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History of Otake Han Doshin Ryu Jujutsu
Dōshin were low-ranking samurai policemen of Japan's feudal Edo Period (1603-1868) charged with the hazardous duties of patrolling the streets of cities and towns, investigating crimes, making arrests and generally maintaining the peace and civil order.  In the course of performing these duties dōshin used a martial art called taiho jutsu (jujutsu and weapons designed specifically for policing) to arrest various sorts of criminals and/or defend themselves against those criminals who, given the severe nature of feudal punishment, were frequently desperate and willing to sell their freedom as dearly as any samurai would sell his life.  It was also often necessary to arrest well-trained samurai and/or ronin (masterless samurai), and despite the obvious hazards associated with such an undertaking, there existed a more subtle danger to the dōshin as well, in that this frequently meant having to subdue individuals of higher social rank.  Performing such a task in the extremely caste-conscious culture of feudal Japan could be disastrous for a dōshin if he failed in his duty or inadvertently killed the individual in the process.  The resulting loss of honor could cost not only him, but his family as well, for the dōshin profession—like many professions in the closely-knit social system of feudal Japan—was typically passed down within particular families or clans.

The Otake clan was one such line of hereditary dōshin and as such they took their family's honor and survival very seriously, recognizing that techniques to subdue individuals had to be effective, or else.  To this end they developed their own taiho jutsu system incorporating both jujutsu and weapons applications and passed it down for generations within their family, calling it Otake Han Taiho Jutsu.

Myoshi Otake (1900-1976), following in his family’s tradition of policing, entered the Japanese military and served in the military police.  He brought with him to his post the skills learned from having trained in his clan's taiho jutsu system.  However, in the course of his service he was also privileged to receive training in Daito Ryu Aikijujutsu from its famous disseminator, Sokaku Takeda, who traveled extensively throughout Japan teaching that art in the decades preceding WWII.  Approximately thirty thousand individuals are said to have been taught directly by Takeda—police and military personnel constituted the bulk of that number.  Otake Shihan later incorporated the Daito Ryu he learned into Otake Han Taiho Jutsu.*

After WWII Otake Shihan left Japan, settling first in Brazil, then Canada, and—by the 1960s—eventually in South Pasadena, CA.  It was there, through fortuitous circumstances, that a young Eric Merrill first met him.  Though Otake Shihan was a private man and by no means a commercial/public martial arts instructor, he did eventually accept Eric as a deshi (student).  As a result Eric was privileged to receive daily instruction in Otake Han Taiho Jutsu from Otake Shihan for nearly a decade and ultimately received a Menkyo Kaiden (Everything Passed On License) from him in 1976.  An aging Otake Shihan returned to Japan shortly thereafter where he died from a stroke a few months later, leaving Shihan Merrill—his one senior deshi—the defacto inheritor of the system.

In 1977 Shihan Merrill decided to begin teaching the system and undertook the arduous task of organizing and systematizing its heretofore largely uncategorized technical curriculum.  At the time he was hesitant to use the Otake name since he was not a member of the Otake family, so instead called the system Goju Ryu Jiu Jitsu, (later calling it Goju Ryu Aikijujutsu for several years).  He taught the system under the Goju Ryu name for the next twenty-six years.  However, in 2003 the system's name was changed to Otake Han Dōshin Ryu Jujutsu to avoid confusion with other jujutsu systems also bearing the Goju Ryu name (for more information on the name change, see FAQs section: here).
In 2005 Shihan Merrill closed his personal dojo and retired from active public teaching, turning that responsibility over to his three remaining senior deshi, Jon O'Neall, Phil Hillard and Johnny Berghian.  While Shihan Merrill no longer teaches publicly he does continue to privately instruct the Otake Han Dōshin Ryu Jujutsu Yudansha Kai (and occassionally teaches public seminars).  In addition, he continuies to head the system administratively by way of the Otake Han Dōshin Kai (the organization created to serve as the administrative arm of Otake Han Dōshin Ryu Jujutsu). Senseis O'Neall, Hillard and Berghian also serve as members of the Otake Han Dōshin Kai and in 2011 were joined in the Kai by Sensei Michael (Toby) Scovel.  Each continues to teach the art publicly to this day.
* The amount of training Otake Shihan received in Daito Ryu is unknown, regrettably.  Suffice it to say, however, that he considered its impact significant enough to stress it as a technical influence.
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