The Portals of Danzan Ryu - Part I

Sensei Dale Kahoun

It's Personal

I have been wanting to write a follow-up article to the ‘Foundations of Danzan Ryu’ article I wrote a few years ago. That study explored as far as I could, where our techniques came from. Many of those koryu (arts instructed at the time of the samurai) ryuha (schools) are still practiced in Japan. That article included who the current headmasters were and where they are now. The writing showed that the Japanese styles were interconnected, and how Judo also came from a modern (post samurai era) amalgamation of those Japanese styles. 

Professor Okazaki also incorporated some other techniques gleaned from other martial arts including: Judo, Hawaiian Lua, Okinawa-te (Karate), Kung fu, Eskrima (Philippine stick/knife fighting) and I’m sure he had pointers in there from wrestling and boxing as it was done in the time of Professor Okazaki.

Sensei Dale Kahoun is shown slicing cleanly through his target using a technique deveoped through practice of the daito no maki (sword) list of Danzan Ryu Jujitsu.Martial study is a very personal experience. There are different reasons why you started your study, how it affected you, what your level of commitment to practice was, how successful the experience was, who your teachers were, were your goals met, what affect did it have on you and on others you influence.

We’re not going to have experienced all the same things. Probably some of our learnings or observations are similar; I can only offer you some of mine. These experiences though have been my own version of “Through the Looking Glass” only as a martial artist. That being said I need to digress into a personal diatribe of my study and practice. 

What the gist of this writing is, though, (in Part III), will be insights I had concerning Danzan Ryu while writing and putting together the 400+ page techniques workbook ‘The Kilohana Workbook’ for Professor Sig Kufferath (and for myself and others). Part I lays the groundwork; Part II tells about  mindset (or maybe opening the mind to studying) and studying from Professor Kufferath.

I began my study of Danzan Ryu (Kodenkan) Jujitsu and at the same time Judo (Kodokan) in January of 1969. Then I was eighteen years old; now I’ve entered my sixties, and I’m still learning these martial arts. My goal at that time was to become a police officer (now I’m retired from that profession). I wanted practical/tactical techniques for self-defense and capture. I wasn’t disappointed; it’s been all I’d hoped for, and much more.

To do a really pretty kata technique, you need a trained uke. Uke does a proper kata attack and a good breakfall and you have demonstrated a technique. With an impromptu antagonist out on the sidewalk or asphalt, who comes at you with some oddball attack, you respond with something that you think might fit the piece of the puzzle he’s presented. The defensive response rarely looks like kata (on occasion it actually does), but what usually happens is thumpy and bumpy. The opponent has made two really bad choices: 1) Attacking or resisting a cop; and 2) Not knowing how to do a proper breakfall.

I never did an actual hip throw, just mostly sweeps, reaps, and trips. What I found best to use were; Osotogari, Osotogaruma, Harai Goshi, Tai Otoshi, and Okuriashi Barai. Pain compliance worked, like wristlocks, armlocks/armbars, and quite a few carotid restraints. I have given out whacks with all three styles of police baton; sidehandle, straight, and expandable. Remember usually people aren’t so much ‘An Enemy’ as much as they are usually someone out of control, often under the influence of one thing or another (not too uncommon in California). They may have needed a bit of a lesson, but I never intended to maim anyone. That also doesn’t mean it was sport or in good fun, when they’re ‘out of control’ they can hurt, maim or kill you. So I started my study with fairly serious intent.

As a preparation for combat, Judo can offer the mental preparation, the internal dialog, and the ability to respond under pressure a little like it was a real confrontation. Advanced Judo practitioners have been known to plan their opponent’s next move and take advantage of it. Whether awarded by rank or not this demonstrates mastery. You might be aware that in the ‘old days’ of Danzan Ryu a brown belt was preferred in Judo before you were promoted to Shodan in Jujitsu. Later this was reduced to at least some Judo experience.

I heard a well respected martial arts teacher (a Kung Fu practitioner and a brawler in his youth) at a seminar take advantage of students who had never ‘tested’ their Danzan Ryu techniques on the street say; “What you practice, and those things you practice would never work on the street!” I never want to take over someone else’s class, or publicly embarrass them . . . so, I waited till we had a private moment and told him that I had used our techniques on the street, and as a matter of fact there are quite a few Judo and Danzan Ryu practitioners who are in law enforcement, and this style fits the bill quite well. I wouldn’t always have scored kata points with what I did when responding to an attack but I will say it hits like a thunderbolt against someone who is not a skilled fighter. When I say that, I mean studied more than one fighting method. The truth is, I usually protected the person I was taking into custody and did not do competition style throws on the street, which could prove fatal. By the way, a competition Judo throw also only looks like kata a percentage of the time. I need to add that the dynamic motion of both competitors sometimes results in a throw that looks better than I think kata ever could. (Magic!)

I believe in Danzan Ryu and will defend it. It is not what style you practice but how you practice the style! For instance Brazilian Jujitsu’s foundation is from Judo and Japanese Jujitsu, basically the same techniques as in Danzan Ryu. The practices for Competition Judo and Brazilian Jujitsu are more extreme. Both styles are playing (or fighting if you think that way) other martial artists who are skilled. The practice is more physical; repetition is done so techniques are developed to be quick, fluid and strong. You will sweat harder in practice, another definition of ‘sweat equity’.

I wrestled some in high school. When I saw what Judo looked like, and what the rules were, why . . . it was just wrestling only more! I studied Judo and Jujitsu for a whole two weeks before I entered a small local tournament. I promised myself to do these new throw-things (I only knew one really) and I would not rely on ground work. I won two matches and lost two matches but I was hooked! I competed in Judo until I was thirty-seven.

I need to mention in-passing that martial arts is a continuum of people. My martial arts experience is made up of the mostly excellent teachers in front of me. Many of my teachers have passed on and it was my great good fortune to have known them. I now appreciate the valuable time I spend with those who are still here. There are my peers, and as I grow older some of them have passed on; this gives another appreciation of the time we spend together, and an acceptance of our mortality. There are those behind me, many long-time students and new students who are my extended family. My oldest students are Sensei, even of Associate Professor rank, and some international competitors. Now some of their students are Sensei! The sense of immortality I get from this is that some part of me will be left when I go, and I was happily a part of this human transfer of knowledge, a people-chain-continuum.

I had black belt ranks in Danzan Ryu and Judo, and a brown belt in Aikido. I had taught Judo and Jujitsu at two California Community Colleges for eight years and was a police impact weapons and defensive tactics instructor when I re-began my study of Danzan Ryu Jujitsu . . . from Professor Siegfried Kufferath when I was thirty-seven.

Send us a message!

Mailing address

American Jujitsu Institute
c/o Daniel Saragosa, Vice President
1779 Koi Koi St. Wahiawa, Hi 96786
Phone: (808) 224-1142

Join the AJI!

Interested in becoming part of the oldest martial arts organization outside of Japan?

^ Back to Top