An Interview with

16th Headmaster of Sosuishi-ryu Jujutsu

Mr. Robert Freitag, Mr. Gary Rohen, and Mr. Joseph DeLuca, students of Fink Sensei, conducted this interview on November 11, 1995  at the New York  Seibukan,  Queens, New York. Translating for this interview was Mr. Masayuki  Kirimura and Mrs. Yoshie Fleming, wife of the late Sensei Nelson  (Mitch) Fleming. This was Shitama Sensei's first visit to the  United States

Mr. Freitag: Sensei, could you briefly discuss the history  and origin of Sosuishi-ryu Jujutsu?
Master Shitama: Sosuishi-ryu was founded in 1650 by a samurai of Bungo Takeda named  Masanori Fugatami Hannosuke, a master of Takenouchi-ryu . . as well  as other schools. He taught another samurai of Bungo Takeda, Shitama  Matahichi, whose family, whether by direct lineage or by adoption,  have been the masters of Sosuishi-ryu ever since.

In 1905, Aoyagi Kibei, the 14th inheritor, attended a meeting in  Kyoto at which the masters of various Jujutsu schools gathered with  Kano Jigoro, the founder of Judo, to decide the techniques of  Kodokan Judo. Aoyogi Sensei broke from the traditional teachings  of Sosuishi-ryu at that time... and began to train students in Kodokan  Judo. He taught Jujutsu in the form of kata, only. This continued  throughout the reign of my father, Shitama Shusaku.

In 1925, my father became the 15th inheritor. He  graduated from the Judo Department of the Butokukai, in Kyoto in  1930. He also held the rank of Hachidan (8th Dan) in Kodokan Judo.  He taught competition Judo at that time... and in fact, a person had  to possess a Black Belt or Kyu grade in Judo, by the Kodokan, before  he could attain the equivalent grade in Sosuishi-Ryu JuJutsu. My  intention is to return to the traditional teachings of Sosuishi-ryu.

Sosuishi-ryu is true Bujutsu... it is not a sport and it is not  just kata. It consists of realistic self- defense techniques as Dennis  Fink Sensei teaches here in New York, and includes Ukemi (break  falls); Atemi-waza (striking techniques); Kansetsu-waza (techniques  of twisting and breaking of the joints); Nage-waza (throwing  techniques); and, Kata (forms) that are unchanged for almost 350 years.

In 1966, I became the 16th inheritor upon the death of  my father. I  would like to point out that my father, Shitama Shusaku, was the first  of the Shitama line to teach Sosuishi-ryu to non-Japanese. I am the  first of the Shitama line to actually visit the United States.

Mr. DeLuca: Sensei, is there a difference between Sosuishi-ryu and  Sosuishitsu-ryu Jujutsu?
Master Shitama: (Laughter) There is absolutely no difference between the two... they are  one and the same. On July 5, 1963, the "Nippon Sosuishi-ryu Jujutsu Kai"  (association) was established at a meeting at the Sekiryukan in Fukuoka,  Japan. This was ... and still is ... the "official" association of  Sosuishi-ryu Jujutsu. No other association is authorized by the Shitama  family to represent and award promotions in Sosuishi-ryu. At that time...  in 1963, the spelling was changed from Sosuishitsu-ryu  to Sosuishi-ryu (NOTE: The Kanji [Chinese Characters used in Japan] can be read either way) so  Americans could more easily pronounce Sosuishi-ryu Jujutsu. Also, the  name of the association was changed at that time to the "Sosuishi-ryu Jujutsu  Kai". A constitution and by-laws govern it and I, as the  16th inheritor of Sosuishi-ryu serve as the Director. I issue all membership  and Black Belt certificates. Although the Hombu Dojo is in Fukuoka, the  International Headquarters is here in New York City. The International  Director is Dennis Fink Sensei, Kuraizume. I appointed Fink Sensei to  this position upon the death of Fleming Sensei in 1987. Fink Sensei  is authorized by me to represent the Shitama family on all matters  regarding Sosuishi-ryu outside of Japan. Sosuishi-ryu in Australia  is monitored directly by me, however.
Mr. Freitag: Could you tell us the origin of the name Sosuishi-ryu?
Master Shitama: The Yoshino River began with one drop of water. As the river became stronger  or larger, a mountain separated it into two rivers. Each new river now  ran even stronger. One river represents strength, and the other  represents technique. After these rivers passed the mountain that  separated them, they again joined and became even stronger than before.  Just like one river coming into two make it stronger, combining a  person's strength (one river) with technique (the other river) will  make you even stronger. Sosuishi or Sosuishitsu means taking two and  putting a new whole together that is even stronger.
Mr. Rohen: Sensei, where is Sosuishi-ryu Jujutsu taught in the world  today?
Master Shitama: In addition to Japan... As you know, Sosuishi-ryu is taught at the  International Headquarters located here at the New York Seibukan, as  well as one other recognized Sosuishi-ryu Dojo in Portland, Oregon...  which is operated by Randy Cantonwine. Pat Harrington  who studied at the Sekiryukan with my father also teaches Sosuishi-ryu  Jujutsu in Australia. I would like to see the techniques of Sosuishi-ryu  taught in Europe, as well. While I would like many people to benefit from our teachings, I would also like to maintain the purity of  that, I mean that I want good people, not just many people.
Mr. Freitag: What is the philosophy of Sosuishi-ryu?
Master Shitama: The components of Sosuishi-ryu Jujutsu are technique and strength. When  a student begins to train he is told to relax, go slowly, and develop  good technique. Once he or she demonstrates knowledge of sound technique,  the student is told to increase his or her speed. This results in  increased strength or power. This is what Masanori Sensei meant when  he talked about twin rivers. One river is strength and the other is  technique. When the two rivers are combined you have sound technique  coupled with power. To better explain, So means two  or twin, sui means  river and shi or shitsu means to hold  or bring together. This philosophy  is integrated into our program of instruction and explains why new  students cannot learn too fast, but must learn slowly under the watchful  eye of their sensei.
Mr. DeLuca: Could you explain the ranking system of  Sosuishi-ryu Jujutsu?
Master Shitama: The Menkyo (license) system was used to grade all martial artist prior to  the founding of Kodokan Judo by Kano Jigoro. Sosuishi-ryu, was founded in  1650 and has since been passed down from father to son... it did not  change to the Dan system of the Kodokan. Although modified slightly,  to equate to the Dan system, we still award grades according to the Menkyo system. For example, we use the grade  Sho-Mokuroku (1st Degree Black Belt) . . which means that a student has  learned all the required techniques... but it is really just the beginning  of learning. The techniques must then be refined and fully understood.  This can only be accomplished after many years of training under a  qualified sensei. The highest grade to be achieved is Kuraizume,  which means the rank of dignity or completion, the peak or summit.  To me, this means the mastery of every technique and the ability to  teach other people. I promoted Fink Sensei to Kuraizume, and he serves  as a model through his accomplishments, knowledge, and application of  Budo in daily life.

Above Kuraizume is Menkyo. This entitles a person to go out on his  own and start his own school or system where he would be the Dai Menkyo,  or headmaster. This essentially, is the equivalent of 10th Dan.  Only one person may hold this grade at a time.. As the 16th inheritor of Sosuishi-ryu, I am the Dai Menkyo of Sosuishi-ryu Jujutsu.

Mr. Rohen: What did Judo take from Sosuishi-ryu?
Master Shitama: Kano Sensei felt the need to maintain ties with Koryu Bujutsu. He  used Sosuishi-ryu as an old system to illustrate the connection  between Judo and Jujutsu. Additionally, Kano Sensei kept some of  the Jujutsu kata in Kodokan Judo, for example, the Kime-No-Kata,  also known as Shinken-Shobu-No-Kata (combat forms). The Kime-No-Kata  is designed to teach fundamentals of attack and defense in actual  combat situations, but are banned in randori. They are divided into  two main groups: Idori, where the basic position is kneeling and  Tachiai, where techniques are executed in a standing position.  There are other kata as well.
Mr. Rohen: What waza makes Sosuishi-ryu different from other styles?
Master Shitama: We include Iai, as part of our techniques. However, we teach  Iai-jutsu as opposed to Iai-Do. This is more practical, as it is  taken from actual fighting techniques. Some of the differences...  are cutting with the point of the blade facing up, and the tip of  the blade is kept up during downward cuts.
Mr. DeLuca: Sensei, you have a young son. Does he train; as he will one  day become the 17th inheritor of Sosuishi-ryu Jujutsu?
Master Shitama: I have one son named Shusaku, after my father. He is now a young  boy and has just begun his training. However, if something would  happen to me now, Dennis Fink Sensei would become the 17th headmaster, until my son becomes mature enough to assume his rightful  place in the history of Sosuishi-ryu Jujutsu. He would then become  the 18th headmaster.
Mr. DeLuca: How would you like to see Sosuishi-ryu evolve during the  coming years?
Master Shitama: Next year, I intend to only work in the Dojo. Currently,  people train mainly in Judo at my Dojo. You must understand...  that Judo is part of the education system, so it is very popular.  However, people are afraid that they may get injured during Judo  training and even more so, during Jujutsu training. My primary objective  is to integrate Jujutsu into Judo. I want to teach real techniques. Judo  is a sport. If you throw someone to the mat you get a point. This is  not self- defense or real fighting. During my trip here to the  United States, I have observed how Fink Sensei teaches real  self-defense training without injury. I would like to initiate that  type of training in Japan.

I believe Budo is very much alive today. We must teach etiquette  as part of the principles of Budo. Students of Sosuishi-ryu Jujutsu  must also demonstrate good character... in addition to their  techniques. Essentially, if the student has a good heart, then  his technique will also be good. However, our techniques must be  slightly modified to adapt to our changing environment, as well  as the weapons that we must defend from. The problem with many Dojo  is that they teach attacks from 200 years ago. A sensei has the  responsibility to teach current techniques so that his students  will not be injured on the street.

Mr. DeLuca: Thank you, Shitama Sensei.


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