The Kodenkan Judo of Master Okazaki

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Letter from Bud Fuller

A Letter from Bud Fuller


Jay Moynahan

(Circa 1968)


Over the years, Professor Estes has recounted stories and anecdotes concerning Professor Okazaki and his relationship with his students for the purpose of illustrating principles. I’ll recount some of them for you.

To Be Convinced

It is told that before traveling to the Hawaiian Islands, a man had studied Judo in a school in Los Angeles and had won a black belt in competition style Judo. One evening he was walking down an alley, toward a street, and he saw two men attacking a third. One of the attackers was armed with a knife. The black belter immediately decided to even up the odds and took out one of the men with a Judo throw, knocking him unconscious. He then turned around to see how the victim of the attack was doing, with the intention of helping. He found, that to his surprise, the victim was calmly standing there with his attacker defeated and lying helpless in the gutter. The intended victim of the vicious attack was Professor Okazaki. He looked at the black belter and observed, “So you know Judo. The black belter, who said that at that time he had a rather inflated regard for his abilities, replied that he indeed knew Judo. Professor Okazaki thanked him for saving his life, as he put it, although later the black belt said that he didn’t need his help at all.

Professor Okazaki then told the man that he had a Judo-.Jujutsu school and invited him to attend. At that time this was indeed a great honor, since it was extremely rare for a Caucasian to be invited to such a school. He attended and was introduced to the class by Professor Okazaki as a man who had saved his life. Consequently, he was given the royal treatment. As a mark of special favor, Professor Okazaki told the black belter that he was going to have him work out with his son. Professor Okazaki’s son was only about half his size, and as he put it, he felt a little “silly” out there in front of everyone with this little fellow. However, the feeling was soon dissipated. The man recounts that the son turned him every way but loose. Every time he attempted a technique, he had to pick himself up off the mat. He recounts that finally he got irritated and simply body snatched” Okazaki’s son off the mat, intending to throw him bodily (not viciously) to the mat, whereupon he once again was thrown with beautiful technique. At the conclusion of this activity, the man told Professor Okazaki that he was convinced that he didn’t know anything about Judo at all and asked to be accepted as a student. Professor Okazaki accepted him and although it wasn’t required he threw away his black belt, put on a white belt and began again. He was and is Professor Okazaki’s devoted student to this very day.

A Prediction

Certain individuals of Professor Okazaki’s acquaintance had berated him for teaching the Arts to all, without regard to race or religion. Some among them told Professor Okazaki that Caucasians just didn’t have the Intestinal fortitude to learn the “true” Arts. Professor Okazaki snorted and advised them that Caucasians had just as much in the way of courage as anyone else. He told them that they, the proud possessors of all martial art skills would one day be learning the Arts from Caucasians, and others too. They laughed.


Professor Okazaki took Bud Estes and some others and began their training, not on the mat surface, but on a concrete slab. He taught them the fundamentals of rolling and falling on the slab. He was such a stickler for absolute precision, that he would lay two thick boards down parallel to each other, with just barely enough room between them for a man to lie in the falling position. Then he instructed the students in this special class to fall between these two boards. Bud Estes has noted that those in this class learned to fall relaxed, because of the cement slab, and with absolute precision, because of the boards. Any deviation from the correct form was immediately and painfully apparent to the erring student. The hard training proved too much for some in that class and they quit. But some stayed, among them Bud Estes. Bud Estes recounts that when they were finally allowed to go inside where the mats were located, the mats felt just like pillows to them, and they could fall from just about anything completely relaxed. By then, relaxation, both mental and physical, had become a conditioned reflex, as had good form in the arts they had been and would later be taught.


Professor Okazaki was nothing if not demonstrative with his students. Early in the process of learning with him, Bud Estes was being taught a blow defense. Like many beginning students, when Bud was to throw a punch at the Sensei, he “pawed at it” and did not really attempt to strike, deliberately missing his mark which was Professor Okazaki’s chin. Professor Okazaki immediately stepped in and drove a flat hand blow to Estes, knocking him down flat on the mat. He then reproved him explaining that he must have faith in his teacher and do exactly as he was told. Embarrassed by the blow, Estes quickly got up and threw a hard punch at Professor Okazaki. The Professor used the blow defense he was teaching to Estes and then calmly told him, “That’s right, when your throw a punch, do it like you mean it, then you will learn how to properly perform the defense. Mr. Estes’s embarrassment evaporated immediately, and he saw why his sensei had deliberately struck him. It was a lesson he never forgot.


Professor Okazaki used to tell his students that there was only one way that the martial arts should be used, and that was for the benefit of others. Professor Okazaki once told Bud Estes, “You know Kyoshi, (Estes’ nickname). If a man were to break into my house and try to injure my family, I might have to break his arm to stop him, but remember, I must also be the first to render him first aid and help in any way that I can.”

Law's Children

Master Okazaki considered his students as part of his family in every way. At one time Ray Law’s children were ill and Professor Okazaki heard about it, and in typical fashion, decided to take some action to remedy the situation. Mrs. Law heard her front door slam shut and came from another part of the house to investigate. She was understandably surprised as she looked up and saw Professor Okazaki walking down the road toward his home, one child under each arm. Professor Okazaki took them to his home and nursed them back to health. He, of course, never considered asking permission to do such a thing - after all, they were his children too weren’t they? They all were his children — his heart was big enough to encompass all with whom he came in contact. -


Professor Okazaki told his students that they must learn to control themselves completely mentally, emotionally, and physically. One of his students, who thought he had achieved this goal, once said to the Professor that he had finally learned to control himself. Unfortunately for him or maybe fortunately, he was receiving a massage from the Professor at the time. Now, Professor Okazaki had some liniment that he used in his administrations. It was his own formulation, and quite hot as liniments go. Professor Okazaki congratulated the student on his achievement and deftly poured some of the liniment over a very sensitive portion of the student’s anatomy. The student suddenly let out a yell and came right up off the mat, clawing his way toward the ceiling. Professor Okazaki looked at him and then commented that he apparently had a ways to go towards achieving perfect control of himself. He was also admonished to keep working on it he was doing just fine!


At one time, Professor Okazaki was asked to please come down to the beach and revive a man who had drowned. Seeing the opportunity to give practical instruction on certain resuscitation arts (Kappo), Professor Okazaki grabbed four of his black belters from the mat, and they proceeded hastily to the beach. On arrival, they observed the man lying there and as it happened, he had vomited all over himself. The particular situation involved the use of mouth to mouth resuscitation. The black belter bent down, the vomit smell got to him and he vomited himself. Okazaki promptly knocked him out and bent down, giving the man mouth to mouth resuscitation, and revived him. That was a lesson his students remembered and as Professor Okazaki graphically demonstrated from then on, they forgot self in the service of others.


Professor Okazaki, of course, always maintained strict discipline among his students both on and off the mat. On one occasion he received news that one of his brown belters had gone to a nearby bar, gotten into a fight with a man, and dislocated the man’s arm. Professor Okazaki turned to Bud Estes, who by that time was a black belt holder, and said simply, “Kyoshi, you know what to do. He did. He went immediately to the bar, and found both men still there. He went to the brown belter, dislocated the man’s arm in the same fashion as the man had done to the other, then reduced the dislocation of the first man and gave him massage and first aid. He then went to the brown belter and reduced his dislocation, and gave him massage and first aid. He then instructed the brown belter to apologize to the man he had injured. The brown belt did so and turned out to be a model student from then on.


Bud Estes, just like any other student, wanted to learn advanced techniques and so—called secret arts before he was ready. He thought he was ready, but Professor Okazaki knew better. Although Estes never asked Professor Okazaki to teach him these techniques, his attitude was clear to the sensei, who approached him one day and said, “if you want to learn the advanced techniques, learn to do the basics better than I can, then I will have to teach you advanced techniques.” This is an answer that Bud Estes still gives today, when the occasion demands it. It’s a good one.

Postscript by D. Scheid, 1991

It is interesting to note that Professor’s Estes was called Kyoshi.

In the Martial Arts grading system, the following is typical. Kyu ranks are those from beginner to black belt. Certificates such as Shoden and Chuden are issued for achievement is the basic and intermedi­ate Arts. The Mokuroku represented achievement of the Master’s system through the intermediate Arts, including knowledge of the Advanced Arts. It was the lowest teaching certificate. The Menkyo Kaidan was the highest teaching certificate. This is the system devised by Jigoro Kano but by no means inclusive of all grading systems.

Various schools have different requirements for advancement and titles. Time in grade is not uniform and contrary to the teachings of the Kodenkan which based advancement on both skill and character. (See home page.) 

In the All Japan Kendo Federation, Renshi is the lowest instructor’s certificate, and may be obtained 3 years after attaining fifth dan. The next certificate is Kyoshi and comes 7 years after Renshi. The highest teaching certificate is Hanshi which is obtained 20 years after Kyoshi and the exponent must be over 55 years of age. So, in the Martial Arts, Kyoshi is the rank of Instructor and it just speculation that instead of this being Professor’s Estes’ nickname, it was his title and grade which Professor Okazaki assigned to him.

Since Professor Okazaki issued Mokuroku, wherein he lists his Shoden and Chuden levels, it is obvi­ous that he adopted Kano’s system. However, from the use of the nickname, it is possible that he may have merged or adhered to a slightly different system than that devised by Kano.

Prepared by: David A. Scheid