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Interview with Highest Ranking Jujutsu Martial Artist | Trends Between European and Japanese Martial Arts

The Japanese Martial Arts Center did an interview with John Gage Sensei, head of the Nihon Jujutsu system, on his upcoming trip to Copenhagen, Denmark. Gage Sensei is teaching at a seminar from October 16-18, 2015 through the International Martial Arts Federation [IMAF].


John B. Gage Sensei

What aspects of the seminar are you looking forward to the most?

I'm looking forward to:
    •    Seeing old friends and making new friends;
    •    Visiting the wonderful city of Copenhagen again;
    •    Meeting my colleagues that I have sincerely missed since I left Tokyo in May;
    •    Working with and exchanging views/information with Nihon Jujutsu practitioners from all over the world, as well as practitioners of other arts during the training sessions and after, during the time set aside for socializing.

I have a special relationship with many of the people in Denmark having visited there for seminars each spring for the last ten years. Copenhagen is a truly beautiful, historic city with a vibrant culture, wonderful nightlife, and gastronomic opportunities. It's a really fun place to visit.

What are trending differences between European and Japanese martial arts?

The differences are pronounced. Jujutsu has become an eclectic term outside of Japan that generally encompasses two schools of thought; one being Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and the other being a self-defense oriented training system.

While Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has become internationally popular in recent years, Jujutsu in Europe has been widely practiced in various countries since the late 1960's - early 70's. The majority of European Jujutsu styles comprise basic techniques taken from Aikido, Karate, and Judo, and focus on striking, as well as definitive means of disabling an assailant i.e. they are primarily methods of self-defense.

The Japanese concept of modern jujutsu, and by modern we mean the Meiji Era (1868 - 1912), focuses primarily on maintaining control over an opponent with minimal harm. Nihon Jujutsu, in particular, has its basis in the basics of Judo, Taiho-jutsu, restraining techniques used primarily by the Japanese police, and early teachings of Tomiki Kenji (1900 - 1979). It focuses on throwing as a means of self-defense, immobilizing, joint control, evasive stepping, and control with minimal harm as appropriate to the situation.

Methods of control, primarily used by Nihon Jujutsu, focus on off balance (kuzushi), in order to set up a technique with minimal resistance, as well as striking to control the opponent or creating an opening to apply a technique rather than inflicting catastrophic damage. The footwork is characterized by maintaining a natural standing position (shizentai), in order to maximize mobility. This flexibility allows one to respond in the strategically most advantageous manner.

Some Background Information on Sato Shizuya Sensei

Sato Sensei's father was a member of the Japanese Imperial Navy where he started studying Judo and later become a Judo shihan (master instructor) for the Tokyo Metropolitan Police. As such, he was a contemporary of Shuichi Nagaoka (September 17, 1876 - November 22, 1952), Mifune Kyuzo (April 21, 1883 - January 27, 1965), and other notables of Judo history.

Sato Shizuya Sensei (1929 - 2011) began studying with his father at age 5. Later, he joined his school's judo club at the age of 11. He went on to study at Meiji Gaukuin University. Upon graduation, he entered the International Section of the Kodokan Dojo in Tokyo, Japan.

1952 - 1960: Sato Sensei was the assistant of Tomiki Kenji (1900 - 1979), who was the Aikido instructor for the Strategic Air Command (SAC) martial arts training program. The US Air Force personnel spent three months training, Monday through Friday, eight hours a day in Aikido, Karate, Judo, and Taihojutsu. As a result of that experience and his tutelage under the likes of Kotani, Judo instructor of the SAC programs, and Yamada, Taihojutsu Instructor of the SAC program, he developed Nihon Jujutsu.

1957: Sato Sensei established the US Embassy Judo Club at the request of US State Department members, a program that is ongoing to this day.

1986: John Gage Sensei began studying at the US Embassy Judo Club. He was Sato Sensei's personal assistant at the dojo and the International Forums of North America during the ensuing 25 years.


For more information on Nihon Jujutsu (sometimes spelled 'jiu jitsu'), Ann Arbor-located Japanese Martial Arts Center has a page on the differences between Nihon Jujutsu and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

Serving Southeast Michigan:

JMAC students come to practice from throughout Southeast Michigan, from such areas as:

  • Ann Arbor
  • Birmingham
  • Bloomfield
  • Brighton
  • Canton
  • Chelsea
  • Clinton Township
  • Detroit
  • Dexter
  • Dundee
  • Fenton
  • Fowlerville
  • Grass Lake
  • Howell
  • Inkster
  • Jackson
  • Lansing
  • Livonia
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  • Monroe
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  • Okemos
  • Pinckney
  • Plymouth
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  • Tecumseh
  • Troy
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  • Wixom
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  • University of Michigan
  • Eastern Michigan University
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  • Washtenaw Community College
  • Oakland Community College
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Ann Arbor - Martial Arts Mecca

For the prospective martial arts student, Ann Arbor is a mecca in the Midwest. More than any other location in Michigan, Ann Arbor has a wide variety of martial arts styles taught by many well respected sensei (teachers). You can find training opportunities at community centers, college and university gyms, health clubs, fitness centers and dojos (training halls). Among the styles available are: aikido, iaido, judo, jiu-jitsu (also called jujutsu), karate, kendo, kung fu, MMA (mixed martial arts, sometimes called BJJ) tae kwon do, tai chi, and many westernized martial arts systems. At JMAC, we offer world class instruction in judo, jiu-jitsu, iaido (Japanese swordsmanship), and karate for kids.


Aikido is a martial arts descended from jiu-jitsu. It includes joint locks, throws, takedowns, and pins. The philosophy of aikido is a peaceful one - to use the attacker’s energy to neutralize his or her attack without causing injury. Aikido is taught in several forms, such as Aikikai, Ki Society, and Yoshinkan. Aikido was founded by Ueshiba Morihei, who studied with Takeda Sokaku, the most famous practitioner of Daito Ryu Aiki-Jujutsu. Its principles can be found in almost every Japanese martial art, especially jiu-jitsu and judo. Read more about the physical and philosophical principles of Nihon Jujutsu.

Iaido in Ann Arbor

Iaido is Japanese sword drawing. It was created by the Samurai to defend against surprise attacks by an armed opponent. Most iaido involves the practice of pre-arranged forms, which are excellent tools for training the body, improving concentration, and entering into a meditative state. Finding a talented instructor in iaido with legitimate credentials is rare … in the Midwest it’s practically unheard of. For those with a desire to compete in swordsmanship for sport, kendo is the activity of choice. Those who are willing to endure an occasional whack on the head may pursue bokken kumite (sparring with wooden swords) with our director’s authorization once they reach black belt at JMAC. Read more about iaido at JMAC.

Ann Arbor Judo

Judo was founded by Professor Jigoro Kano. It is both a martial art and an Olympic sport. It includes throws, pins, joint locks, and chokes. It is among the most vigorous of martial arts and is very popular with children as well as adults. The Japanese Martial Arts Center offers classes in judo for children as young as 6 years old, and for adults (starting at age 16). One fact not widely known is that sport judo is a narrow cross section of the complete art of judo. Proponents of the entire art, such as Satoh Tadayuki Sensei of Waseda University in Tokyo, recognize that the founder’s vision encompassed not only “judo” throws, but joint locks, takedowns, redirection, strikes, vital points, dynamic ukemi, kata, and weapons. Judo training at JMAC includes many of these opportunities. Read more about Judo at JMAC.

Ann Arbor Jiu-Jitsu (Jujitsu / Jujutsu)

Jujutsu - which is also written "jujitsu" and "jiu jitsu" - is the ancestor martial art of aikido and judo. Although it includes many of the techniques found in aikido, as well as many more combative techniques that did not find their way into aikido, the philosophy of jujutsu is more practical. Techniques are applied more directly, with a greater emphasis on pain compliance. Those who study jiu-jitsu over the long term improve their fitness, concentration, and ability to defend themselves. The Japanese Martial Arts Center offers serious jiu-jitsu classes for adults starting at age 16. You can learn more about the differences between Japanese jujutsu and Brazilian jiujitsu.

Karate – Kids Karate in Ann Arbor

Karate involves mainly strikes, kicks, and blocks. It was originally developed in the Ryukyu Islands (now Okinawa), and was later exported to Japan before finding its way around the world. Karate is an excellent martial art for those who prefer striking, and helps develop physical strength, stamina, and confidence. There are many forms of karate taught around the world today, including Shotokan, Shorin-ryu, Chito-Ryu, Goju-Ryu, and Kyokushinkai. If you’re looking for a way to help your child learn enthusiasm, fitness, discipline, and manners while having a lot of fun, consider the kids karate program at JMAC. We have an incredible core of talented instructors who have made it their business to inspire kids to be their best. Read more about our karate program for kids.


Kendo is a sport descended from Japanese swordsmanship. In Kendo, participants wear padded armor and attempt to score points by striking vital points with bamboo swords called "shinai." Practice is fast paced, involves much spirited shouting, and is a lot of fun. The Japanese Martial Arts Center does not offer kendo, but can refer you to a reputable kendo instructor in the area.

Kung Fu

Kung Fu is a Chinese martial art that actually includes many sub-styles. Like karate, kung fu involves strikes, kicks, and blocks, but also includes many esoteric motions that can be applied to take down or otherwise defeat an opponent. Kung fu often appeals to imaginative people because of the many references to animal forms, but it is also a very challenging and practical martial art.

MMA (Mixed Martial Arts)

MMA (mixed martial arts) to a modern competition-based collection of techniques. Most MMA schools teach striking as well as grappling. Although not a traditional martial art - and thus lacking many of the character development and spiritual aspects of ancient Asian arts - MMA is nevertheless a fantastic form of exercise and a lot of fun. Because many MMA fighters have employed judo and jujutsu successfully, the Japanese Martial Arts Center offers private instruction to top-level competitors as well as occasional workshops for our members.

Tae Kwon Do

Tae Kwon Do is the Korean counterpart to Japanese karate. As a striking art, it includes punches, kicks, and blocks, but typically Tae Kwon Do emphasizes more kicking than does karate. Competition (usually for points rather than full contact) is very common among Tae Kwon Do practitioners. It is an excellent form of exercise, but seems more susceptible to commercialization than more traditional arts such as aikido and iaido.

Tai Chi

Tai Chi is another form of Chinese martial art. It is usually taught with slow, controlled movements and deep stances. There are many health benefits associated with Tai Chi, including strong bones, cardiovascular health, and calmness.

Getting Started in Martial Arts in Ann Arbor

If you are considering taking up martial arts, you will find many superb opportunities in and around Ann Arbor, including outlying cities such as Brighton, Canton, Howell, Northville, and Plymouth. Students from the University of Michigan, Eastern Michigan University, Washtenaw Community College, Cleary College, and even Michigan State University have supplemented their education with martial arts and found that the physical activity helps them concentrate on their studies. We think the Japanese Martial Arts Center offers the best programs in Michigan, but we’re interested in people who are willing to work hard and do what it takes to become truly accomplished. We encourage you to look around to find the martial arts club or school that best meets your needs.