Torite (overview)

Torite is a classical martial art to capture an enemy with bare hands without killing him. Depending on the respective school, auxiliary weapons are used to make the arrest, such as the mitsu-dōgu (three pole weapons for catching criminals), the jitte (short truncheon with a hook), or the hojō (policeman’s rope used for restraining criminal). Torite is a martial art aimed at catching the opponent without killing them.

After the middle of the Edo period, there was a tendency for lower-ranking government official to learn it. Torite is included as an independent martial art in the “The 14 Kinds of Bugei” by Confucian scholar Kaibara Ekiken (1630–1714). As a side note, this work also includes ken (fist) as a kind of jūjutsu. Torite is equivalent to modern-day taiho-jutsu, which is a compulsory subject for modern police officers. As a derivative genre of torite, taiho-jutsu assumed its operative tasks and technical content in the modern era.

The origin of the name torite itself is older than that of jūjutsu and it has been used since the Muromachi period. In addition, the schools referred to as jūjutsu in posterity often included techniques classified as torite. In many schools torite is a technique to attack and arrest a person, either as a surprise attack or while employing atemi (strikes to vulnerable parts of the body). There were also schools that taught the use of various hidden weapons (kakushi buki).

Since the Muromachi period, torite has been used in every place in Japan by those whose job was to maintain security and public order and to capture and arrest lawbreakers. As a formal practice system that has been handed down as a martial arts school from generation to generation, torite mainly appeared since the 1500s.

The main schools are Takenouchi-ryū Torite Koshi-no-mawari Kogusoku, Tenka Musō-ryū Torite, Heki Musō Ikkaku-ryū Torite, Araki-ryū Torite, etc., which were established in the 1500s.

In the Edo period, torite was summed up under the umbrella term of jūjutsu along with other methods such as kumiuchi, kogusoku, yawara and kenpō. From this background, even in schools that used the name jūjutsu, their true nature might be that of torite.

In addition to kogusoku and kumiuchi, older schools such as the Seigō-ryū and the Takenouchi-ryū included torite as an important part of their system. In the Seigō-ryu, one was supposed to start learning from torite and then continue to learn kogusoku and yawara. Also, in the Takenouchi-ryū, the techniques devised by the school founder was said to be a shinden torite (literally “torite conveyed by the gods”; an excellent technique) and was regarded highly as a secret technique (okugi).

© 2021, Andreas Quast. All rights reserved.

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