History of The Art of Jujitsu

The following has been written by Master Douglas Perrin:

        Jujitsu (gentle art) is a generic term applied to many systems of combat developed by the Samurai warriors of feudal Japan.

        Jujitsu has generally been shrouded by several erroneous assumptions. First, that jujitsu is exclusively an unarmed fighting method, applied against armed or unarmed opponents. While it is true that most jujitsu systems stress unarmed techniques, weapons training is included in most schools. Secondly, the assumption that jujitsu involves only "throwing" defenses. In reality, jujitsu is a composite art, while including many throwing techniques (nage-waza) its varied arsenal include: atemi-waza (striking and kicking vulnerable points), shime-waza (strangulation techniques), and Kappo-Katsu (restoration techniques).

        Historically, jujitsu has a rather cloudy past. Most of the techniques or forms incorporated in the various systems were actually in existence long before these techniques were systematized as jujitsu in the 16th century.

        Scholars trace the development of the art back to the old Japanese art of Sumo (23 B.C.). The early Sumo, originally called Sumai, was more or less a no-holds barred contest. Much like today's sport in that it depended heavily upon close quarter grappling, it differed, in that the arsenal of techniques included striking, kicking and butting.

        Ancient records such as the Nihon Shokki (Japanese Chronicle) and Kojiki (Record of Ancient Matters) documented the existence of more than 700 ryus or systems of jujitsu in feudal Japan. These ancient documents credit Takenuchi Hisamori with having first systemized jujitsu in 1532, when he founded Takenuchi Ryu. Other notable jujitsu schools of this era included: the Tenjin-Shinyo ryu, the Sosuishitsu ryu, the Kito ryu, and the Sekiguchi ryu. For the most part, these earlier jujitsu systems were subsumed by the major weapons they supported. Jujitsu techniques were used to complement the specialized weapon skills then in existence. Even today, most jujitsu systems encompass training in the use of various traditional weapons such as the bo, katana, jo and naginata.

        Another important factor in the development of jujitsu was the downfall of the Ming dynasty in 1644. The fall of this Chinese dynasty brought to the Japanese archipelagos many war refugees skilled in the Chinese art of Kung Fu. These refugees probably introduced many striking (atemi) techniques to the already extant jujitsu systems.

        When Japan's feudal era which extended from the late seventeenth to the mid nineteenth century drew to a close, the Samurai class fell from their position of vitality. Without the tempering reality of combat, many jujitsu systems became ineffectual, watered down and shallow. Subsequently, jujitsu fell from popularity, becoming identified with public amusement, sensationalism, commercialism, and rowdyism.

        At this point, in 1882, J. Kano a member of the Japanese House of Peers, college professor and Master of several styles of jujitsu noted with distress the lagging modifying jujitsu, developing an electric form called judo (gentle-way). Having borrowed from many jujitsu schools, early Kano Judo was virtually indistinguishable from jujitsu. The difference was in the emphasis, conceived as a cultural activity, Kano neither designed judo as a combative system or a sport. Rather, the founder of Judo, stressed the importance of the philosophical aspects inherent in do–as a means to elevate humanity. This is the reason why Kano thought the term "jiudo" rather than "jujitsu" more accurately described his system.

        Since World War Two, by eliminating the dangerous elements of jujitsu and introducing standardized rules and regulations, Kano's successors, have developed judo primarily as a competitive sport, much to the disgruntlement of those traditionalist who still support the type of "jiudo-jujitsu" as originally practiced by Professor Kano.

        However, the art of true jiudo-jujitsu is still practiced by a few remaining disciples to the old way. Thus, keeping alive the warrior spirit and the fighting forms which even today remains deadly effective.


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