July 11, 2024

The Road to Sawtelle Judo Dojo, Part 6-Jujutsu influences on Jigoro Kano’s Judo

(8) Daito Ryu. 大東流Kano had connections with the Takeda family who later led the school. Shiro Saigo was an adopted son of Tonomo Saigo, soke of this school before Takeda. Shiro Saigo came to Tokyo at the age of 14 to seek Jujutsu instruction and pursued Kano because of his reputation. Later, he quit both the Kodokan and Daito Ryu when his conflicting obligations to the two masters led him to an impasse.

Kano, always concerned that some important knowledge might be lost, engineered an obligation of Sokaku Takeda, Tonomo Saigo’s successor, so that Takeda had to teach and reveal the inner secrets (okuden) of the ryu to Mochizuki, an uchideshi of Kyuzo Mifune, so that these secrets could be brought back to the Kodokan. This angered Takeda who attempted to disparage the Kodokan at every opportunity. Takeda claimed he knew 3,000 techniques, probably because he always charged for instruction, and did so at a fixed price per technique. Mochizuki eventually made Judan (10th dan) in this art. Later, Kenji Tomiki was sent to Morihei Ueshiba, who was obligated to accept the student, and eventually awarded him Kudan (9th dan). Ueshiba formed his art (Aikido) from Daito Ryu and Yagyu Ryu.

Daito Ryu

(Photo courtesy of Daito Ryu Aikijujitsu Roppokai)

Video of Daito Ryu from YouTube

Video of Daito Ryu from YouTube

Daito Ryu does have many techniques, and includes sword, staff, and body arts. It is an Aiki Jujutsu, focusing on internal methods.

(9) Fusen Ryu. 不遷流 Mataemon Tanabe was persuaded to reveal the core of his syllabus to Kano after the disastrous match between the schools in 1900. The Kodokan got stomped. The Fusen people had great wrestling-style ne-waza, and the rules prohibited deadly techniques. The Fusen school might have won anyway, that is not the point. The point is that Kano realized the need for good ne-waza.

Fusen Ryu

(Photo courtesy of

Video of Fusen Ryu from YouTube

(10) Jikishin Ryu. 直心流My teacher said that the Kodokan was still reeling from the Fusen Ryu loss when he arrived, and later the Jikishin people were courted and eventually won over as part of the effort to “fill out” the syllabus so that the weakness that caused the Fusen loss would never be repeated.

Jikishin Ryu

(Photo courtesy of Women Warriors of Japan)

Video of Jikishin Ryu from YouTube

(11) Sekiguchi Ryu. 関口流Jushin Sekiguchi and Mogichi Tsumizu were teachers of Kano and were instrumental in the construction of the full syllabus and kata. Sekiguchi Ryu is a broad-based art but is particularly well-known for its weapons training.

Sekiguchi Ryu

(Photo courtesy of Sekiguchi Ryu Jujutsu)

Video of Sekiguchi Ryu from YouTube

(12) Kyushin Ryu. 扱心流Eguchi of Kyushin was involved in Kodokan kata and syllabus construction.

Kyushin Ryu

(Photo courtesy of Kyushin Ryu Ju Jitsu)

Video of Kyushin Ryu from YouTube

(13) Shiten Ryu. 四天流Hoshino was involved in Kodokan kata and syllabus construction.

 (14) Miura Ryu. 三浦流Inazu was involved in Kodokan kata and syllabus construction.

 (15) Kukishin Ryu. 九鬼神流Kukishin is particularly well-known for its techniques involving staves of various lengths. Kano was a weapons expert, so it is not surprising that Takamatsu and Kano were relatively close friends and colleagues. Takamatsu’s favorite empty-hand technique was a technique that most of us would recognize as hiza-guruma. It is from Takamatsu that Judo’s hiza-guruma comes.

Video of Kukishin Ryu from YouTube

Kukishin Ryu

(Photo courtesy of 2004 Japan Pilgrimage)

The most noteworthy master of Kyushin Ryu Jujutsu in more recent times is Shihan Yoshinori (Yazo) Eguchi of Kumamoto Prefecture, who received recognition during the formative stages of modern Judo in the early 1880s (Meiji period 1868-1912). In 1895, Governor Watanabe of Kyoto Prefecture met with the masters of the prominent schools and established the Dai Nippon Butoku Kai (Greater Japan Martial Virtue Society). This was the first official Japanese martial arts institution authorized by the Ministry of Education and endorsed by the Meiji Emperor. It was here in 1906, that Dr Jigoro Kano (嘉納 治五郎 Kanō Jigorō, 1860-1938) founder of Judo, selected techniques from the five major Jujutsu schools:

June 30, 2024

The Road to Sawtelle Judo Dojo, Part 5-Jujutsu influences on Jigoro Kano’s Judo

(1) Kano’s first teachers were Ryuji Karagiri and, separately, Heinosuke Yagi. While their schools are unknown, Yagi may be Yagyu, which would likely place him in the Yagyu Ryu, 柳生流. Kano also studied Seigo Ryu under a teacher whose name is not given.

Yagyu Ryu

(Photo courtesy of Fighting

Video on Yagyu Ryu from YouTube  

 Video on Yagyu Ryu from YouTube

(2) Yoshin Ryu. 楊心流Kano’s closest student (uchideshi), assistant, and demonstration partner was Yoshiaki Yamashita, who was a master of the Yoshin Ryu and the Tenshin Shin Yo Ryu. It was Yamashita, Yokoyama, and Nagaoka who put together the first Kodokan syllabus of instruction.

Yoshin Ryu

(Photo courtesy of “Wado Historical Timeline”)

Yoshin-Ryu Jujutsu (Yo, meaning “willow,” and Shin, meaning “heart or spirit”) was devised by a doctor from Nagasaki named Shirobei Yoshitoki Akiyama. Akiyama studied battlefield and healing arts (they are the same) in Japan and is thought to have been accomplished in Jujutsu and the ancient Koppo-jutsu and other arts. Wishing to extend his knowledge, Akiyama went to China to study in the 1600s. There he studied medicine, katsu, various martial arts, especially striking arts, and their use as applied to vital areas (Kyusho-jutsu). He also studied Taoism, Taoist healing martial arts, and acupuncture. The centerpiece of the art he created by incorporating his training in China with Japanese methods was a syllabus of 300 techniques.

Video of Yoshin Ryu from YouTube

Video of Yoshin Ryu from YouTube

(3) Tenshin Shin Yo Ryu天神真楊流. It is well known that Kano studied with Hachinosuke Fukuda and Masatomo Iso. Tenshin Shin Yo Ryu Jujutsu includes four major classifications of techniques. The first of these is the Go Waza (Hard Techniques) which includes striking, kicking, throwing, holding, choking, and escaping. The second is Ju Waza (Soft Techniques), which includes joint locks and Aiki movements. The third is Katsu or Healing Arts. Thus, students’ training was balanced, and they could exercise sakatsu jizai (the freedom to kill and the freedom to restore life). Finally, the training includes Bugei Ju-Happan, extensive training with eighteen battlefield weapons.

Tenshin Shin Yo Ryu

(Photo courtesy of “Makotokan Budo”)

To understand what skills and knowledge Kano took from the Tenshin Shin Yo Ryu school, it is helpful to understand that the Tenshin Shin Yo Ryu is a fusion of Yoshin-Ryu and Shin No Shindo Ryu Jujutsu.

We have already discussed the origins of the Yoshin Ryu. The other “half” of the Tenshin Shin Yo Ryu school is Shin No Shindo Ryu Jujutsu. Shin No Shindo Ryu is a derivative of the Takeuchi Ryu and was created by an Osaka Policeman named Tamizaemon Yamamoto who specialized in striking techniques and in techniques that involved “immobilizing or paralyzing with a grip or hold” (for obvious reasons). Shin No Shindo Ryu is also the school of Otsuka, later of the Wado Ryu karate-do fame. Otsuka met Gichin Funakoshi, the founder of Japanese Shotokan Karate, when Otsuka gave a Jujutsu exhibition in his presence. Reportedly, Funakoshi ran out onto the floor saying, “Surely you have studied Tode (karate) in Okinawa!”

These two lines were married to form the Tenshin Shin Yo Ryu by Master Sekisai Minamoto Masatari Yanagi, later called Mataemon Iso. Yanagi studied Yoshin Ryu, Miura Ryu, and Ryoi Shinto Ryu before opening his school in Edo (old Tokyo). This legendary figure has many stories told about him. One involves him and his best student defeating a large band of outlaws who were terrorizing Edo in a battle that is always referred to as “savage” and “bloody.”

Video of Tenshin Shin Yo Ryu from YouTube

 (4) Kito Ryu. 起倒流17th century Tokyo-to Kano studied the system of ran of Kito Ryu under Tsunetoshi Iikubo. Hidekazu Nagaoka gained full entry into the Kodokan after mastering Kito Ryu, and later became one of the only three men to gain Judan (10th dan) under Kano. Kito Ryu emphasizes many esoteric elements, including aiki. Aiki is the joining of internal or life energies. Kito teaches that there are three types of energy:

a. Riki, Ryoku, or Chikara: physical force, power, strength

b. Ki: internal energy

c. Shin: intention or will; basic life force.

The ki in aiki refers to the second of these. Kito teaches that “When two minds are united, the stronger controls the weaker…”

Kito is also based upon the principles of wa (harmony, accord, fluidity) and ju (suppleness, softness, gentleness). In application on the battlefield, the system incorporates a complex amalgam of strategies, many calling back to the Chinese master strategist Sun Tzu. Kito addresses the pursuit of loftier ideals, including spiritual and self-actualization interests, in a similar way, teaching that one should harmonize the Self with the Universe. It is so complex in terms of its theory as to be nearly impenetrable to analysis from the “outside.” Chinese Taoist elements have been imported wholesale. This should not be surprising given the origins of the art. The pivotal point in the formalization of Kito Ryu is the arrival of an almost legendary Chinese figure, Master Chen Yuan-Ping (also known variously as Chen Tsu U, Gin Chin Pin, and Gempin by the Japanese). Master Chen came to Japan first in 1621 and returned to stay in 1638. He was a scholar who had apparently held some positions in the Chinese court. He taught Taoism’s Lao Tzu and T’ung K’ao, and Chinese martial art based upon ju. Three wandering, masterless samurai (ronin) found him at Kokusei Monastery, where he taught them “secret arts.” The names of these samurai were Fukuno, Isogai, and Miura. Fukuno, after going on to master Yagyu Shingan Ryu, met a samurai named Terada. Fukuno and Terada founded Kito Ryu and passed the art on to Yoshimura and Takenada.

Kito Ryu-Kobushi Nagashi (Fist Flowing)

(Photo courtesy of Kito Ryu Nakae-Ha Jujutsu)

Video of Kito Ryu from YouTube

The techniques of Kito Ryu are fast, fluid, subtle, and direct. They exploit centered action and the projection of internal energies. Kito emphasizes projective throwing methods and kokyu (kuki) techniques and is considered a form of aiki-jujutsu.

(5) Takenouchi Ryu. 竹内流 Takano, Yano, Kotaro Imei, and Hikasuburo Ohshima were all close colleagues of Kano, and participated in constructing the Kodokan syllabus and kata. Takenouchi Ryu is a comprehensive combat art but is particularly well-known for bokken (wooden sword), jo (staff), and osae (immobilization) techniques.

Throwing techniques in Takeuchi Ryu

(Photo courtesy of Fighting Arts)

Video of Takenouchi Ryu from YouTube

Video of Takenouchi Ryu from YouTube

The school derives from the Daito Ryu line and was founded in June of 1532. Chumutaki Hisamori Daisuke Takeuchi was a prince who lived in Okayama and studied Daito-Ryu. He met an ancient warrior named Takagi (in a dream) who emphasized certain principles that were to underlie Takeuchi-Ryu. The school became known as the “Hinoshito Torido Kaizan Ryu,” or “school of the supreme and unsurpassed art of combat.”

The techniques of Takeuchi Ryu are divided into five kyo (teachings or principles), related to Takeda’s Five Principles-ikkyo, nikyo, sankyo, yonkyo, and gokyo.

(6) Sosuishi Ryu. 双水執流 Aoyagi was involved in the construction of the Kodokan syllabus and kata.

Sosuishi Ryu

(Photo courtesy of Sosuishi

Video of Sosuishi Ryu from YouTube

Video of Sosuishi Ryu from YouTube

(7) Yoshin Ryu. Yoshiaki Yamashita and Isogai (later 10th dans) were also masters of Yoshin and Ten Shin Shin Yo, I am told. Katsuta Hiratsuka, Hidemi Totsuka, and Takayoshi Katayama even participated in the construction of the Kodokan kata and syllabus. Totsuka (Totsuka-ha Yoshin) is of the school that the Kodokan defeated in the 1886 match.

June 26, 2024

The Road to Sawtelle Judo Dojo, Part 4-From Jujutsu to Judo

Jujutsu practices evolved and refined among the samurai of feudal Japan as a method for defeating an armed and armored opponent in which one uses no weapon or only a short weapon. During the heat of battle, sometimes, samurai would find themselves weaponless because their weapons were broken or lost in the battlefields.  Because striking against an armored opponent proved ineffective, practitioners learned that the most efficient methods for neutralizing an enemy took the form of pins, joint locks, and throws. They had over 1000 years of civil wars among themselves to perfect these techniques.  These techniques were developed around the principle of using an attacker’s energy against him rather than directly opposing it.  One could just imagine what hand-to-hand combat was like on the 16th-century battlefields of feudal Japan.

Video of heavily armored samurai in armed and unarmed combat demonstration from YouTube

Armored Samurai, Ō-Yoroi (大鎧)

(Photo courtesy of Wikipedia-Samurai)

A heavily armored samurai wore their Ō-Yoroi, which weighed about 30 kg or 66 lbs, to battle.  This armor can trace its roots back to the Romans and Egyptians.  Ō-Yoroi provided lightweight protection from sword thrusts, slashes, arrows, mobility, and comfort for the wearer.   However, the lighter medieval European armor knights’ armor, made of tempered steel, weighed 45 lbs.  Falling and getting back up would not be easy in battle. It would easily expose the vulnerable areas of their body to knife attacks; neck, armpits, groin. By the 16th century, Ō-Yoroi designs were heavily influenced by European designs and the introduction of the rifle by the Portuguese.  By contrast, contemporary body armor and helmets that U.S. combat troops wear weigh around 38 lbs. and ruck up to 150 lbs of gear during operations.  But, then again, times are quite different.  Hundreds of years ago, one used swords, pikes, and arrows in battle, while today’s soldiers use assault rifles and call-in drone strikes.

HISTORICAL DEVELOPMENT OF JUDO- (A lecture presented by Syd Hoare 8th Dan to the European Judo Union Foundation Degree Course at Bath University July 2007)

From Jujutsu to Judo

The Unification of all Jujutsu styles toward

the development of modern Judo-July 24, 1906

(Photo courtesy of Sawtelle Judo Dojo)

Close-up image of the leading Jujitsuka at the Dai Nihon Butokukai in Kyoto on July 24th, 1906 to formulate the official katas to be used by Kodokan Jujitsuka (Judoka).

 (Front row, left to right): Katsuta Hiratsuka of Kagawa (Yoshin Ryu); Koji Yano of Kumamoto (Takenouchi Ryu); Jushin Sekiguchi of Wakayama (Sekiguchi Ryu); Hidemi Totsuka of Chiba (Yoshin Ryu); Jigoro Kano of Tokyo (Kodokan Judo); Kumon Hoshino of Kumamoto (Shiten Ryu); Takayoshi Katayama of Kagawa (Yoshin Ryu); Yazo Eguchi of Kumamoto (Kyushin Ryu); Masamizu Inazu of Kyoto (Miura Ryu).

(Back row, left to right): Yoshimaki Yamashita of Tokyo (Kodokan Judo); Hajima Isagao of Kyoto (Kodokan Jiu-do); Sakugiro Yokoyama of Tokyo (Kodokan Judo); Shuichi Nakaoka of Kyoto (Kodokan Judo); Shikataro Takano of Okayama (Takenouchi Ryu); Mataemon Tanabe of Himeiji (Fusen Ryu); Kotaro Imei of Okayama (Takenouchi Ryu); Hoken Sato of Kyoto (Kodokan Judo); Hikosaburo Oshima of Kagawa (Takenouchi Ryu); Mogichi Tsumizu of Wakayama (Sekiguchi Ryu); Kehei Aoyagi of Fukuoka (Sosuishi Ryu)

(Photo and translation of individuals’ name and schools

courtesy of History of Sosuishi-Ryu website)

The following is a summary of the different martial arts schools represented in the above photographs.

Yoshin Ryu楊心流 Jujitsu, Kendo-17th century (Tokyo-Akiyama family)

Sekiguchi Ryu関口流Kenjutsu, Iaijutsu, and Jiu-jutsu 17th century (Aichi-Imagawa family)

Takenouchi Ryu竹内流 Jujutsu Grappling art, unarmed or with minor weapons Bōjutsu Staff art Kenjutsu Sword art Iaijutsu Sword drawing art Naginatajutsu Glaive art Tessenjutsu Iron fan art Hojōjutsu Rope-tying and restraining art Sakkatsuhō16th century (Okayama-Takenouchi family)

Shiten Ryu四天流Jujitsu (Kumamoto-Hoshino family)

Kyushin Ryu扱心流, Jujitsu-16th century (Shiga-ken-Iugami family)

Fusen Ryu 不遷流Jujitsu-19th century, (Takeda Motsuge founder)

Miura Ryu 三浦流 Jujitsu-17th Century (Nagasaki-Miura family)

Sosuishi Ryu  双水執流 Kumi Uchi Grappling (unarmed or with minor weapons) Koshi-no-Mawari Iaijutsu (Sword Drawing & fencing)-17th Century (Oita/Fukuoka-Shitama family)

Jujitsu writings

(Photo courtesy of Goshin Ryu)

Although there were hundreds of different jujitsu schools in Japan during the Tokugawa period, many were only different in names and not in techniques.  Documents and records over the centuries were lost through fires, wars, and the passing of the head instructors.  Many schools did not openly share their techniques with other clans out of competitiveness and rivalry.  With Japan’s mountainous terrain, the relative isolation from each other was another contributing factor in the different schools across the country.  With over 250 years of peace, those who did not become public administrators or bandits, sometimes “ronin,” had free time on their hands to develop and refine their battlefield techniques.  Over time, the teachings of the different styles, now divorced of body armor, were passed down through generations of clan or family members, keeping the most coveted “secret” techniques to only the most trusted members. 

The following is a summary of some of the most influential jujitsu schools or styles (Ryu) that influenced Jigoro Kano and the rise of Judo.  Some styles have similarities to one another.  Kano chose each style’s most useful and practical elements to fulfill his physical education curriculum.  He eliminated many dangerous techniques still being taught at the time in jujitsu.  With the rapid modernization of Japan, the need for close combat fighting arts was dying.  Jujitsu was gaining a reputation for brawling and criminal activities.  From the different schools, he invited various grandmasters or soke to the Kodokan to contribute to his teachings. 

Jigoro Kano at age 17-5’2” and 90 lbs.

(Photo courtesy of “Judo-The Gentle Way”)

He would become as large as 165 lbs in his prime.  During the Meiji Period, a time of epic transformation of a long, self-imposed isolation from the world to a modern industrialized society, Jigoro Kano, a Renaissance man of the time, created Judo as a form of physical education but also for moral and philosophical education.  Kano, a learned man who spoke fluent English, was a master of jujitsu, had earned himself a degree in literature and opened the original Kodokan by the age of 22.

(“A Brief Look at the “Root Arts” of Judo” by Steven R. Cunningham, Ph.D.-6th dan Judo, 7th dan Jujutsu, 6th dan Karate)

Next time, we will delve into some of the many different schools of Jujutsu and the ones that mainly influenced the foundation for Judo.

June 16, 2024

The Road to Sawtelle Judo Dojo, Part 3, Judo-Its Origins

Judo-Its Origins

Before we start looking back into the history of Sawtelle Judo Dojo, we will explore into the origins of Judo and its founder, Dr. Jigoro Kano.  Judo is the modern adaptation of Jujutsu, one of the ancient martial arts and qualities traced back to the samurai warriors of medieval Japan.

So, the chain of development for Judo could be interpreted as the following.

First, Chikara-kurabe Sumo(sumai) Kumiuchi Kogusoku, Yawara, Kowami, Taijutsu, Hade, Goho, Koppo, Koshi no Mawari, Hakuda, Kenpo, Shubaku– Jujutsu – Judo. These were preceded by ancient forms of wrestling and hand-to-hand combat, such as Pankration, Bökh, and the many unnamed forms depicted in cave drawings dating back 15,000-20,000 years.

Chikara Kurabe-Test of strength
(Photo courtesy of Origins of Jiu-Jitsu)

Judo roots can be traced back the third Century B.C. to Chikara Kurabe, a test of strength where two men would grapple in hand-to-hand combat which resulted in the death of an opponent.  This was during a period when bow and arrows were used, and swords and spears were used in close combat well before the advent of firearms.

The jiu-jitsu originated in India more than two thousand years before Christ, through the caste of kshatrias (noble warriors who dominated society) who practiced an old fighting system called Vajra Mushiti (wrist or wrist real diamond), whose origins date back to the Indo-European peoples who inhabited Central Asia for 4000 BC.

Vajra Mushti
(Photo courtesy of Arts Database)

Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha (500 BC), a prince of the Shakya clan kshátria was vajramushiti champion after his enlightenment and continued his practice with spiritual objectives and circulated it among their followers.

Present-day representation of Siddhartha Gautama as
Buddha monument in Kamakura, Japan, southwest of Tokyo
(Photo courtesy of Japanese Buddhist Statuary)         

With the spread of Buddhism throughout Asia, an Indian prince, another follower of Buddhism, was invited by the Chinese emperor in 538 BC to restore the precepts of their religion in that country. This Indian prince became the 28th patrician Buddhist doctrine, giving rise to Chan; his name was Bodhi Dharma (Tamo in Chinese and Daruma in Japanese). He stayed at the Buddhist temple of Shaolin Chinese, where the Vajira Mushiti merged with the leading local martial arts kung fu Shaolin (Shorin Kempo in Japanese).

Bodhi Dharma
(Photo courtesy of Cultural China)

Twelve years after the arrival of Bodhi Dharma to China, Buddhism came to Japan, which contributed to this new martial art (kung fu Shaolin) mingling with the struggles of Japan (chikara kurabe kumi uchi and who had the legendary Japanese wrestler, Nomi in Sukune, its great hero in the struggle of life or death took place in 24 BC) giving rise to jiu-jitsu. The Chinese influence on Japanese jiu-jitsu has continued over the next few centuries, as we see below, transforming itself into a weapon of war in the hands of the samurai:

838 to 847, the Japanese monk Einin traveled to Shaolin Temple where he studied martial arts and philosophical precepts, then returned to Japan
12th Century, arrived in Japan Chan Buddhism, which is now called Zen
In the 17th Century, the Chinese monk Chang Ping Yuan taught his self-defense technique to three samurai: Fukuno, Isogai, and Miura. These samurai are considered the fathers of modern jiu-jitsu. Shirobei Akiyama, a Nagasaki doctor, traveled to China to learn martial arts techniques. When he returned to Japan, he withdrew to the mountains to meditate, where he created his style, which has as its principle “yield to win. “

In 1603, the shogun (military dictator) Tokugawa Ieyasu unified Japan with an iron fist, putting an end to conflicts between various clans’ samurai. At that time, over a hundred styles of jujitsu were cataloged as weapons that lasted until the end of the samurai of feudal Japan in 1867.

Akashi Shiganosuke, first Yokozuna,
Sumo Grand Champion, circa 1600’s
(Image of woodblock courtesy of Wikipedia)

Akashi Shiganosuke (明石 志賀之助) (c. 1600 – c. 1649) was officially acknowledged as the first sumo wrestler to hold the title of yokozuna. A legendary figure, his historical existence is disputed.[1] He is said to have been active in the Kan’ei era (1624–1643).[1] He was described as gigantic, 2.58 m (8 ft 6 in) tall and weighing 184 kg (410 lb).

Hakuhō Shō, 白鵬翔,
Former Yokozuna, sumo’s highest ranking

He is 6’4” 340 lbs. and he is not even close to being the biggest Sumotorisan, Sumo wrestler, in modern times.

For “The Road to Sawtelle Judo Dojo, Part 1”

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June 9, 2024

The Road to Sawtelle Judo Dojo, Part 2

Sawtelle-Its History

The area we know as Sawtelle was part of land the Mexican Governor of California granted to Maximo Alanis called “Rancho San Jose de Buenos Aires” in 1853.  With the arrival of the Santa Fe Railroad from the east in 1885, a land boom began, with acreage now selling for $150-$200 an acre.  In 1896, the Pacific Land and Water Company purchased some subdivisions of the Rancho for as low as thirty-five cents an acre.  One of the subdivisions, the Artesian tract of the Barrett Villa, land now part of present-day Sawtelle.  It was three hundred acres of barley fields bounded on the east by the Southern Pacific Railroad tracks (now Sepulveda Blvd.), on the west by Federal Avenue, on the north by the Old Soldiers’ Home (now the Veterans Administration Greater Los Angeles Healthcare Center on Wilshire Blvd.) and on the south by La Grange Ave.

Map of Sawtelle

(Map image courtesy of Google Maps under 2110 Corinth Ave., Los Angeles)

Back then, Sawtelle Blvd. was known as La Calle Cuarta.  Santa Monica Blvd. was called Oregon Blvd.  Present day Cotner Ave. was known as 1st St., Pontius was 2nd St., Beloit was 3rd St. and so on.  With the construction of the San Diego Freeway in the mid-1950’s, the eastern portion of the Sawtelle neighborhood was lost to industrial redevelopment and apartment complexes.

The Pacific Land and Water Company developed a town originally called Barrett, after Gen. A. W. Barrett, the then head of the veterans’ home. When the firm attempted to secure a post office for the new town, the postal authorities objected to the name “Barrett” on account of its similarity to Bassett, California. But, in 1899, after the postal service objected to the town’s current name of Barrett which resembled another Los Angeles town on the east side called Bassett, the town was officially renamed Sawtelle.  W. E. Sawtelle was the manager of the Pacific Land Company at that time. 

The Barrett Villa was a residential area for relatives of the Old Soldiers’ Home, built in 1888 and workers employed there.  By 1900, over two thousand retirees resided in the “One of the largest, handsomest and most attractive of all public establishments” called the Home.  Directly to the south of the Home lay a large agricultural district with excellent climate, soil, access to local water and markets.

Sawtelle and Santa Monica Blvds., circa 1890

(Photo courtesy of Sawtelle, Los Angeles-Wikipedia)

In 1906, with a population of 1400, grocery stores, a bank, a drug store, a clothing store, a fire station, two schools and a jail, the city of Sawtelle was incorporated. The area grew so rapidly that the city was finally became part of the City of Los Angeles due to access to limited water supplies and annexation pressure from Los Angeles city government by 1922.  By 1929, the city granted this area recognized as West Los Angeles.

By 1922, Sawtelle was incorporated into the City of Los Angeles. 

Taken in 1926, we see an inbound car about to pick up some passengers at

Sawtelle Blvd. We are looking west down Santa Monica Blvd.

Present day intersection of Sawtelle and Olympic Blvds.

Beginning in 1910, attracted by many agricultural opportunities, many Japanese immigrants settled in the area.  By the 1930’s, the Japanese community grew to over 1000, many employed as gardeners and agriculturists.  Sawtelle Blvd. was lined with local mix of Japanese and Hispanic businesses from groceries, drug stores and nurseries.  Some of those same nurseries are still in business today.  Along with the businesses, social and community organizations formed; Christian and Buddhist churches, the West Los Angeles Community Center, and the Japanese Institute of Sawtelle. 

Near to the seashore that eased nostalgia for their homeland, the mild temperatures and rich soil ideal for working close to nature and a cooperative network by the local Kenjinkai were attributes attracting the early Issei to Sawtelle, ソーテル or so-te-ru, in the 1910s. From 1920 to 1925, the town’s population increased from 3,500 to 10,700, primarily due to the westward migration of the movie industry from New York, the influx of Nikkei farmers and merchants, and later the establishment of the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA). With the growth of neighboring communities in Westwood, Bel Air, and Brentwood, the demand for Nikkei gardeners, nursery workers, and domestics increased, and the area became ideal for raising families. (Preserving Japantowns-Sawtelle)

The auditorium or community hall, built in 1940, was watched over by the American Red Cross during the war, and served as a hostel for returning Japanese Americans after World War II. The facility was remodeled to include a small kitchen in 1964 and renovated again in 1978 to its present configuration. After over 80 years, the Japanese Institute of Sawtelle continues to offer Japanese language classes on weekdays and weekends, and host speech contests and undokai (sports day) annually. The WLA Japanese American Community Center, an entity established in 1986 to coordinate the community activities, provides Dojo space for three martial arts groups, coordinates a senior lunch program, facilitates health and wellness classes, and offers cultural arts classes.

Becoming a part of greater Los Angeles and renamed West Los Angeles (WLA) in 1929, “Sawtelle”” still commonly refers to the commercial corridor of Japanese businesses and restaurants along Sawtelle Blvd, between Pico and Santa Monica Boulevards, and the residential neighborhood surrounding it. By 1941, Sawtelle boasted 26 nurseries/florist shops, 8 boarding houses, 8 gas stations/garages, 4 churches, 3 grocery stores, 5 shops, 4 barbers, 2 sewing schools, 1 beauty salon, and 1 Japanese language school and community hall. Today, only a handful of pre-World War II historic sites remain, but an influx of Japanese restaurants, markets, and the J-pop influence of the Giant Robot store and eatery provide a new identity, often referred to as “Little Osaka.” (Sawtelle Blvd., History-website)

For “The Road to Sawtelle Judo Dojo, Part 1”

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June 3, 2024

The Road to Sawtelle Judo Dojo, Part 1

Sawtelle Judo Dojo History


Begun originally in 2011, I thought this would be a short history project of Sawtelle Judo just covering when the place opened and some highlights of Dr. Jigoro Kano and Judo.  But, when a place has been opened since the late 1920s and Judo’s origins date back centuries, there’s a lot of interesting history to uncover.  This is a story of our Dojo, Judo, and the people who stood here in the past.  I discovered that there are many people, “the old-timers,” that we need to interview to get their stories of this place. I have only scratched the surface and uncovered some of the more accessible history found in published photos, articles, and books.  There is more, a lot more.  The history will not change.  It just needs to be revealed.  However, rather than waiting to finish this project, I decided to post Sawtelle Judo’s living history in an unfinished, raw yet fascinating form.  This preserves some of the history of the Dojo’s history before memories and people fade away. 

This historical piece will have many parts culminating with our 100th Anniversary in 2027. Follow along and take in some history. Nothing lasts forever. However, we strive to maintain the legacy of our founders, forefathers, and Judo in this place called “Sawtelle Judo Dojo.”

-Jerry Hazemoto-

President, Sawtelle Judo Dojo

How do you get to Sawtelle Judo Dojo?

Lost in translation- “So–te-ru” Nihon Gakuen.

or Sawtelle Japanese Institute

At the entrance to the school parking lot

There are no flashy signs.  It is just an unmarked beige-colored building.

One day, a curious passer-by stop-in to see what all the kids are screaming and yelling about.  Tucked away in a quiet residential neighborhood just a stone’s throw from the intersection of Olympic and Sawtelle Boulevards, from the driveway, they saw no other signs.  The area, once predominately populated by a Japanese American farming community, is called Sawtelle Japantown or by its nickname, “Little Osaka.” But all the noise was coming from a large, unmarked, beige-colored building.  As they enter the spacious auditorium, the kids dressed in white clothes that look like pajamas with different color belts tightly wound around their tiny waists.  They stand on top of a used, but very heavily worn canvas mat.  Their parents line the near wall seated in metal folding chairs watching as the head instructor, wearing the same clothes with a red and white sash wrapped around his waist.  If they get out of line, it is not time out.  But it is push-ups for them.  And they do the push-ups without question.  That is strange.  With over thirty kids in a spacious room, you might expect chaos.  But, one adult has the full attention, eyes, and ears, of all of children.

Sometimes, they sound like ducks quacking, “Quack, quack, quack…”  And they look like they are waddling down the heavy canvas mat in procession, “like ducks in a row.”  Other times, they are yelling, “Hai!”  But they are not waving hello to anyone.  With their notebooks and pencils, but, without desks or chairs, while standing, the kids even take notes and recite some odd words, “O Uchi Gari, Harai Goshi, O Soto Gari?”  The passer-by begins to wonder what kind of class this is.  They look on with startled eyes and hear the loud “thump” or “WHOOMP!” as kids roll and fall to the auditorium floor hard.

But it is not a typical gymnastics class.  There are no crash mats around.  She asks an older man with thin-rimmed glasses at the door, “What is this place?”  He answers, “This is Sawtelle Judo.”  She sighed, “Hmm, I would have never known.”

If you did not know about this place and you walk by the front gate, you would probably think it is Japanese school.  On the side of the building in the front, it reads, “Japanese Institute of Sawtelle” or JIS. 

Japanese Institute of Sawtelle

(Photo courtesy of Japanese Institute of Sawtelle)

But, for those of us who know, most of us arrive by car coming from Santa Monica, Olympic or Sawtelle Blvds.  The children just hitch a ride with their parents for their practice.  Others drive directly from work.  But, once you make the right turn off Olympic onto Corinth, you just look for the real, cool-looking, and airbrushed catering truck, go right pass it and turn right into the narrow driveway.   

Fine art-Sensei Thierry’s old catering truck

Parked along the street near the Dojo. Sensei Thierry now runs a crepes stand at Alana’s Coffee in Venice.

By the way, the artist used to practice Judo at Sawtelle.

Valet Parking Only

We have openings for parking valets.  Please contact our administrator. 

“Who has a GMC?  Is this your white Nissan?  Not me, I rode my bike.”

We slowly fill every inch of the parking lot three nights a week, twice each evening.  Some of us ride in by bus.  Some trek the miles in by bicycle.  However, a few still walk right over to the Dojo, as others did when the doors of the Dojo were first opened. Back in the day, many just walked from their homes in the neighborhood over to the Dojo.

The Japanese Institute of Sawtelle, or “JIS,” was the home of Sawtelle Judo Dojo since 1927. However, in January 2023, we moved out due to the planned renovation of the property into a Japanese language immersion school and program. Since the move, we have moved from place to place and continued to practice at the following locations.

Venice Judo Club, Venice January-February 2023

Flip1stGymnastics, Santa Monica-February-August 2023

Ocean Grown BJJ, West Los Angeles-September 2023-Present

We now continue to practice Judo at Ocean Grown BJJ, which has opened its doors to us as we search for a more permanent and dedicated location. We are eternally grateful to the following individuals for their genuine generosity to assisting us in a time of need.

Marshall Lipps, owner of Ocean Grown BJJ,

Dan Levi, owner of Flip1stGymnastics

Trace Nishiyama, head instructor at Venice Judo Club.

This begins our story behind Sawtelle Judo Dojo.  So, who or what is Sawtelle?  Where did Judo come from?  What is the history of Sawtelle Judo Dojo? In the next part, we will discuss the history of the Sawtelle area.

For “The Road to Sawtelle Judo Dojo, Part 2”

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March 23, 2024

Judo practice reminders

Be consistent and practice as much as possible

Be on-time

If you are late for class, bow onto the mat, greet the Sensei, and warm up and stretch out before exercising and especially before performing ukemi, uchikomi, nagekomi, and engage in randori.

On the mat, focus, watch, listen, and perform the techniques to the best of your abilities. Ask questions if you need help understanding something.

To accelerate your learning, especially our Juniors, write down what you learned in class: what was taught, what the steps to performing a technique, what you learned today that you already did not know, and what you could do on your own to get better. Write down what you did today that surprised you and what you accomplished. What are your Judo goals, and what are the steps to getting there?

Mastering Judo takes time. It is not like downloading an app. It requires patience, practice, and discipline.

Hydrate throughout the day. If you’re dehydrated, you’re liable to cramp or be exhausted during practice.

Go to the restroom before practice

During practice, do not drink too much water

Bring a gym bag

Wear beach sandals/flip-flops while off the mat, walking on the floor, going to the restroom or changing room.

Bring your water 

Please bring a gym bag, water bottle, other drinks, and beach sandals on the first day.  When you are off the Judo mat, everyone must wear their footwear so they do not track dirt back onto the carpets, especially from the restroom. 

Wash your Judogi between practices. Wash your Judogi only in cold water. Do not use bleach. Hang dry your Judogi after each wash. Do not wash your Judo belt. It will shrink very quickly and begin to look like a “bow tie” if you do so.

Bring a warm change of clothes after a hard, sweaty workout to prevent muscle tightness and colds.

Take home everything that you brought with you to practice.

Assist in the clean-up of our Dojo at the end of the Senior practice.

Vacuum mat free of any debris

Spray disinfectant on mat

Wet mop mat and spread disinfectant evenly over surface

Flush toilet

Throw out trash into bins

Clear bar of any trash, leftover items like water bottle

Turn off digital clock

Turn off the overhead TV monitor

Turn off the fan & air purifier

Remove any trash or left items from the changing room

Turn off lights; bathroom, mat, lobby, and changing room

Make sure the front steel doors facing Pico Blvd. are closed and locked

Lock gate

Lock steel door locks with key

Drive out of the parking lot safely. Other drivers use this parking lot during rush hour as a shortcut to turn south on Sawtelle Blvd.

Watch out for the interesting vagrants under the Expo Line.

March 23, 2024

Familiarize yourself with the Judo rules

It could the difference between winning and losing, plus the safety of yourself and others competing or practicing in this sport.

Referee signals

Here are short videos demonstrating referee signals for different penalties.

IJF Judo Rules, 2022-2024, next Olympic cycle, Paris 2024

Here is the latest YouTube video hosted by Neil Adams, the leading commentator of IJF events, reviewing the latest rule changes.

The Rules of Judo (Don’t Do This)

This video, The Rules of Judo (Don’t Do This), is more entertaining. But don’t do this, especially in front of Osugi Sensei. Then, you’ll surely remember not to do it again. For Juniors, it could mean winning a white belt.Hiroyuki Akimoto is a former 2010 World Champion @ 73 kg and now designs his line of BJJ/Judo gear, Kimono Fighter

March 23, 2024

Our Dojo practice

Our objective in practicing Nagekomi and Randori is to perfect your Judo technique. Randori is not a tournament match for a Gold medal.

When you throw someone during Nagekomi or Randori, hold onto your uke’s sleeve or lapel so they can do their ukemi and protect themselves. For Torii, you must control your uke’s fall for their safety. Moreover, during competition, if you don’t maintain control of your uke’s fall after throwing them, you may not receive a score, be unable to perform, or lose the opportunity to perform Osaekomi. Shimewaza or Kansetsu-waza immediately.

We prohibit a series of techniques outlined in our enrollment form during practice. This is for your safety and our membership.

Stay standing after executing your Tachiwaza (standing techniques).

No head diving. Nobody wants a broken neck.

No “double-knee” Seoi Nage. There is no need to give someone a headache or be a pain in the neck.

Landing directly on someone’s ribs and chest after throwing them into Osaekomi. Broken ribs make it difficult for someone to do things we take for granted, like breathing, sleeping, walking, driving to work, and sitting and working eight hours.

From our enrollment form:


All techniques and behaviors banned by the International Judo Federation, USA Judo, and Nanka Judo Yudanshakai will not be tolerated at Sawtelle Judo Dojo. This especially applies to those with previous martial arts or wrestling experience who may have been taught specific techniques.

For IJF rules, please read IJF SOR, Sport and Organization Rules.

Beyond the IJF rules, here at Sawtelle, we ban following throwing processes and methods.

Kinshi-Waza-these are already prohibited techniques by the IJF.

Ashi-Garami (足緘), Do-Jime (胴絞), Kani-Basami (蟹挟), Kawazu-Gake (河津掛)

Any throwing technique that uses the arm or arms to wrap around the neck or the head and has a chance of driving the head into the ground or the Torii landing on top of Uke. Examples are Koshi Guruma, “Drop Knee” Seoi Nage, or “Guillotine” headlock.

Any throwing processes that lock the ankle, knee, or hip joints and pull the Uke into the ground using your body weight.

Examples are Tani Otoshi, Ura Nage, Yagura Gaeshi, and Kari Gaeshi.

Any throwing processes with a chance of Torii falling over Uke. This includes all Makikomi derivatives, such as Harai Makikomi, Soto Makikomi, and Hane Makikomi.

Any throwing processes that Torii throws backward, sideways, or forward cause the Uke to fall directly on the head or to inhibit the Uke from performing Ukemi. Examples are Ura Nage, Daki Age or Yagura Nage.