the Kodenkan method of instruction, senior students teach junior students in the spirit which Professor Okazaki declared was inherent in the Hawaiian word Kokua, to help one another.