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Danzan-Ryu (???, “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.
For a Danzan Ryu syllabus, see Danzan Ryu Lists.
In 1924, Okazaki returned to Japan and underwent a study of the various schools, or “ryu-ha” of the most popular Jujutsu styles of the times: Yoshin Ryu, Namba-Shoshin Ryu, Iwaga Ryu, Kosogabe Ryu, Kodokan Judo and several others. When he returned to the Islands later that year, he continued his study of Jujutsu under the various masters who had come to Hawaii from Japan. Incorporating, not only traditional Jujutsu 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 Ryu. 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 Hawaiian Style.
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 1941.
Kodenkan and Kokua The Kodenkan was the name of Okazaki’s school in Hawaii. The name Kodenkan may be translated as “The School of the Ancient Tradition” or as “The School in Which Senior Students Transmit the Tradition.” Both translations are accurate. The method of instruction requires senior students to teach less advanced students in the spirit that Okazaki declared was inherent in the Hawaiian word kokua: to mutually help one another. This spirit of kokua is the foundational philosophy of the AJJF.
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).
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 unmolested, 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 Richard Rickerts, one of Okazaki’s most senior students.
Okazaki suffered a stroke in July 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.