Here at the frontier, the leaves fall like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians, and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are still two cups at my table.

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~

Saturday, November 30, 2019

The History of Nippon Kempo

At the Ukraine site for Nippon Kempo, is a nice article explaining the history of this martial art. An excerpt is posted below. The full post may be read here.

Different martial arts are popular in our time. In particular, universal fighting system (UFS) which promotes a mix of fighting styles and bouts. But very few people know about Nippon Kempo (jp:日本拳法) system. It was the first system of the full-contact mix fighting in 1930s in the motherland of Samurai Japan. The founder of the Japanese hand-to-hand fighting which became Nippon kempo was Masaru Sawayama.

He was born on December 12, 1906 in the family of a noble Nakaoke Clan. He was a weak child. It was difficult for him to walk to school. This was till he was 13 (thirteen). At that time different kinds of Western sport began to appear in Japan: baseball, boxing, bodybuilding etc. Japanese young people became fond of these new trends. Magazines and books which made western sport popular came from Europe. Sports shops began to sell barbells, dumbbells, expanders and other sports equipment of exotic Western civilization.

Masaru felt the influence of such expansion and he decided to change – a man must be strong! He started bodybuilding and martial arts. And in some years he turned into a strong young man with a perfect body.

One of the founders of western ways of preparation of sportsmen in Japan legendary Dzigoro Kano (founder of Judo) had great influence on life and development of Sawayama Masaru. In 1904 Dzigoro Kano implemented and made popular the bodybuilding system of Yevgeniy Sandov. Dzigoro Kano was an educated man; he could go around the world and Europe and find different methods of training. He paid attention to bodybuilding system and he was the first to use barbells, dumbbells, and expanders in Judo.

In 1926 when Sawayama Masaru went to Law School of Kansai University in Osaka he was a perfectly developed young man.

At university he went in for judo and got the Fifth Dan (Shihan). He turned into the defender of all the weak; he many times stopped fighting students and local gangsters.

Sawayama Masaru was a skillful fighter, a good organizer and leader and the head of the university judo team.

At university Sawayama was interested in striking and kicking fighting techniques. He thought it was not used enough in judo and ju-jitsu.

Basis of judo training was randori – free bouts which had certain rules.

They let fighters develop useful skills such as reaction and feeling of distance, decide tactics, use techniques on fighting opponents. But randori rules did not let use strikes.

These rules made fighting safe and protected sportsmen from serious injuries. Fighters used strikes in vital striking areas only in kata. But Sawayama thought that using only kata technique did not let sportsmen master fighting on high level. Understanding of it made him start exploring old schools of budjutzu (jp: 武術:じゅつ) (martial arts) famous for sophisticated techniques of striking in atemi (vital areas). He spent a lot of time looking for ancient manuscripts describing these techniques and communication with masters living in Osaka in that time.

In 1920s several fighting systems such as European boxing, Okinawa karate-do and Thai boxing appeared in Japan. Osaka became the center of activity of masters of different martial arts systems. 

Thanks to this Masaru could attend trainings and master classes of different martial arts styles and schools. He could compare advantages and disadvantages of kicking and striking techniques. He came up to the conclusion that real martial arts like ancient bujitsu must include striking and kicking techniques, throws, reverse joint locks and skills to resist an armed person. Then he decided to create a synthetic applied fighting system of practical use.

After learning from master of Okinava karate and founder of Shitoryu karate-do style Kenwa Mabuni, Sawayama founded the Centre for Tode Study at Kansay University. Tode is the general term for martial arts of Chinese origin in Okinawa.

This organization became the main centre  for study karate-do in Kansay region. Masters of different fighting styles gave seminars and classes here. He invited the founder of  Gojiryu style Miyagi Chijuni and Chinese master of Bahei Tzhuan style Hu Siangui 白鹤拳, whose method influenced a lot Gojiryu and Shitoryu schools, to give classes at Kansai university at the beginning of 1930s. Their performances and teaching methods promoted growing interest of people in Osaka nearby districts to Okinawa martial art.

Mabuni used traditional Okinawa karate methods when he trained Masaru. Classes were individual, and kata was paid much attention. However, this approach did not satisfy the young active man.  

Together with members of Centre for Tode Study he began to develop the methods of study of striking and kicking techniques and free  full-contact fighting system. Sawayama put three goals:
  1. Avoid using atemi technique which its great ruining power with evil aims;
  2. Make atemi technique safe to protect fighters from injuries;
  3. Find the most efficient atemi technique.
Sawayama tried to achieve these goals in different ways which were not always successful.

On the first stage of his work Masaru developed and used three kinds of sparring: yakusoku-kumite, juiji-kumite, and senken-kumite. Later, they became one kind – jui-kumite. While yakusoku-kumite sparring (when the opponent says what he is going to do) students struck and kicked according to the instruction of the teacher. This made the activity relatively safe.

Jui-kumite is a free sparring. Sawayama described it as a kind of sparring when fighters use attacking and defensive techniques freely. However, attacker strikes and kicks and waits the opponent to use a protective technique. The main idea is to practice different protective techniques freely and counter-attack. It is go-no-sen method (skill to counter-attack after resisting opponent’s attack) with outlined roles.

At last, but not the least is sinken kumitte. It is a sparring with fighting swards which is a free bout with hikite. And it reminds sparring in modern WKF karate system with sun-do-me rules. This system of trainings developed in autumn of 1930 and became standard for Centre for Tode Study at Kansay University.

Active use of judo and jujitsu techniques in sparring made members of the Centre think if they did karate or if they created a new independent kind of budo which had the right to exist.

In autumn 1932 Sawayama Masaru, after seven years of studying at Law School, organized a meeting of the leaders of Centre for Tode Study: Yano Fumio, Yagi Suiti, Yamada Reniti, Nakano Mizuru, Kuroyama Takamaro, Takeiti Kazuaki and Tyadani Kintoshi. They declared the birth of a new kind of budo. They called it Dai Nippon Kempo (Kempo of Great Japan) and their Centre was called Dai Nippon Kempo Kai (Kempo of Great Japan Centre). Sawayama was elected President. It should be mentioned that all leaders of the Centre were masters of different fighting styles. Kuroyama Takamaru was a judo teacher of chief police department of Osaka. He was the best friend of Masaru and they together created the motto “Develop body and mind practicing judo and kempo to serve your country and people.”

This opposition made relations between Sawayama and Kenwa Mabuni complicated. However, the creator of a new fighting style and his teacher continued business relations. Mabuni followed his student’s thorough methodological search. He looked for new forms of sparring which made training process even more efficient.

Sawayama refused from basic kata practice and focused on free bouts. But experience showed that, firstly, sparring with restricted contact did not have real effect. Secondly, it did not make fighting safe because during the bout fighters could strike in contact by accident. That is why very soon after Dai Nippon Kempo Kai foundation its leaders began experiments with different kinds of protective clothes. Finally, they decided to use special equipment – bogu: helmet with bars for face protection (men), chest armour (dou), groin armour (matate), and boxing gloves (gurubu). This gear let strike and hit with all might, do throws, reverse joint locks in sparring and ground bouts. The main was that fighters could have full-contact strikes and kicks without serious injuries to the opponent. This became carte-de-visite of Nippon kempo.

Absence of weight categories, kicks in groin, training of special stamina and spirit are chief advantages of Sawayama’s systems. Systematic kumite practice is the way of fighting spirit development and control. It makes this type of exercise an important and efficient means of bringing up braveness.

Implementation of sparring practice in bogu let fighters use the widest range of techniques in the bout and have full-scale competitions. Sawayama’s students exchanged powerful strikes, did throws and reverse joint locks while standing and falling on the floor, continued to fight underground, skillfully using karate, boxing, judo and jiu-jitsu techniques. This kind of sparring was introduced to Dai Nippon Kempo Kai in 1934. This year the first official bogu fight tournament was held in main dojo (jp:  道場)of Kokai Association, members of which practiced Nippon kempo.

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