Success is in the Beginning

by Prof. Tony Janovich

I began practicing Danzan-Ryu Jujutsu under Prof. Sig Kufferath on my twelfth birthday. I had no idea that the art would become part of my life. I practice Danzan-Ryu 365 days a year. During my formative years of training, I spent many, many hours after classes and on weekends in discussion with my teacher. The topics of conversation were on Danzan-Ryu founder Prof. Henry Seishiro Okazaki’s life, deeds and accomplishments.

One important topic was the meaning of how one advanced through the technique lists and how that process pertained to the development of a human being. We spent many hours throughout my training years (and even today) discussing the esoteric principles of Jujutsu and how they apply to our students.

I’d like to reflect on what Prof. Kufferath taught me about the lists. First came “Yawara” やわら, which he translated as “softness.” He told me that Prof. Okazaki used Hiragana (a Japanese phonetic alphabet) to write “Yawara” rather than the Kanji (Chinese characters). Okazaki did not want the term to be confused with “Ju” or “Yawara” in Kanji, since they are the same character. It was also Okazaki’s preference to write it this way. The ancient system of self-defense was called Yawara before it became known as Jujutsu. Prof. Kufferath stressed many, many times when I was a kid that Yawara was the most important list in the entire system. He said that there is much more to Yawara than the twenty arts on the board. These twenty are just the beginning. (Note: The term “board” refers to the painted planks of wood that Okazaki used to list the techniques. It is often used as a synonym for “list” in Danzan-Ryu.)

Prof. Kufferath was going to see that I learned Yawara well. As he told me later, “When I finish teaching you the lists, when we reach the last, we will have returned to the first, Yawara.” I never forgot what he said, and it turned out to be true.

When I started learning the next list, “Nage Te” 投手 or throwing, it was represented or written in the Kanji form, as were the rest of the lists. In Nage Te, one learns how weak a human being can be in certain positions. One learns to offset a another person’s balance and easily throw them using the principles of “Ju”, or delicacy, gentleness. The ultimate aim in Nage is to be able to throw with a very light grip, using only the thumb and first two fingers along with internal strength (Ki). This list also teaches knowledge of the laws of movement and the body’s center of gravity. As stated by Kodokan Judo founder Jigoro Kano, “Maximum efficiency, minimum effort.”

With this combination comes effortless throwing. With this I was taught that in life, one must learn to relax and be delicate with all things. When one accomplishes this, life’s problems pass with ease. When the mind and spirit are in a calm state, one is able to offset life’s problems as easily as offsetting a person’s balance in a throw. Most of the time, however, the throwing does not seem effortless at all. Through the proper description of the principles and training these traits will come to the practitioner. Time provides the rest.

Now that I had learned how to throw, it was time for “Shime Te” 絞手 or strangles. This list taught me the locations at which pressure could be applied to the body to make a person submit or lose consciousness. I was also taught proper joint locking techniques and generally how to handle myself if I was either thrown to the ground or went to the ground of my own volition after throwing someone.

Prof. Kufferath explained that the list was to be done from a self-defense standpoint and not a competitive one. This was most important because our system was based on self-defense. Competition has rules but the street does not, therefore one must practice real self-defense.

During this time I was taught and could see that Jujutsu was more than just fighting techniques. It was quite a complicated system requiring much effort to master. Jujutsu is both physical and mental training. Prof. Kufferath said that one must diligently learn “Newaza” 寝技or mat work because this is a drawback in other martial arts. He said that some arts do not have any Newaza at all.

Prof. Kufferath stressed that one should never use what they have learned without sufficient justification. The confidence gained in learning the first three lists means not having to prove anything to anyone. Thus Shime turns out to be a list about “attitudes.” Shime illustrates that one must be gentle and kind, not aggressive and mean.

When Prof. Kufferath taught me “Oku Te” 奥手 the advanced or deeper arts, he said that this was a combination of what I had already learned plus a lot more. This will teach one to be fluid in movement and to combine techniques smoothly, moving from one to another with ease. It will also give the student an insight on life. Techniques in Oku are more complicated and difficult to master than in previous lists. Similarly in life, as one grows older, things are not as easy as they once were. Being able to combine previous experience with maturity allows a person to easily carry on with even more complexities.

This was, and still is my favorite list, at first to learn, and now to teach and practice. As there is a mid-point in life, Oku is the mid-point in Jujutsu. If a person makes it past this list, they will finish Jujutsu. It will be with them all of their life and with it, their life will be very satisfying. Also, when properly taught, Oku is a very practical board for use in the street.

Prof. Kufferath has always told me how important “Kiai” 氣合 or spirit shout is. He said that one should practice it from the “Hara” or lower region. Using the throat only is of no use at all. Kiai is an outpouring of a person’s positive energy (Ki). The reason for all the breathing exercises and meditation lessons he gave me were all now coming to light.

Special exercises on “Kiai” were given to me, reminding me that the stronger mind will overpower the weaker one where “Kiai” is concerned. The “Kiai” must be from a positive and good mind, not an evil one. Then the power of “Kiai will be used for good purposes.

Learning the techniques of “Kiai No Maki” 氣合巻, scroll of the spirit shout, was very interesting using the “Kiai” with every technique was emphasized. Prof. Kufferath also taught me silent “Kiai”, for internal strength. It is used for techniques such as Shiraha Watari 白刃渡 (Naked Sword Walk), and some of the Tessen 鉄扇 (Iron Fan) arts and Tachi 太刀 (sword). Escape from torture sticks was also an area where silent “Kiai” could be used effectively.

He taught me that the “Kiai” was to combine the mind and body into one. Whether silent or verbal, the reasons for “Kiai” are apparent, unification of mind and body. Prof. Kufferath emphasized that it was a shout, not a yell. Even the words show this. Say “Shout”, it comes from below. Say “Yell”, it comes from the throat. “Kiai No Maki” is a very important list for development of a black belt holder. It is the intermediate and most necessary step before becoming a black belt.

Also during this phase I was taught the police arts Keisatsu Gijutsu 警察技術, commandos’ arts, fatal blows, nerve arts, and the special ladies course Fujin Goshin No Maki 婦人護身巻. All of these are “Kiai” techniques. More and more, I could see how the study of Jujutsu was helping me to become a more mature person. I was becoming more willing to help people without thinking of myself first. It was a fantastic feeling. It left me wanting more because I felt this was all quite fascinating; the arts, philosophy, history, etc. It was great.

Prof. Okazaki gave Prof. Kufferath all the lists, including the higher arts, in their original Japanese. As Prof. Kufferath is half-Japanese, he used to have his parents help translate the material, and then go over it with Prof. Okazaki. Prof. Kufferath’s mother was Japanese and his father could speak, read and write Japanese. His father had served with the German consulate in Japan for 23 years before moving the family to Hawaii. Japanese was spoken in the Kufferath household along with German. Everybody in the family spoke four or five languages. His father spoke seven languages.

As I was being taught the next list “Shinnin No Maki” 神男巻, Prof. Kufferath told me what the Kanji represented according to his master. The first character “Shin”, represents the gods or “Kami.” The second character “Nan” or “Otoko”, represents man or male. Later in the mid-1940’s Okazaki changed the middle character to mean person rather than man using “Nin” or “Hito” . It did not change the progressive meaning, it simply took the gender out. So the list’s name became 神人巻. Okazaki was also a leader in equal rights for women. He made his art accessible to women and placed no restrictions on their training.

The character “Kami” or “Shin” is actually inaccurate in this context. The characters best translation for our purposes here would be “that which is above”, meaning above mankind, kind of in a pagan sense. The gods or kami are thought of in that sense, in that kami are on top and people are below. The people strive to work their way to the top to realize kami or perfection. In this context, it refers to a person’s spiritual development.

One must remember that Prof. Okazaki followed “Shinto” 神道. “Shinto” means “way of the gods.” It worships nature, and its goal is man in harmony with nature. “Shinto” believes that life is a constant progression. So “Shin Nin” illustrates that a progression has been made to the first of the black belt lists. Thus, there is “Shin” and “Nin” representing the progression of man to “Kami” or “Shin.” This list is very important to the black belt holder. It is to be practiced to almost full effect of the techniques, barring major injury to one’s partner. This list is done with a fighting spirit, utilizing all of the previous training and experience.

Prof. Kufferath says that in the old days a student would have to pay their senior black belt instructor to teach the “Shinnin.” Usually the fee was $25.00 for the entire board. (Note: Only Prof. Okazaki taught the lists following “Shinnin.”) After WWII, he discontinued the Shinnin fee and it was included at no extra charge. Prof. Kufferath noted that Okazaki was always giving people a break, not charging for people who could not afford it, or working out some sort of trade.

Shinnin is the list that I liked to practice with diligence. I have done the entire list many hundreds of times, not including teaching it. One’s growth in Jujutsu at this point provides satisfaction and accomplishment. I could have ended my training there, and still would have been satisfied with my training years. As far as self-defense goes reaching Shinnin will give one a repertoire of powerful techniques that will surpass many other martial arts.

Prof. Kufferath told me that he felt I had the spirit of Jujutsu and the ability to comprehend it to the fullest. At this point, he emphasized Amma 按摩 (massage), Seifukujitsu 整復術 and Kappo 活法 techniques more than in previous years. (Note: The term Seifukujutsu means “restoration” and Kappo means “resuscitation.”) I was at his house almost every night after class or on weekends going over some aspect of massage, Seifukujitsu, Kappo, or other Jujutsu arts. This was also a time when he would bring out different items to show me. Pictures, notes, books, medals and other interesting items were among the things he showed me. Being very interested in history, I was loving it. I think the history behind all of this is very important, and should not be forgotten.

When he introduced me to “Shin Yo No Maki” 神陽巻 (顧飛力), he told me that this list was for my use only and after teaching it to me it was not to be revealed to any one. It is the step to becoming powerful, Ko Tobu Chikara 顧飛力 are the characters or subtitle used with Shinyo. When used like this it is pronounced, “Ko Hi Ryoku.” To the Jujutsu student this means, “Reexamine what you’ve done in the past, then take your leap to strength with Shinyo.” Prof. Okazaki told this to Prof. Kufferath over 40 years ago. In “Shinyo”, Shin again represents the gods or can also mean “that which is above.” “Yo” in this context, denotes a positive mind. Thus, the student is progressing to “Kami” and has a positive approach to it. These arts are for instructors only and are complicated and deadly.

Some of the Shinyo arts give the student a preview of what is to come in the next phase. In order to protect oneself and the dojo, Shinyo was designed to have some knockout blows and nerve arts to equip an instructor. At this point in one’s training, it would not be necessary to go on. Many students do not.

Only a person properly guided through the progression of Danzan-Ryu Jujutsu should be taught these arts. Thus, there is “Shinyo Kohiryoku”, a positive mind progressing toward becoming powerful and toward becoming “Kami.” At this point, one enters a realm of new light. One can now teach others to a point of satisfaction for both student and teacher. There is also the knowledge of how to safeguard the system and the teacher’s dojo 道場 or school.

We now must come back to “Shinto.” “Shinto” believes that man himself is biologically descended from the “Kami” (gods). Therefore, anything that exists can realize its potential, and become “Kami.” At this point, Prof. Okazaki told Prof Kufferath, we have “Shin Gen No Maki” 神原巻. “Gen” can mean health, life or gaining the ultimate truth. In this case, when “Gen” is used as the second character in a proper name it means origin or source. So we are back to the origin, beginning or kami in this sense. This means that Shingen has led us to the end, which once again is the beginning. The circle is complete and now one travels a full circle in their life and art.

Mastery of this list means mastery of life and death. The student is taught the secret deadly arts and how to reverse them. The student, in their own life, has come full circle back to the beginning; back to “Yawara.” Through “Shin Gen” one attains harmony with the universe and progressed to their fullest potential. Not everyone will get to “Shin Gen.” I will say, however, that if one puts their heart and soul into their Jujutsu practice and if they are guided correctly through the system, it will all come to pass.

Some day you will progress and find the true meaning of Jujutsu. It was during this phase that I found out why he had me hitting a rock daily and pinching table ends and various other strange exercises for years. Prof. Kufferath told me that these are all in preparation for actually being able to do Shingen arts. It all came around full circle, we were back to Yawara and applying Shingen from there.

All through my training years he was heading me in the direction of completing the circle. Many things he said and had me practice seemed strange, but it all became apparent at the end, which was the beginning too. His guidance, training, and wisdom helped me through many obstacles in my life. I owe a debt of gratitude to my teacher and of course to his teacher, because if it were not for Okazaki this story would have never happened.

I found that Jujutsu helped me as a kid, a teenager and as an adult. The teachings and philosophies given to me by my teacher were and still are invaluable. The secret to Jujutsu is not becoming a good fighter. If one trains hard, that will come automatically. The true value is in becoming a person full of character and most important a healer.

I must say that the best thing I ever learned from Prof. Kufferath was the trait of humbleness, by his living example of the Japanese saying quoted in Okazaki’s Makimono 巻物 or scroll. The following is the original quote fron the orative section of the makimono Prof. Kufferath received from Prof. Okazaki upon graduation to instructor grade.


It reads, “Minoru hodo atama no hikuki inaho kana.” The best English translation would be “The boughs that bear most, hang lowest”, even though the saying actually speaks of rice stalks. It talks of being humble and my teacher is the epitome of that word.

Even before that quote Okazaki said in a previous orative section, “learn to be humble and guard against arrogance and haughtiness.” So it seems Okazaki felt that being humble was a very important aspect of Danzan-Ryu Jujutsu. He taught my teacher this concept by example and it can be seen in other Okazaki students, with few exceptions. Prof. Kufferath use to say things like, “The less people know about you the better.” If he was carrying his gi (uniform) with the old tattered obi (belt) to a demonstration and people were around as we entered the building, he would put it in my bag before we got to them. He did this so he would not draw attention to himself.

My teacher taught many things by example, just as Okazaki did. As the old saying goes, “If you do not live what you preach, how do you expect your students to do it.” Prof. Kufferath is of the old school, believing that you lead by example. I am very grateful for that example both in Jujutsu and in daily life.

The student must be fully dedicated to Jujutsu and its esoteric principles to attain entry into the last list. They must be of superior character and most of all, they must strive for harmony with the universe. These arts are not for everyone. Actually these arts are for healers as opposed to killers. A prerequisite for Shingen is one’s ability in the Danzan-Ryu healing arts.

After learning Shingen it may take the student several years to really figure it all out. Some people will never get it. Many people thinks it is a list of killing arts, when in fact it is the ultimate healing lesson. In Japanese there is the term “Kappo Sappo” which means to cure or kill. There is a fine line between the kappo and the sappo. Anyone can cause hurt, it takes special skill to heal.

Prof. Okazaki said in his makimono that a person should put public interests over private profits and selfish gains. One’s daily conduct should be guided by the principles of sincerity, gentleness, modesty, respect, harmony as well as moderation. These seem to be more like traits of a healer than a killer, so we see that the purpose of all of this is character development, not learning to hurt someone.

Prof. Okazaki stated in the makimono entitled “Danzan-Ryu Judo Moku Roku”, “Character development begins with an appreciation of the blessings of nature and the universe, which in turn ought to take the form of filial piety and obedience towards one’s parents, harmony between husband and wife, as well as among brothers and sisters at home.” (Note: Moku Roku 目録 means “catalog.”)

Thus he has defined family relationships, which brings us back to “Shinto”, a religion concerned with past generations and even more ancient generations, going back all the way to the gods or “Kami” themselves. In “Shinto”, we are the progeny of the gods, hence the meanings of the last three lists according to “Shinto” ways, as given to me by my master who was taught by the founder himself.