(Originally published at Abloodyblog)
Fusen-Ryu Jujutsu was founded by Takeda Motsuge, in the early 1800s. Motsuge was born in 1794, in Matsuyama, Japan. He studied Jujutsu since a young age and, by his late teens, was considered a Shihan and was teaching in Aki. He had studied Nanba Ippo-Ryu from Takahashi Inobei. He also studied Takenouchi, Sekiguchi, Yoshin, Shibukawa and Yagyu-Ryu during his lifetime. As his style came together at about the same time as the dissolution of the Samurai class, it developed mostly toward unarmed combat. Fusen-Ryu finally became an art that focused almost exclusively on ground fighting (this may have only been in several branch schools, as certain other branch schools of Fusen-Ryu still exist today and they do not focus on Ne-Waza).
Around the turn of the 20th century, Mataemon Tanabe, the Fusen-Ryu master, challenged a new Jujutsu master to the area – Kano Jigoro. His new Jujutsu style had challenged several of the old style Jujutsu schools to contest and had beaten them easily. So, Mataemon Tanabe’s school fought Kano’s school and won every match – not trying to throw, but going right to the ground and doing armlocks, leg locks, chokes etc. Thus was the real birth of Ne-Waza as a science. Kano was so fascinated with the ease his judokas were beaten, that he persuaded (and perhaps paid) Tanabe to reveal the core of his technical strategy. Over the next few years, Kano assigned several of his top students to focus exclusively on this Ne-Waza. Soon, Ne-Waza was ‘absorbed’ as part of the Judo syllabus and Judo began to spread across the world.
So, in 1914, Kyoto University Judo Club organized the All Japan High School Championships, at Kyoto Imperial University. They called this sportive style Kosen. In the Kosen competition we did not have any restriction on practicing “Ne-Waza” (ground techniques). By 1925, so much emphasis was on Ne-Waza – because of its success in contest – that Kano had to make some new Judo rules, limiting the amount of time the judoka could stay on the ground. This ‘Kosen rule’ continued into the 1940s, stating Shiai had to be 70% standing and 30% ground fighting. This led to an early split in the Kodokan Judo movement. Many of those judokas, whom Kano had set to master Ne-Waza, had spent time inventing new series of movements, escapes and submissions. They and their students were now dominating even the Kodokan contests. There was so much negativity with this, that Kano sent many of them abroad to teach Judo elsewhere. He was very aware that they would not be easily defeated no matter where they went and he also smartly removed the challenge they presented in Japan. Some of the known Kosen judokas were: Yamashita, Hirata, Tomita, Yokoyama and Maeda.
Kosen Judo has only continued in a few places. One example is Hirata Kanae’s dojo, found in Japan. He died in 1998, but the dojo still continues to exist. Then there is Brazil, which started with Maeda. Mitsuyo Maeda, who began training in Judo in 1897 and became one of the troublesome Kosen judokas who was sent abroad with Tsunejiro Tomita. Traveling in the US, Maeda outshone his senior Tomita defeating wrestlers and fighters that had beaten Tomita. Tomita and Maeda went their separate ways – with Maeda going into the early ‘fighting circuit’, for money. He even travelled to Europe, where he lost the only two matches of his life against a Catch wrestler. He spent extra time with the wrestler learning some of those techniques. Finally, in 1915, Maeda settled in Brazil where he taught Carlos Gracie, the son of a local politician. Carlos Gracie and his brothers adopted the Kosen Judo techniques and developed them further, during the 20th century into what came to be known as “Brazilian” Jiu-Jitsu.