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Defining Taiho-Jutsu

Since taiho-jutsu has been a passion of mine since 1968, I'm always curious about and interested in sensei who instruct the art. Many of these instructors claim high rank in taiho-jutsu, and the curricula seen often take the student from White Belt to the various degrees of Black Belt.

In viewing some of these programs, there are four observations I find, which are consistently seen among many instructors. To begin with, many sensei use the term "taiho-jutsu" generically, i.e., a term encompassing police tactics in the most general sense. While the majority emphasize unarmed techniques, there are some who include weapons. A second observation is that depending on the background of the sensei, techniques taught will reflect this background in his/her teachings. For example, a sensei whose rank is in karate will teach techniques which have karate as its core. The same holds true for sensei from judo or aikido backgrounds. There may well be techniques from various arts in the total curriculum, but the emphasis will reflect the sensei's strongest background art.

This leads to a sometimes sensitive issue, which is observation number three. Despite holding rank in judo, karate, aikido, or any other art, rank is claimed in taiho-jutsu, and students receive rank in this art. On one level this may be considered an ethical issue. While this may be true, it seems to be simpler as well. Anyone can put together an "original" curriculum in any art, give it any name, and as the head of that system, wear a Red Belt and award rank accordingly. This has been done by some for many many years. If that were not the case, there would be only one style of karate, aikido, et al. Here is the difference. When Gogen Yamaguchi took the Goju-ryu system that Chojun Miyagi modified and taught him, when Funakoshi combined elements of Shorin-ryu and Shorei-ryu to form Shotokan, when Tomiki, Tohei, and Shioda modified the teachings of Uyeshiba and founded their own systems of aiki-budo, they all stayed within their respective arts.


In this third observation, we see that sensei are claiming rank in an art they do not have a foundation in (taiho-jutsu). Promotion sometimes is seen from self-created organizations, or from national organizations which are not taiho-jutsu organizations, but nonetheless have a board issue rank.

A fourth observation is that many times, the people teaching taiho-jutsu are current or former police officers. While this experience certainly gives the instructors good insight into the problematic situations officers may encounter, the question becomes, does this qualify them to teach taiho-jutsu?

One might look at these four observations, and simply say it is all an issue of semantics. After all, taiho-jutsu could just be a Japanese way of saying "police tactics" or "arresting techniques". I see this as an oversimplification. For any martial art, it seems logical that there be some working definition as to what the art is. Otherwise, I can teach JuJutsu and call it Wing Chun! In the opinion of this writer, for a system to be called "taiho-jutsu", it must have the taiho-jutsu course at its core, as its foundation. This specifically refers to the course that was taught to S.A.C. personnel in the 1950s and 1960s, as formulated by the National Police Agency of Japan in 1947. That program was not merely a series of techniques. It included an approach and a philosophy to both the technique and its application. It is that unique combination which allows one to be "qualified" to teach taiho-jutsu by the working definition presented here. There may be many great sensei teaching many varieties of police tactics. They may feel their techniques are superior to others. That is natural and their right. However, unless the short course and its principles and concepts are included in the curriculum, these instructors are not teaching taiho-jutsu.  

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