Shiro Saigo - Judo's Secret Weapon?

Was Shiro Saigo the "secret weapon" of Judo?

... And did Jigoro Kano popularize his new art by using a ringer?

In 1886, the Tokyo Police Department hosted a Judo vs. Jujutsu tournament. And, although there aren't as many details available to us today as we might wish, some details are clear. For example, there seems to be no doubt that Kano's students won the majority of the matches.

This simple fact demands an explanation. What I'd like to do in this article is to examine the various claims made about this tournament (specifically dealing with Shiro Saigo), and try to sort fact from fiction.


The statements I'd like to discuss, in no particular order, are these:

1. Jigoro Kano "stacked the deck" by using students who'd previously trained in Jujutsu.

2. Shiro Saigo was one of these "deck-stacking" students of Kano. He was really a master of Daito-Ryu Jujutsu.

3. The technique that Shiro Saigo used to dispatch his opponents (Yama Arashi) was not taught in Judo. There is some doubt as to what the technique actually consisted of.

Each of these statements are readily found on either the Internet, or in various Jujutsu books.


"Jigoro Kano 'stacked the deck' by using students who'd previously trained in Jujutsu".

This is at least partially true, in the sense that many students of Kano had previous experience in various other arts, but completely misses the point. For example, it's well known that Shiro Saigo was studying Tenshin Shin'yo Ryu at the same dojo where Jigoro Kano was an assistant instructor. This was before Shiro Saigo started training exclusively under Jigoro Kano in what was to become Judo.

Just as Jigoro Kano himself had studied both Tenshin Shin'yo Ryu, and Kito Ryu, before founding Judo.

The point that is apparently being missed by some, is that the fact that some students of Kano had previous training doesn't explain anything. You still have Jujutsu students (that all train at one particular dojo) defeating other Jujutsu students.

What was the difference between "Kano's Jujutsu" and the other styles of Jujutsu that allowed Kano's students to overwhelmingly defeat them?

In my opinion, it was the difference in training methods. Kano made a strict division between Jujutsu techniques that could be safely practiced at high speed and full power, and those techniques that could not. If they couldn't be practiced with full speed and power, he relegated them to Kata practice.

Kano's students could concentrate on the relatively fewer techniques, and become much more proficient while keeping injuries to a minimum. During a discussion of this article at, Joseph Svinth made the point that keeping injuries to a minimum is not a point to be glossed over. By keeping injuries down, the Kodokan Judoka could essentially multiply the time they spent practicing, as they were not recuperating from numerous injuries.

The lessons learned from the 1886 tournament continues to echo down to the present day. Martial arts that don't have a strong tradition of training with full speed and power against resisting opponents have been mowed down by those that do. This is, perhaps, the reason that some modern day Jujutsu styles seem to spread "stories" about Judo, and the 1886 tournament. They wish to give alternative reasons for Judo's victory.

For example:

"In February 1882 at a Buddhist temple called Yeishoji, in a small room of only twelve tatame mats (18 feet by 12 feet) and with only a few dedicated onlookers, birth was given to what we now know as judo. A few years later, on June 10, 1886, in a large, well-lit one-hundred-tatame room at Tokyo Police Headquarters, a contest took place between the new and the old. Jujitsu was represented by the head instructor at the Japanese Police Department. Judo was represented by a student of Dr. Kano; the student was also an aiki-jutsu master. The jujitsu master was beaten and died. From that day forward, judo was the only hand-to-hand self-defense art the upper class would respect and accept. The lower class, trying to copy the upper, followed suit. As a consequence, jujitsu was left to decay as a relic of the past. The decline of jujitsu - this fine and noble art developed by the elite samurai class during Japan's feudal days - symbolized the ending of the feudal system and the beginning of a new era. (Ref #1)

While it's not my intention to go into detail about the 1886 tournament, it's common knowledge that it was a series of matches, commonly the number given is 15. By dropping the number down to one, it becomes possible to place Judo's victory at the foot of another style. This is a good example of poor scholarship (or revision of history) from an otherwise fine book.

Another interesting fact, is that if Jigoro Kano "stacked the deck" in the 1886 tournament, the other Jujutsu masters of the day apparently knew nothing about it. They increasingly allied themselves with the Kodokan. People who believe that Judo "cheated" their way to victory, cannot explain why contemporary Jujutsu masters thought highly of Jigoro Kano. Here's an interesting photo from a conclave of leading Jujutsu masters at the Dai Nippon Butokukai in Kyoto on July 24th, 1906. They had gathered to formulate the official katas to be used by the Kodokan.

Jujutsu Masters

Jujutsu Masters Kanji - Click Here to Enlarge

Dai-Nippon Butokukai (Greater-Japan Martial Virtue Association)
Judo Kata Seitei-iin (Members of the Committee to Establish the kata of Judo).

(Front row, right to left): Hiratsuka Katsuta of Kagawa (Yoshin Ryu); Yano Koji of Kumamoto (Takeouchi San-To Ryu kyoshi); Sekiguchi Jushin of Wakayama (Sekiguchi Ryu); Totsuka Eibi of Chiba (Yoshin Ryu hanshi); Kano Jigoro of Tokyo (Kodokan Judo hanshi); Hoshino Kumon of Kumamoto (Shiten Ryu hanshi); Katayama Takayoshi of Kagawa (Yoshin Ryu); Eguchi Yazo of Kumamoto (Kyushin Ryu kyoshi); Inazu Masamizu of Kyoto (Miura Ryu).


(Back row, right to left): Yamashita Yoshiaki of Tokyo (Kodokan Judo kyoshi); Isogai Hajime of Kyoto (Kodokan Judo kyoshi); Yokoyama Sakujiro of Tokyo (Kodokan Judo kyoshi); Nagaoka Shuichi of Kyoto (Kodokan Judo kyoshi); Takano Shikataro of Okayama (Takenouchi Ryu); Tanabe Matauemon of Himeji (Fusen Ryu kyoshi); Imai Kotaro of Okayama (Takenouchi Ryu kyoshi); Sato Hoken of Kyoto (Kodokan Judo kyoshi); Oshima Hikosaburo of Kagawa (Takenouchi Ryu kyoshi); Tsumizu Mokichi of Wakayama (Sekiguchi Ryu); Aoyagi Kihei of Fukuoka (Sosuishitsu Ryu kyoshi). (Ref #2)


Kyoto-shi o Butokukai Honbu (Butokukai Headquarters in the city of Kyoto)
Meiji 39-nen 7-gatsu 24-nichi (July 24, 39th year of Meiji - 1906)

Note: Although I originally quoted directly from the book, Brian Griffin on has been kind enough to clean up the mistakes and romanization in the above caption. He also points out that

"The three hanshi are front-and-center, with Kano smack-dab in the middle. At his elbow is Totsuka, his main rival at the 1886 Police tournament. Many of the others - including Tanabe of Fusen-Ryu - appear in Yokoyama's Judo Kyohan demonstrating Judo grappling techniques." - Brian Griffin

My thanks to Brian for his work in correcting this!


"Shiro Saigo was one of these "deck-stacking" students of Kano. He was really a master of Daito-Ryu Jujutsu."

Shiro Saigo was born on Feb 4, 1866, making him just 16 years old in 1882, when he became the eighth student to sign the enrollment register at the newly-established Kodokan dojo. So if he was a "master" of anything at age 16, it doesn't speak very highly for what he was a "master" of, does it?

Quite often while researching this article, I would run across 'factoids' that are self-evidently wrong. Take for example:

"In 1888 the youngster entered the Inouye dojo which taught Tenjin Shin'yo Try. Kano, who held a menkyo kaiden in the ryu, met Shida there and contested with him. Kano was greatly impressed by Shida's proficiency. Kano asked Shida, who was by then 16, to help him build up the Kodokan." (Ref #3)

The dates are quite obviously wrong, since Saigo was born in 1866, which made him 22, not 16 in 1888. And since Saigo was one of the Judo representatives in the 1886 tournament, for him not to have even met Kano until two years later seems strange. But this paragraph is actually quite typical of the mistakes found routinely while researching Shiro Saigo's life.

But in spite of numerous errors, it is possible to sort through the chaff, and figure a few things out. The first thing that must be done is to establish just what connection there is between Shiro Saigo, and Daito-ryu. Since Daito-Ryu was really an invention of Sokaku Takeda (1858-1942), there must be some contortions to allow Shiro Saigo to learn anything of Daito-Ryu. So a short history of Daito-Ryu lineage is in order here:

(A short comment is in order here... although it seems to be a consensus among martial art historians that Sokaku Takeda is the originator of Daito-ryu, students of Daito-ryu do not generally agree. Strangely enough, this tends to downplay the true martial genius of Sokaku Takeda.)

The lineage that is recorded in the earliest mokoroku of Takeda stops with his grandfather, Soemon Takeda (1758-1853). Takeda himself does not state where he received his training in what he was the first to call Daito-Ryu. It is important to keep this simple fact in mind, as it indicates the degree to which various Daito-ryu lineages are at least partially based on hypothesis. As Stanley Pranin states:

"Except for his training in Ono-ha Itto-ryu kenjutsu, the specific content of the various arts Sokaku was taught by his father or others in Aizu remains unclear. Whatever the martial arts formation he received within the clan may have been, Sokaku's training at the dojos of famous swordsmen Kenkichi Sakakibara and Shunzo Momonoi, and his lengthy journeys for self-training (musha shugyu) over more than a decade surely played a major role in shaping the sophisticated martial system which would later emerge. All evidence points to the conclusion that the Daito-ryu arts Sokaku taught over a span of more than half a century are as much a synthesis of his vast training experience and technical innovation as they are a faithful continuation of the Aizu clan martial tradition." (Ref #4)

Interesting to keep in mind when following this lineage, is that Sokaku Takeda's father, Sokichi Takeda, was a sumo wrestler weighing in at 240, and held the provincial rank of Ozeki (in Aizu). He was also an expert swordsman and expert in Bojutsu. He had been taught Hozoin-ryu Takada-ha sojutsu (Art of the Spear) form his father-in-law, Dengoro Kurokochi. He'd also had practical fighting experience, fighting in the Boshin Civil War at the Battle of Toba-Fushimi in Kyoto, and later in the battle at Aizu Wakamatsu Castle. He had his own dojo on his property, where he taught others. May I suggest that what early training Sokaku Takeda received, he received from his father? Is it reasonable?

I would like to mention at this point, that Sokaku Takeda quite certainly did not learn anything from his grandfather, Soemon Takeda. In researching for this article, I frequently ran across references stating that he did. 'Samurai Aikijutsu' for example, states this. But, as Soemon Takeda died in 1853, and Sokaku was born in 1858, if Sokaku was taking lessons from his grandfather, it was via a Ouija board...

Now, we need to see what possible connection Sokaku had with Shiro Saigo, to determine if it is reasonable to assume that Shiro Saigo ever learned Daito-ryu.

The connection is to be found in the name of Tanomo Saigo (1830-1903 who later changed his name to Chikanori Hoshina). Shiro Saigo was the illegitimate son of Tanomo Saigo according to some sources, who in any case adopted Shiro.

Chikanori was the chief councillor and governor-general of the Aizu clan. He was thus a quite politically powerful and important man. It is an historical fact that Sokaku Takeda spent some time with Chikanori, learning what Sokaku called "Oshikiuchi". Leaving what that may have been until later, the theory is that Soemon taught, not his son Sokichi, who would teach Sokaku... but that Soemon taught Chikanori, who admittedly *did* teach Sokaku Takeda something.

The problems with this theory are several, and the main problem is that the deduction is being made that Chikanori is a martial arts master not based on historical evidence, but on the fact that he is closely connected to two martial geniuses. His son Shiro Saigo, and the founder of Daito-ryu, Sokaku Takeda. This seems to be akin to placing the cart before the horse. As Stanley Pranin points out:

"Chikanori Hoshina's life is well-documented and even his diary has been preserved. Hoshina scholars have, however, found no evidence of Chikanori having undergone any extensive martial arts training or having taught such arts. Had Chikanori been a skilled martial artist in his own right, surely some record of his talents and exploits would have survived." (Ref #5)

If you accept that Chikanori was *not* a martial artist, and non-Daito-ryu history certainly doesn't proclaim him one, then what is "Oshikiuchi"? It is the testimony of Sokaku Takeda that he learned Oshikiuchi from Chikanori. One of the better discussions of this point is:

"A further unresolved issue is the matter of the term used historically to refer to Daito-ryu techniques transmitted within the Aizu clan. Tokimune and others have written that Sokaku learned secret techniques called oshikiuchi and that it was these arts that form the essence of Daito-ryu. The characters used for oshikiuchi, "o" (an honorific) + "shiki" (ceremony) + "uchi" (inside),Oshikiuchi Kanji, represent a rather curious combination and do not convey any obvious meaning. They were probably recorded based on the oral testimony of Sokaku who was himself illiterate. One theory is that the correct Chinese characters are actually,Oshikiiuchi Kanji, "o" (an honorific) + "shikii" (threshold) + "uchi" (inside). According to this view, what was actually referred to as oshikiuchi were not martial techniques at all, but rather the court etiquette or manners that trusted subjects of the inner circle who were allowed "inside the threshold" were expected to observe. If this is indeed the case, what Chikanori Hoshina taught Sokaku during the latter's visits had to do with matters of samurai etiquette." (Ref #6)

Another reference to this same point is:

"There is some question about the proper reading/pronunciation of this term. The form Sokaku taught his son Tokimune translates as "honorable ceremony inside," and the term came to be equated with gotenjutsu, literally "self-defense techniques for use within the palace." Usually, however, groups of Japanese characters used as words have some sort of intrinsic sense that indicate their meaning, and a number of Japanese scholars have noted that this particular version of oshikiuchi is essentially nonsense. Some researchers now believe that the correct characters are "within the honorable threshold" , oshikiiuchi, and that it refers to the behavior of those permitted within the threshold of the palace, be it domainal or that of the Shogun" (©1997 Diane Skoss). (Ref #7)

(For those who don't know any Japanese, the difference between the verbal pronunciation of "Oshikiuchi" and "Oshikiiuchi" is small! It's a lengthened "i" sound, instead of the short 'i' sound. Japanese is a language where it can frequently not be possible to know the meaning of a word without seeing the written form.)

So if Chikanori is not known to history as a martial artist, and did indeed teach samurai etiquette to Sokaku Takeda, we are left without anyone to teach Daito-ryu to Chikanori's son, Shiro Saigo. Shiro Saigo did not have any known historical contact with Sokaku Takeda...

Only two students of Sokaku Takeda received menkyo kaiden in Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu directly from Sokaku. One of them was Takuma Hisa (1895-1979 Menkyo Kaiden, 1939) One of his students was Hakaru Mori, awarded Hachidan in 1973, and appointed Director of the Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu Takumakai in December of 1978. Here is what he had to say on the subject:

"Question: Sensei, you've been pursuing some historical research on the Daito-ryu. Can you tell us about the relationship between the famous Shiro Saigo and Daito-ryu?


Answer: Shiro Saigo was adopted by Tanomo Saigo, who was said to have been one of Sokaku's instructors. Thus it is natural to assume that Saigo had some kind of connection to Daito-ryu. However, Shiro Saigo studied Judo at the Kodokan starting when he was a child, and there is no evidence that he learned Daito-ryu. But he later left the Kodokan, and there are many theories on why he did so. He was one of the students left in charge of the Kodokan while Jigoro Kano was on a trip, but he ran away. We simply cannot prove that he used Daito-ryu techniques at the Kodokan. Some people say the yamaarashi is a variation of shihonage, but the technique introduced by the Kodokan as yamaarashi is totally different. Besides, I doubt that you can actually bend an arm in that way. When you try to apply the technique to someone, you will discover that it is very difficult to bend a judoka's arm that way. Thus, I am not convinced by the theory that yamaarashi is a variation of shihonage. Furthermore, there is no evidence that Saigo used Daito-ryu after he left the Kodokan. Although it is said that his adopted father taught him Daito-ryu, it is difficult to judge whether or not this is true." (Ref #8)

So we can see that one of the top sensei in Daito-ryu doesn't believe that Shiro Saigo knew any Daito-ryu, let alone being a "master" of it. The current headmaster of mainstream Daito-ryu, Katsuyuki Kondo, also doesn't believe that Shiro Saigo ever knew any Daito-ryu. (See his statements below)

One other source can be found on the Internet that claims that Shiro Saigo was a master of Daito-ryu, and that is an art that is titled "Saigo Ha Daito-ryu" Here's what they have to say:

"Tanomo Saigo taught his adopted son Shiro Saigo the traditional art of the Minamoto and Aizu clans and groomed him as his official successor. (This included all the secret aspects of this art including the religious and cultural operations of the system), but, due to some romantic pressures, Shiro ended-up reclining the offer to become the new headmaster of Daito-Ryu. At this point, Tanomo approached his bodyguard, the grandson of his teacher (Saemon Takeda) to ask him to train in his art and assume the headmastership of Daito-Ryu. The bodyguard was Sokaku Takeda, who was already a master of several fighting systems and was trained in some aspects of Daito - Ryu under both his grandfather and his father. The rest is history: Shiro Saigo relocated to Nagasaki and assumed a low public profile, still teaching Daito-Ryu, along with other arts, while, Sokaku Takeda, assumed the title of grandmaster of Daito-ryu and became very well-known until he died in his early 80's." (Ref #9)

Unfortunately, history doesn't record that Sokaku Takeda was a bodyguard for anyone, let alone the chief councillor for the Aizu clan. Neither does history record that Chikanori was the "headmaster" of any martial art. Sokaku Takeda almost certainly learned some martial skills from his father, who was a Sumo Ozeki and Bojutsuka, with his own dojo... but it's rather doubtful if Sokaku Takeda learned anything at all from his grandfather. After all, Sokaku was born in 1858, while his grandfather had died five years earlier in 1853. Furthermore, history *does* record that Shiro Saigo gave up his study of Judo, but other than becoming a master of Kyudo (Archery), history says nothing at all about his knowledge of, or teaching of, Daito-ryu.

The current leader of mainstream Daito-ryu, Katsuyuki Kondo, had this to say about the claims of Saigo ha Daito-ryu:

"Properly speaking, there is no connection whatsoever between the Saigo-ha and Daito-ryu schools. They should not call themselves Daito-ryu because there is no relationship at all between Daito-ryu and the version of history they are offering." (Ref #10)

So, did Shiro Saigo ever learn any Daito-ryu? I think history is fairly clear here, no, he didn't.


The technique that Shiro Saigo used to dispatch his opponents (Yama Arashi) was not taught in Judo. There is some doubt as to what the technique actually consisted of.

The falsity of this statement is probably the easiest of all to demonstrate. And yet, it's a statement that I run into quite often on the Internet. One has to wonder why this statement is still being made, knowing how easily it can be shown to be incorrect.

First, let's take a look at some of the myths being passed along about Yama Arashi. Michael DePasquale Jr. has this to say about Yama Arashi:

"This technique did in fact fall into disuse with the advent of modern Judo. However our research reveals that it must have been performed as shown here. Yama Arashi was made famous by Shiro Saigo when he was fighting for the reputation of Kodokan Judo against the older schools of Jujitsu. No Judo man since his has been able to perform this throw and it seems that it was never included in the curriculum of the Kodokan." (Ref #13)

In reading the above paragraph, the only one that seems to be true is the third sentence. All the rest of the statements are demonstrably wrong! Yama Arashi was in the first compilation of the Gokyo no waza, and has always been taught in Judo. It's not, however, a particularly popular throw. But it is a recognized Judo throw, and always has been.

DePasquale Jr. also states that "Jigoro Kano intelligently, if a little unfairly, used a master Daito Ryu technique to prove the supremacy of his own Judo method."

Since I've shown that there's a great deal of doubt that Shiro Saigo learned *any* Daito-ryu techniques, this statement is not very accurate. But for the sake of discussion, let's imagine that it is absolutely correct. The mystery would then be how contemporary Jujutsu masters were unaware of this. It's certainly no secret that many Jujutsu masters joined with the Kodokan in the years following the 1886 tournament. Their reasons, of course, were many, but they wouldn't even consider joining the Kodokan if they'd thought for a moment that Judo had 'cheated' their way through competition. Would they?

The original source for the statements quoted above from Michael Depasquale Jr.'s website appear to be from the book, 'Samurai Aikijutsu' by Toshishiro Obata. Fortunately, an interview was conducted with the author on, and we can see where he got his information:

On Aug 23, 2000, Robert Reinberger, a Jigen Ryu Jujutsuka, asked the following questions of Toshishiro Obata:

In your book Samurai Aikijutsu (pg. 56-59) you also presented a variation of this technique, and wrote:


"However, our research reveals that it must have been performed as shown in this section."

May I ask for some informations about that research? To whom did you refer when you wrote 'our research'? What kind of informations led to your version? And were you taught any versions of this throw in any of the styles you practiced, or is your version of Yama arashi based entirely on the mentioned research?

Toshishiro Obata replied to the above questions, and I quote the entire reply here:

Yama Arashi is actually a technique in a book that was written and created by Tomita Tsuneo.


It is said that Yama Arashi was created by Tomita Tsuneo, but no one really knows. Since it was written, people think that it is a real technique. However, if it was real, it [would stand to reason that it would have] been passed down.

There were many movies titled "Sugata Sanshiro". In the various versions, they used the Yama Arashi technique [though they only show it in partial view in the more popular version still available commonly.NS].

Sugata Sanshiro's role in the movie was supposed to have been Saigo Shiro. When Saigo Shiro was young, he is said to have learned Daito Ryu Aikijujutsu.

From what I have learned over the years, I have come to think that Yama Arashi isn't a Jujutsu technique. I think of it as an Aikijujutsu technique, and it is said that proper ukemi can't be performed [when executed correctly].

Therefore, I basically researched and guessed [from what little evidence could be found] the Yama Arashi technique based from knowledge of Aikijujutsu, and used it in the "Samurai Aikijutsu" book.

The english used in the book says "it must have been done this way", but this may have been a strong choice of words.

Unfortunately nobody can know for a fact - there is not enough believable evidence to say.

(The comments in brackets apparently come from one of his students, Nathan Scott.)

It becomes apparent when reading Mr. Obata's answers, that he has based his entire theory on either the book written by Tomita Tsuneo, or the movie, Sanshiro Sugata, that was based on the book. Since Mr. Obata is not a Judoka, it would seem that the first avenue of research would be through Judo literature. It seems obvious that he would not have "guessed" how Yama Arashi is done had he researched Judo sources rather than a "knowledge of Aikijujutsu".

Another bit of proof, if any more is needed, is to compare the Aikijujutsu version of Yama Arashi. It has been said that if Shiro Saigo missed his favorite technique, he would continue his attack by dropping into Tai Otoshi. The version of Yama Arashi propounded by Mr. Obata simply doesn't allow that, as we can see below.

Here is the description of Yama Arashi created by Mr. Obata from "Samurai Aikijutsu":


Literally 'mountain storm' this technique did in fact fall into disuse with the advent of modern Judo and was 'lost'. However our research reveals that it must have been performed as shown in this section. 'Yama Arashi' was made famous by Shiro Saigo when he was fighting for the reputation of Kodokan Judo, against the older schools of Jujutsu. No Judo man since him has been able to perform this throw, and it seems that it was never included in the curriculum of the Kodokan.


To perform 'yama arashi', as you grapple with your opponent, block or slip inside his arm, crouch and throw him in one fast movement. Variations include using your leg to help with the throw, throwing the opponent onto his head instead of away from you and a greater degree of emphasis on a wrist hold to perform the technique.

1. As you grapple with an opponent, take hold of his collar and right arm.
2. Holding him firmly, step to the side with your right foot to break his hold...
3. ...then stepping in under your opponent's arms, apply pressure to his neck and twist his arm. Then as your hip touches his body...
4. ... applying still more pressure to his neck through the hold you have on his collar, lift him at the point that your hip touches him...
5. ...and in one continuous movement, throw him forward and down by shifting your weight forward and pulling down with both hands.

Now that we've seen how Mr. Obata describes his version of Yama Arashi, let's look at Judo sources to determine if this is a "lost technique" or not. Brian Griffin, on, had this to say on the subject:

We do have several eyewitnesses who knew & trained with Saigo over the course of many years. They experienced his yama arashi at first-hand many times, and saw him use it in the famous 1886 tournament. In fact, they fought beside him in that tournament.


Yamashita Yoshiaki
Yokoyama Sakujiro
Tomita Tsunejiro

...and, of course, Kano Jigoro

Tomita's son Tsuneo (also a judoka) wrote Sanshiro Sugata in 1942. In 1909, when Tsuneo was five years old, Yokoyama published Judo Kyohan, a "master text" illustrating & describing the Kodokan curriculum. It features the original (1895) gokyo no waza, which had yama arashi as a standard throw. Yokoyama helped create the 1895 gokyo. Yamashita, Kano, and other contemporaries of Saigo appear in the illustrations. Kano himself reviewed and approved it. At the time of it's publication, Saigo Shiro was alive and vigorous and owned his own newspaper. He certainly could have objected to any perceived inaccuracy in the depiction of "his" technique.

So what we are asked to believe is:


Some time between 1890 (when Saigo left the Kodokan) and 1895 (when the gokyo was first promulgated) The Kodokan changed yama arashi. Everyone listed above, as well as hundreds of others, either remained silent, or actively promoted the deception. Saigo himself went along with the conspiracy.

William of Occam...please call your office. Your razor appears to be missing.

I find myself in agreement with Brian, with his humorously sly reference to the principle of Occam's Razor. Sakujiro Yokoyama certainly trained with and alongside Shiro Saigo for many years, and it would be strange indeed, if Yokoyama wasn't familiar with Shiro Saigo's favorite technique.

Old Yama ArashiModern Yama ArashiAs Brian stated above, Sakujiro Yokoyama wrote a book on Judo in which he describes Yama Arashi:


"You both hold each other in migi shizen tai. Take his right lapel in a 'natural hold' with your right, while you grip the middle part of his right sleeve with your left. Pull him again and again toward his right front corner, and he will lean in that direction on tiptoe, resting his weight on his right foot. At that moment, put the right back corner of your body close to his right front corner, as shown in Fig. 72 (Photo on left) Apply the back of your right leg against the outside of his and give a backward sweep to your leg, while you pull him down with your right hand, first lifting him a little with it, and then describing an arc with that hand and the left one. (Ref #11)

And strangely enough, it's the same version of Yama Arashi I learned from my sensei 40+ years ago. It's identical to every Judo reference book description I've ever seen. For a more modern photo, see the photo on the right. (Ref #12)

Now, in order for us to imagine that there's any doubt whatsoever about this technique, we will be forced to believe in a vast conspiracy of early Judoka... or much more believably, that people who claim Yama Arashi is a lost technique simply haven't done the basic research.

Now, is the Judo's Yama Arashi the Yama Arashi? Certainly not. There are almost as many "versions" of this technique as there are Jujutsu schools... some of whom claim to have "re-invented" a "lost" technique. And, as long as their claims of "lost techniques" are not in reference to Judo, that's none of my concern.

I suspect that some of this misunderstanding can be laid at the door of the Japanese language. It's not unusual for a single technique to have dozens of names... coming from the many different styles of Jujutsu. Even within a single style there were sometimes multiple names for a single technique. For example, Judo's Morote Seoinage is also known as Eri Seoinage. Conversely, there are certainly examples of *different* techniques that have the same name. (Judo and Aikido, for example, share some identically named, but different techniques.)

Yama Arashi is one of the examples where there are different techniques that use the same name. As an example, here's a Yama Arashi from Tenjin Myöshin Ryu: (Ref #14)

Yamaarashi Yamaarashi


But to come to the conclusion that Shiro Saigo was trained in Daito-ryu, based on the fact that Daito-ryu *also* has a technique called Yama Arashi, is mistaken reasoning.

Just as coming to the conclusion that Shiro Saigo's father, Chikanori Hoshina, must have been a Jujutsu master because he is associated with two admitted martial geniuses, is again, faulty reasoning.

Now the question becomes, why do so many Jujutsu styles continue to pass along myths about Shiro Saigo, and the tournament of 1886? My own theory is relatively simple. The lessons of that famous tournament continue to echo down to the present day.

That tournament taught us that a style that is capable of practicing its techniques with full power and full strength (with a minimum of injury), against a resisting opponent, will have the upper hand when compared to a martial art that does not train this way. Judo's advantage was not "stacking the deck" with Jujutsu "masters". It was not Shiro Saigo. (who after all, only accounted for one of many matches) And it was not a Daito-ryu technique, long lost, that won the day for Judo.

There are, then, Jujutsu styles today that wish that the lessons of 1886 could be explained away. I recall one long-time Judo instructor who confided to me that "When Daito-ryu talks about Judo, they lie". Now, that seems to be a rather harsh statement, and this is not a "bash Daito-ryu" article. But the 'sense' of the comment is that way too much misinformation on Judo seems to emanate from various Jujutsu styles.

Hopefully, the information presented here will allow readers to see how distorted and wrong much of our martial history is. It seems that far too much of our historical information is passed along orally, and not subjected to very much critical thought. This is, of course, partially the result of our heritage... "what the sensei says is the truth" sort of thing. But if we wish to remain true to our ideals, they cannot be founded on anything less than the truth. Judo is not the greatest martial art in the world, absolutes rarely are... but neither is the spread of Judo an accident of history, cheating its way to Jujutsu supremacy.


The Kodokan has printed a marvelous Japanese/English Dictionary of Judo terms. The following biography on Shiro Saigo appears there:

"Shiro Saigo (1866-1922) Third son of Shida Sadajiro, a samurai of the Aizu Domain, born in 1866 in Aizu Wakamatsu. In 1882 he moved to Tokyo and enrolled in the Kodokan. In 1884 he was adopted into the family of Tanomo Saigo, a former elder councillor of the Aizu Domain and took the name Hoshina Shiro. In 1888 he reverted to the surname Saigo in order to resurrect the Saigo family line, which had died out with the passing of Saigo Tanomo. Exceptionally talented a martial artist, he was particularly well known for his powerful yama arashi ("mountain storm") technique. He earned the rank of shodan in judo in August 1883, nidan in September of the same year, jumped to yodan in August 1885, and godan in January 1889. However, he later left the Kodokan organization in May 1890 while Jigoro Kano was away travelling. He is also known to have been the model for the main character in Tomita Tsuneo's 1942 novel Sugata Sanshiro. He died in Onomichi in Hiroshima prefecture in December 1922."

Thanks to Joe Svinth, Brian Griffin, Nathan Scott, Mark Feigenbaum, and others who've helped with their useful critiques of this article. Martial artists who are seeking quality information and discussion could do much worse than a trip to



Reference #1 - Japan's Ultimate Martial Art by Darrell Max Craig (page 2)

Reference #2 - Beginning Jiu Jitsu (Ryoi-Shinto Style) by James G. Shortt & Katsuharu Hashimoto (page 40-41)

Reference #3 - Beginning Jiu Jitsu (Ryoi-Shinto Style) by James G. Shortt & Katsuharu Hashimoto (page 38)

Reference #4 - Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu by Stanley A. Pranin (page 10-11) This book is an extremely useful reference to any student of Judo, Jujutsu, or Aikido. Mr. Pranin holds the rank of Godan in Aikido, and is the Editor-in-Chief of Aikido Journal The book consists of a series of interviews with many of the top Daito-ryu sensei. I like this book because it hasn't fallen victim to easy factoids, and Mr. Pranin has done the actual research.

Reference #5 - Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu by Stanley A. Pranin (page 21)

Reference #6 - Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu by Stanley A. Pranin (page 22)

Reference #7 -

Reference #8 - Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu by Stanley A. Pranin (page 133-134)

Reference #9 -

Reference #10 - Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu by Stanley A. Pranin (page 175-176)

Reference #11 - Judo by Sakujiro Yokoyama (page 147-148)

Reference #12 - The A to Z of Judo by Syd Hoare (page 81)

Reference #13 - - Michael DePasquale Jr.'s Website

Reference #14 - Classical Fighting Arts of Japan - A Complete Guide to Koryu Jujutsu by Serge Mol (page 22)