Family Jujutsu heritage Part 1 1944-1948

Prof Skyner, teacher of Bill Nelson the great uncle of Bushinkai headteacher Simon Keegan

In the Bushinkai school we teach Karate Jutsu and Nihon Jujutsu; as well as Tai Chi, Aikido and Iaido. The headteachers have studied in these under many notable masters, but this article deals with a small school in Liverpool where the family Jujutsu tradition began. For the first time we will publish pictures of the headmaster of the style teaching in the 1930s.

From Kotaro to Kawaishi

Mikonosuke Kawaishi (川石 酒造之助 also written Kawaishi Mikinosuke, 13 August 1899 – 30 January 1969) was a Kyoto-born master of both Judo and Jujutsu. He studied Judo under Isogai Hajime and Jujutsu under Yoshida Kotaro (吉田 幸太郎 October 1883–1966). Kawaishi also studied Judo in Kyoto with Master Tomio Kurihara (the 11th man to be awarded 10th Dan by the Kodokan).

Yoshida was a master of Daito Ryu Aikijujutsu (he held the title of kyoju dairi from the grandmaster of the style Takeda Sokaku, and at one point was considered his successor) and he was also the head of his family’s style Yanagi Ryu which is thought to be derived from Yoshin Ryu Hakuda.

Kawaishi in Liverpool where he competed in pro wrestling under the name Matsuda

In the 1920s Kawaishi sailed to the USA, settling in San Diego and New York before sailing to Liverpool in 1928. Kawaishi sailed from Kobe to Seattle and then went to New York in 1926. He is even reputed to have fought legendary boxer Jack Dempsey.

Kawaishi comes to Liverpool

Jujutsu was already taught in Liverpool. Koizumi had taught at the Kara Ashikaga as early as 1906 and Jack Britten, a student of Yukio Tani ran the Alpha Jujutsu on Sheil Road.

Kawaishi Jujutsu school of Liverpool

Kawaishi opened the Kawaishi Ryu at 67 Mount Pleasant in 1928. The club was originally called the Liverpool Jujutsu School. It may be argued that he was teaching a mix of Aikijujutsu, Jujutsu and Judo.

He subsidised his income as a professional wrestler, competing in Liverpool stadium under the name Matsuda. At the time the fights were real contests.

From Kawaishi to Skyner

His senior student Gerry Skyner attained blackbelt and began running the club in 1931. Kawaishi went on to be a resident instructor at Oxford University and head of the French Judo Federation. Kawaishi was awarded his third dan by Jigoro Kano. In 1936, then a fourth dan, Kawaishi moved to Paris where he taught Jujutsu and judo.

During World War 2, Kawaishi returned to Japan and was imprisoned in Manchuria for a time, but he returned to Paris after the war to continue teaching.

Skyner teaching Jujutsu

Skyner’s Jujutsu

Mr Skyner served in the second world war in the RAF and became a military instructor, also teaching the police.

Skyner in the RAF

Skyner was a formidable man. He was asked to be an army combat instructor but was fired after one day for smashing a recruit in the face with a steel helmet (anecdote courtesy of Liverpool combat instructor Dennis Martin). Among Prof Skyner’s students were PC O’Neill, a local police office whose son grew up to be one of the UK’s greatest Karateka, Sensei Terry O’Neill.

Skyner teaching weapons defences
Skyner executing a throw

The club moved to 5 Catharine Street (perhaps in 1932) in Liverpool 8 (please note not nearby Catherine Street) and it was referred to as Skyner’s Jujutsu. Later it was called Hana Ku Ryu.

Skyners Jujutsu
The club badge circa 1970s

Bill Nelson

Bill Nelson (December 25, 1924 – 2008) was first taught unarmed combat by his father in the late 1920s-early 1930s. His father, also called William Henry was a First World War veteran who was awarded medals of valour for fighting in the fields of France. After the war, William Henry gained a reputation as a hard man. He was nicknamed “the mighty Elmo” after a film star of the day and it has been said that William Henry was the hardest man on the Liverpool docks. William Henry taught his eldest sons boxing and indeed held classes for all the kids in the neighbourhood.

Bill then served in the Navy in WW2. Training with Mr Skyner he attained his blackbelt. Skyner did not use the terminology of Kyu grades and Dan grades. Once asked what Dan grade he held, he grumpily replied “every bloody Dan.”

Mr Skyner died in the late 1960s and his loyal students continued running the club. They hosted many visiting masters including Malaysian Budokan Karate master Chew Choo Soot.

Black belt Students at Kawaishi school (incomplete list, ongoing project)

  • M Kawaishi (headteacher 1928-1931)
  • Gerry Skyner (headteacher 1931-1960s)
  • Sensei Malcolmson
  • Sensei Ray Dakin
  • Bill Nelson (1940s)
  • Jack Cunningham
  • Ray Davies
  • Ronnie Davies (assuming running of club after Skyner)
  • Andy Howarth (1972+)
  • Ronnie Wright
Ronnie Davies who took over the class after Prof Skyner and Andy Howarth, a friend of our school

The club was eventually taken over by Sensei Ronnie Colwell, previously a student of Jack Britten at the Alpha Jujutsu.

Chew Choo Soot at the club late 1970s
Bill as a blackbelt in around 1950 with his wife
Bushinkai headteacher Simon Keegan with his great uncle Bill Nelson, shortly before he passed away
Statue belonging to Bill given to Simon

Manchester: Karate & Jujutsu

Circle Martial Arts
Marlboro House
52 Newton Street, Manchester M1 1ED
Monday evenings: 8:30pm
Sunday mornings: 10:00am
Shihan: Simon Keegan (5th Dan Renshi Karate & Jujutsu)
Sempai: Philip Jennings

Read part 2 here.


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