by Colonel James Laughlin

In 1959 I was sent to Japan by the Australian Army as Commanding Officer of Taipan Force. My task was to rehabilitate four LSM's purchased from the American Navy and to work up four operational crews to sail the ships back to Australia. Early 1960 found crews and ships in Yokosuka with the operation under way.

Yokosuka was a shared Naval Base under an American Admiral, staffed by American and Japanese sailors with technicians in large numbers. Like any other base, the entertainment requirements of the servicemen away from home were admirably catered for. One such entertainment was a Martial Arts display of the Jishukan style, given by Shuho Sugita (Soke) with an admirable team of Black Belt enthusiasts. It was the talk of the base and although I did not see it some of my team did, and knowing my interest in that direction they duly related. I expressed regret at missing the demonstration to my opposite Japanese number who somehow managed to arrange an invitation for me to visit Soke Sugita at his school at Mutsurra. Discreet enquiries revealed his school was Jishukan Honbu a central school of self defence teaching Black Belt graduates from other persuasions the Jishukan art of self defence covering Jujutsu, Jojutsu and Kempo and in particular training such graduates in the school's form of instruction.

With great trepidation on the appointed night I set off with a guide to Matsurra; a train ride, a long walk through black alleys, market gardens, over canal bridges and finally the Dojo. The guide knocked on the door and it was opened by a smiling Japanese gentlemen who later identified himself as Hisao Sugita, Soke's son. We shook hands and the door was opened wider to reveal an assembled class kneeling on the Tatami, and facing them was a middle aged Japanese gentlemen wearing a plain Red Belt. Behind this group were a number of well dressed Japanese citizens also kneeling. An interpreter joined us at the door and explained that the wearer of the Red Belt was Shuho Sugita (Soke) 10th Dan, the Black Belt members were students and the citizens were local dignitary who had come along to honour my visit.

Soke after pleasantries welcomed me to his humble school and asked of my interests in the arts, which I duly expressed. He smiled (an enigmatic smile) and invited me to join him for a little play on the Tatami. I declined saying that I did not have a judogi with me and I doubted that a Japanese suit would fit. Another smile from Soke (more enigmatic than the first) and out came a judogi that would have fitted a Sumo wrestler. Next question "What colour belt would the commander like to wear?" Not knowing that etiquette demanded I select a white belt, my common sense decided that the lowest possible belt was the answer; I therefore requested a beginners belt and a white one was produced.

The next few minutes, following a short dancing lesson, found me alternating between the upright and the horizontal (mostly horizontal) and wondering why I could not come to grips with this gentlemen who was much smaller in stature than me. Eventually the punishment stopped, we bowed and I thankfully moved off the Tatami, groping my way to the edge where students were now sitting and thinking to myself "What am I doing here!"

A truly memorable demonstration followed including defence against a lustily wielded Samurai Sword by the use of the Jojutsu 'cane' as well as other arts most skillfully performed. When the evening came to a close I expressed my appreciation of the demonstration saying it was the best I had ever seen and was very impressed indeed. Soke, now looking quite genial, asked me if I would be in Japan long enough to learn Jishukan, and if so I would be welcomed at his school. Soke said that he would be honoured to teach me personally. I gratefully accepted and so commenced daily sessions for up to 5 hours plus, with Hisao being my partner and Soke the ever patient, wonderful teacher. He taught me the meaning of humility and self restraint and demonstrated nobly, at all times, the need to be "Master of Yourself"

My soldiering came to an end, and with great sadness I said goodbye to Soke, his family, the members of Jishukan Honbu and was given the traditional Japanese farewell (For those who are unfamiliar with this parting gesture, it is a walk from the home or Dojo to the home side of the nearest bridge in the direction of travel accompanied by the family and friends who are singing or weeping or both, it is a most heartrending experience). I also learnt for the first time in Jishukan and possibly Japanese history a foreign person had been awarded a license to teach, a San Dan Certificate and a Charter to further the teaching of Jishukan wherever he may be.

In 1961 I was posted to Canberra and after being directed by our number one soldier at the time General Pollard, to start the Judo wing at the Police Citizens Boys Club, did just that, and twice weekly meetings commenced.

For fun, some months later we laid on a public demonstration of self defence Jishukan Ryu, assisted by Peter Morton and Hank Geriste then both Brown Belt Judokans. This was followed up by such enthusiasm from families and friends of our young PCBC members wanting to learn our form of self defence that I decide to expand the teaching further.

In Canberra September 1961 the first course in Self Defence Jishukan Ryu got under way, and that is how it all began.

SAIKO KOMON Jishukan Ryu Australia
KOMON Jishukan Honbu