Master Henry Seishiro Okazaki, the founder of the Dan Zan Ryu (Cedar Mountain Style/School), was born on the island of Honshu, Japan, Jan. 28, 1890. He emmigrated to Hawaii in 1906. When he was 19 years old, he became ill on the island of Hilo and was diagnosed by a doctor to have been suffering from incurable tuberculosis. This motivated him to begin upon a path that he would pursue for the rest of his life, which he described in a scroll given to one of his students as follows.
“With the courage born out of desperation, I … started to practice jujitsu in earnest and in defiance of death. My frantic efforts and devotion to jujitsu not only miraculously healed my tuberculosis, but also enabled me to develop a strong, iron-like body…
I then realized that I owed my life completely to jujitsu, and decided to devote the rest of my life to the teaching and promotion of jujitsu.”
Master Okazaki proceeded to practice diligently 6 nights a week and learned several jujitsu styles as well as several other martial arts. In 1924 he returned to Japan and made an exhaustive study of several jujitsu ryu while traveling extensively and visited more than 50 jujitsu dojos (schools) and acquired 675 different techniques or forms. He made a special study of Kappo and Seifhukujitsu (see below), because he recognized the virtue of jujitsu lay in the possibility of reversing the effects of deadly or disabling arts by restoration and treatment.
Master Okazaki stressed the ancient systems of philosophical and moral training (see the Esoteric Principles) while retaining the best of the arts of self-defense and of restoration together as a system of physical culture and mental cultivation. Thus, he achieved a true synthesis of ancient and modern elements.
In 1930 Master Okazaki opened the Nikko (rays of the sun) Sanatorium of Restoration Massage, also known as the Okazaki Seifhukujitsu In (Okazaki Alignment and Restoration Clinic) in Honolulu, where he subsequently earned an international reputation for his skill as a physical therapist. He also opened his school, the Kodenkan Dojo, that same year.
Kodenkan, the name of Master Okazaki’s physical school, may be translated as The School of the Ancient Tradition, and in fact the Kodenkan system is a synthesis of the best arts of the ancient jujitsu schools. However, Kodenkan may also be rendered as The School in which Seniors Transmit the Tradition. This translation describes the Kodenkan method of instruction, senior students teach junior students in the spirit which Master Okazaki declared was inherent in the Hawaiian word Kokua, to help another.
From the founding of the Kodenkan Dojo forward, Master Okazaki’s life was devoted to instructing worthy Americans without regard to national origin, race, or sex in the arts and sciences of jujitsu and to developing disciples who would introduce his system throughout the United States.
It is safe to say that when Master Okazaki died in July, 1951, thousands of students had studied in his school.
On the mainland over the years, a number of disciples who Master Okazaki had initiated into the highest arts of the DAN ZAN RYU system began to teach and attempted to make a reality of Master Okazaki’s dream to have a school teaching his system in every state of the Union. One of the first, Professor Ray L. Law established the Oakland (CA.) Judo School in 1939, and was followed shortly by Professor Bud Estes, Professor Richard Rickerts and Professor John Cahill. Others followed and taught over the years, and today, there are a variety of organizations, founded by different Okazaki students, dedicated to perpetuating their interpretation of his system.