In the 1920 text, Secrets of Jujitsu by Captain Allan Smith (the pdf is readily available by googling), Smith refers to the abdominal region as the "Stahara". I've done some Japanese arts before, but have always heard this region referred to simply as the "hara". After doing a search, the only usage of this word I've been able to find online is in reference to Captain Smith's text. Is there some further connotation to using the prefix "Sta"? Is this legitimate Japanese word usage according to the principles of Judo or Jujitsu?

  • my coach was hiroshi nakamura, best japanese coach in all canada ... and he always yelled at when I was training : "Use 'Hara' thierry savard! ". so I'd stick with it myself, since he learned in japan, I guess its refer this way over there too May 9, 2014 at 15:09
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    Just to clarify, 下腹 (したはら shitahara) is a word in Japanese, meaning "lower abdomen", and does occasionally occur in technical descriptions of throws in Japanese and Chinese texts on Judo, but purely as an anatomical term. Jul 30, 2019 at 12:53

1 Answer 1


In the text, he explains the origin of this term. And he points out that it's his word, not something the Japanese would say:

When I commenced to teach jujitsu in Yokohama, Japan, in every trick I showed how to use the lower abdomen, and how to maneuver opponent's balance. My first pupils were Japanese friends, and lower abdomen to them was shita hara.

Shita (pronounced sh'ta) and hara are two Japanese words meaning under or lower abdomen. The words shita hara mean to a Japanese what the words lower abdomen mean to us -- and nothing more.

This word hara is the same word we meet in hara kiri -- abdomen cutting -- the Japanese method of suicide.

Gradually as I evolved the idea of balance-control and abdominal power, I adopted the word shita-hara as a technical term for a new principle for which there was no name. When teaching the Doughboys, they called it "Stahara" and that is how it was finally written. It is an American word for an American idea.

STA-HA-RA Sta -- pronounced as in star. ha -- pronounced as in harp. ra -- a has the same sound as in the first two syllables. Japanese teachers of jujitsu do not mention the Stahara when explaining a throw or trick to their disciples. They teach the use of the arms and legs, of the hips and shoulders, but do not show the principle of balance, which is the basis of the whole system.

It is therefore an average of ten years before a student of jujitsu in Japan masters these throws. It takes that length of time to acquire the scientific way, in common parlance, to "get the knack" of doing the trick.

Jujitsu is not done with strength of arm or leg and this inability to grasp the underlying principle is why it takes so long to master it.

This seems like a reoccurring theme in West meets East. Some Western guy (this guy happens to be from the U.S.) goes to Japan and is taught whatever the Japanese feel comfortable teaching him, and do so while having communication problems. He tries it and finds out it's really hard. After being thrown around and joint locked a lot, he learns some things, but he's still frustrated by how bad he is and how good everyone else is.

Then one day he's sitting around sipping on some rice wine while eating his sushi when it comes to him. It's some brilliant, much better way to think of jujitsu than what he was taught. So now he thinks he's just figured out the secret to jujitsu that the silly Japanese haven't figured out yet in the several hundred years they've been at it.

He goes to the Japanese guys, explains his big idea, and asks to try it out on them. They humor him. They're polite and diplomatic about it, making him look good. So he takes that as a sign of success and goes back West to teach it as a way of learning jujitsu much faster than the normal way.

Like I said, this a reoccurring theme.

Personally, I don't see anything new in the document. And I am 100% certain the Japanese didn't learn "hara" (or shitahara or stahara) from him. They already understood it quite well, but probably didn't emphasize it when teaching foreigners for a number of reasons - mostly having to do with communication issues, but also the reluctance of the Japanese to teach foreigners the complete art.

My thoughts anyway.

  • great answer. This is kind of what I expected. You mention "this is a reoccuring theme". Can you give me another example of a Westerner thinking he has "re-invented" an Asian martial art? I'd like to do further research along those lines. Thanks. May 9, 2014 at 11:50
  • I prefer older sources, from around the time when westerners were first becoming acquainted with Asian cultures. May 9, 2014 at 12:03
  • One thing you can do is to look at the history of American martial arts. Like American Kenpo, for example. Ed Parker reinvented everything "because Americans learn differently than the Japanese do." Same with Stephen Hayes (ninjutsu). It's actually pretty common to see Americans coming up with their own brand of martial art. They have all kinds of ways of seeing things which they say separates their art from traditional Asian ones. In the 80's, this was so common that I could barely kick a rock down the street without it hitting one of these places. Hehe. May 9, 2014 at 18:41
  • Maybe you could post this as a question, by the way. May 9, 2014 at 18:43
  • I think it would make a good question, but I don't know how to phrase it in such a way as to promote answers that I could actually accept. "Who are some guys who 're-invented' Asian martial arts?" Every other answer would be Ed Parker or Bruce Lee. May 9, 2014 at 20:50

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