80 years of jujitsu

Delina Fuchs

Photo courtesy of Kodenkan

Chico Kodenkan’s story is one of tradition, cooperation and family. The dojo practices Danzan Ryu Jujitsu, an integrated martial arts system founded by Japanese-Hawaiian Master Henry Seishiro Okazaki during the 1920s. After studying with Okazaki in Hawaii, Merlin “Bud” Estes brought Danzan Ryu home, opening the Chico Judo and Jujitsu Academy in 1939. Along with Bay Area instructor Ray Law, Estes is credited with spreading Okazaki’s system throughout the mainland. In 1978, Estes partnered with sensei Richard Radcliffe and renamed the dojo Chico Kodenkan to honor Okazaki’s Hawaiian institution. The dojo moved several times before settling at its current location at 254 E. First St. This marks its 80th year in Chico. Delina Fuchs (pictured) has been with Chico Kodenkan continuously since 1978, first as a student, then as a sensei, board member and school head. The CN&R caught up with Fuchs to discuss the dojo, which welcomes all ages and skill levels with a variety of classes. Go to chicokodenkan.org for more info.

Tell me about Danzan Ryu.

There are several styles of classical Japanese jujitsu that are part of [Master Okazaki’s] system, as well as influences from Chinese boxing, Okinawan martial arts and Filipino martial arts, but perhaps an even greater influence is Hawaiian lua, the tribal martial art of Hawaii. Then there is the healing arts component, Seifukujutsu, which includes massage therapy, sports medicine, bone alignment and physical therapy—comprehensive body work.

What makes Chico Kodenkan unique?

We’re a volunteer nonprofit. Our nonprofit status accompanies our attitude about serving and empowering people. I’m an educator and we’re not financially motivated—I don’t get a paycheck here, there’s no belt-testing fee. The Hawaiian influence is this thing called kokua, which is to cooperate and to help one another. This is the core of our interactions because we are ohana, Hawaiian for family. The dojo and the people—this is our ohana and we practice kokua—giving each other massage and helping each other out.

A lot of people default to Brazilian jiu-jitsu and Ultimate Fighting Championship when they think of jujitsu. What’s your distinction?

I don’t stereotype any martial art, but the focus in this country is towards sport. Sport has a different goal. We’re a traditional martial art. This is really about mastering yourself—personal self mastery for a lifelong practice. Hence the healing arts are just as important, if not more so, than the martial arts aspect. Jujitsu that is true to its core is not about force against force, but utilizing force efficiently to execute technique.

What other classes do you offer?

I also have a black belt in Nishio Ryu Toho Iaido, which is Japanese sword drawing. I opened up a weapons class for people who want to practice. The Capoeira Malês group is here and there’s also Aikijujitsu, which has its roots in both aikido and jujitsu. The Asian Healthcare Association is run by Michael Turk, a master teacher, writer and acupuncturist, who has a clinic here two days a week. We’ve got a lot going on.