History of Jujitsu
Ju-Jitsu is one of the oldest and most effective form of self defence. Ju-Jitsu means gentle science or technique, a Japanese system or martial arts in which the strength and weight of an opponent are used against him by means of an anatomical knowledge and principle of leverage. Included in this soft or gentle art are methods (fists, fingers, elbows, feet etc.) throwing, constrictions (pins and chokes), joint locking, bondage, and weaponry. Ju-Jitsu has not had an organised history as many other martial arts have. The knowledge was given and passed on orally and secretly from teacher to student, master to disciple, father to son, for hundreds of years.
The practice of Ju-Jitsu can be traced back in history more than 2,500 years. Ju-Jitsu developed from many individual teachings that either originated from Japan or found their way to Japan from other Asian countries. In 2674 BC the first mention of martial arts comes from Huang-Di (China) who founded Wu-Su (martial arts), a concept in which the body was used for self defence purposes. Going far back into ancient Japanese legend one might be able to trace Ju-Jitsu back to ancient Japanese gods Kajima and Kadori who allegedly used art to chastise the lawless inhabitants of eastern province.
The first date mentioned of Ju-Jitsu was during the period 772 – 481 BC, when open handed techniques were used during the Choon Chu era of China. In AD 525, Boddhidrarma, a Zen Buddhist monk, travelled from India to China, visiting the Shaolin monastery. He soon combined Chinese Kempo (Kenpo in Japanese) with yoga breathing to form Shaolin Chuan Fa – Shorinji Kenpo in Japanese (Shorinji is the Japanese spelling of the Chinese Shaolin. The Shaolin monastery is considered to be the source of Sil Lum Kung Fu). As legend has it, Boddhidharma eventually developed the system further into what became Go-Shin-Jutsu-Karate (self defence art of open hand)
In 230 BC the wrestling sport of Chikura Kurabe developed in Japan and was integrated into Ju-Jitsu. Approximately 2,000 years ago there is also mention of the development of wrestling and related techniques that served as the base of Ju-Jitsu. There is evidence that empty hand techniques were in use during the Heian period (AD 794 – 1185) in Japan, but in conjunction with weapons training for Samurai. In AD 880 Prince Teijun (also known as Sadagami) formed the Daito – Ryn Ju-Jitsu school. Daito – Ryn Aiki Ju-Jitsu was based upon the secret teachings of Shugendo (SHU – search, Ken – power, DO – way), the eventual source of Kendo which was used circular hand motions to assist in defending oneself with weapons. It was from this school that Morihei Uyeshiba took portions of the art to his own system of Aikido in 1925.
Ju-Jitsu is what might be called a parent art. A parent art is an art from which other martial arts develop. Since ju-jitsu has such a broad history it was inevitable that other arts or ‘ways’ would evolve from it. Judo (gentle way) and Aikido (the way of the mind and spirit) can trace direct lines to ju-jitsu. Many styles of Karate, especially Kenpo, can also trace some of their techniques back to Ju-Jitsu. In addition to being a ‘parent art’, Ju-Jitsu is also a combination of many of the more popular martial arts taught today. Ju-Jitsu is a series or combination of techniques that have been separated into other arts.
More than 725 systems of Ju-Jitsu were developed in Japan. Most of the modern Japanese ‘Do’ forms (Judo, Aikido, Karate-do etc) are rooted in ancient Ju-Jitsu. These developed primarily as sport, eliminating many techniques to minimize the possibility of injury to the contestants.
Ju-Jitsu is known to be on of the first systems of complete martial arts. In 1882, Jigaro Kano developed the art of Judo using Ju-Jitsu as the model. In the 1920’s Useshiba Morihei developed Aikido is based on Ju-Jitsu. In modern times, true classical Ju-Jitsu is restricted to a very few. It is taught to police and special operation military forces, but there are few opportunities for the general populace to lean this ancient art of Feudal Japan as it was meant to be taught. Japan has a rich mythology and each different ryu (school) kept its own secret records and history. It is hardly surprising then that there are many legendary origins for Ju-Jitsu.
How old is Ju-Jitsu?
In fact there is no single source of Ju-Jitsu. Its history is one of convergence not divergence. The best answer to the question is simply ‘It depends on what you call Ju-Jitsu’.
There is no magic syllabus which contains it and nor has there been a time when people stopped adding or discarding techniques. Another problem is that some people use the term to describe very specific schools while other people use it as a general term for all the Japanese fighting arts.
What can be said is that humans have always fought each other. So unarmed combat has always existed in Japan as it has everywhere else. It first touches history in ‘The Chronicle of Japan’. This was written in 720 AD and mentions a contest of unarmed fighting taking place in 230 BC. This event is claimed as the beginning of Sumo, but this is not really evidence of the systematic study of a recognisable system. For evidence of that we have to wait for the Nara period era. This lasted from 650 AD to 793 AD and marks the emergence of the armed gentry (bushi).