So, I've been taking danzan ryu jujitsu classes from theHoriuchi Kodenkan for a year now. I told myself that I would give it that long before I sat down to review it so that I could try and give people a good sense of the school.
They have only been teaching publicly for about 3 years, though they have been teaching family and a few close friends since 1974. It is part of the American Jujitsu Institute, and the kanchou was one of Professor Okazaki's students. Professor Horiuchi is going deaf, however, so he doesn't teach as actively as he once did. His son is the head instructor and runs the day-to-day programs.
The school is really run as two separate parts, which makes the ratings scheme a little complicated. The foremost dojo is at the Star of the Sea Elementary School. That's where the public is first exposed to the school. The honbu dojo is by invitation only, as it is their home. Some of the things you will see at one dojo you won't do much of at the other dojo, and vice versa. I tried to make the filled-in ratings reflect the Star of the Sea dojo so as to give a sense of what you might find upon first meeting the school. I will, however, note in the write-up where they appreciably differ from one another.
Aliveness: The aliveness varies from dojo to dojo, and from class to class. There isn't much striking aliveness. Every now and again some of the kids in the beginner class at Star of the Sea (SotS) with some karate background will do some light point sparring, but that's rare. With the AJI's recent decision to push more alive competition formats, including sport jujitsu and kumite (point-based), that may change.
The grappling aliveness varies from class to class as well. The beginner class at SotS does a lot more randori than the intermediate class. It's more often done from newaza (sitting back to back) than standing. The randori rules are more jujitsu than judo- when starting from tachi, a throw doesnít end anything- it has to go to a submission. Or, if the pin is solid enough, sometimes the instructor will call that good enough for the kids, though he doesnít use a strict clock. There is no judo-style separation of the techniques by age.
Overall, the aliveness can go from a 3 to a 6.
Equipment: Again the equipment varies from dojo to dojo. At the SotS, there are nice, new flush to the floor foam mats. That is the extent of the equipment available normally. If itís in the lesson plan, the instructor might bring a kick pad or two or some rubber duck knives or pistols. The honbu dojo has springy tatami mats. Bags available are a Bob (one of those wave bags with the torso on it), and a hanging short medium bag. They will be getting some heavier canvas bags soon. Striking pads, mitts, rubber ducks, and such are readily available if needed. There is a set-up for a weighted throwing trainer (pull the ropes and turn to throw). There is a massage table for work on seifukujutsu (and showers available if you need them afterwards).
The SotS dojo rates about a 4, the honbu dojo rates about a 5 to 6.
Gym Size: The SotS dojo is located in the multipurpose room of an Elementary school. It has high ceilings, except for one spot on the mats. And with the new mats, ĺ of the room is covered with the mats for what Iím going to estimate at about 800 sq ft. of mat space. The honbu dojo the classic family dojo in the basement. The mat is a standard judo mat size, so it gets crowded easily. When we need to work on big group katas for demonstrations, we tend to go upstairs to the concrete pad that is the front yard. There is a little entryway into the basement that can be used for non-falling activities. The massage room is in the basement, itís plenty big enough for a few people to work on one person. The current plan is to expand the basement training area to include the rooms adjacent to the training area and move the massage room to another room off to the side.
Iím going to rate the SotS dojo as a 6, and the honbu dojo as a 3.
Instructor Student Ratio: This one is pretty easy. Though the SotS dojo has more people, especially in the beginner class, itís rarely more than 20 people in a class- 10 to 15 (including instructors) is more normal. Professor Horiuchi is at just about every class, as are both his sons. They are big on having yudansha and various sempai teach a group a particular skill, but they are always there to correct and oversee.
Iím going to rate this as a 9 to 10 for both dojos.
Atmosphere/Attitude: There are no contracts, but they still want to know if youíre not going to show up to class. They seem to care about people, and want to make sure everything is alright. Though not everyone is always invited to the honbu dojo, everyone is expected to attend Osoji and Kagami Biraki. Invitations are often extended to the dojo for various parties and such. Really, they are a pretty good bunch of folks that hang together pretty tightly.
This is an 8.
Striking Instruction: This is a jujitsu school. Striking takes a backseat to grappling, though itís worked into the curriculum. Strikes are expected in groundwork drills, though not at full speed (no ground and pound at full resistance). We practice a kihon kata from kyokushin to help with basic striking elements. Just recently, weíve been hitting the bags more often at the honbu dojo, though the technique is very traditional karate (sideways shiko stance, hands up high and spread). As mentioned previously, every once in a while some of the kids will do some light kumite for points. Several of the younger students do karate at other schools, and compete in kumite through them. So far the competition level through this school is just kata.
The SotS rates a 4, the honbu dojo rates a 5.
Grappling Instruction: The grappling here is pretty solid. Like all danzan ryu, it starts from standing escapes, and then progresses to throws, newaza, and combinations thereof. The randori is fairly limited in scope, just because we spend tons of time on drills. Drills, drills, drills. And drills. Though, I must say, I learn them when we repeat them so often. Often after doing the techniques from the boards, weíll do various newaza or tachiwaza drills. As stated before, most of the randori rules are to a submission (or for the young Ďuns, sometimes a solid pin).
The instructor will openly state that the focus of the school is self-defense, not competition. However, if you are interested in competition, they will help you focus on the rules-set of what you are working for. His sons recently competed in the Junior Olympics in judo through the Tenri Judo club. However, I have to say that they did a lot of judo work at the school, and the other students were right in there with them in the drills and randori. So, Iím going to give some credit to the Horiuchi Kodenkan for one of them winning gold in the international division 11-12 yr olds.
Both dojos get a 7, maybe an 8 here, if you consider the Junior Olympic win.
Weapons: Danzan ryu studies a few weapons in its boards- the knife, gun, tessen, and some staves. The Horiuchi Kodenkan also focuses on the bokken and jo. The board techniques are the standard pre-set techniques that are learned as part of the regular curriculum. The bokken and jo are practiced the majority of the time with katas. Sometimes, though, weíll do some practice with the weapons along the lines of block-strike drills (bokken vs. bokken, jo vs. jo, jo vs. bokken), or unscripted knife defense. We have also been known to do a little defense vs. bokken with some newaza thrown in. That was interesting.
Both dojos get from a 1 to a 4 here.
Overall, I like the place, though itís been an adjustment for me. The progression through the standard material is a lot slower than I have been accustomed to in the past at other schools. They take the long view of martial arts, and figure that since you have a lifetime to learn, thereís no rush. You will be expected to exhibit a lot of budo, with bowing to yudansha, sitting in seiza when receiving instruction, and how to fold a gi. Talk later, work now, etc. You will be expected to learn the Japanese terms for things, and to (try to) pronounce them correctly. Always fun when you have a Texas drawl, and learned pronunciations and definitions ass-backwards.
I hope this long write-up gives a pretty good sense of what they have to offer, but if Iíve missed something, just ask, and I shall answer as best I know.
What is your favorite part of Danzan Ryu training? I enjoy the throwing the most, but I think that the Yawara is the most beneficial to me for law enforcement purposes.
My favorite part is the way the higher boards (oku no kata, shinen no maki, etc.) combine the throwing and the constriction arts. I got a lot of the yawara-type stuff down with another style of jujitsu that focused on that. And the throwing is really simple compared to judo. But the way the higher boards start tying it all together really helps my sense of flowing from one technique to another.
Kubi shime tomoe gyakute has a really cumbersome name, but it's a string of techniques, one after the other, that really drill in the need to flow from one art to another. It typifies what I like about those sorts of things.