In Japan, the MUROMACHI period (1333-1600) was a time of unrest and civil war, as a new line of SHOGUNS fought for control. AKECHI Mitsuhide succeeded ODA Nobunaga, but only a year later TOYOTOMI Hideyoshi displayed Mitsuhide’s severed head in public, as a grisly warning, that he was the one in power. During his reign Hideyoshi, who from humble birth, had risen through the ranks of ODAS army to become a general, conquered many parts of Japan and attempted an invasion of Korea.
In 1588 he ordered the surrender of all weapons and forbade the possession of swords by anyone not of Samurai birth. To offset the outcry, Hideyoshi declared that the weapons would be melted down and used in the construction of a statue in the Great image of Buddha. This was a clever ploy that could not be easily refused, as the Shogun was simply collecting weapons of war in a time of peace and using them to honour Buddha.
From this time on, only Samurai were allowed to carry swords and the rest of the Japanese population were left virtually defenseless against the BUSHI who often resorted to KIRISUTE-GOMEN, the right of the Samurai to slay a commoner where they stood for an insult or a show of disrespect.
However Hideyoshi had not established the basic foundations of a government in his Shogunate and on his death, his son TOYOTOMI Hideyori, was left in a very precarious position. Two years later Hideyori and his supporters were challenged by TOKUGAWA Ieyasu and suffered defeat at the battle of SEKIGAHARA in 1600. Thus began the TOKUGAWA period (1600-1868) which was to see its military domination over Japan for the next two hundred years and which virtually closed the shores of Japan to the outside world.
To ensure the succession of his heirs Ieyasu did something of great importance, but not always included when recounting his military exploits. He created a Bureaucracy within his BAKUFU, to ensure his hold over any rivals and maintain the house of TOKUGAWA. To eliminate any lasting threat, he needed to remove Hideyori forever. So he laid siege to OSAKA castle which ended with the SEPPUKU or ritual suicide of TOYOTOMI Hideyori.
Another problem that faced Ieyasu were all the soldiers that had fought in the many battles and campaigns at home or in Korea. His solution was to absorb them into a governing class and 1615 he introduced his BUKE SHO-HATTO or laws for military families. These Samurai Officials were trained in the Classical Arts as well as the Martial Arts. They were supplied with endless tasks to keep them busy, leaving no time for them to consider overthrowing the SHOGUN.
It is during this EDO period that the mixing of the doctrines of the Classical Arts with the Martial Arts took place. JUTSU’S (arts of self-protection) were refined into DO’S (Arts of self-perfection) and a lot of the battlefield, tried and tested techniques were altered until they bore no resemblance to the originals.
Some of the Samurai officials that had been created by Ieyasu’s BAKUFU were turned into Officers of the Peace and their duties were to maintain law and order and enforce the prohibition of weapons. They supplemented the lower ranked feudal police called MEAKASHI and OKAPPIKI who could not carry swords, but who faced an ever-growing problem of RONIN or masterless Samurai who now roamed the land. It was for these peace officers that a system was created called YAKU KOBUJUTSU or martial art techniques for officials, which was drawn from the teachings of jujutsu and aikijutsu.
YAKU KOBUJUTSU consisted of a number of disciplines that had to be mastered by the officials. There was BO JUTSU, the art of the six-foot stave, an awesome weapon in the hands of an expert, but limited if used indoors. HANBO JUTSU was the use of the three-foot stick; a very versatile weapon that could be employed practically anywhere. JUTTE JUTSU taught the use of the iron truncheon that had a tine protruding from above its handle to trap and break sword blades. KOGUSOKU or unarmed grappling techniques covered everything from arrest holds and restraints to ATEMI strikes aimed at vital areas of the body. Finally, HOJO JUTSU which is the art of tying a prisoner with rope in ways to secure them and prevent escape.
The use of these techniques continued into the MEJI era (1868-1912), when Japan was thrust in to the modern age. Civil disruption sprang from clashes between factions, who struggled to keep Japan feudal and closed to the rest of the world, against those who wanted to embrace the new age and could see trade and prosperity. 1874 saw the foundation of a National Police Force and in 1876 the total ban on the wearing of swords ended the special status of the Samurai warrior.
As Japan emerged into the twentieth century so did its martial arts, with KANO Jigoro (1860-1938) creating KODOKAN JUDO in 1882 from old styles of JUJITSU such as TENJIN SHINYO RYU and KITO RYU. Then in 1931 UESHIBA Morihei (1883-1969) left his teacher of DIATO RYU AIKIJUTSU and began developing AIKI BUJUTSU, which later became known as AIKIDO. Whilst in 1936 FUNAKOSHI Gichin (1868-1957) took Okinawan Karate and changed the meaning of the word from China hand to empty hand thus creating Shotokan KARATE.
YAKU KOBUJUTSU was also affected by these changes and in 1924 the Tokyo police asked a group of Bujutsu Sensei to form a committee and review the current system. They were given instructions to synthesize a martial art to replace it, which took into account the needs of the Japanese police at that time. The Sensei produced a system of techniques that comprised heavily of KORYU or old ways of Jujitsu and Aikijutsu as these were the type of techniques needed by the police. These were approved by the police and incorporated into the police training for evaluation and stringent testing to be carried out. After world war two a prohibition on the practice of martial arts was enforced by SCAP (Southern Command Army Pacific). The Japanese police still needed their martial art system to maintain law and order, so the Japanese government asked permission to review and develop the current police system of self defence. All the previous techniques were studied and the resulting system renamed TAIHO JUTSU, as the allied occupation of Japan had forbidden the practice of Jujitsu a lot of its techniques were preserved in the new system.
TAIHO JUTSU or Arresting Art was born in 1947 and an official manual produced. Since then the system has been subjected to a number of revisions by other Sensei which have taken into account the changing requirements of the police. Officers were taught to use a five foot staff called a JO and the KEIBO or police baton approximately fourteen inches long was introduced in a number of techniques called KEIBO SOHO. Then in 1966 the Japanese police adopted the use of an extending tubular baton called TOKUSHU KEIBO.
In 1973 TAIHO JUTSU was introduced to the United Kingdom by Sensei Brian EUSTACE, when he was asked to review the self defence system for the British police officers. Finding that officers only received tuition in unarmed combat moves at the start of their service, with no refresher courses, Eustace taught a series of Basic techniques that were to be practised regularly. The grades attained were recognised in Japan. These techniques were subject to the same revision process as its Japanese counterpart, which has resulted in a number of changes to the basic techniques as some fell in or out of favour with the authorities.
Today TAIHO JUTSU is used to describe a martial art that until recently was taught and practised almost exclusively by police officers. Officers who used its teachings and techniques to deal with real encounters, some potentially lethal, during their tours of duty tested its effectiveness on a day to day basis.
Finally TAIHO JUTSU remains a window into the past with its teachings still drawn from the KORYU, tried and tested on the battlefields of Japan centuries ago.