Legal Law

An early history of old school jujitsu – Part 1

In the next few days I will write an article on the history of Japanese Jujitsu/Judo prior to World War II. I wasn’t sure where to start, but here I am, so let’s get started.

I’m going to start with H. Irving Hancock, who in the early 1900s wrote several books on the history of Japanese physical training and Jujitsu. I will start with his book Japanese Physical Training written in 1903.

“Later, he studied in Nagasaki, with Inouye San, a Jiu-jitsu instructor in that city’s police department.”

This was the first time I heard of Inouye. Now if we look at Hancock’s other book Jiu-jitsu Combat Tricks written a year later in 1904:

“The exponents of the Tenjin School of Jiu-Jitsu have developed to their greatest possible perfection a style of stopping the punch of the boxer that cannot be surpassed for neatness of execution, effectiveness and speed. It is a feat that applies only to stopping a left hand punch punch by the boxer.”

Before I leave this book, the reason for the two quotes above is:

1.) The mention of Inouye, the Nagasaki Police Department’s jujitsu instructor.

2.) The mention of the “Tenjin/Tenshin” system

You’ll see where I’m going with this later.

Another quote that is very interesting.

“In Japan the complete course of jiu-jitsu requires four years.”

That seems very reasonable, since I’ve read that nowadays it takes about 15 years to receive a Menkyo Kaiden in Tenjin Shinyo Ryu. The question is, why so long? I don’t have 15 years to dedicate myself to an art.

At this point I would like to mention another ancient book on jiu-jitsu, “YABE SCHOOL OF JIU JITSU” written in 1904 by Yae Kichi Yabe. In Yabe’s book he mentions that the system is based on that of “Tenshin”. Also in this book is the “Vital Touches” phase used to describe Atemi or “Ate”!

Professor John J. O’Brien claims that he received his diploma in Jiu Jitsu in 1905 from the Governor of Nagasaki. O’Brien spent ten years as a Police Inspector in Nagasaki. He was responsible for introducing President Teddy Roosevelt to Jiu Jitsu, as well as instructing Colonel AJ Drexel Biddle.

Next we go to Col. Risher W. Thornberry. Thornberry wrote several books on jujitsu from 1905 to 1933. In his first jujitsu book written in 1905, the first page is very interesting. It shows a picture of Prof. Kishoku Inouye, “Nagasaki Police Instructor”. At the top of the page it reads: “Jiu-jitsu: As taught by Professor Inouye to over 2,000 officers and soldiers now on the front lines.” Reference to the Russo-Japanese War.

This book was written only a year or two after Hancock’s book. They both mention Inouye and Tenshin. A definitive connection is beginning to develop.

An interesting quote from Thornberry’s book,

“Jiu-jitsu has a weapon in the form of ‘atemi, or vital touches,’ which can be administered with the thumb, closed hand, elbows, tows, edge of the hand, or even with the head.” Again, the reason for mentioning this quote is the use of the word “Vital Touches”.

Research shows that Thornberry actively taught jiu-jitsu. One of Thornberry’s students was Samuel R. Linck. Linck published a book in 1943 called “COMBAT JIU JITSU”. an excellent book Linck studied with Thornberry in Los Angeles for several years. Linck received a “Master’s Diploma” from Thornberry in “Tenshin Ryu” dated May 6, 1935.

In Linck’s book, he gives a brief history of jiu-jitsu.

“These forms of the art were closely guarded and only taught to the samurai or warrior class, the group now known as the Black Dragon Society.”

Linck taught a man named George Tate. Linck and Tate taught a jiu-jitsu class in Los Angeles. Tate later succeeded Linck as instructor and continued to teach and train Jiu-jitsu. Tate became the jiu-jitsu instructor for the Los Angeles Police Department and later led a class at the LA Judo Club.

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