The diffusion routes of Jiu-Jitsu to and in the U.S. since the
turn of the last century to 1930s: Focus on the transfiguration and
succession of Jiu-Jitsu by the two Americans
YABU Kotaro (Ritsumeikan University)
This paper is to inquire the whereabouts and significance for the diffusion
routes of Jiu-Jitsu
(traditional Japanese martial arts) since the turn of the last century from the 19th to 20th century,
by viewing1 through the two Americans, Risher W. Thornberry and John J. O'brien, from the time
of having learned Jiu-Jitsu in Nagasaki foreign settlement and to their 30 years of activities after
returning to the U.S.
One of the main assignments to examine in studies of sport and physical education in late years is
to take stock of an ethnocentric interpretation by approaching to the history of propagation abroad
of Budo(a collective term of modernized Japanese martial arts) with special focus on bilateral cul-
tural relationship. This paper approaches the following two points accordingly:
i) To inquire the chance of the foreigners to encounter Japanese culture, the first point is to
analyze the meaning of cultural exchange on local level by looking into Nagasaki foreign
ii) To inquire the social factor of O'brien to get comprehensive sphere of activities by looking
into his movement after returning to the U.S.
iii) To review into the actual conditions for acceptance of Jiu-Jitsu as military martial arts
through the activities of Thornberry at the camp, and study about figuration of cultural
succession on the basis of the relationship between after retired him and his pupil.
The conclusions of this paper are shown as followings.
Firstly, the particular social situation of Nagasaki foreign settlement provided an opportunity for
the Americans to accept Jiu-Jitsu. Moreover, according to Thornberry's textbook he had retained
cultural identity of Jigo-Tenshin-Ryu (one of the styles of Jiu-Jitsu), but on the other hand the po-
tentiality for this identity to fade out was already there.
Secondly, O'brien's textbook points out that a fusion of Jiu-Jitsu and Physical Culture, and this
mixture was variously symbolized through the local media. Furthermore, his recreational activities
contributed to construct various diffusion routes.
Thirdly, Thornberry's Jiu-Jitsu was accepted as military martial arts as the camps demand. On
the other hand the succession of Thornbery's Jiu-Jitsu to his disciple Samuel K. Linck indicates that
the first did not quite lose the identity of Jigo-Tenshin-Ryu. However, Linck did not succeed Thorn-
berry's Jiu-Jitsu entirely, thus there was a chance of resulting the alternatives.
To sum up my main points, the successors were connected one another through Jiu-Jitsu, but the
binding force was limited. Thus various requests from the local society were subsumed in the pro-
cess of succession, and in this meaning its mechanism is not accumulated very easily. However, this
kind of flexibility played a role of having made their Jiu-Jitsu well known into the local population.