Nihon Jujutsu - History
|Nihon Jujutsu is a modern Japanese martial art that focuses on practical, efficient techniques as originally found in both ancient and contemporary martial arts. Its principles and techniques derive from Japanese unarmed combat and self-defense techniques from pre-1945 judo and aikibujutsu, as well as taihojutsu (Japanese police immobilization and arresting methods). The founder of Nihon Jujutsu, Sato Shizuya, established this system based on his extensive studies with leading Japanese budoka (traditional martial artists), many of whom introduced ancient bujutsu methods into modern budo. |
In Japan, gendai budo (contemporary martial arts) are those styles established after the Meiji Restoration (1868), while kobudo (ancient martial arts, also known kobujutsu) are those that can specifically trace an uninterrupted lineage to a time before the Meiji Restoration. Nihon Jujutsu does not claim to represent any one classical kobudo system, because under Japanese custom, direct linkage can only be claimed when a tradition has been directly transmitted by the soke (traditional head of a school) or upon receipt of a menkyo kaiden (license authorizing the licensee to teach and modify the style).
The following world-renown Japanese martial artists influenced or directly contributed to the development of Nihon Jujutsu:
• Ueshiba Morihei (1883 – 1969) – the founder of aikibujutsu and aikido
• Mifune Kyuzo (1883 – 1965) – 10th dan Kodokan judo, senior instructor at the Kodokan, and founding
member of the International Martial Arts Federation
• Nagaoka Hidekazu (1876 – 1952) – 10th dan Kodokan judo
• Ito Kazuo (1889 – 1974) 8th dan Kodokan judo; Founding Member and First Chief Director, Kokusai
Budoin, International Martial Arts Federation (IMAF)
• Kotani Sumiyaki (1903 – 1991) – 10th dan Kodokan judo, Director of the Strategic Air Command’s
combatives course at the Kodokan, and one of the Kodokan’s foremost experts on judo kata
• Hosokawa Kusuo (1918 – 1997) – 9th dan judo, taihojutsu instructor of the Strategic Air Command’s
combatives course at the Kodokan.
• Ishikawa Takahiko (1917 – 2008) - Instructor of the Strategic Air Command’s combatives course at the
Kodokan, 2 time All Japan Judo champion, who dedicated thirty years of his life to establishing judo in
• Dr. Tomiki Kenji (1900 – 1979) – Founder of the Japan Aikido Association and Shodokan ryu aikido (also
known as ‘Tomiki ryu aikido’), 8th dan Kodokan judo, 8th dan aikido, chief aikido instructor of the
Strategic Air Command’s combatives course at the Kodokan
Nihon Jujutsu Founder, Sato Shizuya
Born 1929 in Tokyo, Japan, Sato Shizuya began his lifetime study of judo during middle school at age 12. Sato’s father learned judo while in the Imperial Japanese Navy during World War I, and was a senior judo instructor for the Tokyo Metropolitan Police. His personal friends and judo compatriots included many preeminent pre-WWII Kodokan instructors, including Mifune Kyuzo, Nagaoka Hidekazu, Sumiyuki Kotani, and Ito Kazuo. When Sato Sr. died in 1948, the young Sato came under the care of these senior judoka who lent their personal guidance and lifelong support, which greatly influenced the development of Nihon Jujutsu. Upon graduation from Meiji Gakuin University in 1948, he joined the International Section at the Kodokan.
Following WWII and during the Allied Occupation of Japan (1945 – 1952), Sato was one of the few Kodokan staff who spoke English (Dan Ivan, a member of the Army Criminal Investigation Division (CID) during the Occupation, claimed Sato ‘was the only man in the place who spoke English’, which Sato claims was not true). Kotani Sumiyaki was appointed head of the Kodokan International Section in 1950, and eventually became 10th dan Kodokan judo, one of the most famous judo instructors of the Tokyo police, and one of the world’s foremost authorities on judo kata. His focus on precision in kata played a significant part in Sato sensei’s budo education.
Prior to the end of WWII, in 1945, regular Kodokan training included self-defense, kata, randori (sparring), taihojutsu, and, to a limited extent, weapons training such as kenjutsu, jojutsu, tanbo, and bojutsu. This multi-disciplinary approach was in keeping with Kano Jigoro’s philosophy that budo naturally evolves and grows in accordance with human experience. Postwar, a large number of non-Japanese entered the Kodokan for the first time. The majority of these young men, along with a few women, were U.S. military personnel of the Occupation forces. Many established lifelong bonds of friendship and cooperation with Sato-Sensei and other budo instructors, and some eventually became the pioneers responsible for introducing Japanese martial arts to the West. Significant American budoka who began their budo shugyo (martial arts studies) at the Kodokan, and later played large roles in the ensuing development of budo worldwide, particularly in North America, include Mel Bruno, Donn Draeger, Dan Ivan, and Walter Todd.
Nihon Jujutsu - Technical and Philosophical Origins
The philosophical basis of Nihon Jujutsu can be found in the Japanese axiom, ???????? (seiryoku zenyo jitakyôei), which can be read “Commit oneself to maximum efficiency, and mutual benefit in all endeavors.” This phrase, first coined by Kano Jigoro, the founder of Kodokan judo, refers both to applications of the physical art during training, and to the larger philosophical concept of utilizing budo as a catalyst for personal growth.
Concisely, “maximum efficiency” in training allows one to apply techniques before an opponent has a chance to react and overcome opposition with a minimum of force. “Mutual benefit in all endeavors,” as applied to practice in the dojo, serves as a guiding principle that permits all practitioners to train rigorously without undue injury. Common examples can be found in kendo, judo, karatedo, and many other martial arts where participants agree to abide by specific rules of conduct in order to ensure a safe training environment.
At a speech at the University of Southern California (USC) in 1932, on the occasion of 11th Olympiad, Kano Jigoro had the following to say about the application of ‘committing oneself to maximum efficiency, and mutual benefit in all endeavors’ in every day life:
Upon careful observation of the world today, despite the myriad of moral instruction found in various religions, philosophies, and traditions, all intended to improve mans’ moral character, there can be no doubt that strife is found at all levels of society.
This state of affairs clearly indicates that society lacks a means to promote harmony and positively influence the lives of men and women everywhere. However, I believe the philosophy of ‘maximum efficiency and mutual benefit and welfare’ contains an ideal with which people everywhere could remodel society in such a way as to inspire greater cooperation and satisfaction throughout the world.
Nihon Jujutsu can be said to embody the spirit of Kano Jigoro’s philosophy of building a moral society through the practice and teaching of budo. Specifically, through physical training practitioners cultivate methods for controlling opponents, and thereby learn principles and techniques for overcoming adversity in everyday life. The underlying theme is that negative results are minimized through the application of a rational and flexible response to all situations.
According to the founder, Sato Shizuya, “the philosophy of seiryoku zenyo jitakyôei is both practical, and appropriate for modern life. In ancient, or earlier times, the methods of bujutsu, techniques developed primarily for the elimination of an opponent by whatever needs necessary, may have been relevant only for members of the military or law enforcement agencies. Whereas, Nihon Jujutsu is a system based on respect for one’s fellow man, for the community as a whole and is truly a method of living with one another in a modern world.”
The core curriculum of Nihon Jujutsu incorporates the practical, decisive throwing, choking, and immobilization methods of judo; the entering and striking of aikibujutsu; the restraining techniques of taihojutsu; and the taisabaki (evasive movement), open hand, and armed self-defense principles expounded by Dr. Tomiki Kenji.
The Influence of Dr. Tomiki Kenji
Tomiki began judo in high school, receiving shodan (first-degree black belt) in 1919. He later began studying aikibujutsu, as Ueshiba Morihei originally called his art, as Ueshiba’s personal student at the original Kobukan dojo in Tokyo in 1926. Tomiki was awarded the world’s first aikido 8th dan in 1940 during a visit by Ueshiba to Manchuria (then known as ‘Manchukuo’).
The phrase ??? (karada tai ken), or ‘body as a sword’, first coined by Dr. Tomiki in 1937, was a revolutionary concept in its succinct definition of the aikibujutsu ideal of using the body as a weapon. This phrase became the basis of his lifelong investigation of the ways and means of budo and its application to practical methods of self-defense. During his tenure in Manchukuo 1934 – 1945, Tomiki was first a Professor at Daido Gakuin (a Manchukuo government official training college), and later also at Kenkoku University, the country’s premier college. Additionally during this period, he taught aikibujutsu to the Military Police of the Imperial Japanese Kwantung Army.
Though he was interred by the Soviets for three years after WWII, Tomiki continued his studies of budo. Upon his return to Japan in 1948, he joined the Kodokan as a part-time secretary, where he continued his study of judo and aikido. He practiced aikido one on one with from 1948 – 1951. When Tomiki became the aikido director of the Kodokan’s Strategic Air Command (SAC) martial arts program (1952 – 1956), Sato became the assistant aikido instructor, and remained so for the duration of the program.
Additionally, Tomiki Sensei is credited with leading the development committee of the Kodokan Goshin-jutsu (forms of self-defense) in 1956. Ultimately, Tomiki retired as Professor Emeritus of Physical Education at Waseda University, Tokyo, and founded the Japan Aikido Association, the capstone organization for Shodokan aikido (‘Tomiki ryu aikido’), now practiced worldwide.
Until mid-WWII, aikibujutsu hand-to-hand combat instruction (as directed by Ueshiba Morihei, and Tomiki Kenji, in Japan and Manchuria, respectively, as well as other instructors) comprised the core of combatives training for elite Imperial Japanese military personnel. During this period, the fundamental methods of aikibutsu, Kodokan goshin jutsu, and aikido were refined and compiled.
While Tomiki taught the Imperial military in Manchuria, Ueshiba Morihei directed training in Tokyo at the Toyama School (Army officer training school), the Nakano School (site of the famous Army intelligence officers’ program), and at the Navy School officer candidate school in Etajima.
The full curriculum of the Japanese Imperial military officers’ combatives training focused on 4 unarmed and armed martial arts:
- Aikibujutsu (Ueshiba and Tomiki’s early Daitoryu aikijujutsu-based martial arts)
- Tankenjutsu basic techniques (use of the short sword/bayonet)
- Kenjutsu basic techniques (Toyama ryu battojutsu)
- Jukenjutsu basic techniques (Japanese Imperial Army rifle bayonet training, incorporating both ancient
Japanese spear methods and modern European bayonet techniques)
All of these arts are still accessible today from the following organizations:
- Nihon Jujutsu - as taught at the U.S Embassy Judo Club and affiliated clubs
- Tankenjutsu - sword-bayonet basic techniques, All Japan Jukendo Federation
- Toyama ryu iaido - taught by several organizations based in Japan
- Jukendo - rifle bayonet basic techniques, All Japan Jukendo Federation
The Kodokan and SAC
Meanwhile, during WWII, the Kodokan emphasized self-defense techniques over the sporting and spiritual aspects of judo; there also was a special self-defense kata developed for women during this period called joshi goshinho. The focus changed again after WWII largely to focus on sporting competition and eliminate the controversial self-defense aspects likely to draw negative attention from the Occupation authorities.
In 1952, the U.S. Air Force Strategic Air Command (SAC) sent two initial groups of airmen to the Kodokan to study judo, karatedo, aikido, and police techniques. This program was expanded through 1956, and by its end hundreds of U.S. Air Force martial arts instructors had trained under Sato sensei, who instructed both aikido (under head aikido instructor Tomiki) and taihojutsu techniques (under taihojutsu head instructor and senior Tokyo Metropolitan Police taihojutsu / judo instructor Hosokawa Kusuo). Other notable instructors included such Shotokan karatedo legends such as Funakoshi Gichin, Nakayama Masatoshi, Obata lsao, and Nishiyama Hidetaka.
In the early 1950’s, Sato sensei began teaching judo and self-defense at U.S. military facilities around Tokyo. In 1957, Sato sensei founded the U.S. Embassy Judo Club where he continued to develop and refine the techniques that ultimately evolved into Nihon Jujutsu.
During the same period, Tomiki sensei led the Kodokan committee that developed the Kodokan goshinjutsu series of techniques, an advanced self-defense curriculum. Interestingly, Nihon Jujutsu and Kodokan goshinjutsu feature many similar techniques, which is unsurprising given their extensive common roots in traditional jujutsu, judo, taihojutsu, and aikibujutsu.
The techniques and philosophy of Nihon Jujutsu represents the culmination of historical and modern development in gendai budo, the rational review of past practice in light of a changing world, and the preservation of traditions that form the core of budo.
The evolution of this system began before 1868, during the Edo era (1603 – 1868) in bujutsu schools, continued with the establishment of modern Japan, and culminated in the development of contemporary arts such as judo, aikibujutsu, aikido, and taihojutsu. Technical and philosophical developments during the 1930s and 1940s by premier judoka and aikidoka, imparted to Sato-Sensei during the early post-WWII years still comprise the essence of Nihon Jujutsu today. While the future of Nihon Jujutsu can be found in the hearts, minds, and bodies of Sato-Sensei’s direct students, and Nihon Jujutsu enthusiasts the world over.