The art of Jujutsu has enjoyed resurgence in popularity over the last decade. At the end of the Meiji Era (late 1800’s) there was only a handful of jujutsu ryu in Japan. Indeed most of the martial art schools taught some form of kenjutsu. Many of the jujutsu schools also had the sword within their teachings.
Nowadays, there are literally hundreds of jujutsu “styles.” Most of these have no, or very tenuous, links to the art of jujutsu as known several decades ago in Japan. Unfortunately this has led to the “watering down”, loss, or non-teaching of numerous key principles of jujutsu. This is not to say that many of these systems are not effective, many are. However, the true historical Japanese jujutsu has a proven record of several hundred years and it is incumbent upon us to keep this art alive.
It is the belief of some jujutsu Sensei that the period from 1882 to 1951 threw a proverbial curve ball at the art of jujutsu. Early in this aforementioned period, Jigoro Kano Sensei began his school of Judo, which he intended as another school of jujutsu. This school, like many jujutsu ryu before it, combined many of the other jujutsu school’s principles and began a homogenization of many of the jujutsu ryu, ultimately leading to their demise or severe decline in esteem and recognition . The popularity of Judo as a sport accelerated this trend. Interestingly, it has been said that Professor Kano supported the sport aspect of Judo hoping that as students became too old to compete they would seek out the more traditional instruction and waza based in koryu jujutsu.
Karate was introduced to Japan and enjoyed some popularity with Japanese martial artists. In fact, there are numerous stories of karateka defeating jujutsuka at this time ostensibly proving that it was a more effective art. This may have led to further declines in the art of jujutsu.
During the Second World War, several ranking jujutsu Sensei perished and a number of the makimono (hand scrolls) were destroyed, thus the generational flow of knowledge stopped or was seriously hindered. After the war, all martial arts, including jujutsu were outlawed in Japan until 1951. This dealt another blow to jujutsu, although some still practiced the art secretly. Interestingly, at this point we now see the birth of many of the “do” arts and the loss of “jutsu” arts during this period. Martial artists of the day were quick to display and advertise their arts as vehicles of spiritual and personal development as well as a cultural, versus martial, tradition.
One of Shindo Ryu’s own forefathers, Ohtsuka Sensei, provides evidence of many of these above noted phenomena. Ohtsuka Sensei combined many of Karate’s techniques into his art of jujutsu. Some argue this fact vice versa, in that Ohtsuka incorporated jujutsu into karate. However, it cannot be denied that Ohtsuka continually named his versions of Shindo Yoshin Ryu Jujutsu combined with Karate as forms of jujutsu, for example “Sunshu Wado Jujutsu” or “Wado Kempo Jujutsu.” As well, the kata of Wado ryu have bunkai that are jujutsu. Ohtsuka Sensei is well-known to have wanted to make his art as “Japanese” as possible. Jujutsu was the indigenous martial art derived from the warrior class whereas Karate was the “import” that was derived from the peasant classes. Finally, Ohtsuka embraced the cultural and personal development aspects of the martial arts and continually used the term “wado” or way of peace.
The history of Yamanaka ha Shindo Ryu jujutsu begins in the mid to late 1800’s with the art of Yoshin Ryu as taught in the dojo of Hirotsuke Totsuka. One of his finest students was Katsunosuke Matsuoka, was also a student of Jikishin Kage Ryu, Hokushin Itto Ryu, and Tenjin Shinyo Ryu. Matsuoka founded his own jujutsu system based on the principles of Totsuka’s Yoshin Ryu. Moreover he included other aspects from the other styles in which he was trained including some of the strategies still found today in Shindo Ryu jujutsu. Matsuoka called this system Shindo Yoshin Ryu which translates as “new way willow spirit school”. In later years the first kanji , pronounced “shin”, was changed from one meaning “new” to one meaning “sacred”, although still pronounced “shin.” Thus, “new willow spirit school” became the “sacred willow spirit school.”
One of Matsuoka’s students, Matakichi Inose (Nidai Soke) taught and awarded Menkyo Kaiden was to Yokiyoshi Tatsusaburo Nakayama. Nakayama taught jujutsu at the Shimozuma Middle School for approximately 20 years. Nakayama was a classically trained Kenjutsu and Jujutsu instructor. He was a student of Jikishin Kage Ryu and Onoha Ittoryu kenjutsu, both swordsmanship schools. It is with these origins of the sword that influenced in some of the movements in Yamanaka-ha Shindo-Ryu Jujutsu.
Nakayama’s most famous student was Hironori Ohtsuka who was born on June 1st, 1892 in Shimodate City, Ibaraji, Japan. His father was Dr. Tokujiro Ohtsuka who operated a clinic. As a boy he listened to his mother’s uncle, Chojiro Ebashi, tell exhilarating tales of samurai endeavours. Ebashi, too, was a respected samurai warrior. Ohtsuka began martial arts training at five practicing jujutsu under his uncle’s instruction.
By the age of 13, Ohtsuka began his formal training in Shindo Yoshin-ryu Jujutsu at the Shimozuma Middle School. By the time of his 29th birthday (June 1st, 1921) he received menkyo kaiden (licence of full transmission which was the highest licence) in Shindo Yoshin Ryu. Ohtsuka eventually combined some of the precepts and techniques of Okinawan Karate with his jujutsu to form his original art of Shinshu Wado Jujutsu, next called Wado Jujutsu Kempo which eventually became known as Wado Ryu.
One of Ohtsuka Sensei’s premier students was Masaru Shintani (1927-2000) who originally began the Kokusai Shindo Remnei – World Shindo Federation. As well, he was a founding member of the World Union of Martial Arts.
Shintani Sensei was born February 3, 1927 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada to Japanese parents who had immigrated to this Canada. Shintani Sensei’s mother, Tsuruye Shintani, was a daughter of a Samurai from the famous Matsumoto Clan. Shintani gained his early training in a number of Japanese martial arts including those taught to his family members in the Matsumoto. He eventually became yudansha in Judo, Aikido, and Kendo. Sensei Masaru Shintani was a direct student of Ohtsuka Sensei for many years. Shintani Sensei trained in the martial arts for approximately sixty years. Notably, prior to his death in 2000, he had attained the rank of Kudan (9th) degree black belt Wado Ryu, the highest ranking in North America.
(1979 Shintani Sensei was graded to 8th degree in Wado karate, and was presented with his 9th degree certificate for future use.)
His early childhood training was supplemented while he was a boy in an internment camp for Canadians of Japanese descent in British Columbia during the Second World War. He met Akira Kitegawa who had trained in Shuri-te style karate under Sokun Matsumura and Anko Itosu. After about 20 years of training with Kitagawa Sensei, Shintani Sensei had risen to the rank of rokudan (6th). Shintani remained a faithful student of Kitagawa Sensei until Kitagawa’s death.
After Kitagawa passed away, he began his search to learn more about the martial arts. Throughout the 1950’s Shintani Sensei studied, trained and competed in Japan. This culminated with him winning the All Japan Karate Championships where he first came to the attention of Ohtsuka Sensei. This meeting would flourish into a life long student-teacher relationship and caring friendship.
By 1968, Ohtsuka Sensei placed Shintani Sensei exclusively in charge of teaching for the Wado Kai in North America and appointed Shintani Sensei to head the Wado Kai for North America. Throughout these years, their close relationship was often spent in Kuden (oral tradition) with Shintani Sensei absorbing as much information as possible from his teacher.
Masaru Shintani Sensei was sometimes known to use different hand techniques than those practiced by other traditional Wado stylists. It must be remembered that Shintani Sensei knew the hand techniques of Shuri Te, Wado ryu, jujutsu, aikido as well as those incorporated from the techniques of his ancestors from the Matsumoto clan. He was a true modern samurai as evidenced by his mastery of several martial arts. He understood the deep jujutsu roots of his art and used hand techniques from these as well.
Shintani Sensei developed a large organization with in excess of 1200 black belts. He, like Ohtsuka Sensei, went further back through his martial arts heritage of Shindo Yoshin Ryu and developed his own organization called the World Shindo Federation or Kokusai Shindo Renmei. In deference to his teacher’s art (Shindo Yoshin Ryu), he called his art Shindo as well; however, the kanji “shin” was reverted to mean “new” once again and “do” was translated as “way”. Thus the “new way” was born.
One of the vehicles for teaching Shindo ryu is a staff or rod similar to the Jo but is a sanshaku bo or hanbo. Shintani Sensei developed many techniques for Shindo ryu from the hanbo (3 foot staff) jutsu techniques of his samurai ancestors. Today, the hanbojutsu waza of Shindo ryu are practiced as a martial art around the world. As well, many of its techniques were refined as defensive tactics for law enforcement.
During his lifetime, Shintani Sensei certified over 1200 black belts in hanbojutsu of Shindo ryu. In the Yamanaka-ha, the cognate weapons training is hanbojutsu, rather than the sword which is often more typical in other traditional jujutsu ryu.
Shintani Sensei died May 7, 2000 in Kapuskasing Ontario Canada. When Shintani Sensei was eulogized it was noted that he had a dream to teach and continue Ohtsuka Sensei’s ways of harmony (“wado”). The eulogy noted that Shintani Sensei’s dream would be fulfilled with the help of his Senate members, his yudansha and all the members of his organization. Specifically noted was the commitment of Ronald Michio Yamanaka Sensei to carry this dream forward. Yamanaka Sensei has continued to promote Shintani’s dream of Ohtsuka’s ways through the continued teaching and promotion of Shindo Ryu Jujutsu.
Ron Yamanaka Sensei is the leader of The Yudansha Kobujutsu Karate-Do Federation (YKKF) which he founded in 1978. This is a fraternal organization of many martial arts and styles. The YKKF recognizes the intrinsic worth of each. Central to the core of the YKKF is the focus on the development of traditional martial arts and the preservation of their history and lineage. Yamanaka Sensei commands the YKKF with grace and a firm commitment to the art. The YKKF now acts as the International Governing Body for Yamanaka-ha Shindo Ryu Jujutsu. Yamanaka Sensei has trained over 100,000 people in 22 countries in the martial arts. The seminars he presents are informative and well-received.
He maintains his status as a student of many great masters including the late Shihan Masaru Shintani of the Wado Kai, Kokusai Shindo Renmei and the late Hanshi Miyazato of the Jundokan Goju Ryu. Notably, he has just celebrated his 40th year in the martial arts.
Other Influences on the Yamanaka Ha
Another tradition followed by Yamanaka Sensei was his encouragement and direction for a few of his chosen senior yudansha (black belt holders) to research the traditional jujutsu arts of Japan. This direction was based on an ancient practice known as musha shugyo (warrior pursuit of knowledge). This entailed the examination of numerous modern and historic documents. As well, some began studying other jujutsu ryu. This was a common custom in days of yore as it helped strengthen a school’s art by introducing diversity or, at the very least, being aware of what the others were doing. This modern adaptation of an antiquated custom resulted in several long and ongoing relationships including Michael LaMonica, Kaiden Shihan San Dai Kichu of Hakko Ryu Jujutsu amongst many others.