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Steven McLaughlin - DanZan Ryu Jujitsu and Mizujitsu or the art of underwater fighting


Steven J. McLaughlin


Sensei Steven J. McLaughlin in his SCUBA gear.

Steven J. McLaughlin, a Jujitsu practitionner (4th Degree BlackBelt DanZan Ryu), has studied martial arts since 1972. He studied JuJitsu and related subjects under Prof. LaGue, Prof. Fisher, and Prof. Estes while residing at the Bushidokan in Sparks, Nevada for 20 years. He was a Senior Instructor at the Bushidokan for 15 years, before moving to Hawaii in 1993. He lives in Kailua, Hawaii, where he is a network administrator and computer tutor when not acting as Sensei for his DanZan Ryu JuJitsu School. His school - the Hawaii JuJitsu KoDenKai - has the oldest martial arts academy site on the Internet.

Greetings Mr. McLaughlin, can you tell us a bit about your background.

I have been training in DanZan Ryu JuJitsu of the Kodenkan under the American Judo & JuJitsu Federation for 28 years. I am only a 4th degree black belt. My direct sensei was Professor Herb LaGue. I studied continuously with him and in his dojo for 20 years. I was his senior instructor for over 15 years. My other instructors were Professor Lamar Fisher (senior professor of the AJJF) and Professor Bud Estes (deceased Senior Professor of the AJJF). I still study with the Professors of the AJJF.
Photo of Prof Lague, taken in 1998
Photo taken from

What is DanZan Ryu Jujitsu?

DanZan Ryu JuJitsu was formulated from several ancient systems of JuJitsu, Kung Fu, Escrima, and modern Boxing and Wrestling from Japan, the Philippines, China, America and Hawaii by permissions of the Masters of those systems - by Professor Henry Seishiro Okazaki in the early 1900's in Hawaii. Our style is a complete martial art system that has all the arts that Aikido formulated in the 1920's and 1930's, all of the arts that Judo uses, all of the striking and atemi arts of the Japanese & Chinese advanced striking systems as well as American Boxing and Wrestling. We also study all of the modern and many of the ancient weapons and weapons systems. We also have all of the Healing, massage and restorative arts of Seifukujutsu, Kappo/Sappo which are taught integrally with the system. Our system comprises of over 350 basic separate techniques. We use mediation, massage and a degree of metaphysics ( Ki flow, Kiai, and other more esoteric arts). We have a message from Okazaki called the Esoteric Principles of JuJitsu that we base our philosophical studies on.

What does DanZan Ryu mean?

Dazan ryu is the Japanese spelling and pronunciation of the Chinese words "sandal wood/tree island". That is the old name of Hawaii given to it by the Chinese. It is how Master Wo Chong, Prof. Okazaki's mentor and instructor of what we believe to be one of the older more deadly gung fu striking systems, referred to Hawaii. Okazaki was very impressed by this man, enough to name his system by the old Chinese name for Hawaii.
Kanji of DanZan Ryu Jiu Jitsu

Who created DanZan Jujutsu?
DanZan Jujutsu was created by Professor Seisiro "Henry" Okazaki.

Photograph of Prof. Okazaki
taken from

With the various fighting methods all mixed together, wouldn't your jujutsu system lose its purity and be more like a modern self defense method instead of being jujutsu?

There is a serious problem with any "super system". What most are is simply a collection of eclectic arts all jammed together in a somewhat organized system. To this day not one of the "super systems" of martial arts has ever worked well. Try judging any of them to an older traditional system and see if they can fill all the requirements of the older system as well as be modern. I have never found one.

So why is DanZan Ryu different? Only the 350+ arts that could harmonize together in groups and the groups of arts harmonize together with the entire overall system were kept in, out of the hundreds and hundreds of techniques Prof Okazaki learned. There is also and entire healing system involved in all this criteria as well. And it is considered the glue that holds all of the physical arts together in the system.
Photo taken from

Aside from that there is a much deeper esoteric, and/or metaphysical quality that is taught by kuden. Oral tradition only. These are the actual secrets of the system that bind it together mentally and spiritually with the physical arts.

Most "super systems" do not have all these qualifications nor are they endorsed and maintained as part of the ongoing curriculums. DanZan Ryu does, it even has it's published "esoteric principles". These principles are not just a mission statement or a creed. Their instructions are how we actually teach and perform our art.

350 basic techniques, wouldn't that be a lot of techniques to learn and master? I mean, how much techniques could somebody absorb? How many advanced techniques do you have?

Organization, organization, organization. DZR is probably the most well organized and best comprehensively taught system in the world. All of its arts are divided into similar groups of about 20 techniques in each group. Not including all the variations of each art. Those are in there as addendum and are not even counted. If you were to count all the variations you could easily have over 100,000 techniques. You couldn't learn the system in 5 lifetimes.

However we have 5 basic lists of arts that get you up to black belt. Yawara (the arts that Aikido is based on), Nage (the throws Judo is based on), Shime ( basic ground fighting arts) Oku (basic combination arts of the first 3 lists and some specific countering arts for other systems). There is one more list called Goshin which is a "self-defense" list for short courses. That gets you roughly up to black belt. Black Belt is the equivalent to graduating from high school. There is college to go through yet and more. At least 5 more lists. This should take you 5 years to get to black belt. You will also have competed in Judo and Grappling and Karate as well by this point.

After black belt comes the very best techniques. The other more important half of the system. Many more techniques. You will learn countering techniques for all martial arts. Deadly strikes and throws and holds to be used against professional master level martial artists. You will learn most major weapons, especially the current ones. You will master massage and the Seifukujutsu - Kappo healing arts. And you will study the advanced arts of KI and KIAI, and be able to actually perform them.

What do you mean by "modern weapon"?

Professor Okazaki started a trend toward mastering current martial arts weapons that is continued on today, by myself and many other expert instructors. We can take your training from the katana to the Ingram MAC 11 or modern front site shooting styles. We can train you in all modern police utility weapons and domestic self-defense products. I teach knife throwing (one of Okazaki's favorites) and UnderWater JuJitsu for dive masters. My instructor teaches jujitsu for freefall environments (useful in outerspace).
Underwater Jujitsu!? Are you the creator of such method?
Truthfully, I designed the underwater course. It came from an idea about training in space that NASA asked us about years and years ago. Were they thinking of space marines? I have no idea, just that our organization put together a course for them, and I designed this one from those experiences. We also came up with the first AirMarshall courses for the FBI to use in airplanes during hi-jacking. We haven't taught any AirMarshall courses in many years because it is all 'in-house' now.
Photo taken from

Why would anyone learn underwater Jujitsu?

Every time we mention our UnderWater Self-Defense course to dive shops and lifeguards we get the same initial reaction. WHAT? Why would we want to learn to fight underwater? Who is going to attack you? For what reason? By and large they are correct. The Safety Record for Diving is very high, with one of the lowest accident or injury rate of any sport or recreational activity, level to that of bowling! However there are professional people who are killed or who have sustained serious injuries every year by someone else in the water - by accident or purposefully done.


Underwater Jujitsu training
 taken from

Besides, it is amazingly fun and cutting edge creative. It enhances our workouts on the mat to a very large degree. I guess it is one of those things that after you do it, you wonder why you never thought of it yourself! And yes, you can really fight with it. I have tested it and had it tested in real life and death situations.

You must have some special techniques or training methods in those environment.

The techniques in the water are the regular techniques with special considerations. Outerspace jujitsu can only be trained in when aboard the "vomit comet" airplane NASA uses. Since it is $7,000 per ride we don't use it, so my instructor Prof LaGue teaches it in free fall parachuting. He does it several times a year. I think he has over 5,000 jumps by now. I can't parachute anymore because of a broken back (no I have never been hurt in martial arts or sky/skin diving - it was an industrial accident the first time. The second time my back was broken was in a fall from working on a skyscraper, and the last time I broke it was in a motorcycle accident - I think three times is all you allowed to have ;-). But doing arts underwater is effortless and fun and great therapy.

We are planning a SUPER dive someday. Parachute from a plane and practice a few jujitsu moves in the air, pull the rip cord and land in the water near a raft. Chuck the parachute gear to the raft, pick up your air tanks and scuba into shore, stopping to practice more jujitsu underwater. Then getting on shore and working out again on the mats or on the beach to finish of the circle of training.

We haven't done that one yet, but I am working on it!

Would any martial art work without normal earth gravity?

I keep getting karate and aikido people who think they can do all this with karate or aikido but so far none of them have been able to make karate work underwater, in total darkness or in freefall (the last two equal outerspace). Two of these people are 5th degrees, one in Kempo and one in Kung Fu (Praying Mantis) and Aikido (Tohei version). They had to start using all the jujitsu moves just to keep up. It was great fun and they were really good sports about it. We wanted to see if there were other ways other than the classic old jujitsu moves. Not so far. JuJitsu when properly taught covers the gamut of the things you really need in combat for the most part.
Boxing would most likely not be very efficient underwater
Photo taken from

What does martial art training to bring you,why did you start training in the first place?

Peace of mind, body and soul. Our dojo is located in an ancient Shinto temple in an incredibly beautiful valley here on Oahua island - there is a plaque on the front door that reflects a saying from the old sword polishers of ancient times... "souls polished here".

What do you think martial art is, what does martial arts represent to you?
A martial art if attempted to be studied as a fighting form and equally an artform is designed to further your mental, emotional and life skills in everyday life through the study of self defense type moves. In a system like ours the self defense is immediate and effective but the goal is to develop life skills. If a student does not wish to fight then what can they do with their skills? What are they learning? The basic answer is that they are learning how to fit into the world in a natural way and gaining skills of manipulation of people (opponents preferrably) and events. If that skill of manipulation is put to good use then martial art students are also learning how to be managers and supervisors in every day business life as well. As well as a host of other tangible and intangible benefits that have always been attributed to martial arts.

As far as learning character and sportsmanship. Those skills should be taught at home by parents and should be well in place long before a student learns the dangerous moves of self defense. We teach parents how to teach before the children arrive.

To learn more about Mr. McLaughlin or Jujitsu, visit The DanZan Ryu Jujitsu Homepage

For more information about the underwater JuJitsu program, visit


Interview done by Hao Wong
Copyright ©2000 MartialLife. All rights reserved

Last Updated on Tuesday, 08 February 2011 07:44  

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