History of Jujitsu

Meaning of Ju-jitsu

The term jūjutsu was not used until the 17th century, after which time it became a term used for a wide variety of grappling-related disciplines and techniques. Prior to that time, these skills had names such as "short sword grappling", "grappling", "body art", "softness", "art of harmony", "catching hand", and even the "way of softness".

"Ju" is translated to mean "gentle, supple, flexible, pliable, or yielding."

"Jutsu" or "Jitsu" is translated to mean "art" or "technique" and represents manipulating the opponent's force against himself rather than confronting it with your force. Striking against an armoured opponent is ineffective; practitioners (kai) learned that the most efficient ways for stopping/killing/neutralizing an enemy took the form of pins, joint locks, and throws. These techniques were developed around the knowledge of using an attacker's energy against him, rather than directly opposing it.

Early mythical origins

The true origins of Ju-Jitsu (or Budo as it was called first) are impossible to trace! But elements of the art can be traced back over 2500 years. Mythical stories of Kajima and Kadori two legendary gods tell of how the inhabitants of an eastern providence were punished for their lawlessness by using Ju-Jitsu techniques.

Chikura Kurabe, a wrestling sport that appeared in Japan in 230BC had many techniques that were incorporated into Ju-Jitsu training. During the Heian Period (784 AD), Ju-Jitsu was incorporated into the Samurai Warrior's training so that the Samurai could defend himself against an armed attacker in the event he lost his sword on the battlefield.

Ryu (house or schools)

Sengoku_period_battle.jpgIn 880 AD the first Ju-Jitsu Ryu was formed by Prince Teijun. One of the first Ryu (house or schools) that used Ju-Jitsu as a primary art was founded in 1532 by Takenouche Hisamori. Legend has it that while on a pilgrimage, Takenouche collapsed from exhaustion after training and meditating for several days. In his delirium he received a vision from a phantom warrior. The warrior taught him five techniques of immobilization, and the advantages of using short weapons over long ones.

Chinese influence

Prior to the foundation of the Takenouche-Ryu, open-handed combat techniques existed solely as a secondary art to major weapons system. Most modern Ju-Jitsu Ryu can trace their lineage directly back to Takenouche. In the early 16th century, Hideyoshi Toyotomi introduced the Chinese Art of Ch-an Fa (punching and nerve striking) to Japan and it was adopted by Ju-Jitsu.

Ju-jitsu during peaceful times

During the Edo Period (1603-1868), under the Tokugawa military government, Japan became a more peaceful area. Weapon less styles began to replace and take over the armed forms of old. During the Edo Period, it is believed that more than 700 systems of Ju-Jitsu existed. During this new age weapons and armour became unused decorative items, so hand to hand combat flourished and became the norm as a form of self-defence and new techniques were created to adapt to the changing situation of un-armoured opponents. This included the development and Creation of various striking techniques in jujutsu which where limited, striking previously found in jujutsu which targeted vital areas above the shoulders such as the eyes, throat and back of the neck. Towards the 18th century the number of striking techniques was severely reduced or dropped altogether as they were considered less effective and exert too much energy. The primary use of striking became a way to distract your opponent or to unbalance them in lead up to a joint-lock, strangle or throw. During the same period a number of jujutsu schools would challenge each other to duels which became a popular pastime for warriors under a peaceful government, from these challenges randori was created to practice fighting without risk of breaking the law and the various styles of each school evolved from fighting each other without intention to kill.

Samurai only martial artists

ShiroyamaBattle.jpgDuring the Meiji Restoration (1868 – 1912), the power of Japan shifted from the Shogun back to the Emperor. Since the Samurai had supported the Shogun, an Imperial Edit was set forth, making it a crime to practice the martial arts of the Samurai. Many of the practitioners became bone-setters, as they were well practiced from the injuries sustained in the dojo. Unfortunately, many more used their skills to put on fake wrestling shows for public amusement, or became gangsters. Some masters took the art "underground" or practiced in another country until the ban was lifted in the mid-twentieth century.

Ju-jitsu variations

There are many variations of the art, which leads to a diversity of approaches. Jujutsu schools (ryu) may utilize all forms of grappling techniques to some degree (e.g throwing, trapping, joint locks, holds, gouging, biting, disengagements, striking, and kicking). Some jujutsu schools teach the use of weapons.

Traditional and modern ju-jitsu

Samurai_with_sword.jpgJujutsu is now practiced in both traditional and modern sport forms, which include Judo which was developed by Jigaro Kano in 1882, Aikido which is based on Ju-Jitsu developed by Useshiba Morihei in the 1920s, Brazilian-jiu-jitsu witch stems from Kodokan judo witch was developed by Useshiba Morihei, Sambo witch is a Russian martial art and combat sport that has its roots in Japanese Judo and traditional Russian styles of folk wrestling. One of Sambo's founders, Vasili Oschepkov was one of the first foreigners to learn Judo in Japan and earned a second degree black belt awarded from Judo founder, Kano Jigoro. Modern sport Sambo is similar to sport Judo or sport Brazilian jiu-jutsu, with differences including use of a jacket and shorts rather than a full dogi or keikogi. Even Okinawan Karate has a strong mix of jujitsu and kung fu as both Japan and China visited and invaded the small island. Kempo is made up of half jujtisu and half karate, Ninjitsu has close ties with jujitsu as most ninjas where farmers who would not or could not give up there fighting arts, most ninjas where Samurai who would not give up their land as Tokugawa gave them a choice: keep their land or keep their katana.

Today, the systems of unarmed combat that were developed and practiced in the 1333-1573 (Muromachi) are called Japanese old-style jujutsu (Nihon koryū jūjutsu). At this part in Japanese history, the systems practiced were not styles of unarmed combat, but lightly armed warriors to fight a heavily armed and armoured enemy on the battlefield. In battle, it was often impossible for a Samurai to use his long sword, and would be forced to rely on his short sword, dagger, or bare hands. When fully armoured, the use of such "minor" weapons made it necessary to use grappling skills. The Samurai would then use the following in combat witch included striking (kicking and punching), throwing (body throws, joint-lock throws, unbalance throws), restraining (pinning, strangling, grappling, wrestling) and weaponry. To defend a Samurai would include blocking, evading, off-balancing, blending and escaping. Minor weapons like the tanto (knife), rypfundo kusari (weighted chain), kabuto wari (helmet smasher), and kakushi buki (secret or disguised weapons) were always used in Sengoku jujutsu.

Practitioners of Nihon jujutsu commonly used today. These are classed as Edo jūjutsu (founded in the Edo period) they are designed to deal with opponents without armour in a battlefield. Edo jujutsu include extensive use of atemi waza (vital-striking technique), which would be of little use against an armoured opponent on a battlefield. They would, be quite valuable in confronting an enemy or opponent during peacetime dressed in normal street attire ("suhada bujutsu"). Occasionally, hidden weapons such as tantos (daggers) or tessen (iron fans) were used with Edo jūjutsu.

Ju-jitsu in modern times

suffragette-jiu-jitsu.jpgIn more modern times, true Classical Ju-Jitsu is restricted to a very few. It is taught to police and special operation military forces (SAS, SBS, Comandos, Delta, Navy Seals), but there are few opportunities for the public to learn this ancient art of Feudal Japan as it was meant to be taught.

The first British person to achieve a black belt in the UK was a women. A man named E. W. Barton-Wright brought jujitsu into the UK and called it Bartitsu. There was even a suffragette who trained jujitsu.

Yet another seldom-seen historical side of techniques originally included in both Sengoku and Edo jujutsu styles. Referred to as hojo waza or hojojutsuit involves the use of a hojo cord, to restrain or strangle an attacker. These techniques have for the most part faded from use in modern times, but Tokyo police units still train in their use and continue to carry a hojo cord in addition to handcuffs in today’s modern Japan. Jujitsu continues to be the foundation for many specialized systems used by law enforcement officials worldwide. Perhaps the most famous of these specialized police systems is the Keisatsujutsu (police art) Taiho jutsu (arresting art) system formulated and employed by the Tokyo Police Department.