Table of Contents
Okazaki's Early Years
Seishiro Okazaki was born on January 28, 1890 in the town of Date in the Fukushima Prefecture of Japan. His father was Hanyeimon Okazaki and his mother was Fuka Suenaga. In 1906, Seishiro moved from Japan to the big island of Hawaii and settled in Hilo. In 1909, he was examined by a doctor who diagnosed Seishiro with incurable tuberculosis.
Master Tanaka's School
In relating this story to Sig Kufferath, Okazaki said, "With courage borne out of desperation, I went to Master Yoshimatsu Tanaka." At that time (1910), Tanaka was teaching Jujutsu at his Shinyukai dojo in Hilo and in Okazaki's words, "started to practice Jujutsu in earnest and in defiance of death."
Whether or not it was due to his frantic devotion to Jujutsu, Okazaki's tuberculosis healed and developed a strong, iron-like body. He believed that he owed his life to Jujutsu and devoted the rest of it to the teaching and promotion of the art.
The Beginning of Danzan-Ryu
While in Hilo, Okazaki mastered various Jujutsu techniques being taught at the Yoshin- Ryu, Iwaga-Ryu and Kosogabe-Ryu schools. He then combined these systems with Karate techniques from the Ryukyu Islands (Okinawa) and the knife techniques of the Phillipines to form the Danzan-Ryu school of Jujutsu. Danzan are the kanji (Chinese characters) that denote the Hawaiian islands, thus Danzan-Ryu is the Hawaiian school of Jujutsu. According to Kufferath, one of Okazaki's most influential instructors, Wo Chung, called Hawaii "Danzan", so Okazaki dedicated part of the system to Chung's memory. Chung taught Okazaki Mushi-Jutsu, which is the art of boxing withintent to kill, as Okazaki translated it. In 1917, he also studied the Hawaiian secret killing art of Lua under the tutelage of David Kainhee, a native Hawaiian. This training took place in the district of Puna on the island of Hawaii. He also studied western boxing and wrestling, and he learned dirk throwing from a Spaniard. Okazaki incorporated all of these arts into his system.
In addition to the martial systems, Okazaki studied all the resuscitation arts of Kappo and Seifukujutsu, the Japanese art of physical adjustment and restoration. He was a firm believer that one of the virtues of Jujutsu was its techniques of restoration from disabling blows.
In September of 1922, a heavyweight American boxing champion named K.O. Morris visited the islands and began to challenge Judo and other martial arts. His claim was that his boxing was superior to any Japanese fighting art. When the challenge was answered in the Hilo arena by several Japanese martial artists, they were defeated by Morris, causing them to lose face. According to Kufferath, Okazaki then challenged Morris to a match. Okazaki reportedly suffered a broken nose in the first round. He then retaliated with a reverse arm lock which broke Morris' arm and caused him to faint from the pain. Okazaki later said, "I enhanced the reputation of Japanese Jujutsu by defeating him with much splendor." Okazaki received a gold watch from the Japanese community for restoring its honor.
The Trip Back to Japan
In September 1924, Okazaki left Hilo and returned temporarily to Japan. This trip lasted five months, three of which he was actually in Japan and the other two months, he was in transit across the Pacific. During his stay in Japan, he traveled extensively, visiting more than 50 dojos scattered between Morioka City in the north and Kagoshima in the south. He mastered some 675 techniques of Jujutsu, all the while improving his own Danzan-Ryu. During this time, he visited the Kodokan and received a black belt in Judo from Prof. Jigoro Kano. He returned from Japan in February of 1925 and started to teach his Jujutsu on the island of Maui. (map)
In 1929, Okazaki moved to Honolulu on the island of Oahu. It was here that he opened the Okazaki "Sefukujutsu In", or Okazaki Adjustment and Restoration Clinic which would eventually be called the Nikko Restoration Sanitorium. At the same time, he opened his Kodenkan Dojo to teach his Danzan-Ryu Jujutsu while still testing and improving his system. People came in droves to the Sanitorium with so-called incurable nerve disorders, including President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Incidentally, President Roosevelt offered Okazaki a job at the White House as his private therapist. Okazaki, not wanting to leave the islands, declined the offer.
Okazaki was one of the first teachers to break from tradition and teach Japanese martial arts to non-Japanese. In fact, it is reported that in 1922, Okazaki taught Judo to two students, Dr. Baldwin of Hilo and Chief Fatoio of Samoa. For this he was severly reprimanded by his instructors. In Honolulu, however, Okazaki was the master. Kufferath relates that Okazaki was ostracized by other Japanese for doing this. Okazaki believed that eveyone should have the opportunity to learn Jujutsu, regardless of their heritage.
His first class in Honolulu consisted of six students: his son Hachiro, Kiyoshi Kawashima, Benjamin Marks, George Harbottle, William Simao and Y.S. Kim. In 1932, Richard Rickerts, Curly Friedman, Charles Wagner, Harold McLean, Bob Glover and Tantro Muggey enrolled in the Kodenkan. In 1936, they graduated with instructor's diplomas. Okazaki also formed an organization originally called the American Jujitsu Guild and later renamed to the American Jujitsu Institute (AJI).
Okazaki felt that his was the most comprehensive form of Jujutsu because it took what he believed were the optimum approaches to self-defense and combined them into one school. He was also an avid promoter of sport Judo and Sumo in Hawaii.
World War II
On December 7, 1941, forces from the Imperial Japanese Navy executed a surprised attack on the U.S. military bases on Oahu, thus entering the United States into war with Japan. What followed for island residents was martial law where many Japanese were arrested and detained at the military base on Sand Island. Many reports have indicated that Okazaki was detained as well. Recent documents released by the U.S. Department of Justice under the Freedom of Information Act do not show that Okazaki was detained. Eyewitnesses such as Steven J. Byzek, a black belt under Okazaki, says that Okazaki was taken in for questioning by the authorities, but that he was not detained. Probably the best account comes from the children of Okazaki. His youngest daughter Imi recalls that she visited him on at least two occasions in a prison camp. This was a clear recollection of her's since she had to make a long bus trip to get to the location. Some accounts of this time do indicate that the Kodenkan was closed for a time, but was later reopened.
Ironically, it was during the war that Okazaki helped to developed the U.S. Army's field manual on hand-to-hand fighting (FM 21-150) and also taught many servicemen the art of Jujutsu.
Note 1: Sig Kufferath, who was the Army hand-to-hand combat instructor in Honolulu during the war played a key role in the development of this manual.
Note 2: The current version of FM 21-150 can be found HERE.
One of Okazaki's dreams was to have a Danzan-Ryu school in every state of the union, which is today becoming a reality. Okazaki used the Kyu/Dan ranking system for Danzan- ryu. (Kyu are the undergraduate ranks, while Dan are the black belt degrees.) He also used the traditional certification, awarding the Mokuroku (instructor's scroll) to black belts who achieved instructor level. These scrolls were from 8 to 10 feet in length, handwritten in Japanese and contained much of Okazaki's philosophy, a history of Jujutsu and a catalog of Danzan-Ryu techniques. Those who received the scrolls were considered official Danzan-Ryu teachers and black belts were not allowed to teach or organize their own classes until they received a scroll. Scrolls were usually awarded when the student received their second-degree black belt in Danzan-Ryu. "We practiced six days a week and Okazaki had a special Sunday class at his home which was by invitation only", Kufferath recalls.
The other traditional certification was the Menkyo Kaiden or Kaidensho (certificate of mastery), which was a diploma, handwritten in Japanese. This diploma certified that the named person was a master of Danzan-Ryu and had learned the entire system. Kaidensho were given to students after they received personal instruction from Okazaki on all of the secrets and Okugi, or "inner mysteries" of Danzan-Ryu. Sig Kufferath and a number of other Okazaki students attended a special Okugi class in February of 1948. The curriculum included the advanced katas Kiai No Maki, Shinnin No Maki, Shinyo No Maki and Shingen No Maki, as well as commando techniques, serious and fatal blows and resuscitation. Some of the other attendees were Marion Anderson, William Ah Moo, Wally and Bernice Jay, Steve Byzek, Richard and Esther Takamoto, Carl Beaver, Jack Wheat and David Nuuhiwa. The graduation was held on February 22, 1948 where each of the graduates received a Kaidensho and the title of Shihan.
The other purpose of this class was to get all of the instructors together to update their skills with the most recent Danzan-Ryu teachings. Okazaki had planned to repeat this class every ten years, but this did not happen.
This photo shows the post Okugi dinner for the students, the Professor and other invited guests.
Okazaki's Last Years
In December of 1948, Okazaki suffered a stroke that left him partially paralyzed. This severly reduced his teaching ability and much of this was done by his instructors. He suffered another stroke in 1950 which put him in the hospital. At 4:00 PM on July 12, 1951, Henry Seishiro Okazaki died from the effects of a third stroke.
The First Replacement
The passing of Okazaki left the AJI in a chaotic state. In 1952, an election was held to select a replacement for the Professor. The candidates were Bill Ah Moo, John Cahill and Sig Kufferath. The AJI required the officers to be Hawaiian residents, so Cahill, who had moved to California was disqualified. When the election was held Kufferath won by a large margin. He continued in the capacity of AJI President until 1960 when he moved to the mainland. He did, however, remain the only Professor until 1965. After unsuccessfully trying to get Kufferath to return to Hawaii, the AJI elected Sam Luke as the next Professor in 1965. After this the AJI appointed a Board of Professors.
Danzan-Ryu on the Mainland
Many black belts received their instructor's scrolls and moved to the U.S. mainland to open Danzan-Ryu schools. Among them were Bud Estes (1939), Richard Rickerts (1941), Ray Law (1939) and John Cahill (1946). These four formed the American Judo and Jujitsu Federation (AJJF). Wally Jay, who founded Small Circle Jujitsu, came to the mainland in 1950 to teach Jujitsu after studying Danzan-Ryu in his native Hawaii. Jay with Willy Cahill (John's son) and James Muro later formed Jujitsu America. William Montero came to San Jose, CA in 1947 from Hawaii and began teaching Danzan-Ryu. Other mainland organizations included the Shoshin Ryu under Carl Beaver, Kodenkan Yudanshakai in Arizona under Joe Holck, the Kodenkan Hombu in Costa Rica under Ramon Lono Ancho, Jr., the Jujitsu Institute of America in Florida and Texas under Bill Beach (a student of Richard Takamoto and Ray Law) and his brother William R. Beach, the Southern California Jujitsu Association under Bill Randle (a student of Ray Law) and the Kodenkan Danzan-Ryu Association under Kufferath, Ancho, Tony Janovich and Doug Kiehl. In addition to these, Danzan-Ryu headmaster Sig Kufferath and his senior student Tony Janovich give autonomous ranking through their dojo in Campbell, California.
Forty-five years after the first Okugi class, Profs. Sig Kufferath and Tony Janovich repeated the class that Okazaki earlier held. The curriculum was the same as the previous class. On two weekends in the summer of 1993, 25 black belt instructors from all over the U.S. came to the Campbell dojo to learn the inner mysteries of Danzan-Ryu. Kufferath and Janovich presented the advanced katas and resuscitation that Okazaki taught earlier. They also presented updates and improvements to the system in the same manner as Okazaki.
24 of the 25 students graduated from this class and received a Kaidensho that was identical to those given in 1948. These students have since gone on to propagate the Okazaki system. One particular graduate, Robert Hudson, recently received his 6th Dan and was appointed to the board of Professors of the AJJF.
Note: Much of the above information was taken from an article written by
Tony Janovich in the April 1990 issue of Black Belt Magazine.
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