Danzan Ryu

Danzan Ryu (檀山流, “Sandalwood Mountain School” from a Chinese name for Hawaii) is a Ryu of jujutsu founded by Henry Seishiro Okazaki (1890-1951) in Hawaii. Danzan Ryu is ubiquitous in the United States, particularly on the west coast.

Danzan Ryu was founded by “Henry” Seishiro Okazaki. He was born in Japan on January 28, 1890, and moved to Hawaii as a teenager. At 16, Okazaki learned he had tuberculosis. He dedicated himself to martial arts and recovered completely, which led him to dedicate his life to propagating jujutsu and judo. He created the Danzan Ryu style in 1927-28 by synthesizing several older styles of jujutsu, along with elements of Okinawan karate, Chinese wu-shu, Hawaiian lua, Filipino escrima, and western boxing and wrestling.

Danzan Ryu takes its name from the sweet-smelling Sandlewood trees found on Hawaiian mountains. The name translates as Cedar Mountain or Sandlewood Mountain style. Okazaki’s dojo, Kodenkan, means “the school of the ancient tradition.” Okazaki also taught traditional Japanese restorative massage, or seifukujutsu, at the sanitarium where he made his living.

Seishiro Okazaki (Henry): Seishiro Okazaki was born in Fukushima Prefecture, Japan in 1890. (He later took the western name, “Henry”.) In 1906, he immigrated to the Island of Hawaii.

At that time, he was afflicted with a pulmonary condition which cannot be accurately identified but was believed to have been tuberculosis. It was during this time, however, that young Okazaki came under the wing of a Yoshin-Ryū jujutsu sensei by the name of Yoshimatsu (Kichimatsu) Tanaka in Hilo.

Okazaki began to study intensely under Tanaka sensei, and ultimately found that the lung condition went into remission. Okazaki felt that the study of martial arts had no small part in his physical recovery and, as a result, it is said that he decided to dedicate his life to the study and teaching of jujitsu and related disciplines.

In 1924, Okazaki returned to Japan and underwent a study of the various schools, or “ryÅ«-ha” of the most popular JÅ«jutsu styles of the times: Yoshin RyÅ«, Namba-Shoshin RyÅ«, Iwaga RyÅ«, Kosogabe RyÅ«, Kōdōkan JÅ«dō and several others. When he returned to the Islands later that year, he continued his study of JÅ«jutsu under the various masters who had come to Hawaii from Japan.

Incorporating, not only traditional JÅ«jutsu but also Hawaiian Lua, Okinawan Karate, Filipino Eskrima, Chinese Kung Fu and American wrestling, he began to “evolve” the best and most effective aspects of the several systems into an eclectic system which he called, Danzan RyÅ«. Okazaki used this name to honor his Chinese martial art teacher, Wo Chong. The Chinese term for Hawai’i is T’an Shan (or in Japanese, Dan Zan) which translates as sandalwood mountain. Hence the term, Danzan-Ryu means Hawai’ian Style.

First classes: By all accounts the original classes were grueling, and as below, Okazaki taught different courses to different individuals. One of the striking aspects of his philosophy was that he was willing to teach both people of non-Asian extraction and women the arts. This is said to have been frowned upon by the Asian community in Hawaii at that time. (Esmailzadeh 1) During the time of the original classes in Hawaii, it took around four years to get a Nidan and students trained 6-7 days a week. Sigfried Kufferath, later elected Professor by the AJI, received his Shodan in May of 1941.

Seifukujutsu: The seifukujutsu was Okazaki’s gift to honor the traditions of martial arts, from which he derived benefit in his initial study of martial arts after arriving in his new home of Hawaii. Shortly after arriving he contracted tuberculosis, which in those days was almost always fatal.

“Upon completing about a year of study,” Okazaki wrote in his Esoteric Principles (contained in the mokuroku scroll given to his pupils who mastered his system), “I acquired a body of iron” (paraphrased), so he dedicated his life to the study of martial arts and the healing techniques associated with each style he took up. Some of his students carried on his healing traditions; in 1984, third and fourth generation devotees standardized his style of massage (from notes by Okazaki’s students) into the AJJF certification program in Okazaki Restorative Massage (recognized by the AOBTA as ORM, but also known as Okazaki Long Life, Nikko Restorative Massage).

World War II and later: Shortly after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, on December 7, 1941, Okazaki, along with many Japanese, was interned for six months. (Note: This is alleged, but not substantiated through FOIA requests to the U.S. Government. It is possible that he was only held under arrest and not placed in an interment camp.) He was released relatively quickly because of the intervention of parties unknown. He was also fortunate in that his dojo was unmoleseted, as his students protected it from looters who ransacked Japanese homes and businesses. Because of the preservation of his assets, he was able to lend aid to the Asian community who had formerly shunned him. In this way he became accepted by them.

During wartime, Okazaki continued teaching and also assisted the US military in creating a hand-to-hand combat curriculum (based largely on the 120 Commando Technique list). Ironically, at the same time, Gichin Funakoshi, the father of modern Karate, was responsible for hand-to-hand training of many members of the Japanese military (Funakoshi 88). Okazaki is sometimes said to have been responsible for the WWII US Army Field Combatives Manual FM 21-150, but there is no evidence of this (and substantial evidence to the contrary), and the techniques shown are only remotely similar to DZR. It is true that DZR was the basis for some Military Police training manuals in the 1950s, largely through the teaching efforts of Rickerts, one of Okazaki’s most senior students.

Okazaki suffered a stroke in July of 1948, from which he recovered somewhat in 1949, when he continued teaching. Okazaki died on July 12, 1951 at the age of sixty-two. He left a rich martial arts legacy which has grown and branched for more than fifty years.

Today: There are many other Danzan Ryū and DZR-influenced organizations which have have developed over time and are now separated into various schools of thought. The most widely-known international federations today are the American Jujitsu Institute, the American Judo and Jujitsu Federation, and the Bushidokan Federation.

The AJI: The original Danzan Ryū Organization was the American Jujitsu Institute, founded by Okazaki in 1932. The AJI still exists, under the direction of Sam C. Luke, Charles Lee, and Daniel Saragosa.

The AJJF: The American Judo and Jujitsu Federation (AJJF) founded in 1948 by Bud Estes, Richard Rickerts, John Cahill and Ray Law. In 1958, the AJJF was incorporated in the State of California as a non-profit organization. The AJJF now has dojo all over the country and looks after the interests of thousands of members. They have also created a standardized curriculum.

Kodenkan Yudanshakai: Joseph Holck’s Kodenkan Yudanshakai, founded in 1967 as The Kodenkan of Tucson, is a traditional martial arts association with locations in major metropolitan areas of Arizona. According to one expert, the Kodenkan Yudanshakai was “[…] founded by Joseph Holck and his family in 1967 […]” to continue the school “founded by [Joseph’s Brother] Roy Holck in 1962” (Holck-Toomoka). The “Yudanshakai” teaches martial arts such as Danzan RyÅ« JÅ«jutsu, Matsuno Ryu Goshinjitsu (a form of Kajukenbo founded in Hawaii in 1947 of which Joseph Holck is a co-founder), Nihon Jujitsu, Shorin-RyÅ« Karate, Bokendo, Hiraido Jujitsu, Kung Fu, Kick Boxing, Judo and other arts. The Kodenkan Yudanshakai has grown over the years and presently has dojos in Arizona, Hawaii, California and Montana, including six in the Tucson-Phoenix metro area. The organization continues its perpetuation of the martial arts, under the guidance of Joseph Holck and his family; Vinson Holck, Barry Holck, Meleana Holck-Tomooka, Amy Holck, Aaron Holck, Emmet Holck, Joyce Holck, Wilbert Holck and Willard Holck. The Matsuno Ryu Goshinjitsu was founded by Vinson Holck.

Shoshin Ryu Yudanshakai: Shoshin Ryu Yudanshakai was founded by Michael Chubb to provide an educational, athletic, and recreational outlet to aid the physical, moral, and social development of adults and children within the framework of the sport and martial art of Danzan Ryu Jujitsu.

Jujitsu America: In 1978 Jay, Willy Cahill, John Chow-Hoon and Carl Beaver created Jujitsu America. They seceded from the Hawaiian based American Jujitsu Institute (which was the Kodenkan organization) after a conflict of ideologies and methodologies. This group represented the mainland jujjitsuka who decided to break away from the old organization.

The Hawaiian leaders wished to perpetuate the traditions of the Kodenkan system while the statesiders wanted to update and improve their fighting skills to reflect certain modern realities. The objects and purposes of Jujitsu America shall be to promote and foster the development and cultivation of a better understanding of the art and science of Jujitsu among its members; and to promote and propagate the teachings and philosophies of the recognized and established systems of Jujitsu in America and affiliate International Unions of Jujitsu. It is further the intent and purpose of Jujitsu America to encourage a systematic practice of modern Kodenkan Jujitsu and related arts, in honor of the founder of Kodenkan Jujitsu, Henry Okazaki.

Small Circle Jujitsu: Wally Jay is the founder of Small Circle Jujitsu. His Small Circle Theory improved and cumulated until 1987, when it officially became recognized as a complete jujitsu style on it’s own, now known as Small Circle Jujitsu. Many had recognized the small circle system as being a separate style for many years, but after an article in Black Belt magazine, it was official. Jay’s small circle jujitsu techniques are smooth and functional because of his creation of the flow, which interchangeable techniques are used to counterattack the moves of the attacker. Small Circle Jujitsu evolved from combining many sources and elements, and continues to evolve as Jay and others enhance the style with their knowledge.

KDRJA: The Kodenkan Danzan-Ryū Jujitsu Association (KDRJA) was founded by Sig Kufferath, Tony Janovich, Ramon Ancho, and Doug Kiehl. Its mission is: 1. To provide students with guidelines and a road map for understanding and practicing the ancient arts and sciences of Kodenkan Danzan Ryu Jujitsu as taught by H. Seishiro Okazaki. 2. To carry-on the teaching and perspective of the late Professors Kufferath and Ancho. 3. Support the activities of the Danzan Alliance.

Kilohana Martial Arts Association: Kilohana Martial Arts Association was founded by Sig Kufferath, James Muro, Russell Rhodes, and others. The Kilohana Charter states the organizational goals are to perpetuate the teachings and study of Danzan Ryū Ju Jitsu, Ken Ju Ryu Kenpo Ju Jitsu, Kōdōkan Jūdō and provide an environment for the study of other martial disciplines to provide the widest possible exposure to all aspects of martial arts for Kilohana Students.

Kodenkan Hombu: Kodenkan Hombu (Costa Rica), of Ramon Lono Ancho Jr. (deceased) and Bill Beach’s Hawaiian Jiu-Jitsu System, Inc., as well as The Southern California Jujitsu Association founded by Bill Randle.

Christian Jujitsu Association: The Christian Jujitsu Association was founded by Gene Edwards. The Christian Jujitsu Association is a Danzan Ryū organization including the Christian philosophy.

The Bushidokan Federation: The Bushidokan Federation is a union of dojos from around the world practicing the art of Dan Zan Ryu Zenyo Bujitsu. This system was originated by Herb Lague who began his martial arts studies in 1950, studying Boxing, Judo, Savatte, Aikido, Lama Pai, and Jujitsu.

Dan Zan Ryu Zenyo Bujutsu was formulated from these systems and uses a framework of Danzan Ryu Jujitsu to teach the principles of Zenyo throughout the system. While upholding certain principles common to many dojos, each dojo in the Bushidokan Federation retains its own autonomy and recognizes the sensei of each dojo as the head instructor. Member dojos are currently in Canada, Columbia, Ecuador, Israel, Italy, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Serbia/Yugoslavia, and the United States (Alaska, California, Florida, Hawaii, Maine, and Nevada).

Quantum Jujitsu: Quantum Jujitsu was founded by Jeremy Corbell in 1996. It has as its basis: Yoga, Capoeira and Danzan Ryu principles.

Hiraido Jujutsu: Hiraido Jujutsu was founded by Mark Fitzsimmons-Cann in 1999.

Kodenkan Ohana Alliance: The Kodenkan Ohana Alliance is a group of autonomous Kodenkan Danzan-Ryu Jujitsu and affiliated organizations dedicated to the principles handed down by Professor Henry S. Okazaki and aligning themselves to the Ohana family and actively supporting the Ohana convention event. This group is responsible for planning and implementing the Ohana convention. (see below)

Events: The most focal event of the post-Okazaki era in Danzan-Ryū is the biannual Ohana Celebration[citation needed], . This event includes members from all of the organizations focused on the teachings of Okazaki. The organizations come together for a weekend of clinics, competition, and camaraderie to share the Kodenkan spirit. Ohana was founded in 1990 by Mike Chubb and Bill Fisher, and is hosted by a different organization each time. It is usually held on Labor Day weekend.

Other past events include the two Kodenkan Okugi classes held in Santa Clara, CA. These two events, one in the summer of 1993 and one in the winter of 2003, brought a number of Danzan-RyÅ« instructors together to learn the system from Sig Kufferath and his senior student Tony Janovich. Kufferath had been a graduate of the same class held in 1948 under the direction of Okazaki. Over the many years, the methods of performing Okazaki’s arts had diverged into a number of different styles. This class, whose contents were designed by Janovich under the direction of Kufferath, was designed to show interested instructors how the arts had been done by Okazaki according to Kufferath, and how he had modified several arts.

Students were instructed in all of the combat arts as well as the eleven required methods of resuscitation. The students who graduated from these classes were awarded with Kaiden no Sho, or complete transmission certificates, and were given the title of either Renshi (trainer), Kyoshi (teacher) or Shihan (master). Before Kufferath’s death in 1999, he and Janovich had planned to hold a second class in 2003, ten years after the previous class. This had been the plan of Okazaki after his 1948 class, but his death in 1951 prevented this. Janovich carried out the plan and held this class in January and February of 2003. There are tentative plans for the Kodenkan dojo to hold another class in the future.