Professor Henry Okazaki and Danzan Ryu Jujitsu

It is appropriate that works describing Danzan Ryu Jujitsu should be concerned with a man who demonstrated most of the qualities and experiences of the archetypal martial artist… Prof. Okazaki was such a man.

Prof. Okazaki, it is said, first recognized that the virtue of Jujitsu lay in the martial artist’s ability to reverse the effects of injury with restoration therapy.  His students described him as stern, silent, sort of business-like.  He was a man who used the dojo as a catalyst, transforming their placid characters into powerful Martial Artists.  It was these qualities that enabled him to establish the framework for today’s most widely taught Jujitsu system, Danzan Ryu.

Okazaki was born in Kakeda, in the prefecture of Fukushima in 1890; the fourth son of Hanuemon Okazaki and Fuka Suenaga.  Henry Seishiro Okazaki was 16 when he arrived in Honolulu Hawaii in 1906 on the Steam ship S.S. China.

When he arrived he found work as a laborer in the cane fields for the Ewa plantation.  He left the Ewa plantation and took a job with Yoshimura’s Grocery and then worked for Hoffschaegers wholesale Co.  Eventually he would settle in Hilo on the Island of Hawaii.  He stayed on the Big Island for 17 years; it was here he began his Martial Art training.  When he arrived in Hilo, he was not well.  He was “run down” with a respiratory ailment.  He was told by a doctor as to having a tubercular condition.  He found the answer in an odd place, The Hilo Shinyo Kai, a Jujitsu dojo run by Master Kichimatsu Tanaka.

Within a year his condition had disappeared. The training, strenuous workouts, falls, battering, and Lomi Lomi (massage) he received had strengthened his body.  In Okazaki’s own words, he had developed a, “body of Iron”.  Okazaki’s interest in Martial Arts became a consuming passion; he dedicated his life to the Arts that built him up.

At the Hilo Shinyu Kai he learned Yoshin Ryu.  After Master Tanaka, he went on to study under sensei’s Horimoto and Kusogabe.  Later, he went on to become the Randori Champion of Hawaii in 1916.  During the following years, Okazaki studied under various Masters and acquired knowledge from different Martial Arts.

In 1917 he was taught the art of Lua “dislocation and bone breaking”, by David Kainahee, which resided in the Puna District; Okazaki also had a woman Lua instructor.  In fact, there is so much Lua within the Danzan Ryu “system” it could be called, Okazaki’s Lua System.

Until 1922 in Hawaii, Jujitsu had been a closed door set of arts and was only available to the Japanese community.  In that same year, as an experiment, Okazaki taught students outside of the Japanese race.  These two were Dr. Baldwin of Hilo and Chief Fatoio of Samoa.  For this he was severely reprimanded by his teachers.  Okazaki must have been trying to do what was done for him.

One of many jobs Okazaki worked was delivering bread around the island.   One of his customers was a 78 year old Chinese Gung Fu teacher named Wo Chong, who taught in Kohala.  Master Wo Chong taught Okazaki the style Chuanfa; Okazaki liked to call the art,” Mushi-jitsu,” or the method of fighting with the intent to kill.  Okazaki also studied western wrestling, boxing, and later Okinawan Karate, and Filipino Eskrima.

In the early twenties Okazaki began going around the island fighting in exhibition bouts, where and when he could find takers. His greatest moment came in 1922.  It was when he met Carl “kayo” Morris for a bout.  It was Morris the boxer vs. one of Okazaki’s friends, Takahashi the Jujitsu expert. Takahashi was nicknamed “speed”.  He was fast and extremely proficient, but he wore glasses and could not see well without them.  Morris took advantage of this handicap and knocked Takahashi out in the first round.  Okazaki immediately challenged Morris to a future bout.

For the next month, he trained.  He would watch other boxers to try and find a weakness.  On May 19, 1922, the two men met.  The fight was scheduled for six three minute rounds – it lasted only two.  Okazaki misjudged Morris’s reach and had his nose broken halfway through the first round.  In the next round Okazaki moved in and threw Morris and himself over the ropes and into the audience twice.  Finally, Okazaki threw his opponent to the mat and with an arm lock wrenched the joint of Morris’s right arm.  This forced him to withdraw due to the excessive pain caused by the arm bar.  At first glance, it looked as if Morris’ arm was broken.  After and examination by an attending Dr. S.R. Brown, his arm was found to be dislocated.  It was said, that after the bout Okazaki went to visit Morris and massaged the boxers arm.

In 1924, Okazaki returned to Japan and made a six month tour of as many dojos as he could scattered between Morioka city in the north and Kagoshima in the south; he visited more than fifty dojos.  He studied the Okugi (secret teachings).  Working through 675 techniques, he stopped off at the Kodokan where he was officially given the rank of 3rd Dan in Kodokan Judo.

Okazaki returned to Hilo in 1925.  In 1926 he was described as a “Jujitsu instructor” in the Hilo directory.  In 1927 Okazaki moved to Maui and built a complex at Paukukalo, just north of Kahului, right on the beach.  For the next few years he and his brother Genkitchi, who had moved to Hawaii in 1917, began to teach Danzan Ryu to Japanese and Caucasians.

While living here Okazaki wrote the Science of Self Defense for Girls and Women.  Danzan was the name Okazaki gave to the Jujitsu system he was developing. Danzan or “Tan san” (Sandalwood Mountain).  Okazaki’s Gung Fu instructor, Wo Chong and other Chinese referred to Hawaii as Sandalwood Mountain – “tan san”; therefore, Danzan Ryu – the Hawaiian sect, or the Hawaiian system of Jujitsu.

Okazaki left Maui in 1929, once in Oahu he was able to purchase a Japanese style residence at 801 South Hotel St. from Mr. Chester A. Dole; this location would become The Nikko Sanitarium of Restoration Massage and center for Danzan Ryu Jujitsu – Kodenkan “school of ancient traditions”.  Okazaki is best remembered as the most influential Martial Artist of his time.  He was also well known as a highly skilled physical therapist, with such clients as Mr. Chris Holms, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Charlie Chaplin, Shirley Temple, Johnny Weistmuller, George Burns, Douglas Fairbanks, and Jean Harlow.

Mr. Henry “pop” Pfender, recreation director of the Army-Navy Y.M.C.A. suggested that Jujitsu be taught to American youths.  This was made unanimous by Dan Watson, sports editor of the Honolulu Star, U.S. Army Col. Walther Gilbert, and Red McQueen a local Honolulu Advertiser. So, in May of 1931 the first class for youth of all races was started.  The first class consisted of “Pete” Barron a leading sports figure, Dr. A. M. Glover as adviser, Hachiro Okazaki (Okazaki’s son), Kiyoshi Kawashima, Ben Marks, George Harbottle, William Simao, and Y. S. Kim.

In 1932, Richard Rickets, Curly Friedman, Charles Wagner, “Tiny” Harold McLean, Bob Glover, and U.S. Navy’s Tantro Muggy joined the class.  In 1936, they all graduated with instructor diplomas.  Okazaki also formed an organization originally called the American Jujitsu Guild; it was later chartered as the American Jujitsu Institute.

In 1935 John Burns’ (future governor of Hawaii) wife developed polio. It was Okazaki who took her on as a patient.  In 1936 she decided to have a third child, against the advice of many doctors.  The doctors feared not only for her babies life, but her own. It was Okazaki who helped her through their pregnancy, providing treatments and encouragement.  The child’s name became James Seishiro Burns, after Okazaki.  He is currently a circuit court judge in Honolulu.

In December of 1948, Okazaki suffered a stroke that left him partially paralyzed.  He had a suffered a second stroke in 1950.  At 4PM July 12, 1951, Henry S. Okazaki died from the effects of a third stroke.  In 1952, Professor Sig Kufferath who had been the chief instructor at the Kodenkan was elected to succeed Professor Okazaki.

– Professor James Muro