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Probably the most famous karate person who is 10th dan is Higaonna Morio (東恩納 盛男) sensei of Goju ryu. I am aware that there are several other Okinawan karate styles that grant this rank, though I will not list their names as this is not the main purpose of this subject.
As for Shotokan, we did not have the rank of 10th dan for a long time. Even though Master Funakoshi Gichin (船越義珍 photo left) inducted the dan system from Judo in 1924, it is interesting to note that he never claimed any rank for himself. Initially, the highest rank was 5th dan or Godan, then in the middle of the 20th century the system expanded to 10th dan, Judan. In fact, the first chief instructor of the JKA, Nakayama Masatoshi (中山正敏 photo right) was the first person who received a 9th dan while he was still alive. He received a tenth dan posthumously in 1987. In 2001 Kanazawa Hirokazu (金澤弘和 photo below left) of SKIF (headquarters in Tokyo) became the first living Shotokan person who claimed 10th dan. A few years later in 2007, after splitting from the JKA, the chairman of ISKF (Philadelphia USA), Okazaki Teruyuki (岡崎照幸 photo below right) began to claim 10th dan. I do not know exactly when but Ken Funakoshi of Funakoshi Shotokan (California USA) also began to claim the highest rank recently. I do not know if there are any other Shotokan sensei who are bold (?) enough to claim the rank. Not too many I hope.
Let’s look at the dan ranking system in general. Surprisingly, the dan ranking system is found not only in the martial arts but also in other sports and games such as Shogi (将棋 Japanese chess) and Go (碁) or Igo (囲碁). It is interesting that the dan ranks are also given in the art of Abacus (soroban算盤) and Shodo (書道 brush writing art).
How are the high dan ranks such as 9th and 10th being granted in the martial arts?
Interestingly, the highest dan ranks are sometimes reserved for the founder or leaders of a style and only high-ranking students can be promoted to them. For an example, in judo, seven living people have a tenth dan currently. On the other hand, in modern Kendo, the dan system was recently changed when they abolished the 9th and 10th dan. Thus, 8th dan is the highest attainable rank in kendo. Unlike Judo, all dan promotion within the IKF (International Kendo Federation) and its member countries is by examination.
How about in karate?
Each organization seems to have different systems. I know the JKA and JKS have granted 10th dan to their chief instructors posthumously and they have not, as far as I know, granted one to a living person. As I have mentioned above, the SKIF and ISKF have decided to grant the highest rank to their chief instructors while they are still alive.
The JKF（全空連 Japan Karatedo Federation）consists of six major karate organizations including the JKA (though they were expelled in 2014 but they were re-admitted in March of this year). This group of organizations is the largest karate entity in Japan. They require an examination up to 8 dan. For 9th and 10th dan it is decided by the board of directors after receiving a recommendation from an organization. As far as I know JKF does not have any 9th and 10th dan karateka yet.
As the number of the karate practitioners has recently increased significantly, we have begun to see the “inflation” of the dan ranking, particularly among the non-Japanese organizations. We find too many “masters” and “grand masters”. There seems to be too many sensei with the high ranks of 8th, 9th and even 10th dan these days. Not surprisingly, a few have achieved even a higher rank such as 11th dan (a great grand master, Gilberto Pauciullo photo left). There seems to be no end to one’s ego but I feel strongly that this trend must be stopped. Shouldn’t we, the Shotokan practitioners, agree that we will not honor this trend and the dishonorable claim of the high ranks higher than 10th dan?
Let’s get back to the Shotokan ranking system. So, what does 10th dan mean to us?
The majority of the organizations are granting the highest rank as an honorary rank for being the head of a karate organization or for having left a major contribution to the development of karate. In this case, I can understand why Kanazawa sensei and Okazaki sensei could receive their tenth dan.
On the other hand, I clearly remember what the late Master Asai Tetsuhiko (浅井哲彦 photo right) told me that made a big impression on me. After Kanazawa sensei received his tenth dan, I had a chance to ask Asai sensei about it. It was probably in 2002 or 2003 and Asai sensei had been 9th dan for many years. As far as I was concerned, he was the best karateka alive then and even now I think of him as the best. So I was curious as to when he would go for the highest rank so I asked him exactly that. This is exactly what he replied, “I train every morning because I am not perfect yet. Every morning I find something new and a way to improve myself. I will become tenth dan only when my karate becomes perfect. I think they have to wait till I die.” Indeed, this was exactly what happened. He received his tenth dan after his passing in 2006 (photo left shows the tenth dan diploma issued by JKS).
I am not criticizing those sensei who claim the tenth dan while alive. I am sure they deserve this special consideration and the honor for what they have accomplished and their contributions. At the same time, I prefer to regard tenth dan as the mark of perfection in karate. At least to me, 10th dan is a rank that no living human can achieve thus it should be granted only posthumously. By doing this, I think this rank of 10th dan will have the true meaning of the highest rank or an unreachable goal.
This is my belief but what do you think?
In my third book, Shotokan Transcendence (photo below), I wrote a chapter containing Funakoshi’s Niju kun (Twenty Principles 船越二十訓). These principles have been translated by many people but I decided to provide my own translation as I had not found any that satisfied me. If you have not read my book, please purchase one from Amazon US (www.amazon.com) or Amazon UK (www.amazon.co.uk).
In that chapter I covered in-depth the meaning of each of the twenty kuns. However, today I want to pick out one kun in particular to discuss further. The particular kun is the twelfth one (訓第１２番).
- 勝つ考えは持つな: 負けぬ考えは必要
Katsu kangae wa motsuna; makenu kangae wa hitsuyo
“Do not think of winning. Think, rather, of not losing.”
The reason why I decided to further discuss this kun is because of the experience I had during my recent visit to Japan (Jan and Feb 2016). I wish to explain this important kun in depth through a story of an event that took place in Japan. It is rather a long story but after reading it you will better understand what this kun really means.
OK let us start. On a freezing day in February of 2016, I visited the third largest city in Japan to exchange a very important agreement memorandum with a certain Japanese karate organization. The signing and the ceremony went well and we had a small party afterwards. We had a very nice sea food dinner and a glass of beer to kanpai (to celebrate the agreement) even though I do not drink beer. The party went well and as usual we had discussions of karate which I always enjoy very much. We started our discussion with a few subjects that were related to karate techniques.
After a period of time one sensei from northern Japan who was there as a special guest asked me how I felt about the possibility of karate being included in the Olympic Games. My answer was clear that I was totally against the inclusion of karate. He expressed that he was in favor of it and asked why I was against this possibility. I explained that the main reason for my opposition is the fear that the budo spirit would be ignored and be forgotten once it is included in the Olympics. This sensei respectfully disagreed and said that he trained his young students not only with the disciplines and hard training but also with etiquette and courtesy. He said proudly that his students would be a good example of budo karate to show the rest of the world. I congratulated him for his teaching. I also told him that I respected him for running his dojo that way. Now I know that he teaches his students how to be courteous and to demonstrate good etiquette. The students’ parents, without being asked, bring some brooms and trash bags when they accompany their children to a tournament. With this equipment they are prepared to clean up the tournament site before they leave, though this action is totally voluntary and nothing is expected by him or by the tournament management. For this reason, I sincerely hope his team will have an opportunity to show their behavior when and if karate is included in the Olympics in 2020.
Although I respect him very much and understood what he was saying, I still had to disagree with him. I could foresee what karate would become from watching the current karate tournament competitors’ behavior. This sensei asked me why I was against so strongly to the idea of being in the Olympic Games. This is the explanation I gave to him.
The trend of the recent tournaments is that the ultimate aim or goal has become winning. I fear that this trend will become even more significant once karate is included in the Olympics. I told him that this is the reason why I say karate will lose the budo spirit. This sensei said, “I am sorry but I do not understand.” So, I asked him, “Sensei O. (I refrain from revealing his real name to keep his privacy) do you know the twelfth kun from Funakoshi Nijukun?” He did not know it so I told him the kun that is written at the beginning of this article: Katsu kangae wa motsuna; makenu kangae wa hitsuyo
“Do not think of winning. Think, rather, of not losing.”
He said, “Frankly, this kun is very confusing to me. I do not see the difference between ‘thinking of winning’ and ‘thinking of not losing’. Do you?” I suspect this is what most of the readers also think. So, I answered him, “Yes I do know” and explained that there is a great difference between these two attitudes or desires. Here is my explanation.
If winning is your ultimate goal in a match, one tends to do anything to accomplish that end. I am not saying to win itself is wrong or bad but I am referring to the process of winning. In other words, even if an action is not too honest or is un-budo like one chooses to take it in order to win. As an example, imagine that one competitor is leading the match with one point and he has only 10 or 15 seconds left in the match. What would this competitor do? He will most likely stay back and will not take a chance of losing on a score by the opponent. This means he will stop fighting even if he would not obviously run away but he would maintain a safe distance from the opponent. I asked that sensei if he was the coach of this competitor would he encourage the competitor to stay back or to fight more aggressively. He answered, “If the rule allows the competitor to be dormant or not aggressive then he can use this rule to his advantage. So, I will coach the competitor to stay back and secure the win. There is nothing wrong with this.” His reply was exactly what I expected. So, I continued. “Sensei O. let’s change the situation to a cashier in a store.” He said OK so I asked him a silly question. “Do you allow your student or your child to steal money from a store?” He replied quickly, “Of course, not!” I expected this reply too. So, I continued. “Imagine that there is a store rule that store management will not press charges or conduct an investigation when the cash register is short only by one penny.” “If this is the case, would you allow or permit your student or your child to steal a penny?” He emphatically said, “Definitely not! Taking even a penny is still stealing!” I told him that I agreed and it was exactly my point. I asked why would he let his student or child to do an un-budo like action in a tournament only because a rule allows it? What is the difference between this action and stealing a penny? That sensei said, “Well, I understand your point from your analogy. Then, what about ‘trying not to lose’? Isn’t it the same? If you do not want to lose, then wouldn’t you become less aggressive, in that particular situation?”
This is the challenging point and many people misunderstand this kun. My answer is as follow; “No, I do not think that is what Master Funakoshi wanted to tell us.” My understanding of its meaning is not to make winning as the ultimate goal in a tournament. This means that karate practitioners must not put winning in front of the principle of karatedo. Therefore, a karate practitioner must not cheat nor act dishonestly in order to win. In other words, a competitor in the earlier situation must continue fighting with the same fighting spirit during the final ten seconds. He will be careful not to let his opponent score against him but certainly he will not run around to waste time or run away from the opponent.” I told him that in budo we (particularly the Japanese samurai) seek the beauty of losing clean or with honor rather than a dirty or dishonest win. I concluded that this kind of attitude or the way of thinking will not be developed or cherished by Olympic competitors and their coaches. That sensei agreed and he uttered weakly, “You are right, sensei Yokota, but that is a big challenge. I am a coach and I am not sure if I can guide my students so that they seek for clean lose and forget winning.”
An honorable lose is much better than a dishonest winning. But once karate becomes an Olympic event, I doubt very much that this spirit will be honored and executed by most of the competitors.
Therefore, as a conclusion I hope that Sensei O will see the educational value in Funakoshi Niju kun, particularly of the 12th kun. Thus, he will add the true budo value when he teaches his young students. He is still in favor of having karate in the Olympics. So I sincerely hope that his team will be the model for the world and show the true karatedo spirit and actions when his students compete in the Olympics.
What are Jujutsu, Judo, Aikido, and Brazilian jiujitsu? 柔術、柔道、合気道、ブラジリアン柔術とは Part 4: Brazilian jiujitsu
Part 4: Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ)
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) is a combat sport and a self-defense method that focuses on grappling and especially ground fighting. They purposely spell their art as JIU-JITSU to separate it from its origin of Japanese jujutsu (柔術 soft technique). Because I have visited Brazil many times I have become aware of Brazilian jiu-jitsu and its history. I discovered who brought the art to Brazil. Brazilian jiu-jitsu was formed from Kodokan judo ground fighting fundamentals that were taught mainly by Mitsuyo Maeda ((前田 光世, 7 dan judo, a.k.a. Conde Koma, 1878 – 1941, photo right) and also the best judoka Kodokan ever produced, Masahiko Kimura (木村政彦 1917 -1993, photo below). Though Kimura is truly famous in Japan and also an icon in the judo world, Maeda is surprisingly not very well known in Japan. Brazilian jiu-jitsu eventually came to be its own art through the experiments, practices, and adaptation of judo through Carlos and Hélio Gracie as well as other instructors who were students of Maeda.
BJJ promotes the concept that a smaller, weaker person can successfully defend against a bigger, stronger assailant by using proper techniques, leverage, and most notably, taking the fight to the ground, and then applying kansetsu waza (joint locks) and shime waza (chokeholds) to defeat the opponent. BJJ training can be used for sport grappling tournaments (with and without judo uniforms) and MMA competition or self-defense. Sparring or “rolling” and free drilling play a major role in training, and a premium is placed on performance, especially in competition, in relation to progress and ascension through its ranking system. Since its inception in 1882, its parent art of judo was separated from older systems of Japanese jujutsu by an important difference that was passed on to Brazilian jiu-jitsu: it is not solely a martial art, it is also a sport; a method for promoting physical fitness and building character in young people; and, ultimately, a way of life.
Geo Omori opened the first jujutsu / judo school in Brazil in 1909. He would go on to teach a number of individuals including Luiz Franca. Later, Mitsuyo Maeda who was one of five of the Kodokan’s top groundwork (newaza) experts that judo’s founder Kano sent overseas to demonstrate and spread his art to the world. Maeda had trained first in sumo (Japanese wrestling) as a teenager, and after the interest generated by stories about the success of Kodokan Judo (講道館柔道) at contests with other jujutsu schools that were occurring at the time, became a student of Jigoro Kano (嘉納治五郎). Maeda left Japan in 1904 and visited a number of countries giving judo demonstrations and accepting challenges from wrestlers, boxers and other fighters and various other martial artists before eventually arriving in Brazil on November 14, 1914.
Gastão Gracie was a business partner of the American Circus in Belem. In 1916, the Italian Argentine circus Queirolo Brothers staged shows there and presented Conde Koma. In 1917 Carlos Gracie, the eldest son of Gastão Gracie, watched a demonstration by Conde Koma and decided to learn judo. He accepted Carlos as a student and Carlos trained for a few years, eventually passing his knowledge on to his brothers. Helio Gracie (photo right), supposedly, further developed Gracie Jiu Jitsu as a softer, pragmatic adaptation from judo that focused on ground fighting. This was because he was unable to perform many judo moves that required direct opposition to an opponent’s strength.
Although the Gracie family is typically synonymous with BJJ, another prominent lineage started from Maeda via another Brazilian disciple, Luiz Franca. This lineage had been represented particularly by Oswaldo Fadda, who was famous for the influential use of foot-locks and the lineage survives with the teams such as the Grappling Fight Team.
When Maeda left Japan, judo was still often referred to as “Kano ju-jutsu”, or, even more generically, simply as jujutsu. Higashi, the co-author of “Kano Jiu-Jitsu” wrote in the foreword: “Some confusion has arisen over the employment of the term ‘jiudo’. To make the matter clear I will state that jiudo is the term selected by Professor Kano as describing his system more accurately than jiu-jitsu does. Professor Kano is one of the leading educators of Japan, and it is natural that he should cast about for the technical word that would most accurately describe his system. But the Japanese people generally still cling to the more popular nomenclature and call it jiu-jitsu.”
Outside Japan, however, this distinction was noted even less. Thus, when Maeda and Satake arrived in Brazil in 1914, every newspaper announced their art as being “jiu-jitsu” despite both men being Kodokan judoka.
It was not until 1925 that the Japanese government itself officially mandated that the correct name for the martial art taught in the Japanese public schools should be “judo” rather than “jujutsu”. In Brazil, the art is still called “jiu-jitsu”. When the Gracie boys went to the United States to spread their art, they used the terms “Brazilian jiu-jitsu” and “Gracie Jiu-Jitsu” to differentiate it from the already present styles using similar-sounding names. In a 1994 interview with Yoshinori Nishi, Hélio Gracie said, that he didn’t even know the word judo itself, until the sport came to Brazil in the 1950s, because he heard that Mitsuyo Maeda called his style “jiu-jitsu”.
In 1951, a famous match took place in Brazil between Masahiko Kimura and Helio Gracie that left a big impact to Helio and the formation of BJJ. Right after the World War II ended, Kimura traveled to Brazil along with Yukio Kato, who had accepted a challenge match with Helio Gracie. The rules for the match were set by Gracie, the match could only end by submission or loss of consciousness, ippons and pins would not be scored. Kato and Helio were approximately the same size and weight and were stalemated until Kato was able to throw Helio. Kato began working for a choke, but Helio was able to get back to his guard and lock on a simple cross choke, which left Kato unconscious.
Helio then issued a challenge to Kimura, which was accepted. Unlike Kato, Kimura was much larger than Helio, but that did not stop the Brazilian fans from anticipating victory. Kimura and Helio met in front of a crowd of 20,000 and Gracie’s supports brought a coffin to the match, meant for Kimura once their man was done with him. The outcome however would not be to the crowd’s liking. While Kimura was able to take Gracie down at will and gain position on him, he struggled to submit the smaller man. Kimura attempted a variety of submissions but Helio escaped time after time. Finally Kimura was able to lock his favorite finishing technique, the reverse ude-garami shoulder lock. This time there was no escape for Gracie and when he refused to tap Kimura broke his arm. Even then Helio refused to give in and it was his instructor and older brother, Carlos Gracie, who threw in the towel. Kimura was impressed with the skill of the Brazilian and awarded him a 6th dan black belt in Judo. To honor the Japanese Judoka’s victory the Gracie family would, from this point on, refer to the reverse ude-garami as “the Kimura lock”.
Royce Gracie (1966 – present, photo right) made BJJ famous in 1993 when he entered the first UFC 1 (held in Denver Colorado in November) and won despite he was one of the lightest contestants. He won the first place of this event in three years. At the interview after his victory Royce said that his older brother, Rickson (photo below) was much tougher than him. So, Rickson Gracie (1959 – present, the 3rd son of Helio) was invited to Japan to fight many of the professional wrestlers and MMA fighters such as Funaki (船木 誠勝), Nakai (中井 祐樹) and Takada (髙田 延彦). He fought against them in the 90’s and won in all the matches until he retired in 2000 after winning a match against Funaki. Out of all Gracie family members, Rickson is probably the most well known in Japan.
Now the art of BJJ is sometimes referred to as Gracie Jiu-Jitsu (GJJ), trademarked by Rorion Gracie, but after a legal dispute with his cousin Carley Gracie, his trademark to the name was invalidated. Other members of the Gracie family often call their style by personalized names, such as Charles Gracie Jiu-Jitsu or Renzo Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, and similarly, the Machado family call their style Machado Jiu-Jitsu (MJJ). While each style and its instructors have their own unique aspects, they are all basic variations of Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Today there are four major branches of BJJ from Brazil: Gracie Humaita, Gracie Barra, Carlson Gracie Jiu-Jitsu and Alliance Jiu Jitsu. Each branch can trace its roots back to Maea, Conde Koma via the Gracie family. More recently, the name “jitz” for the art has been gaining recognition as a casual layman’s term, especially in the US.
Since judo was introduced to Brazil there have been changes in the rules of sport judo, some to enhance it as a spectator sport, and some for improved safety. Several of these rule changes have greatly de-emphasized the groundwork aspects of judo, and others have reduced the range of joint locks allowed and when they can be applied. Brazilian jiu-jitsu did not follow these changes to the judo rules (and there is no evidence that some of the rules were ever used, such as the win by pin/osaekomi or by throw), and this divergence has given it a distinct identity as a grappling art, while still being recognizably related to judo. Other factors that have contributed towards the stylistic divergence of BJJ from sport judo include the Gracies’ desire to create a national martial art, the influence of Brazilian culture, and the Gracies’ emphasis on full-contact fighting. Spinal locks and cervical locks are completely forbidden from GJJ, amateur MMA, the multiple forms of GJJ, Judo, and other martial arts. This is due to its illegal nature and express purpose of causing serious, irrevocable bodily injury, paralysis, and death.
BJJ permits all the techniques that judo allows to take the fight to the ground. These include judo’s scoring throws as well as judo’s non-scoring techniques that it refers to as “skillful take-downs” (such as the flying arm bar). BJJ also allows any and all take-downs from wrestling, sambo, or any other grappling arts including direct attempts to take down by touching the legs. BJJ also differs from judo in that it also allows a competitor to drag his opponent to the ground, and even to drop to the ground himself provided he has first taken a grip. Early Kodokan judo was similarly open in its rules (even permitting an athlete to simply sit on the mat at the beginning of a match), but has since become increasingly restrictive in comparison. BJJ has also become more sports oriented and has eliminated techniques such as picking up an opponent from the guard position and throwing him. The guard position is described as a grappling position where one person has their back to the ground while attempting to control their opponent by using their legs.
While there are numerous local and regional tournaments administered regularly by private individuals and academies, there are 2 major entities the Sport Jiu Jitsu International Federation (SJJIF), a nonprofit organization and International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation (IBJJF), a profit organization that hosts a number of major tournaments. These include the Pan American Championship, and European Championship. California, New York and Texas are the three more popular states where you can compete frequently in tournaments. Other promotions such as American Grappling Federation (AGF), North American BJJ Federation (NABJJF), and North American Grappling Association (NAGA) host nationwide tournaments, but visit these three states multiple times within a tournament season.
Another tournament to spring from the founding Gracie lineage is the Gracie Nationals or Gracie Worlds. Started by Rose Gracie, daughter of another famous Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioner, Rorion Gracie, founded in 2007. In 2012, the Gracie Worlds introduced a new submission-only format, removing subjective judging opinions and what many see as an outdated scoring system. Rose spoke about this change when she said, “Today’s tournaments aren’t what my grandfather, Helio Gracie, envisioned. There are so many rules that it takes away from the actual art of jiu-jitsu. We don’t see many submissions. We see cheating, we see decisions made by a referee. We need to stand together against this and support a submission only kind of revolution.”
There has been a growing discontent with a points-based system and advantage-style tournaments. Upholding the premise that most of the advantage of a larger, stronger opponent comes from superior reach and more powerful strikes, both of which are mitigated when grappling on the ground, Brazilian jiu-jitsu emphasizes getting an opponent to the ground in order to use ground fighting techniques (newaza) and submission holds (shime and kansetsu waza) involving joint locks and choke holds. A more precise way of describing this would be to say that on the ground, physical strength can be offset or enhanced by an experienced grappler who knows how to maximize force using mechanical advantage instead of pure physical strength.
BJJ permits a wide variety of techniques to take the fight to the ground after taking a grip. While other combat sports, such as Judo and Wrestling almost always use a take-down to bring an opponent to the ground, in BJJ one option is to “pull guard.” This entails obtaining some grip on the opponent and then bringing the fight or match onto the mat by sitting straight down or by jumping and wrapping the legs around the opponent.
Once the opponent is on the ground, a number of maneuvers (and counter-maneuvers) are available to manipulate the opponent into a suitable position for the application of a submission technique. Achieving a dominant position on the ground is one of the hallmarks of the BJJ style, and includes effective use of the guard (a signature position of BJJ) position to defend oneself from bottom (using both submissions and sweeps, with sweeps leading to the possibility of dominant position or an opportunity to pass the guard), and passing the guard to dominate from top position with side control, mount and back mount positions. This system of maneuvering and manipulation can be likened to a form of kinetic chess when used by two experienced practitioners. A submission hold is the equivalent of checkmate in the sport, reflecting a disadvantage which would be extremely difficult to overcome in a fight (such as a dislocated joint or unconsciousness).
The classical jujutsu of old Japan appeared to have no common strategy to guide a combatant over the course of a fight. Indeed, this was one of Kano’s most fundamental and perceptive criticisms of the classical program.’ Maeda not only taught the art of judo to Carlos Gracie, but also taught a particular philosophy about the nature of combat developed by Kano, and further refined by Maeda based on his worldwide travels competing against fighters skilled in a wide variety of martial arts.
The book details Maeda’s theory as arguing that physical combat could be broken down into distinct phases, such as the striking phase, the grappling phase, the ground phase, etc. Thus, it was a smart fighter’s task to keep the fight located in the phase of combat best suited to his own strengths. Renzo Gracie stated that this was a fundamental influence on the Gracie approach to combat, these strategies were further developed over time by the Gracies and others, and became prominent in contemporary MMA.
Part 3. Aikido (合気道)
Aikido became more popular and better known than its predecessor, Jujutsu and developed into a very unique martial art. As many readers may know that this art was created by Morihei Ueshiba (植芝 盛平1883 – 1969). It is hard to determine exactly which year he created it but we can safely say it was around 1920. He created this art as a synthesis of his martial studies, philosophy, and religious beliefs. Aikido is often translated as “the way of harmonious spirit”. Ueshiba’s goal was to create an art that practitioners could use to defend themselves while also protecting their attacker from injury. Morihei is often referred to by some aikido practitioners as Osensei (大先生 “Great Teacher”).
Aikido derives mainly from the martial art of Daito ryu Aiki jutsu founded by Takeda Sokaku (武田 惣角 1859– 1943, photo below). As this article is about Aikido, I will not talk in depth about Takeda here but he was a very unique individual. One day I may write a separate article solely about him. Ueshiba met Takeda in 1915 and began his martial art training under Takeda, training with him until 1920 when he had to leave Takeda because his father was dying. With his father’s passing Ueshiba was driven to religion when we was introduced to Deguchi Onisaburo, the spiritual leader of the Ohmotkyo religion.
After affiliating with Ohmotokyo in the early 1920’s, Ueshiba opened a dojo, Ueshiba juku (植芝塾) in Kyoto. Though he continued the jujutsu or aiki jutsu on his own, he began to diverge from it in the late 1920s, partly due to Ueshiba’s involvement with the Ohmotokyo religion.
U eshiba began to call his art Aikido separating it from Daito ryu aiki jutsu. Aikido techniques consist of entering and turning movements that redirect the momentum of an opponent’s attack, and a throw or joint lock that terminates the technique. However, Ueshiba’s senior students have different approaches to aikido, depending partly on when they studied with him. Today aikido is found all over the world in a number of styles, with broad ranges of interpretation and emphasis. On the other hand, they all share techniques formulated by Ueshiba.
The practitioners have concern for the well-being of the attacker that they call “love” because the first word “ai合” in Aikido can be also written as 愛 (ai) meaning love.
Ueshiba envisioned aikido not only as the synthesis of his martial training, but as an expression of his personal philosophy of universal peace and reconciliation. During Ueshiba’s lifetime and continuing today, aikido has evolved from the Aiki that Ueshiba studied into a variety of expressions by martial artists throughout the world.
Ueshiba developed aikido primarily during the late 1920s through the 1930s through the synthesis of the older martial arts that he had studied. The core martial art from which aikido derives is Daito ryu aiki jujutsu (大東流合気柔術), which Ueshiba studied directly with Takeda Sokaku, the reviver of that art. Additionally, Ueshiba is known to have studied Tenjin Shin yo ryu (天神真楊流) with Tozawa Tokusaburo (戸沢徳三郎) in 1901, and Gotoha Yagyu Shingan ryu (柳生心眼流) under Nakai Masakatsu (中井正勝) from 1903 to 1908. Very interestingly he also learned judo from Kiyoichi Takagi (高木 喜代市).
The art of Daito ryu was the primary technical influence on aikido. Along with empty-handed throwing and joint-locking techniques, Ueshiba incorporated training movements with weapons, such as those for the spear (槍 yari), and short staff (杖 jo). However, aikido derives much of its technical structure from the art of swordsmanship (剣術 kenjutsu).
Ueshiba moved to Hokkaido in 1912, and began studying under Takeda Sokaku in 1915. His official association with Daito ryu continued until 1937. However, during the latter part of that period, Ueshiba had already begun to distance himself from Takeda and the Daito-ryu. At that time Ueshiba was referring to his martial art as “Aiki Budō”. It is unclear exactly when Ueshiba began using the name “aikido”, but it became the official name of the art in 1942 when Dai Nippon Butoku Kai (大日本武徳会) was engaged in a government sponsored reorganization and centralization of Japanese martial arts.
After Ueshiba left Hokkaido in 1919, he met and was profoundly influenced by Onisaburo Deguchi (出口王仁三郎), the spiritual leader of the Oomoto kyo religion (大本教 a neo-Shinto movement). One of the primary features of the Oomoto kyo is its emphasis on the attainment of utopia during one’s life. This was a great influence on Ueshiba’s martial arts philosophy of extending love and compassion especially to those who seek to harm others. Aikido demonstrates this philosophy in its emphasis on mastering martial arts so that one may receive an attack and harmlessly redirect it. In an ideal resolution, not only is the receiver unharmed, but so is the attacker.
In addition to the effect on his spiritual growth, the connection with Deguchi gave Ueshiba entry to elite political and military circles as a martial artist. As a result of this exposure, he was able to attract not only financial backing but also gifted students. Several of these students would found their own styles of aikido.
Aikido was first brought out of Japan in 1951 by Minoru Mochizuki (望月稔) with his visit to France. He introduced aikido techniques to judo students for the first time in Europe. He was followed by Tadashi Abe (阿部正), the following year, who came as the official Aikikai Honbu representative. Abe remained in France for seven years. In 1953 Kenji Tomiki (富木健二, magazine cover left) toured with a delegation of various martial artists through 15 states of the United States. Later in that year, Koichi Tohei (藤平光一) was sent by Aikikai Hombu to Hawaii, for one year. Tohei set up several dojo on the islands. He continued to visit those dojo from Japan and his teaching is considered the formal introduction of aikido to the United States. The United Kingdom followed in 1955; Italy in 1964 by Hiroshi Tada, and Germany in 1965 by Katsuaki Asai (浅井勝昭). Designated “Official Delegate for Europe and Africa” by Morihei Ueshiba, Masamichi Noro (野呂正道) came to France in 1961 and Seiichi Sugano (菅野誠一) came to Australia as the official instructor in 1965.
Following is a list of known schools that sprang from the original Ueshiba Aiki-do:
- Yoseikan (養生館) aikido, begun by Minoru Mochizuki in 1931
- Yoshinkan (養神館) aikido founded by Gozo Shioda (塩田剛三, photo right) in 1955
- Shin ei Taido (親英体道) is a style closely related to aikido, founded in 1956 by Noriaki Inoue (井上 鑑昭 1902–1994), a nephew and pre-war student of Morihei Ueshiba
- Shodokan (昭道館) aikido, founded by Kenji Tomiki in 1967
The emergence of these styles pre-dated Ueshiba’s death and did not cause any major upheavals when they were formalized. Shodokan aikido, did cause some controversy as it introduced a unique rule-based competition that some felt was contrary to the spirit of aikido.
After Ueshiba’s death, more senior students branched out on their own to establish independent schools.
- Iwama ryu (岩間流) – This style evolved from Ueshiba’s retirement in Iwama, and the teaching methodology of long term student Morihiro Saito (斎藤守弘). It is unofficially referred to as the “Iwama ryu”. Saito’s students have split into two groups; one remaining with the Aikikai and the other forming the independent organization Shinshin Aikishuren Kai (神信合気修練会?) in 2004 around Saito’s son Hitohiro Saito (斎藤 仁弘).
Ki Society (気の研究会) – Another event that caused significant controversy was the departure of the Aikikai Honbu Dojo’s chief instructor Koichi Tohei, in 1974. Tohei left as a result of a disagreement with the son of the founder, Kisshomaru Ueshiba (植芝 吉祥丸 1921–1999, photo below), who at that time headed the Aikikai Foundation. The disagreement was over the proper role of ki development in regular aikido training. After Tohei left, he formed his own style, called Shin Shin Toitsu aikido (心身統一合氣道), and the organization which governs it, the Ki Society.
- In aikido, there are both physical and mental aspects of training. The physical training in aikido is diverse, covering both general physical fitness and conditioning, as well as specific techniques. Because a substantial portion of any aikido training consists of nage (投げ throws), beginners learn how to safely fall or roll. The specific techniques for attack include both strikes and grabs; the techniques for defense consist of throws and katame (固め pins). After basic techniques are learned, students study freestyle defense against multiple opponents, and techniques with weapons.
- Physical training goals pursued in conjunction with aikido include controlled relaxation, correct movement of joints such as hips and shoulders,flexibility and endurance, with less emphasis on strength or power training. In aikido, pushing or extending movements are much more common than pulling or contracting movements. This distinction can be applied to general fitness goals for the aikido practitioner.
- In aikido, specific muscles or muscle groups are not isolated and worked to improve tone, mass, or power. Aikido-related training emphasizes the use of coordinated whole-body movement and balance similar to yoga or Tai chi. For example, many dojos begin each class with warm-up exercises(準備運動), which may include stretching and ukemi (break falls).
The following are a sample of the basic or widely practiced throws and pins. Many of these techniques derive from Daito-ryu Aiki jujutsu, but some others were invented by Morihei Ueshiba. The precise terminology for some may vary between organizations and styles, so what follows are the terms used by the Aikikai Foundation. Note that despite the names of the first five techniques listed, they are not universally taught in numeric order.
- First technique(一教 ikkyo) a control using one hand on the elbow and one hand near the wrist which leverages uke to the ground. This grip applies pressure into the ulnar nerve at the wrist.
- Second technique(二教 nikyo) a kote mawashi (wristlock) that torques the arm and applies painful nerve pressure.
- Third technique(三教 sankyo) a rotational wristlock that directs upward-spiraling tension throughout the arm, elbow and shoulder.
- Fourth technique(四教yonkyo) a shoulder control similar to ikkyo, but with both hands gripping the forearm. The knuckles (from the palm side) are applied to the recipient’s radial nerve against the peritoneum of the forearm bone.
- Fifth technique(五教 gokyo) visually similar to ikkyo, but with an inverted grip of the wrist, medial rotation of the arm and shoulder, and downward pressure on the elbow. Common in knife and other weapon take-away.
- Four-direction throw(四方投げ shihonage) the hand is folded back past the shoulder, locking the shoulder joint.
- Forearm return(小手返し kotegaeshi) a supinating wristlock-throw that stretches the extensor digitorum.
- Breath throw(呼吸投げ kokyunage) a loosely used term for various types of mechanically unrelated techniques, although they generally do not use joint locks like other techniques.
- Entering throw(入身投げ iriminage) throws in which tori moves through the space occupied by uke. The classic form superficially resembles a “clothesline” technique.
- Heaven-and-earth throw(天地投げ tenchinage) beginning with ryote dori, moving forward, tori sweeps one hand low (“earth”) and the other high (“heaven”), which unbalances uke so that he or she easily topples over.
- Hip throw(腰投げ koshinage) aikido’s version of the hip throw. Tori drops his or her hips lower than those of uke, then flips uke over the resultant fulcrum.
- Figure-ten throw(十字投げ jujinage) or figure-ten entanglement (十字絡み jujigarami) a throw that locks the arms against each other.
- Rotary throw(回転投げ kaitennage) Tori sweeps the arm back until it locks the shoulder joint, then uses forward pressure to throw.
Aikido makes use of body movement (体裁きtai sabaki) to blend with uke. For example, an “entering” (入り身 irimi) technique consists of movements inward towards uke, while a “turning” (転換 tenkan) technique uses a pivoting motion. Additionally, an “inside” (内 uchi) technique takes place in front of uke, whereas an “outside” (外 soto) technique takes place to his side; a “front” (表 omote) technique is applied with motion to the front of uke, and a “rear” (裏 ura) version is applied with motion towards the rear of uke, usually by incorporating a turning or pivoting motion. Finally, most techniques can be performed while in a seated posture (正座 seiza). Techniques where both uke and tori are standing are called 立ち技 (tachiwaza), techniques where both start off in seiza are called 座り技 (suwari waza), and techniques performed with uke standing and tori sitting are called hanmi handachi.
Weapons training in aikido traditionally includes the short staff (杖 jo), wooden sword (bokken), and knife (短刀 tanto). Some schools incorporate firearm disarming techniques. Other schools spend substantial time with bokken (木剣) and jo.
The founder developed much of the empty handed techniques from traditional sword and spear movements. Consequently, the practice of the weapons arts gives insight into the origin of techniques and movements, and reinforces the concepts of distance, timing, foot movement, connectedness or the “communication” with the training partner or partners.
Part 2: Judo
(Part 1: Jujutsu has already been published and available to read.)
Before I studied karate I practiced judo for three years but I knew little of its origin or its history. I also have to confess that I forgot about judo after I became fully involved in my karate training. I figured there was no relationship between karate and judo. Upon further study I discovered that I was totally wrong. In fact, there actually was a strong tie between Master Funakoshi and Master Kano, the founder of Kodokan judo.
When Kano created judo he dropped some of the more lethal techniques in order to make judo more suitable for a sporting event. However, at the same time, he always thought Judo must remain as a budo art. He was even thinking of changing the rules eventually to bring back some of the techniques such as striking and kicking. When Funakoshi moved to Tokyo for a karate demonstration in 1922 it was a timely event for both men. Kano watched the demonstration by Funakoshi and was deeply impressed by the striking and kicking techniques which were quite different from those found in jujutsu. Kano sent his students to Funakoshi’s dojo to learn these techniques from Funakoshi. At the same time, being in Tokyo, a new and strange city, Funakoshi was really in need of any kind of local support and assistance because he had no relatives or friends there, the capital of Japan. Thus, these two masters could exchange favors for their own needs and benefits.
Many of the readers already know, Funakoshi was an open minded and educated person. He knew that the Okinawan karate he brought had to be changed and modified so that it could be accepted and considered as one of the “Japanese” martial arts. As a result, he modified the judo uniform and created the karate uniform. He adopted the dan and grade system from judo, though he never accepted any dan ranks for himself. He also adopted the line up ritual before and after the training that is done in both judo and kendo dojo. I am not sure if Kano suggested this to Funakoshi or not, but he dropped the old kata names that sounded like Chinese and renamed them with more understandable (to the mainland people) names using Japanese words. One good example is his favorite kata, Kushanku. He renamed it as Kanku dai which means to look into the sky in Japanese because of the very first move of this kata. One other significant change he made which is not publicly known is that Funakoshi changed the bunkai by minimizing the throws and holding techniques because he wanted to avoid competing with judo. However, you can see some of the original bunkai explanation in his first book, Karatedo Kyohan where you can find Funakoshi doing throws in the bunkai explanations in many pages.
As you can see, Kano or judo ended up making a great impact on Funakoshi and karate in many ways. Kano wanted to include karate within the judo system (both fighting and organizationally), however, though Funakoshi was thankful for the offer, he diplomatically declined the invitation. Funakoshi wanted to keep some distance from judo as it was moving towards a more sport and tournament centric system which he strongly opposed. Funakoshi wanted to keep karate as nothing but budo art that it can offer and provide, which the tournament centric system could not.
Judo is now an Olympic sport and its most prominent feature is its competitive element, where the objective is to either throw or take down an opponent to the ground, immobilize or otherwise subdue an opponent with a pin, or force an opponent to submit with a joint lock or a choke. Surprisingly, strikes and thrusts by hands and feet as well as weapons defenses were kept as a part of judo practice, but only in pre-arranged forms, kata (形). Those techniques are, of course, not allowed in competition or regular practice. We rarely see them and perhaps only in a demonstration at a ceremonial event.
In February 1882, Kano Jigoro (嘉納治五郎 1860 – 1938) opened a dojo at the Eisho ji (永昌寺), a temple in the Higashi Ueno district. Iikubo. Considering the size of Kodokan today (420 tatami mats), this first dojo was a very modest one as the training space was only 12 jo (tatami mats or 12 square meters). Initially, this dojo had no particular name and Kano had a difficult time running it so he had to ask some of his friends to help with teaching the class. After two years this dojo would be called by the name Kodokan (講道館). Although Kano had not yet received his Menkyo (免許, certificate of mastery) in Kito-ryu, the year 1884 is now regarded as the founding year of judo. Though the name of judo is mistakenly considered as the creation of Kano but “Kito-ryu judo” had already existed in the Edo period. Initially, his style was considered only as one of the jujutsu styles and many called it Kano-ryu jujutsu. What we need to remember is that Kano named his dojo Kodokan meaning “place for expounding the way” because he wanted his art to be a means not only for self-defense but to build one’s character.
Kano took in resident and non-resident students, the first two being Tsunejiro Tomita and Shiro Saigo. In August, the following year, the pair were granted Shodan (初段) grades, the first that had been awarded in any martial art.
A tournament or shiai (試合) is a vitally important aspect of judo. Early examples include the Kodokan Monthly Tournament (月次試合) and the biannual Red and White Tournament (紅白試合) both of which started in 1884 and continue to the present day. In 1899, Kano was asked to chair a committee of the Dai Nippon Butoku Kai (大日本武徳会) to draw up the first formal set of contest rules for jujutsu. These rules were intended to cover contests between various different traditional schools of jujutsu as well as practitioners of Kodokan judo. Contests were 15 minutes long and were judged on the basis of nage waza (投げ技) and katame waza (固め技), excluding atemi waza (当身技 striking techniques). Wins were by two ippons (一本), awarded in every four-main different paths of winning alternatives, by “Throwing”, where the opponent’s back strikes flat onto the mat with sufficient force, by “Pinning” them on their back for a “sufficient” amount of time, by submission, which could be achieved via “Shime-waza (絞め技 choking techniques)” or “Kansetsu-waza (関節技 joint techniques)”, in which the opponent was forced to give himself or herself up or summon a referee’s or corner-judge’s stoppage. Finger, toe and ankle locks were prohibited. In 1900, these rules were adopted by the Kodokan with amendments made to prohibit all joint locks for kyu grades and added wrist locks to the prohibited techniques even for dan grades (段位).
In 1916, additional rulings were brought in to further limit kansetsu waza with the prohibition of ashi garami (足絡み leg wrapping technique) and neck locks, as well as do-jime (胴絞め squeezing the torso with the legs). These were further added to in 1925, in response to Kosen judo (高專柔道), which concentrated on ne waza at the expense of tachi waza (立ち技 standing techniques). The new rules banned all remaining joint locks except those applied to the elbow and prohibited the dragging down of an opponent to enter ne waza (寝技 floor techniques). The All Japan Judo Championships (全日本柔道選手権大会) were first held in 1930. This tournament became traditional and has been held every year, except during the war years between 1941 and 1948.
Judo’s international profile was significantly boosted by the introduction of the World Judo Championships of 1956 held in Japan. The first championships started as a small event, with only 31 athletes attending this event from 21 countries. Competitors were exclusively male until the introduction of the Women’s Championships in 1980, which took place on alternate years to the Men’s Championships. The championships of the Men and the Women were combined in 1987 to create an annual event, except for the years in which Olympic Games are held. Participation has steadily increased, as an example in 2011, 871 competitors from 132 countries participated. The first time judo was seen in the Olympic Games was in an informal demonstration hosted by Kano at the 1932 Games in Los Angeles. Kano worked very hard to get judo to be inducted into the Olympic Games, however, unfortunately for him, he passed away in 1938 before his art was formally introduced as an Olympic event. Judo became an Olympic sport for men in 1964 at the Tokyo Games. A Dutchman named Anton Geesink won the first Olympic gold medal in the open division. Paralympic judo has been an official event (for the visually impaired) since 1988. The women’s event had to wait until 1992 to become an official medal event.
Beyond the development of physical prowess and athletic ability, judo practitioners are expected to learn much more. They need to learn how to control their feelings, emotions, and impulses. They also need to learn about values of perseverance, respect, loyalty, and discipline. In other words, Judo students are expected to develop an excellent work ethic, as well as important social manners and etiquette. This means they need to learn to overcome their fears, and to show courage under pressure. Through competition and the rigorous practice, they will learn about justice and fairness. Through their experience, they hope that they will learn about politeness, modesty, and many other values that contributes to their character development as successful citizens of society. Judo training hopes to facilitate the development of moral knowledge and values.
Practiced today by more than 20 million individuals, judo is one of the most popular combat sports in the world. In terms of national organizations worldwide, judo is the largest sport in the world, with the greatest number of member nations in the International Judo Federation, or IJF. It is a part of the physical education systems of many countries, and practiced in local clubs, junior and senior high schools, colleges, regional and national training centers, throughout the world.
The techniques of Judo are divided in two major groups:
67 Nage-waza and 29 Katame-waza.
Osaekomi waza (7 techniques)
Shime waza (12 techniques)
Kansetsu waza (10 techniques)
(The details of waza are available at Kodokan homepage, under Classification of Waza names: http://kodokanjudoinstitute.org/en/waza/list/)
For those who are interested in the Judo’s tournament rules, here is a summary of Current international contest rules.
The traditional rules of judo are intended to provide a basis under which to test skill in judo, while avoiding significant risk of injury to the competitors. Additionally, the rules are also intended to enforce proper reigi (礼儀).
Penalties may be given for: passivity or preventing progress in the match; for safety infringements for example by using prohibited techniques, or for behavior that is deemed to be against the spirit of judo. Fighting must be stopped if a participant is outside the designated area on the mat.
A throw that places the opponent on his back with impetus and control scores an ippon (一本), winning the contest. A lesser throw, where the opponent is thrown onto his back, but with insufficient force to merit an ippon, scores a waza-ari (技あり). Two scores of waza-ari equal an ippon (技あり合わせて一本). A throw that places the opponent onto his side scores a yuko (有効). No amount of yuko equal a waza-ari, they are only considered in the event of an otherwise tied contest. Ippon is scored in ne waza for pinning an opponent on his back with a recognized osaekomi waza (pinning down techniques) for 20 seconds or by forcing a submission through shime waza (choking techniques) or kansetsu waza. A submission is signaled by tapping the mat or the opponent at least twice with the hand or foot, or by saying maitta (まいった, I surrender). A pin lasting for less than 20 seconds, but more than 15 seconds scores waza-ari and one lasting less than 15 seconds but more than 10 seconds scores a yuko.
If the scores are identical at the end of the match, the contest is resolved by the Golden Score rule. Golden Score is a sudden death situation where the clock is reset to match-time, and the first contestant to achieve any score wins. If there is no score during this period, then the winner is decided by hantei (判定), the majority opinion of the referee and the two corner judges.
There have been changes to the scoring. In January 2013, the hantei was removed and the “Golden Score” no longer has a time limit. The match would continue until a judoka scored through a technique or if the opponent is penalized, shido (指導 “guidance”).
Minor rules infractions are penalized with a shido. This is treated as a warning and anything up to three shido make no contribution to the overall score. A fourth shido or serious rules violation yields a hansoku make (反則負け “foul-play defeat”), resulting in disqualification of the penalized competitor.
Formerly, there were two additional levels of penalty between shido and hansoku make: chui (注意 “caution”), equivalent to a yuko and keikoku (警告 “warning”) equivalent to waza-ari.
This is an interesting subject but also a heavy one as each item has a long and unique story behind it.
Maybe many readers know that these four arts are all somehow related. However, only a few would probably know exactly how they are intricately related. In fact, by doing this research I wanted to educate myself and I became more interested in the subject as I learned more of the history. It turned out to be truly an interesting subject and I am happy to share the information that I have discovered with the readers.
Now I want to introduce each art but first I want to start from the oldest and the newest one very last. Jujutsu being the oldest (the first written document is found in the 16th century) will be first. Judo will be second as it is supposed to have started in 1882 when Kano Jigoro (嘉納治五郎 1860 – 1938) opened a dojo, Kodokan (講道館) in a small temple in Tokyo. Aikido will be the third as it was started by Ueshiba Morihei (植芝盛平 1883 – 1969) when he opened a dojo, Ueshiba juku (植芝塾) in 1920. The last one is Gracie jujitsu or Brazilian jujitsu (BJJ). This art was created by the Gracie brothers, particularly by the youngest out of five brothers, Helio (1913 – 2009). The exact year of its creation is not clear but we can assume that it was some time in the early 1930’s.
I will post my articles in four parts; Part 1 Jujutsu, Part 2 Judo, Part 3 Aikido and Part 4 Brazilian Jujitsu.
OK, let us start with Part 1 Jujutsu.
Part 1: What is Jujutsu (柔術)?
Believe it or not, jujutsu is the least known martial art out of those four arts, at least in Japan. It is the origin of all the other martial arts, thus I need to do the most investigation here and provide you detailed information. Having said that I am not going to write a book on jujutsu so the information I will provide will only be superficial and more or less, a summary of what this art is about.
Ju (柔) can be translated to mean “gentle, soft, supple, flexible, pliable, or yielding”. Jutsu (術) can be translated to mean “art” or “technique” and represents manipulating the opponent’s force against himself rather than confronting it with one’s own force. Jujutsu was developed to combat the samurai of feudal Japan, and is defined as, and is a method for defeating an armed and armored opponent in which one uses no weapon, or only a short weapon. For this reason this art was also referred as Yawara (柔).
Because striking against an armored opponent proved ineffective, practitioners learned that the most efficient methods for neutralizing an enemy took the form of pins, joint locks, and throws. These techniques were developed around the principle of using an attacker’s energy against him, rather than directly opposing it.
The oldest jujutsu style as documented is Takeuchi-ryu (竹内流). It was founded by Takeuchi Hisamori (竹内久盛) in 1532 during the Sengoku period (戦国時代 a civil war period) between the end of the 15th century and the end of the 16th century. The martial arts used in the battles are called Bugei juhappan (武芸十八般 18 martial arts). As old as the 12th century, jujutsu was developed combining various martial arts which were used on the battlefield for close combat in situations where weapons were ineffective. The name of Jujutsu started to be used only in the Edo era (江戸時代 after the 17th century).
In contrast to the neighboring nation of China whose martial arts used mainly striking and kicking techniques, Japanese hand-to-hand combat forms focused heavily upon throwing, joint locks and choking in addition to striking techniques because striking techniques were somewhat ineffective on someone wearing armor on the battlefield. The original forms of jujutsu such as Takeuchi-ryu also extensively taught parrying and counterattacking long weapons such as swords or spears with a dagger or other small weapon.
In the early 17th century during the Edo (江戸) period, jujutsu would continue to evolve due to the strict laws which were imposed by the Tokugawa Bakufu (徳川幕府) to reduce war that was influenced by the Chinese social philosophy of Confucianism which spread throughout Japan via scholars. During this new ideology weapons and armor became unused decorative items, so hand-to-hand combat flourished as a form of self-defense and new techniques were created to adapt to the changing situation of unarmored opponents. This included the development of various striking techniques in jujutsu which expanded upon the limited striking previously found in jujutsu which targeted vital areas above the shoulders such as the eyes, throat and back of the neck. However towards the 18th century the number of striking techniques was severely reduced as they were considered less effective and exert too much energy; instead striking in jujutsu primarily became used as a way to distract your opponent or to unbalance him and lead up to a joint lock, strangle or throw.
The term jujutsu was not coined until the 17th century, after which time it became a blanket term for a wide variety of grappling-related disciplines and techniques. Prior to that time, these skills had names such as “short sword grappling” (小具足腰之廻), “grappling” (組討 or 組打), “body art” (体術), “softness” (柔 or 和), “art of harmony” (和術), “catching hand” (捕手), and even the “way of softness” (柔道as early as 1724).
Today’s systems of unarmed combat were developed and practiced during the Muromachi period (室町時代 the 14th through 16th centuries) and are referred to collectively as Japanese old-style jujutsu (日本古流柔術). During this period in history, the systems practiced were not systems of unarmed combat, but rather a means for a lightly armed warrior to fight an armored enemy on the battlefield. In battle, it was often impossible for a samurai to use his long sword, and would therefore be forced to rely on his short sword, dagger, or bare hands. When fully armored, the effective use of such “minor” weapons necessitated the employment of grappling skills.
Methods of combat (as mentioned above) included striking (kicking and punching), throwing (body throws, joint lock throws, unbalance throws), restraining (pinning, strangling, grappling, wrestling) and weaponry. Defensive tactics included blocking, evading, off-balancing, blending and escaping. Minor weapons such as the tanto (knife) and kakushi buki (concealed or disguised weapons) were almost always included in Sengoku jujutsu.
In later times, Nihon jujutsu (日本柔術) or Edo jujutsu (江戸柔術) founded during the Edo period was developed. It was generally designed to deal with opponents who were neither wearing armor nor in a battlefield environment. Most systems of Edo jujutsu included extensive use of atemi waza (当身技 vital-striking technique), which would be of little use against an armored opponent on a battlefield. They would, however, be quite effective in confronting an enemy or opponent during peacetime dressed in normal street attire. Occasionally, inconspicuous weapons such as tanto (短刀 knife) or tessen (鉄扇 iron fans) were included in the curriculum of Edo jujutsu.
Another seldom-seen historical side is a series of techniques originally included in both Sengoku and Edo jujutsu systems. Referred to as hojo jutsu (捕縄術), it involves the use of a cord or rope, to restrain or strangle an attacker. These techniques have for the most part disappeared from use in modern times, but Tokyo police units still train in their use and continue to carry a hojo cord in addition to handcuffs. The old Takeuchi-ryu is one of the better-recognized systems that continue extensive training in hojo waza. Since the establishment of the Meiji period in 1868 with the abolishment of the Samurai and the wearing of swords, the ancient tradition of Yagyu Shingan Ryu (柳生心眼流) has focused mostly on the jujutsu contained in its syllabus.
Many other legitimate Nihon jujutsu ryu exist but are not considered koryu (古流 ancient traditions). These are called either Gendai Jujutsu (現代柔術) or modern jujutsu. Modern jujutsu traditions were founded after or towards the end of the Tokugawa period (end of the 19th century), when more than 2000 styles (ryu) of jujutsu existed. Various traditional ryu and ryuha that are commonly thought of as koryu jujutsu are actually gendai (modern day) jujutsu. Although modern in formation, very few gendai jujutsu systems have direct historical links to ancient traditions and are incorrectly referred to as traditional martial systems or ryu. Their curriculum reflects an obvious bias towards Edo jujutsu systems as opposed to the Sengoku jujutsu systems. The improbability of confronting an armor-clad attacker is the reason for this bias.
Over time, Gendai jujutsu has been embraced by law enforcement officials worldwide and continues to be the foundation for many specialized systems used by police. Perhaps the most famous of these specialized police systems is the Keisatsu jutsu (警察術 police art) Taiho jutsu (逮捕術 arresting art) system formulated and employed by the Tokyo Police Department (警視庁 Keishicho).
In general, it is believed that koryu jujutsu (old jujitsu) had declined as soon as Judo became popular in the Meiji era. However, this is not true. In fact in rural areas Jujutsu training was actively carried out until the Second World War. Even though it no longer enjoys the popularity it once did, multiple schools do exist today. It is interesting to see that some schools are experiencing further decline while others are gaining popularity due to a renewed interest in koryu budo (古流武道).
A few of the famous koryu jujutsu schools:
- Hontai Yoshin-ryu 本體楊心流
- Kashima Shin-ryu 鹿島神流
- Kito-ryu 起倒流
- Kukishin-ryu 九鬼神流
- Kyushin ryu 扱心流
- Sekiguchi Shinshin-ryu 関口新心流
- Sosuishitsu-ryu 双水執流
- Takenouchi-ryu 竹内流
- Tatsumi-ryu 立身流
- Tenjin Shinyo-ryu 天神真楊流
- Yagyu Shingan ryu 柳生心眼流
- Yoshin ryu 楊心流
(Will continue to Part 2: Judo)
I want to introduce a very interesting technique that is not too well known among karate practitioners. It is quite famous and popular among musicians, singers and dancers. The more I learn about this technique the more I am convinced that all of us should learn about it and possibly utilize it so that we can improve our karate performance as well as our karate teaching skills.
I believe the concept of “The Alexander” technique is quite simple and can be mind-opening to many. It is amazing that this technique has been around for over 100 years. We, as karate-ka, may already be familiar with the concept, however, unfortunately, only a few of us are, I assume, seriously exercising it. This technique, in short, is a way of learning how we can get rid of harmful tension and unnecessary automatic reactions in our physical movements. In other words, by teaching how to change faulty postural habits, it enables improved mobility, posture, performance and alertness along with relief of chronic stiffness, tension and stress. It sounds simple but it requires lessons and coaching. It is a skill for self-development teaching us to change long-standing habits that cause unnecessary tension in everything we do.
Interestingly we are to pay attention to the alignment of our head, neck and back. This technique is recommended for those who have pain in their back or hips. Another reason people take these lessons is to enhance performance. Athletes, singers, dancers, and musicians use this Technique to improve breathing, vocal production, and speed and accuracy of movement. I believe this can be of great benefitto karate practitioners.
Lessons in the Alexander technique, named for Frederick Matthias Alexander (1869 – 1955), teaches people how to stop using unnecessary levels of muscular and mental tension during their everyday activities. It is an educational process rather than a relaxation technique or form of exercise. Most other methods take it for granted that one’s “awareness of oneself” is accurate, whereas Alexander realized that a person who had been using themselves wrongly for a long time could not trust their feelings (sensory appreciation) in carrying out any activity. Practitioners say that such problems are often caused by repeated misuse of the body over a long period of time, for example, by standing or sitting with one’s weight unevenly distributed, holding one’s head incorrectly, or walking or running inefficiently. The purpose of the Alexander technique is to help people unlearn maladaptive physical habits and return to a balanced state of rest and poise in which the body is well-aligned.
Alexander developed the technique’s principles in the 1890s, as a personal tool to alleviate breathing problems and hoarseness during public speaking. Interestingly, he credited the technique with allowing him to pursue his passion for Shakespearean acting.
The Alexander technique is a way of learning to move mindfully through life. The Alexander process shines a light on inefficient habits of movement and patterns of accumulated tension, which interferes with our innate ability to move easily and according to how we are designed. It’s a simple yet powerful approach that offers the opportunity to take charge of one’s own learning and healing process, because it’s not a series of passive treatments but an active exploration that changes the way one thinks and responds in activity. It produces a skill-set that can be applied in every situation.
Whatever your age, they claim the technique can help boost one’s performance in any activity and relieve the pain and stress caused by postural habits, like slouching or rounded shoulders. Everyday things like tensing when the phone rings, rushing to your office or worrying about deadlines lead to physical and mental strain. Over the years, this accumulates and can cause illness, injury or common aches and pains that may seem to come from nowhere.
The most interesting reason why people study the Technique is to achieve greater conscious control of their reactions. Most of us have many habitual patterns of tension, learned both consciously and unconsciously. These patterns can be unlearned, enabling the possibility of new choices in posture, movement and reaction. During lessons you’ll develop awareness of habits that interfere with your natural coordination. You’ll learn how to undo these patterns and develop the ability to consciously redirect your whole self into an optimal state of being and functioning. Through direct experience you’ll learn how to go about your daily activities with increasingly greater ease and less effort.
The technique teaches us the skilful “use of self”, i.e. how we use our body when moving, resting, breathing, learning, organizing our awareness and focus of attention and, above all, choosing our reactions to increasingly demanding situations.
Changes brought about by good habits of diet and exercise are well documented. The long-term effects of good habits of the “use of self” are not as well known, but equally life-changing. In karate we teach the same concept. The maladaptive physical habits stated here is called Kuse 癖 in Japanese and we are taught to unlearn the bad or harmful Kuse. We must learn to become aware of, and then gradually strip away, the habits of movement, tension and reaction that interfere with natural and healthy coordination. It is difficult for us to recognize the bad habits in our karate techniques but this is really the only way for us to improve our karate. If you are serious about improving your karate, you may want to find out more about this technique and also where there is a class so you can take some lessons. I believe it can be a good investment. What do you think?
For more information on the Alexander Technique:
Some of the videos of Alexander Techniques exercises:
How to rise more easily from a chair:
How to climb stairs:
For Improved Posture, Try Thinking of Your Body As a Wave:
Improve Posture – Your Body As an Archer’s Bow:
For posture, point your spine:
Capoeira is a Brazilian art that combines elements of acrobatics, dance, and rhythm. It should be noted that the basic footsteps of Capoeira are very similar to those of Samba (Brazilian music) though the speed of the music and the feet distance are different. Some karate people have a problem calling it a martial art because of the music and the dancing aspect. However, it must not be disregarded and considered simply as a native Brazilian dance. Master Seikichi Uehara (上原清吉 1904 – 2004, photo below) said that the essence of te (the old name for karate) can be found in the Okinawa buyo (舞踊 dance). In fact, the Capoeira’s movements clearly contain the fighting techniques and the intricate movements that can definitely qualify Capoeira as a fighting art.
The word capoeira is supposed to have come from one of the South American languages, Tupi Guaraní. It came from the original words of caá puéra. “caá” means a jungle and “puéra” means existed. Combined those two words, caá puéra means the disappeared jungle.
The details of Capoeira’s origins and early history are still a matter of debate among historians as the written documentation is almost non-existent on the origin. On the other hand, it is clear that the slaves from Africa played a crucial role in the development of the art form. Slaves used the dance movements as a way to hide their training of fight and self-defense. Interestingly, Okinawa te was similarly hidden in the Okinawan folk dance.
Here is a history that no Brazilian people are proud of but we must look at the dark history of Europe and Brazil. During the Middle Ages (between the 5th to the 15th century), Portugal suffered a drastic decrease in its labor force as a result of human loss in the war for independence from Castile, and from a series of epidemics of devastating proportions. Moreover, a huge deployment of people to Africa and India in Portugal’s colonial endeavors intensified the crisis. Gomes Eannes de Azurara was one of the first to register Portugal’s incipient attempt to replace its productive hands, narrating how Antáo Gonçalves in 1441 captured and took the first Africans to the Infant D. Henrique, King of Portugal. By the early 1500s, Portugal had begun extensive human trafficking from Africa to its South American colony of Brazil.
Between the years of 1500 and 1888, almost four million souls crossed the Atlantic in the disease-ridden slave ships of the Portuguese Crown. The signing of the Queiroz Law prohibiting slave traffic in 1850 was not strong enough to empty the sails of the tumbadoras (slave ships) crossing the ocean. Many Africans were still forced to face the “middle passage” and were smuggled into Brazil. The ethno cultural contributions of this massive forced human migration, along with those of the Native inhabitants of the colony and those of the Europeans from Portugal, shaped the people and the culture of Brazil. From the Africans, the essential elements of Capoeira were inherited. This is evident in the aesthetics of movement and musical structure of the art, in its rituals and philosophical principles, as well as in historical accounts of the ethnicity of those who practiced Capoeira in the past.
Most of the questions related to the formative period of the art still remain unanswered. The difficulty in answering the questions for the origin of the art resides in the lack of written registers of Capoeira and in the absence of an oral tradition that reaches as far back as the predawn of the art. Also, the unclear Europeans’ notion of cultural and geographic boundaries of the African territories at the beginning of Portugal’s colonial enterprises, as well as the mixing of Africans from different tribes in the same work areas in Brazil, increase our uncertainties.
According to E. Bradford Burns, it is possible to identify three major African contributors to Brazilian society: the Yoruban and Dahomean Sudanese people originating from regions that later became Liberia, Nigeria, the Gold Coast, and the southern part of contemporary Benin (former Dahomey); the “Mohammedanized Guinea-Sudanese” Hausa; and the Bantu people from Angola, Congo and Mozambique.
Early documents about enslaved Africans in Brazil, however, refer only to “natives from Guiné.” At that time, “Guiné” was a generic denomination for a large area of West Africa with no precise ethnic or politico-geographic definition in the European mind. “Guiné extended from the delta of the Senegal River limits of the desert region between Senegal and Mauritania to the Orange River, in the contemporary Gabon …” This lack of clarity was felt even by the earliest chroniclers of the art.
The importance of Yoruban influences in the state of Bahia has long been recognized. Recently, though, the weight of the Bantu contribution has been reevaluated, gaining more prominence as traces of this culture are identified in the way of life of the inhabitants of Bahia’s old cities. Since the cadence in the ginga (the multi-functional and characteristic movement of Capoeira), the music, and the rituals of today’s Capoeira seem to have radiated from the Reconcavo Baiano (coastal areas of the Bay of All Saints in Bahia), it is not a far stretch of the imagination to associate the formative elements of the art with cultural expressions embedded in the traditions of the sub-Saharan Bantu people from Angola.
One experiences the essence of Capoeira by “playing” a physical game called jogo de capoeira (game of capoeira) or simply jogo. During this ritualized combat, two capoeiristas (players of capoeira) exchange movements of attack and defense in a constant flow while observing rituals and proper manners of the art. Both players attempt to control the space by confusing the opponent with feints and deceptive moves. During the jogo, the Capoeiristas explore their strengths and weaknesses, fears and fatigue in a sometimes frustrating, but nevertheless enjoyable, challenging and constant process of personal expression, self-reflection and growth.
The speed and character of the jogo are generally determined by the many different rhythms of the berimbau, a one-string musical bow, which is considered to be the primary symbol of this art form. The berimbau is complemented by the pandeiro (tambourine), atabaque (single-headed standing drum), agogo (double bell), and reco-reco (grooved segment of bamboo scraped with a stick) to form a unique ensemble of instruments. Inspiring solos and collective singing in a call-and-response dialogue join the hypnotic percussion to complete the musical ambiance for the Capoeira session. The session is called roda de Capoeira, literally “Capoeira wheel”. The term roda refers to the ring of participants that defines the physical space for the two Capoeiristas engaged in the ritualized “combat”.The Capoeira rule, however, prohibits making any contacts to your opponent or a partner. If you touch the other person, that will be considered as a poor technique. You are supposed to put some pressure on the opponent by jumping, circling and kicking around him or her. Capoeira is a dialog or physical communication between players through movement which can mean different things. This unique character, I believe, makes Capoeira a half way between the dancing art and a martial art.
Here is a video (6 min) of the basic movements of Capoeira:
For more information on Capoeira:
Dojo is a place where we practice karate, but the literal meaning of Dojo is a place where students seek to find the way of life. Kun means “lesson”, “teaching” or “guidance”. Therefore, putting those two words together, Dojo Kun means a set of guide line we can use to seek the way of life through the practice of karate.
Reciting Dojo kun occurs at the end of training during the line up ritual. First, you will do mokuso (meditation) and after 10 to 30 seconds (depending on the dojo the length varies) there is another command to open eyes. We recite Dojo kun before the bowing.
Some dojo because of the chief instructors there do not exercise this ritual. I suspect it is because sport karate is becoming so popular and the “do” part of Karate-do is now getting forgotten and ignored. It is a shame as many people are missing the true benefit of karate-do.
In addition, I also see the poor translation of the Japanese kun, thus the practitioners will not be able to recite the correct meaning. This is why I will explain the details of the meaning of every word in all five kun. I hope this will help those who recite Dojo kun so that they will understand fully of each kun. I also hope this explanation will help those who do not and give them an opportunity to re-evaluate the value of Dojo kun. However, of course, it is totally up to the Dojo to decide if they want to keep this trandition in their karate training.
(Dojo kun written by Master Masatoshi Nakayama)
Here is the explanation of each Kun:
1. Jinkaku kansei ni tsumomuru koto: (Seek perfection of character)
Jinkaku 人格 – one’s character, self
Kansei 完成– to perfect, complete
Tsutomuru 努むる– to try, make an effort
2. Makoto no michi wo mamoru koto: (Be faithful)
The English translation of this kun is misleading. This second kun is the most difficult one to translate to describe its full meaning. This is because “makoto 誠” has a complex meaning. It covers all the meaning of to be sincere, the truthfulness, genuineness.
Mamoru 守る– to protect, uphold
The better translation may be “We uphold the way of genuiness and truthfulness”, meaning as a karate-ka we must be always truthful and the character we are striving for must be genuine.
3. Doryoku no seishin wo motomuru koto: (Endeavor)
Doryoku 努力– effort, endeavor
Seishin 精神 – will power, discipline, spirit
Motomuru 求むる– to seek, search
The better translation may be “We cultivate the will power to strive harder”. What is important is not only we need to make an effort to do better but also to build a strong will power.
4. Reigi wo omonjiru koto (Respect others)
Reigi 礼儀– courtesy, etiquette, good manners
Omonjiru 重んじる– to value, respect, honor
So it means we not only need to show respect to others but also to keep courteous manners at all times.
5. Kekki no yu wo imasimuru koto (Refrain from the violent behavior)
Kekki 血気– literal meaning of this word is “youthful ardor” but typically it means hot temper or overly excited emotions (especially anger).
Yu 勇– courage, bravely
Imashimuru 戒むる– to admonish
This kun can be explained as “we discourage the foolish bravely or hot temper coming from uncontrolled emotions”.
I also want to add the explanation of the two terms.
In front of each Kun you see the same word, “Hitotsu”. This is a difficult one to explain though the meaning of the word is easy. It literally means the number of one. It is same as Ichi which you may use when you count in your karate training. So, when you recite the Dojo kun you are saying “One; Perfection of character”, etc. Of course, you know that you are not really counting anything here. It is used for an emphasis and it means “One principle” or “This principle”.
Each Kun ends with “koto” 事. It’s literal meaning is matter or subject. The first Kun’s literal meaning is the subject of trying to perfect one’s character. By having Koto at the end of each Kun, it adds the meaning of must or ought. Thus, the first Kun now means “This principle: we must try to perfect our character.“
Hopefully, we now have better understanding of Dojo Kun. It is important to understand the full meaning as we recite each Kun. I am convinced that we can improve our daily lives by trying to follow these teachings. Regardless of one’s religious belief or practice, these teachings can be beneficial to all the students who wish to increase his/her self worth and value through the practice of karate.
Besides Dojo Kun, Master Funakoshi left a set of 20 teachings that are more concrete guide line of karate-do. If you are interested in studying more karate philosophy, this may be a good thing to look into.
Here is a link of Dojo kun recited by New Kanazawa Kancho:
Dojo kun written by Master Testsuhiko Asai
When a student of karate hears the term “Shotokan Tiger,” one image comes to mind: the traditional symbol of the tiger inside a circle which has become representative of Shotokan Karate.
The drawing was originally created by a Japanese art painter named Hoan Kosugi (小杉 放庵, 1881 – 1964, photo below), whose real name was Kunitaro Kosugi. He was a famous artist and president of the Tabata Poplar Club, an artist guild in Tokyo. Kosugi was a friend and one of the first students of Funakoshi in Tokyo. The character, 放 (ho), up in the northeast quadrant of the circle is part of the artist’s first name, Ho-an (放庵).
Many readers know that Funakoshi traveled to Tokyo from Okinawa in 1922 to participate in the First physical education exhibition sponsored by the Ministry of Education. He was planning to return to Okinawa after the event. However, Kosugi offered to be his first student and convinced Funakoshi to teach karate in Japan, at least for a few months. Later, Kano, the founder of Kodokan Judo also asked him to stay in Japan and teach his students so Funakoshi decided to stay for a few years. His teaching became very popular among the universities in Tokyo so he lost his chance to return to Okinawa until 1941 (but only for a month’s stay).
What is important here (with the Shotokan tiger) is that Kosugi was the man who convinced Funakoshi to write his knowledge of karate and put it into a book. To entice Funakoshi to write a book about karate, Kosugi told Funakoshi that Kosugi would design it and provide a painting for the cover. As he was a famous professional painter in Japan having a design by him on the book cover was a big attraction. So, “Ryukyu Karate Kenpo 琉球唐手拳法” (book cover, photo left) was quickly written and published in 1922. In the following year, Funakoshi released the Second Edition and published under the name of “Rentan Goshin Jutsu
錬鍛護身術”. Kosugi was reported to have declared to Funakoshi that his book was the master text of karate.
Kosugi’s idea for the tiger came from the expression “Tora no maki.” Tora no maki in the Japanese tradition is the official written document of an art or system which is used as the definitive reference source for that particular art. Since no books had ever been written about karate, Kosugi told Funakoshi that his book was the tora no maki of karate, and since “tora” means “tiger”, he designed the tiger as a representation of Funakoshi’s art. The irregularity of the circle indicates that it was probably painted with one brush stroke. The Shotokan tiger is a traditional Chinese design (photo right) which implies that the tiger never sleeps. The tiger symbolizes the keen alertness of the wakeful tiger and the serenity of the peaceful mind.
If you pull the paper cover off of Karate-do Kyohan (English edition, photo below left, the Japanese version, photo below right), you find that the tiger is in gold leaf on the blue cloth cover. The wooden statue on the paper cover is a statue of the war god, Fudo Myoo (不動明王). Fudo literally means “immovable” (his faith) and he is the Patron of people born in zodiac year of the rooster. The statue is kept in Todaiji (東大寺), a Buddhist temple, in Nara (奈良), the largest wooden building on earth. The statue is about 20-25 feet tall and its creation is estimated to be in the 8th century.
The Shotokan Tiger is drawn within a circle to show that the power of the tiger, like the power of Shotokan, is contained. It indicates that this power should never be used on a whim. The power is only unleashed, or broken from the circle, in order to defend ourselves or others who cannot defend themselves from a violent attack. Now you have some information about this popular Shotokan insignia, Shotokan tiger.