Taihojutsu, then and then

In the fall of 1931, Nagamine Shōshin took the police entry examination. Nearly one hundred people had applied, but there were only twenty positions open. Only eighteen persons passed, among them Shōshin. Two years since he had returned from military service in China, he entered the Okinawa prefectural police force:

When I was safely discharged and returned home, I thought about my future profession. While studying karate, which is my hobby, I thought that there was no other place than the police force to make use of it by profession. So, in September 1931, I was appointed a police officer in Okinawa Prefecture. … Rather than wanting to get a promotion quickly, I was more than happy to be able to immerse myself in karate, and I thought it was like getting a government salary and going to a martial arts vocational school. [From: Okinawa no Karate-dō, 1976]

He entered as a 63rd generation member of the police training school in Okinawa. The training dormitory at that time was located behind the place of the later Butokuden, near the current prefectural assembly building. Uniforms, caps, sabers, police notebooks, policeman’s ropes used for restraining criminals, etc. were lent to the trainees.

At that time, along with jūdō and kendō, karate was included among the compulsory subjects for the Okinawa Prefectural Police only. The instructor was Miyagi Chōjun, the founder of Gōjū-ryū. Miyagi later recommended Nagamine to the Dai Nippon Butokukai for promotion and in 1941 the two were responsible in creating the introductory Fukyū-gata I and II.

After three months at the police training school, the duty locations for each of the eighteen new police officers were announced. Shōshin was chosen to serve at Kadena Police Station.

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As described above, jūdō, kendō, karate was included among the compulsory subjects, and sabers and policeman’s ropes (hojō 捕縄) used for restraining criminals were provided at the police training school in Okinawa in 1931.

In 1936, Shōshin was ordered to attend the Tōkyō Metropolitan Police Department, i.e. the national police HQ of Japan, where he received training for six months. He set foot in the police station in Asakusa, Tōkyō in April 1936. His most probably included taihojutsu, a modern era term which refers to “techniques used by policemen to arrest criminals,” or simply police jūjutsu. This I came to believe not only because of his job, but also because I came accross a book in his former study located above the former dōjō. The book called “Police Martial Arts: Techniques for Arresting Criminals and for Self-protection.” It was first published by Shōkadō of Tōkyō in 1930, but this is a 3rd printing edition of 1931.

The authors were Takahashi Kazuyoshi, Ōgushi Ihachi, and Zusho Takekuma. Takahashi was instructor (shihan) at the police training school and ranked kyōshi in jūdō. Ōgushi was a policeman and 5th dan in Kōdōkan jūdō. Zusho was an instructor at the Tōkyō Metropolitan Police HQ, i.e. were Nagamine was a trainee for six month.

People probably believe that everyone could have studied any martial art they wanted during the 1930s in Okinawa, but I disagree. Rather, martial arts and contents were probably very much restricted. Taihojutsu is an umbrella term for “techniques and methods used by policemen to arrest criminals” and it includes the use of ropes (hojō), sticks, and other tools.

It was only in the post-war period that these methods became available to the general karate public and were included as karate techniques, either by using kata as a reference or in freestyle application. In other words, taihojutsu is a distinct category of Japanese martial arts that amalgamated into karate. It was one of many different martial arts, but it was one. Even the armor used in Okinawa bogu-tsuki karate in many cases comes from Japanese police taihojutsu. Taihojutsu must be considered an influence in karate in a few cases until 1945, and in many more cases since the 1950s.

© 2022, Andreas Quast. All rights reserved.

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