A Complete History
As did the pure flowing waters of the
It has been recorded in the hereditary (Kojiki) record books of Japanese Jujutsu that on June 24, 1532 a pilgrim passing through the town of Okayama, situated between Kyoto and Hiroshima, stopped at the house of Takenouchi Nakastsukasadayu Hisamori. The pilgrim was in reality the god Atago, in whom Hisamori believed. Before his departure the pilgrim disclosed 5000 forms of arrest to Hisamori.
Hisamori continued to study the secrets revealed to him. When he mastered the secret principles, he established a school of Jujutsu and named it Takenouchi-ryu, after himself.
In 1650 a samurai of Bungo Takeda named Futagami Hannosuke Masaaki, a master of Takenouchi-ryu and many other schools, sought retreat on the Yoshino Mountain for 37 days. There in the stillness of the mountain he practiced and meditated on the basic philosophy of Jujutsu.
When he came down off the mountain he had his own distinctive system of Jujutsu. He called it Sosuishitsu-ryu(*) (Sosuishi-ryu), meaning, school of holding together two rivers. It was named after the pure flowing waters of the Yoshino Rivers.
Another samurai of Bungo Takeda, Matahichi Shitama, was interested in Masaaki. An invitation to come and live in Nogata was extended to Masaaki. Nogata is a town which lies between Kokura and Fukuoka in the southern island of Kyushu.
Matahichi Shitama was a great elocutionist. He had been given the name Shitama Kuchino-kami Muneyoshi, by his lord, Otomo. "Shitama" means enchanted mouth.
In Nogata, Shitama was to learn the secrets of Jujutsu from Masaaki. Shitama became proficient in the art.
During this period, Japan was ruled by a military governor, the Shogun. His capital was located in Tokyo, which was then called Edo. The emperor's court was retained in Kyoto; it was a puppet government possessing no power.
Local lords in every province owed their allegiance to the Shogun. Each lord also maintained his own army of samurai. In order to possess strong retainers, the lord sought skillful masters of fencing, archery, riding, Jujutsu and other martial arts. These masters were required to train the samurai as well as develop and refine the various techniques.
The Jujutsu of the Shitamas was retained and preserved in Nogata for more than 200 years. However, the Shitamas later served the Lord of Kuroda.
When a Shitama was unable to inherit the school, a protege would take charge until a son, grandson, or son-in-law of the Shitama lineage could assume control. The record books at the Sosuishi-ryu Hombu in Fukuoka contain the succession of the masters of Sosuishi-ryu Jujutsu from its founder, Futagami Hannosuke Masaaki in 1650.
Yagoro Munetsuna Shitama, the eleventh inheritor, who assumed control November 18, 1833 was succeeded in 1861 by his protege who became his son-in-law, Shingo Munetsugu Shitama. When Munetsugu had mastered Jujutsu he opened his own Dojo, which was called Seirensha. In 1868, Munetsuga began the Senbondori (test of 1000 points), which has only been conducted at the Hombu Dojo of Sosuishi-ryu until March of 2004 when the 16th Headmaster personally conducted it at the New York Seibukan.
The reign of the Shoguns had meanwhile run its course. In 1867 the emperor was restored to power and he made many innovations in Japanese life. The old lords lost their domains; the samurai found themselves masterless and unemployed. It looked for a while as though all the martial arts were doomed.
One of the Emperor's generals, Takamori Saigo, did not approve of the new government. He resigned his position in the army and returned to his native province, Satsuma, in southern Kyushu. In 1877 he initiated a rebellion there and marched against the Emperor in an attempt to restore the Shogun. These events occurred at about the same time and were in some respects similar to the American Civil War.
Munetsugu Shitama joined General Saigo's rebellion. When the rebellion was crushed Munetsugu was killed in the famous battle; seinan-no-eki (Battle of the Southwest) portrayed in the Tom Cruise movie "The Last Samurai."The Sosuishi-ryu Dojo was without a master.
Old Yogoro Munetsuna took over again after his son-in-law's death and moved the Serensha Dojo, first to Unomachi, in 1880, and then in 1896 to its present location in Fukuoka City, Japan. In 1897 he died at the age of 83.
In 1911, he gave the Fukuoka Dojo its present name, the Sekiryukan, and started running it as a Judo school. Jujutsu was preserved in the form of Kata.
In 1925, Shusaku (Shuzo) Shitama became the 15th inheritor of Sosuishi-ryu Jujutsu. Master Aoyagi died in 1929 at the age of 59. In 1930 Shusaku Shitama graduated from the Judo Department of the Butokukai (Martial Arts Academy) in Kyoto, and held the rank of Hachi-dan (8th degree black belt) in Kodokan Judo. He taught competition Judo at that time and in fact, a man had to possess a Black Belt or Kyu grade in Judo by the Kodokan before he could attain the equivalent grade in Jujutsu.
Many local citizens in Fukuoka studied at the Sekiryukan, including the Mayor, a City Councilman, soldiers, policemen, merchants, bankers, teachers and professors as well as a few American students, one of which was Nelson (Mitch) J. Fleming, the first International Director of the Sosuishi-ryu Jujutsu Kai,who was responsible for the introduction of Sosuishi-ryu Jujutsu in America.
On July 5, 1963 the Sosuishi-ryu Jujutsu Kai, (association) was established at a meeting at the Sekiryukan, in Fukuoka. This is the only association authorized by the Shitama family to represent and award promotions in Sosuishi-ryu. Master Manzo Shitama, 16th inheritor of Sosuishi-ryu serves as its Director and all membership and Black Belt certificates are signed by him. Although the Hombu Dojo is in Fukuoka, the International Headquarters is in New York City, with its Director Sensei Dennis H. Fink. Fink Sensei was appointed as the International Director by Master Manzo Shitama, upon the death of Sensei Fleming in 1987, who held the rank of Kuraizume.
Manzo Shitama assumed the inheritance upon the death of his father, Shusaku, on March 31, 1966. Although his father was the first of the Shitama line to teach non-Japanese, Manzo was the first Shitama to travel to the United States in November of 1995. He visited the International Headquarters in New York as well as the only other recognized Sosuishi-ryu Dojo in the United States at that time, in Portland, Oregon, operated by Randy Cantonwine.
In May, 2006 Shitama Manzo became the first headmaster in the 350 year history of Sosuishi-ryu to promote a non-Japanese to Menkyo (Menkyo Kaiden), the highest possible grade in Sosuishi-ryu, when he promoted Dennis Fink Sensei of the New York Seibukan. The only other living Menkyo is Shitama Sensei himself, who is the "Dai Menkyo" of Sosuishi-ryu Jujutsu.
In addition, Sosuishi-ryu Jujutsu is taught in Australia by Pat Harrington, who also studied at the Sekiryukan in Fukuoka with Master Shusaku Shitama. She currently heads Sosuishi-ryu Australia. The only other recognized locations (dojo) in the world are in the United States, in Washington State and at present two schools in Oregon.
Although many claim to hold grades in Sosuishi-ryu (Sosuishitsu-ryu), very few actually do. The Sosuishi-ryu Jujutsu Kai (SJJK) prides itself in maintaining quality not quantity and is governed by very strict rules in regard to character as well physical ability. Consequently, not everyone is accepted as a student/member and those that are accepted are constantly evaluated. As they advance they are judged more and more on attitude and intent as well as physical ability.
Sosuishi-ryu's complete original kata (forms), the kumi-uchi have remained unchanged. Iai-Jutsu (drawing of the sword) or koshi-no-mawari as it is known in Sosuishi-ryu is another mandatory requirement, for it was the samurai sword (katana) that is perhaps the leading factor from which the Sosuishi-ryu kata were derived. See “The Essence of Kata.”
( * ) NOTE: The Kanji (Chinese characters used in Japan) can be read either way. Due to obvious derogatory reasons, Sosuishi-ryu has been used since its introduction outside of Japan in the early 1960's. This is the formal or complete name. Jujutsu, however, was also known as yawara and kumi uchi, in addition to other names. Hence, Sosuishi-ryu Jujutsu, Sosuishi-ryu Yawara or Sosuishi-ryu Kumi Uchi Koshi no Mawari are not the complete or formal names of the ryu, it is simply Sosuishi-ryu.