Stories about Japan and martial arts always involve extremely skilled fighters of styles like karate, judo, ju-jutsu, aikido, ninjutsu, kendo and even sumo. The cinema made eternal some classic martial arts movies like Karate Kid (the real one, not the another with Will Smith’s son) and The 7 Samurai, not to mention actors like Jean-Claude Van Damme (Shotokan Karate), Steven Seagal (Aikido 7th Dan, Kenjutsu, Karate, Judo), Jason Statham (Jiu Jitsu), Dolph Lundgren (Kyokushin & Goju-Ryu Karate – 3rd Dan, Judo), Wesley Snipes (Shotokan Karate – 5 Dan, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu), Sho Kosugi (Ninjutsu, Judo, Kendo) and of course, Sonny Chiba (Goju-Ryu – 2 dan, Kyokushin Karate – 4 dan, Ninjutsu – 4 Dan, Judo – 2 Dan, Kenpo – 1 Dan, Kendo – 1 Dan).
In spite of the popularity those styles have among the public and the countless number of adepts, there are yet many martial arts from Japan that are almost unknown to the rest of the world. One of them is the Taiho Jutsu, a martial art created in Japan and widely used by police and armed forces.
Name and Origin
Taiho Jutsu (逮捕術) means literally the art of arresting.
Its origin is not very clear, but it’s said it was adopted by law enforcement officers yet during the feudal age of Japan. At that time they used techniques of juttenjutsu, toritejutsu and hojojutsu to capture and restraining suspects without using lethal force or weapons like swords and similar.
The contemporary taiho jutsu has been created during the 40s, mainly during the after war period. Unable to use fire weapons due to the treaty of surrender and since the use of swords have been forbidden since the end of Shogun age, the police officers had to find an effective way to subdue and capture criminals without relying on weapons. Thus, with the advice and consulting of top masters from karate, judo, ju jutsu, aikido and bo jutsu, the Japanese police created the first version of the taiho jutsu.
However, only in 1947 the style became officially recognized. After an effort coordinated by Tokyo Police involving great masters from many different arts, techniques of modern age ju jutsu, karate jutsu, kendo and judo were reviewed and those who best fit for law enforcement reality have been adopted. And so, the Taiho-jutsu Kihon Kozo, The Fundamentals of Taiho Jutsu was published.
Since then the style have passed through several reviews, always keeping it up-to-date with police reality. Among those reviews some instruments have been introduced. The mostly known one is the Keibo (警棒), a kind of short club used by police, and the tokushu keibo, a extensible metal type of keibo. Its introduction also resulted on the creation of the do Keibo-soho, a set of techniques that involve its use. Other instruments also used are the seijo (handcuffs) and the hiki-tate oyobi (restraining methods).
The main concern involving the creation of the taiho jutsu was that it should be a martial art that allowed restraining without causing damage to the adversary. The confrontation, control and restraining must be done having in mind the safety of both the officer and the prisoner. Deadly force must be avoided at any price.
The techniques involve a combination of wrist control coming from ju justu, aikido and judo. Karate “hard” techniques are used in case the use of force escalates.
Another technique introduced in modern taiho jutsu is the heijo-shin, a practice that promotes the self control and the calm through breathing exercises, adopted widely by budo followers.
People who study the taiho jutsu enhance their self-control and confidence in situations where it’s necessary. The practitioners also become more aware of their capabilities when confronting and adversary. It helps lesser the chances of “adrenaline rush” that usually follow violent situations.
Taiho jutsu strength is in the fact that it doesn’t rely on one style. Instead it incorporates soft and hard styles of martial arts.
Since it’s a discipline that requires mental maturity, the taiho justu can only be taught starting at 16 years old.