Japan’s martial tradition is dominated by the exploits of its feudal warriors. The feudal era lasting nearly a thousand years – from the 9th century to nearly the 19th century – provided plenty of opportunities for warriors to engage in, and perfect, the art of war. With that, came the refinement of various methods of combat known collectively as Martial Arts. At the end of Japan’s feudal era, warriors found themselves and their weapons not needed for combat and turned to teaching such combative techniques, drawing from years of field experience. These warriors were trained in kyujutsu (bow art), kenjutsu (sword art), bojutsu (staff art), and others, But, in the absence of a weapon, they fought hand-to-hand using what at the time was essentially still generic Ju Jitsu. As time went on, Ju Jitsu was systematized and as many as 725 different styles were officially documented.
The style of Ju Jitsu taught in our dojo was developed by Professor Henry Seishiro Okazaki, a Japanese of samurai descent by 16 generations who lived in Honolulu, Hawaii, since the age of 16 (1906). He named his style of Ju Jitsu “Danzan Ryu” which in Chinese means “fragrant mountain”, a Chinese reference to Hawaii. He learned several forms of Ju Jitsu such Yoshin Ryu, Iwaga Ryu and Kosogabe Ryu. He also studied Judo at the Kodokan in Tokyo. Additionally, he studied Hawaiian Lua and it is said that Professor Okazaki became Hawaii’s foremost exponent of both Ju jitsu and Lua during his time. His training included Okinawan Karate, Kung fu, and Filippino knife fighting. But his interest was not restricted to just Asian martial arts, he also studied America Boxing and Wresting. In addition to all those arts, he learned restorative massage. After creating the Ju Jitsu style of Danzan Ryu he opened a school and called it “Kodenkan” which in Japanese means “School of Ancient Tradition”. Okazaki developed and taught a few of his black belts the rare art of Bokkendo which to this day very few people know and even fewer teach. After years of learning and practicing Japanese restorative massage he also opened the Nikko Sanatorium of Restoration Massage in Honolulu where he provided restorative massage. Professor Okazaki realized that in order to maintain the traditional values of Martial Arts, he had to teach the resuscitative arts (Kappo). At the time, there were no ambulances or hospitals to handle injuries incurred in the dojo and it was the responsibility of the instructor to assist a student who had been hurt during training. He believed that for someone to truly be a well-balanced martial artist, along with knowing how to cause damage to a body one must also be able heal the body. Over the years he taught many students and was even ostracized by his peers for teaching the arts to non-Japanese people, but he believed in teaching anyone with the desire to learn. To some of his black belts he awarded a hand-written scroll which he called Tora-no-Maki (Scroll of the Tiger). It included a short history of Ju Jitsu, a personal history, a list of the arts and the Esoteric Principles, which he wrote for us, explaining the concept of perfection of character through the mastery of Ju Jitsu. Professor Okazaki taught many students at his school in Hawaii and although he died in 1951, his system perseveres through the efforts of his more serious black belt students. Many such students came to the main land to open their own school and pass the arts on to their students, and so our school was founded.
The art of Judo was developed by Professor Jigoro Kano (1860-1938), a man who after having studied Ju Jitsu extensively created a competitive combative art by removing harmful or dangerous techniques and adding rules by which competitors must abide. Kano studied both the Tenjin Shinyo-ryu and Kito-ryu styles of classical Ju Jitsu. Due to his skills and dedication he excelled and even became an instructor at an early age. He eventually integrated and modified the systems to create a new art. By 1884 he had formally established his own system and called it Kodokan Judo (Kodokan translates as “school for the study of the way”). In 1907 Kano had the sleeves and pants of the Judogi fully lengthened to cover the arms and legs and protect the elbows and knees and the jacket was shortened. Thus, the Judogi assumed the final form in which it is still used today. The Kodokan officially became a foundation in May 1909. Kano traveled worldwide as he “exported” judo and by 1912, he had made no less than 9 trips abroad to create interest in the new Japanese sport. In 1935 Kano received the Asahi Prize for outstanding contributions in the fields of art, science and sports. Three years later he succeeded in getting Tokyo nominated for the site of the 1940 Olympics at which Judo was to be included as one of the events for the first time. Today, more than 6 million people practice Judo in over 30 countries around the world. The essence of Judo he expressed in the axiom “maximum efficient use of energy“, a concept he considered both a cornerstone of martial arts and a principle useful in many aspects of life. Practical application of this principle, he felt, could contribute much to human and social development, including “mutual prosperity for self and others”, which he identified as the proper goal of training. What Kano had created transcended mere technique to embrace a set of principles for perfecting the self. Like all complete martial arts, his creation was more than just a physical activity, it brought with it philosophy to pave the way for a better way of life for those who practice the art., diligently. To reflect this, he replaced jitsu (technique) in the word “ju-jitsu” with the suffix do (path or way) to create a new name for his art: judo.
This, in a gist, is the history behind our arts in terms of how they evolved into what they are today. The ancient art of Ju Jitsu, from which Judo was created, both arts related in style and country of origin, one created for combat and the other for fun; yet, both with an ability to elevate one to greater potentials in life just by the very nature of practicing them with dedication and adhering to their philosophical principles.