During the early 1900’s in the Hawaiian Islands Sr. Grandmaster Seishiro “Henry” Okazaki founded the eclectic system of Danzan Ryu Jujutsu. Originally thought to be named Kodenkan Jujutsu until the later translation of the Mokuroku revealed that the system was actually called Danzan Ryu (Sandalwood Mountain System) and the name of the school was Kodenkan (School of Ancient Tradition). His modern style of Jujutsu was an amalgamation of his studies in various traditional Jujutsu systems, such as Yoshin Ryu Jujutsu, as well as Judo, Chinese Kung Fu, Hawaiian Lua, Boxing, Sumo Wrestling and Filipino Kali.
Part of the reason for the widespread practice of Danzan Ryu Jujutsu in the world today was Sr. Grandmaster Okazaki’s philosophy of Kyoshin Tankai (open heart, open mind.) Going against Japanese tradition, he vowed to teach any and all people desiring to learn regardless of their ancestry. His insatiable drive to learn and grow in the martial ways led him to develop one of the most comprehensive self-defense systems in the world. These many varied applications and techniques not only teach one to quell virtually any conflict, but also include extensive healing arts in resuscitation and restoration.
While Danzan Ryu was mainly dedicated to the practice of Jujutsu (which means the techniques of yielding), the founder often referred to it as Judo. He did this to emphasize the “Do” or “Way” if you will, of his art form. The skill acquired through the practice of Jujutsu must be tempered with a set of moral principles that one lives by daily. In a translation of “The Esoteric Principles” written by Sr. Grandmaster Okazaki, it states: “Since the fundamental principle acquired through the practice of Jujitsu has been elevated to a finer moral concept called Judo, “The Way of Gentleness,” it may well be said that the primary objective of practicing Judo is perfection of character.” This beautifully surmises his philosophy on the purpose of training in Martial Arts, and how it is a way of life.
On the technical side, a student of Danzan Ryu Jujutsu will learn how to roll and fall safely and effectively, apply joint locks, throw an attacker over various parts of the body, choke and disable their opponent, counter techniques, strike, kick, block and parry, use and defend against weapons, and in the Black Belt arts develop an understanding of the true primal and spiritual natures within ourselves.
A devoted student of Sr. Grandmaster Okazaki’s, Great Grandmaster Francis Merlin “Bud” Estes was born the 1st of October, 1909 in Jacksonhole, Wyoming. He was the oldest of James and Olive Estes’s four children. His brothers Ivan and Burl and his sister Pat grew up working hard as a family to make ends meet, and moved often since their parents were migrant workers. With experiences like surviving a whole winter season of Kansas snow living in a tent with his family when he was around 12 years old it is no wonder that he grew up to be such a strong and compassionate teacher.
If you were one of the fortunate receivers of his blocking techniques, then you were well acquainted with the surprising disabling effect it had on your limb. Aside from his impressive timing and technique, he also made use of a hidden board taped to his forearm to stop the projectile from its intended path. This strategically placed board served to fill the disparity of his right forearm, which had been nearly blown off by a shotgun in his younger years.
As a young man low on money, but high on drive and wits he groomed his college education through the Salvation Army whilst living in San Francisco. During these formative years he also embarked on the path of Martial Arts and gained a competitive Black Belt in Judo. His street smarts and Judo skill served him well when he was transferred to Honolulu, Hawaii as a Captain for the Salvation Army. On one particular occasion he observed a seemingly elderly Japanese gentleman being accosted by a bunch of young thugs. He decided to save this ‘helpless old man’ from taking a beating. By the time he had dispatched the first guy and turned to take on another, he found an absence of necessity. The ‘helpless old Japanese man’ had very efficiently put down all the other attackers. At this fortuitous meeting he was invited to come to the old man’s school. This old man was Sr. Grandmaster Okazaki.
Already feeling pretty good about his heroism, Sr. Grandmaster Okazaki kindled the fire upon his arrival by introducing him to the students as “this is the man who saved my life.” There must have been more than a few inward chuckles from the students at the sound of this. Of course, Captain Estes quickly figured out the joke was on him when one of Sr. Grandmaster’s lowly green belts mopped the mat with him during workout. From here on out he was hooked.
By 1938 his hard work paid off and he earned his Shodan from Sr. Grandmaster Okazaki. As most Yudansha will agree, this rite of passage catapulted him into the rest of his life; not the same “Cord.” Nineteen-thirty-nine found him back in the states, California this time, Chico to be precise. Of his many achievements, including achieving a 10th Degree Black Belt with over 50 years of Martial Arts training, establishing the Chico Judo and Jujitsu Academy, Co-founding the American Judo and Jujitsu Federation, and spending 13 years spearheading the accreditation of Danzan Ryu Jujutsu with the California Board of Education, there is one that stands above the rest in this great fraternity of Black Belt. He was a Sensei. One of the best! This above all else is a great privilege and honor, and he did it skillfully with grace, passion and charm. His teacher would have been proud to see all the lives he touched through his teachings of Danzan Ryu Jujutsu and the legacy he left behind at his passing in 1981.
Great Grandmaster Estes will live forever in the Hearts, Minds and Souls of those individuals his great spirit touched.