Combat Judo: The Other Side of the Art

by William Durbin, Soke of Kiyojute Ryu

I began training in 1970 with one purpose in mind, self defense. A couple of years earlier I had been attacked and then I was threatened with death. I knew I needed to study some form of self defense, and while my Dad had given me a basic introduction to self defense, teaching me the fundamentals of Combat Judo as he learned it in the Army during World War II, I knew I needed more training. My first instructor was Richard Stone, who called everything we did Judo.

          This made me think of Judo as a total and complete martial art, which I found historically it was, though later others showed me only the modern sport form, which is a pale shadow of the art, which Jigoro Kano founded. Stone taught me not only the typical Gokyo no Waza, Katame Waza, and Randori, but also instructed me in the Kodokan Goshinjutsu, Kime no Kata and Tai Iku Tandoku.

          My later development in Judo will be noted later in the article, but this was my beginning and I still feel strongly towards the old form of Judo. This article is written for the posterity of ancient Judo and with a hope that Judo, the real martial art, the true combat form, might still be preserved.

History of Judo

          In the late 1700s, Masashige Terada inherited the arts of Ryoi Shinto Ryu Yawara and Kito Ryu Jujutsu from Yoshige Terada. Both arts were effective combat arts that had been developed by Tomoyoshi Hichirouemon Masakatsu Fukuno. He had studied Yagyu Shinkage Ryu Bujutsu and Teishin Ryu Wajutsu. Fukuno also had the privilege of studying Chugoku Kempo (Chinese martial arts) under Chin Gen Pin, a traveling artist of porcelain, poetry, and calligraphy, as well as, a traditional healer.

          Fukuno combined the Chugoku Kempo, Yagyu Shinkage Ryu, and Teishin Ryu, along with innovations of his own to create his own Jujutsu system known under various names. Some say he had inherited Kito Ryu from an instructor by the name of Ibaragi Sensai, others say he founded the system himself. He did found a system known as Ryoi Shinto Ryu, though some originally called his style Fukuno Ryu.

          It is traditional for a master to inherit a Ryu and add his own inspiration to the training, thus when Masashige Terada inherited the two systems he added the concept known as, Ran o toru, and a new philosophy called Judo.

          Ran o toru, literally meaning ‘freedom to take’, was a free style method of practice based on the universal principles of In-Yo, negative-positive, or ebb and flow. In the original Ran o toru, the two players did not compete with each other, but rather trained together to improve their art. The idea is that they moved around on the mat in Shizentai, waiting for each other to make a mistake of balance or movement, and then attempted a throw. If the weakness was genuine, then the partner was thrown, if the thrower was mistaken, then he was countered and thrown. Ran o toru, was a very natural method of training. While it was free style it was not competitive as a training exercise.

The Philosophy of Judo

          Judo, also pronounced as Yawara no Michi, was the ‘gentle way’ and referred to a spiritual way of behavior that was suppose to be the way of life for the Jujutsuka, practitioner. In this context, Judo was not originally a martial art, but rather the philosophy, by which, a Jujutsu master should live. Masashige Terada founded his own art known as Jikishin Ryu. Eventually the term Judo was used by teachers of Kito Ryu and Jikishin Ryu interchangeably with Jujutsu. Judo being the philosophy and Jujutsu being the technical art. But many times when a student of the art was not mastering the principle of Ju, gentleness or yielding in order to overcome an attacker, the teachers would say ‘do Judo’, meaning ‘do your Jujutsu techniques with Judo’, i.e., ‘do the yielding skill the gentle way’.

Kodokan Judo – Kano Ryu Jujutsu

          Years later, a young man entered the Kito Ryu Jujutsu Dojo of Tsunetoshi Iikubo and began to practice ‘the gentle way of the yielding art’. This young man was Jigoro Kano, who developed the school known as Kodokan, known at that time also as Kano Ryu Jujutsu. Originally Kano emphasized the practice of Ran o toru, which he called Randori, and which became a free style method of practice for his young students. He also took to calling his art Judo, wanting to emphasize the gentle philosophy over the physical techniques. However, even with the change of name, he always desired his art to be a martial art, with truly effective fighting techniques. Seeking this goal, he developed a strong retinue of excellent martial artists who helped build the name and reputation of Kodokan Judo.

          The main men responsible for this excellent fighting reputation, were in the early days, Shiro Saigo and Sakujiro ‘Oni’ Yokoyama. Shiro Saigo had been trained in Oshikiuchi by Tanomo Saigo and then joined the Kodokan, where he became extremely devoted to Jigoro Kano. Many of the early battles of the Kodokan were won by Saigo using his Oshikiuchi skills, derived from the Minamoto Bujutsu.

          Sakujiro Yokoyama came to the Kodokan wanting to defeat the great Judo master and prove that Jujutsu was a much greater art. Yokoyama was such a strong and devastating Jujutsu fighter that he was known as Oni, meaning ‘the demon’. During the 1883 one year anniversary party, also celebrating the first black belt promotions, Yokoyama raided the celebration, challenging the Kodokan Judoka to a fight. Kano directed Shiro Saigo to do battle, and he eventually, after a long battle, defeated Yokoyama. At that point, Kano accepted him as a student, with Yokoyama eventually becoming one of the greatest Judoka of the Kodokan, this only took three years.

          Eventually Shiro Saigo left the Kodokan, due to personal reasons, leaving Sakujiro Yokoyama as the greatest Judoka of the time. His exploits were quit famous, fighting many Jujutsu practitioners in his quest to prove the value and worth of Kodokan Judo. Yokoyama’s best friend at the Kodokan was probably the greatest Judoka to have ever lived (outside of Jigoro Kano the founder) Kyuzo Mifune.

Kyuzo Mifune

          Mifune was probably the most famous Judoka of the last generation. A few American’s had the privilege of training with this great master. One relates the story of how, as a young man he attended a Kodokan Randori session, and was approached by an old man, whom he mistook as a weak and frail amateur. When the old man requested a Randori, the young American reluctantly agreed. Before he could even touch the man’s uniform, he was thrown soundly to the mat, not even knowing how he was dropped. He stood and just as his fingers touched the old man’s uniform, he was thrown again. Finally, in angry exasperation, he jumped up and tried to grab the old man solidly, and found himself thrown, yet again. The old man looked at him and told him to work on his break falls, then walked away. This was the great master, Kyuzo Mifune.

          One of modern day’s great martial artists is an American who had the privilege of meeting with Kyuzo Mifune in the early 1960s. While visiting the Kodokan with a group of other Marines; and serving as Chief Judo Instructor for the Third Marine Division Judo Club, Camp Courtney, Okinawa; he was fascinated by Mifune’s size and yet complete ease with which he completed his throws. This experience left a profound impact on the young Marine as he continued to train in the martial arts on both Japan and Okinawa. This man is Rod Sacharnoski.

Rod Sacharnoski

          Rod Sacharnoski began his martial arts training, in 1950, under Momoru Noguchi, past President of Shufu Judo Yudanshakai USJF, who was a personal Uke (receiving partner) for Jigoro Kano during many demonstrations. He continued his training in Judo and the other Asian martial arts, all during the ensuring years, and especially during his years overseas, in Japan and Okinawa. It was on a trip to the Kodokan that he saw Kyuzo Mifune and was extremely inspired by the effectiveness of the actual fighting skills of Judo, as practiced by the grand old master.

          It was while training at the Philadelphia Dojo of the great Kodokan Judo master, Takahiko Ishikawa, Kudan (ninth degree black belt), that Rod Sacharnoski was inspired to create the martial arts system today known as Juko Ryu, a name suggested by Ishikawa himself. He combined the combat skills of his Jujutsu training along with the great throwing skills of Judo, as well as, his Okinawan grappling skills and striking arts to found a combat oriented martial arts system; teaching Jujutsu, Aikijujutsu, Kempo, as well as, Karate and Judo.

          While he continued to develop his Judo skills, Dr. Sacharnoski was very disturbed with the path that Kodokan Judo was following. Originally, the Kodokan had a weapons training division, along with training in Karate, actually under Gichin Funakoshi, and self defense training, combining skills from the many Ryu associated with the Kodokan, which included; Miura Ryu, Yoshin Ryu, Takenouchi Ryu, Fusen Ryu, Shiten Ryu, Sosuishitsu Ryu, and Sekiguchi Ryu.

          In 1978, Dr. Rod Sacharnoski earned his Hachidan, eighth degree black belt, in sport Judo under the International Judo and Jujutsu League, of Holland, Europe. The IJJL served as the Holland branch of the European Judo Federation (not to be confused with the European Judo Union, a totally separate association). In 1982, he was recognized as an eighth degree in sport Judo when he joined the Chicago Judo Yudanshakai, USJF. At the time, he was the only non-Asian Hachidan in sport Judo in America. While many of his students continued to learn the grand old art of Judo from him, Sacharnoski put his emphasis into his combat arts of Kempo and Jujutsu, but in the back of his mind was his love of the old art, his first art, Kodokan Judo.

          In 1985 many Judo people, who loved the art of Judo but were disturbed with the quality of Olympic Judo, prevailed upon Dr. Sacharnoski due to his knowledge, skill, and ability, to led them in preserving Judo as a combat art. Sacharnoski felt it expedient to help preserve the traditional, combat efficient art of Judo. While he sees Olympic Judo as a viable sport, he sees traditional Judo as a form of training that needs to be rescued from obscurity. Thus in 1985, was born the International Society of Traditional Judo (ISTJ), a division of Juko Kai Remmei.

International Society of Traditional Judo

          This organization is open to all practitioners of Judo, who want to learn and practice Judo as a combative skill of self defense. The typical throws, that anyone practicing Judo knows, are taught but in their original combat method, involving more combat oriented grips, the use of pressure points for disrupting the balance and energy flow of an opponent, as well as, methods of striking that augment the throw. The throws themselves are taught in such a way, that the leg reaps and sweeps themselves can be damaging to the attacker. In example, both the Haraigoshi (sweeping hip) and Uchimata (inner thigh) throws can be performed so that the sweeping movement of the leg can break the knee of the person being thrown. Instead of the typical Kumi Kata (form of gripping) used in sport Judo, the throws are taught in actual combat form, with the Uke (receiver) attacking with a punch, and being countered by the Tori (taker, meaning thrower). The throws are devastatingly effective and when taught properly, with proper Kuzushi (balance breaking), amazingly simple.

          Originally, Judo, as taught by the Kito Ryu and the Jikishin Ryu, and later developed by the Kodokan, was an effective and functional martial art of self defense. Yet in current Boy Scout material, it is pointed out that Judo is no longer a martial art and now only a sport. This is sad, and many instructors in Japan, as well as, the United States, want to see Judo returned to its original glory as an effective combat system.

          Many black belts and master instructors have turned to the International Society of Traditional Judo, to recapture the majesty of the techniques of Judo, as found in the old systems of Kito Ryu, Jikishin Ryu, and the old glory of Kodokan Kano Ryu Judo. It is hoped that other people will be inspired to research the history and techniques of traditional combat Judo, even as a young Marine, named Rod Sacharnoski, was inspired by the great old master Kyuzo Mifune.

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