The Portals of Danzan Ryu - Part II

Sensei Dale Kahoun

I’ve given my history, personal experiences and feelings regarding my martial study (see part 1). Young students might be surprised to find that their teacher may have had many of these feelings and the experiences might be different but the overall outcome is the same. We are all the same; everyone should feel their own ‘specialness’. Different paths lead to the same place.

The ‘Do’ of Judo, Aikido, Kendo, etc is also read ‘michi’ in Japanese. Either way it means an esoteric path. The character also is Tao in Chinese, (it still means path) as in ‘Tao Te Ching’ which is a philosophy of ‘nature’s way’.

A study of the Tao is not a religious study, but philosophic. A person can study ‘Taoist thought’ and be a devout Christian or other religious practitioner, as was Thomas Merton, a Trappist Monk who toured China and wrote insightful books on ‘Taoist thought’. I was surprised when (in my twenties) I found books that pointed out personal lessons that I had learned in martial arts practice. I recommend used book stores.

I needed to point out a different way of thinking than we westerners usually employ. We are somewhat consumed with a linear way of thinking, over-concerned with ‘a right way, a wrong way, the way I learned it’. There are a lot of ways or paths you can take to the same destination.

After my first teacher had passed on, I could see a world of politically cliquish frustration ahead of me for advancement in Jujitsu where I was. What was worse, I’d have to participate in those politics I despised, so I concentrated on Judo and Aikido. I was a Shodan in Danzan Ryu for about thirteen years when I found my next Jujitsu Sensei, Professor Sig Kufferath, 10th Dan, and student of founder Professor Henry S. Okazaki.

To me, Professor Kufferath did not just have the ‘cosmic giggle’, he embodied it. He was unassuming and at the same time very exacting about how you performed your techniques. For instance, during a rank exam if your fingers or your feet were in a good solid position, that didn’t matter if it wasn’t kata, he’d stop the exam and make you do it over. Every other Sensei’s rank exam seemed more forgiving than Professor Kufferath’s. I suppose that if it was your school and you wanted it done some other way, Professor Kufferath would stand down, but we at Kilohana gave him carte-blanche. He was exacting and a task-master. If you asked him why, he’d say that’s the way Professor Okazaki taught it, or simply because ‘that’s the way it’s done.’ Some of the reasoning will remain a mystery, but ‘that’s the way it’s done!’ We loved it and we loved him. Sig (I was allowed to call him that), was a Hawaiian. An example of that was when I had just picked up some photos from the processor. Most were martial art photos with some personal pictures mixed in. As Sig looked through them he said “Who’s this?” I said “Oh, that’s just my Mom.” He said, “Ok I need that.” and he took it and put it in his photo album! (Ohana = Family, we’re part of each other).

Sig was disarmingly honest. After some street situation I had, I asked him a question about what I had done with a resisting opponent. His answer was; “Don’t ask me! You’re the expert ! In all the time I’ve done Jujitsu I’ve never had the chance to use it in a fight!” Wow! No faking it, no macho, no supposing. How rare is that in a human, much less an advanced martial artist who had trained the military in hand-to-hand combat during World War II?

When I dropped Sig off at his house after practice he always stood outside and watched me drive away, watching until I was out of sight. He didn’t just teach Martial Arts, he taught what it was to have the heart of a Hawaiian. At this juncture I’ll say that I was in the right place at the right time. Professor Kufferath studied directly from Danzan Ryu founder Professor Henry Okazaki. I got to spend some time with Sig bringing him back and forth to class, and going to Kenpo Tournaments where I was usually his uke for the self defense demonstration portions of the competitions.

I had a habit of making martial art notebooks for myself. Taking factual crime reports and traffic accident reports had forced technical writing on me. I found myself adaptable to make sense out of martial art movements in written words. In 1996 (I was then forty-six years old) I offered to make a workbook for Kilohana, and other interested Danzan Ryu practitioners. The workbook would list techniques the way Sig preferred them for rank testing. I wanted to capture what it was that Sig taught, for posterity. Writings are often changed by outside influences. I made two originals that Professor Kufferath signed and applied his chop for all pages showing his approval. To allow breathing room for the possessor of the workbook, I left room to write-in any other way they like, or notes. The same year I completed the workbook, (1999), after it was accepted by the Library of Congress and had a Copyright and ISBN number, Professor Kufferath passed away

The techniques in the workbook, for the majority, were the way that Professor Okazaki taught Danzan Ryu to Professor Kufferath. Occasionally an original technique was replaced or augmented with something else, usually a note indicated that occurred.

From accounts I have read about Professor Okazaki, he was proud of his Japanese Culture and wanted to enrich other Americans with Japanese traditions and culture. Professor Okazaki was also proud of the U.S.A. and you will find photos of him standing in front of the American Flag.

There are many things Japanese that we recognize today, and Americans are in the habit of assimilating the best from each culture that we can; that’s a lot of what makes the U.S.A. what it is. With the melting pot of culture that Hawaii was; and at a time when a lot of people had just gotten there, there were attitudes brought from ‘the old country’. There was resistance to overcome. 

It is pretty well known that Professor Okazaki met resistance teaching Japanese martial arts to non-Japanese. It is also well known that the Chinese were like that too with their martial art. I believe that the nationalizing of martial arts is not unnatural, as this is what we have learned to protect ourselves from them (whoever them is). Professor Okazaki’s message was, come to the party, we’re all Americans now! I don’t think he could have picked a better place to win this battle, than on the islands of aloha. That we’re here in large diverse groups studying Danzan Ryu Jujitsu means, he won.

When I wrote the workbook I also made boards that exactly matched the workbook. I put them on the walls around my small dojo. The Danzan Ryu lists were all there from Yawara through Shinjin No Maki. The Judo lists of Go Kyo No Waza, the sixty five throws of Judo were also there. The basic sword techniques of Kashima Shin Ryu were there as well as the Kihon of Aikido. In order to instruct students I had built a learning box. Nobody was there more than I was for the next three years, maybe it was mostly for me.

I have written all of this, so I could tell you what seeped into my thick skull during the process of writing the clever teachings of Professor Okazaki. He studied and taught many martial arts, then layed them out in lists for us like a smörgåsbord, or Luau, for our Hawaiian friends (we like ‘em all).

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