History of Jiu Jitsu

Article ID: 7
Written by: Jitsufreak
Written on: Thu Feb 03, 2011 2:27 pm
Article Description: For those of you who want to know a little about where the art you practise comes from here is the result of a little research...
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The two ways I spell the martial art style are: Ju-Jitsu or Jiu-Jitsu, both are correct and mean exactly the same thing so don't worry if you see the two spellings (I use both depending on my mood).

The methods of combat known as Jiu Jitsu are more than 2000 years old. There have been various references to martial arts of one form or another stretching back throughout the ages in Japanese literature. The older references towards fighting styles are particularly important since they comprise a large section of Japanese mythology. In the Kojiki and Nihongi ancient texts, is the earliest known reference that seems to refer to a Ju-Jitsu based style of fighting. It was said that a warrior named Tatemi Kazuchi threw his opponent "as he were a leaf". This reference has also been used to justify Sumo wrestling's tradition, going to show the original roots of both systems are not as distant as some might think.

Formation of a Martial System
The modern beginnings of Ju Jitsu can be traced back to the turbulent period of Japanese history between the 8th and 16th Century. Around this time shogunates rose and fell, one person would be in charge of a province, then someone else would take it over; province boundaries also moved in the same way.
Classical weapon systems were developed on the battlefield as well as close fighting techniques. As can be seen, there were ample opportunities to test out new techniques through the years. What tended to happen in earlier times was a warrior goes out to battle and someone attacks him, he would then by luck or chance come out victorious. When he then returned home, he would think about what it was that gave him the edge over the guy he killed and hence a new technique is born.

Techniques tended to get passed down through families or close acquaintances and so a body of knowledge would be formed. Different families/ tribes/ provinces may become attacked by outsiders and so if you have an edge you don't want to give it away. For this reason martial art techniques became very secretive, there were cases of people infiltrating in to another style to try and learn their secrets only to pass back to their master.

This pattern of practising past techniques and inventing new ones lead to constantly refining of fighting patterns in many different areas. It is due to these differences that there are so many different styles of Ju-Jitsu , each style or `Ryu' would have a head or `Soke' and the founding Soke would name the style.

Ju-Jitsu Begins
The first publicly recognised Ju Jitsu ryu was formed in 1532 by Takenouchie Hisamori his teachings centred on the Katana, Wakazashi, jo-staff and were supported by a selection of unarmed techniques. The jo-staff came in to major usage as it was shown that, with good technique a jo could shatter the katana with a side-ways strike. The teachings of Ju-Jitsu became the corner stone of the warrior class that developed which became known as the Samurai.

The Samurai's Weapon
The Katana was the central weapon of choice of the Samurai and was said to embody the Samurai's spirit. As such the Katana was treated with great reverence at all times, there manufacture was also of great importance and the making of a blade became an art form in itself.
The Katana was accompanied by a matching Wakazashi (short sword), these formed a pair known as a Daisho. It was considered impolite to wear a Katana inside, but the Wakazashi would always be worn so the Samurai was not defenceless. (Also it's not easy swinging round a 3' blade in a confined space)

Classical Weapons
Other weapons were also fashioned, for instance the Naginata. This was a 3' blade on the end of a 6' pole (similar to a medieval pike in some ways). The blade would be made out of a Samurai's blade that was broken or `ruined' in some way. Due to the size of the weapon it became necessary to use it in a sweeping motion, as such if used properly could look very graceful. This was one of the reasons that it became the weapon of warrior women.

Unarmed Combat Refined
In 1603, Tokugawa Ieyasu formed the Tokugawa military government. Thus began the Edo period of Japanese history (1603-1868), during which warring was no longer central to Japanese life. The capital became Tokyo and a police state was enforced

Ju-Jitsu Banned
The end of the Edo period was marked by the Meiji Restoration, a civil war broke out that moved power from the Shogun back to the Emperor. Emperor Melse declaring it a criminal offence to practice the old style combative martial arts i.e. all Jitsu styles, decreed by Imperial edict.
Ironically it was through the support of many Samurai that the Emporer had regained power, only to ban the art that got him there.
Latter the Americans enforced the martial art ban during the occupation during WW2 to oppress the people, allowing only the police to practise such fighting styles.

A New Birth
Some Ju-Jitsu masters continued to practice their art `underground', many moved to different countries where there was no such ban. It was during this oppression that the first Japanese exponents of the art arrived in Britain. By the Mid twentieth century, however, the ban on Ju Jitsu had lifted which allowed the eventual development of the styles we all see and enjoy today worldwide.