Taiho-jutsu is a method for present day Japanese police officers (keisatsukan), Imperial guard escort officers (kōgū goeikan), coast guard officers, narcotics control officers (mayakutorishimarikan), military police officers of the Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF), and other judicial police personnel, or alternatively, officials who are legally speaking not judicial police personnel, but who perform duties similar to it, such as immigration control officers (nyūkoku keibikan), and who controls, arrests, detains suspects and criminals take them to the police.

It also has the meaning of a self-defense technique to prevent injuries to those who perform these duties.


Early history

Seen from a broader bird’s eye view, taiho-jutsu is a modern variant of something much older, namely torite and similar jūjutsu-like system with special emphases. Officials, employees, and contractors who have learned martial arts and carried out police duties existed for a long time, and torite already already existed in the Muromachi period (1336-1573). Not only bare hands were used, but also arresting tools such as the “three tools” (sasumatatsuku-bō, and sode-garami), wooden arrows, the “nose twitch” (hananeji) – a short stick with a cord loop, called like this because it looks similar to the nose twitch used for horses –, and weighted chains (kusarifundō). In the middle of the Muromachi period (1336-1573), the short, hooked truncheon jūtte was used by policemen and private thief-takers, and the techniques of the rope used for restraining criminals (hojōjutsu) also developed.

In the Edo period, martial arts spread to people such as kyōkaku (person acting under the pretense of chivalry while participating in gangs and engaging in gambling), townspeople, landowning merchants, and farmers, so knowledge of martial arts was also essential for police work. In addition to torite, feudal policemen such as yoriki and dōshin in the Edo period had to master various martial arts.

In addition, people of discriminated social status were often involved in tasks such as chasing down and capturing criminals or as prison guards, and also to execute punishments and in some feudal domains they had to serve as border guards, in which case they were trained by high-ranking feudal retainers of the domain. In this way they also learned various jūjutsu-like systems, hojōjutsu, and the like.

Meiji period (1868-1912)

In the Meiji era, Satsuma samurai Kawaji Toshiyoshi (1834-1879) served as the first superintendent general of police and taught gekken (=kenjutsu) at the Police Officer Training Institute (the current Metropolitan Police Department Police Academy). Kawaji emphasized the importance of martial arts and advocated the creation of “police martial arts” (keisatsu bujutsu). After that, the martial arts instructors of the Metropolitan Police Department created the Keishi-ryū (Police Style) consisting of kenjutsu, jūjutsu, and iai.

The Establishment of Taiho-jutsu

According to Kudō Kazuzō (1898-1970), a jūdōka who served as an instructor at the National Police Academy, the basic concept of taiho-jutsu was born in 1947. At that time, police in each prefecture were studying taiho-jutsu, but it was necessary to comprehensively study and establish a set of universal techniques on a nationwide scale. The National Police Agency appointed Nagaoka Hideichi (1876-1952) of jūdō, Saimura Gorō (1887-1969) of kendō, Shimizu Ryuji (1896-1978) of jōjutsu, Ōtsuka Hironori (1892-1982) of Shindō Yōshin-ryū jūjutsu and Wadō-ryū karate, and Piston Horiguchi (1914-1950) of boxing as members of the establishment committee. In combining their skills, the techniques of taiho-jutsu were first formally established.

After that, in 1957, revisions were made to efficiently teach the basics of body movement (tai-sabaki), striking (uchi), thrusting (tsuki), kicking (keri), joint manipulation (gyaku), and throwing (nage), but they did not become popular among police officers in the field. Therefore, further research was conducted by the technical department of the National Police Academy.

The current techniques of taiho-jutsu were enacted in 1967, based on Nippon Kenpō for the empty-handed techniques, on kendō for the techniques of the police baton (keibō), and Shintō Musō-ryū jōjutsu for techniques of the police cane (keijō). In the following year, the basic text The Teaching Method of Taiho-jutsu (Taiho-jutsu Kyōhan) was completed. As of April 1978, 95% of the police successfully passed the skill test, and 10,000 cases of successful arrests using taiho-jutsu were reported.


Taiho-jutsu has elements similar to mixed martial arts (sōgō kakutōgi) such as thrusts (tsuki), kicks (keri), joint manipulations (gyaku), throws (nage), choking / strangling (shime), grappling / pinning (katame), as well as baton (keibō), cane (keijō), and handcuffing (sejō). 

Rubber knifes, wooden imitation handguns, soft batons, etc. may be used during training and competitions to simulate actual fighting.

Use of minimum force necessary for arrest is required, because if the offender or criminal is injured or killed by excessive force, it would interfere with the investigation and the court decision and may also constitute a violation of human rights.

As regards handcuffing (sejō), as stated in Article 213 of the Penal Code, it is possible for common people in Japan to arrest a current offender. This is called a “citizen’s arrest.” Unlike batons, stun guns, and tear sprays, carrying handcuffs is not specifically regulated by law, so even civilians can equip themselves with and use handcuffs. However, if handcuffs are used unnecessarily, there is a risk of false arrest and false imprisonment (Article 220 of the Penal Code). In addition, it is necessary that the person is handed over to a police officer immediately after the arrest (Article 214 of the Penal Code).

Matches (shiai)

The equipment used in the matches includes canes (keijō) of 1250 mm length, batons (keibō) of 660 mm length, soft batons, short batons (tanbō) of 600 mm length, and knives (tantō) of 300 mm length, and if there are other tools that are effective for practical training, they are also used. The protective equipment is composed of a kendō-like face and head guard (men), a plastron (), gauntlets (kote), a hanging loin guard (tare) and a crotch pad similar to that of Nippon Kenpō, and specific taiho-jutsu shoes. The matches are carried out on tatami mats 9 meters square.

In taiho-jutsu, it is valid to hit with a tool, to hit with bare hands and feet, to throw, and to use joint manipulation techniques. The valid attacks are as follows.

Attacks with tools

  • Shoulder, hand, blow to torso, thrust to torso
  • Knocking down a dagger with the cane
  • In case of the soft baton, strikes on shoulder, elbow, hand, torso, and knees

Attacks with bare hands and feet

  • Strike to the chin and torso (also valid in case of using tools), kick to the torso, elbow strike, or knee strike
  • Immediate strike when an opponent falls down

Throwing techniques, joint locks and the like

  • Effective throwing techniques (more than the techniques found in the “Police Judo Match and Refereeing Rules”)
  • Evade the opponent’s kick and control the kicking foot
  • Reversed the wrist or elbow (it becomes a full point if the opponent signals defeat by saying “maitta”)
  • Controlling the head of a lying opponent

Prohibited for safety reasons are kicks to the head, trampling down at a downed opponent, joint manipulation techniques other than elbows and knees, the throws called kawazu-gake (frog entanglement) and kani-basami (flying scissors).


  • The Imperial Guards are training a unique arresting technique called sokueijutsu (art of close protection) for the personal protection of the Emperor and the Imperial family.
  • The Arresting Techniques of the Japan Self-Defense Forces (jieitai taiho-jutsu), which is part of the training of the military police brigade, is a technique that has been uniquely improved based on the police taiho-jutsu.
  • At the Japan Coast Guard Academy, which is an educational institution for executive candidates of the Japan Coast Guard, taiho-jutsu training is conducted in the first and second grades.
  • Many Japanese security guards’ self-defense instruction is based on police taiho-jutsu, but some security companies have devised their own self-defense techniques, such as the comprehensive defense art of the Sohgo Security Services Co., Ltd.
  • Police organizations around the world and agencies related to public order, security, and intelligence agencies in general are researching and instructing their own techniques.

© 2022, Andreas Quast. All rights reserved.

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