History - Newaza - Ground Techniques - Facts and Misconceptions
- Misconception: It is a very popular misconception that the method of going directly to the ground in a fight was an invention of the west. Not taking away any of the merits for popularizing this method trough main stream media, this misconception has been made widely popular by the 'Ultimate Fighting Championship', a Mixed Martial Arts contest that aired on TV in the USA for the first time in 1993. ‘Jiu-Jitsu' exponents, especially in the first years, dominated this contest by going directly to the ground and thus eliminating much of the ability of the other competitors that were mostly stand up based fighters. The UFC became a widely popular MMA contest and remains so up to this day.
- Fact: The concept of going directly to the ground in a fight, as common in 'modern' styles of Jujutsu (Jiu-Jitsu / Ju-Jitsu) of today, comes from the Jujutsu of the era before the official formation of Kodokan Judo.
The most notable 'ne-waza' (ground techniques) expert at the time was Mataemon Tanabe. He was the fourth Headmaster of 'Fusen Ryu Jujutsu', although Fusen Ryu does not include Ne-Waza. He is famed to have defeated many of his opponents by going directly to the ground.
The most famed Dojo that was considered expert on Ne-waza was the Handa Dojo in Osaka, headed by Yataro Handa and it is said that there was a connection between Mataemon Tanabe and the Handa Dojo.
These methods were introduced to the west by Japanese Jujutsu / Kodokan Judo exponents that travelled to many parts of the world and taught their Art while accepting challenge matches against all comers.
- Fact: What was done in the early years of the UFC in the west, was already done, many years before in Japan.
Mataemon Tanabe and 'Ne Waza' Ground Techniques'.
The rough Maitta Nashi (no submission/surrender) training.
I, (Tanabe Mataemon) first received instruction in jujutsu/judo from my father Tanabe Torajiro when I was nine years old in. The reason I adopted the name Mataemon which had an old fashioned feel to it was because I wanted to become the best jujutsu-ka in Japan and because my father resembled the famous sword master Araki Mataemon. Although my father was keen on me becoming the best at jujutsu that did not mean that he took it easy on me. No matter who he trained with he was merciless.
For me as a child this was cruel training and perhaps the reason that I did not grow very much in my earlier years. I did not like jujutsu very much to start with but once I had put my training gear on I did not like to lose either so I did my utmost and slowly and unawares I gradually improved.
After I turned 14 my father and I would take on large strong peasant farmers and go travelling round various dojos. Nearly all my opponents were bigger than me but I could not see the point of taking on weaker ones. Since I constantly trained with adults I had to put up with broken bones from time to time which I found very hard. Although my arm strength was not comparable with that of my opponents the fact that I had to train with such people proved to be very good training later on.
I experienced my first jujutsu competition when I was fourteen. This was in a small village in Okayama prefecture where I went with my father. The other adult competitors there were reluctant to fight somebody so light and small as myself but eventually they allowed me to compete. The first problem was that they were unable to match me up against anyone. So I singled out a strong looking one sitting opposite to me and volunteered to fight him. I thought that since I did not care if I lost I would take on the strongest there. He was a local sumo student of Nagayoshi and he knew some jujitsu as well. My father worried about this and said that there was too big a physical difference between the two and that it would be stupid to get injured. I should try somebody else he said. But I wouldn’t agree and eventually they gave in and allowed me to fight.
We started the match with a (sumo?) tachiai start. I pulled him towards me but wouldn’t let him get too close. Then I stooped low and managed to grab his two thighs and twirled him around several times still keeping him at a distance. This match ended in a draw. However he was a lot bigger and I was a lot younger. At the end of the match there was much applause and my father was delighted. His praise still remains in my memory.
When I trained with my father’s other students I would never give in to a strangle or a lock. When I was fifteen I got caught in an arm-lock and my elbow was dislocated with a loud crack. My tactic was to wait till my opponent got tired and then make a move to free myself. It was the same with strangles. This ability to endure locks and strangles created various strategies for me. I soon came to be called Newaza-Tanabe.
When I was seventeen I participated in a mixed sumo and jujutsu competition which consisted of ten bouts spread over a week. My sumo opponents all weighed about 30kan (248lbs) and I beat them all except for one man called Kandagawa who was so fat I could not get hold him anywhere.
My jujutsu was not so much the result of my fine teachers (I did learn a lot of wrist releases from my father) but because I always chose to fight strong ones and never give in regardless of injuries or unconsciousness. In this way my jujutsu became polished and this made me work out various ways to capitalize on my strengths. For example I came up with what I called the Unagi no Osaekata (the eel restraint). As is well known if you press an eel with your hand it will slide away and escape but if you put your hand on it gently it can be trapped. Later I came up with the snake and frog technique. Like the snake that slowly swallows a frog one bit at a time my groundwork overwhelmed my opponents in much the same manner.
When I was 22 I went up to Tokyo in Meiji 23 (1890). In the same year I was appointed martial arts master (shihan) by the Tokyo Metropolitan Police (Keishicho) and spent a number of years teaching judo/jujutsu in various schools. In Meiji 39 (1906) I was made judo Kyoshi (teacher). I quit working as a jujutsu/judo master in Taisho 11 (1922) aged 53. In 1927 I was made Judo Hanshi (master) by the Butokukai aged 58.