Introduction to Ju-Jitsu

The history of Japan and the doctrine of the martial arts in particular don’t give a definite or precise answer to this question.

The Japanese national records and the many manuscripts from various schools of martial arts refer to ancient methods of combat codified long before actual records were kept. The first records are said to have been introduced sometime in the sixth century.

Between the 8th and 11th century (Heian era) Japan had evolved it’s political organization, social and clan structures.

Up until the 11th century Ju Jitsu was the popular system of combat for the aristocracy, the nobility and in 1156 the beginning of the feudal era saw Ju Jitsu being monopolized by the elite Bushi or samurai warriors as their training programmes. This was so until the late 19th century when the samurai class was dissolved.

During the reign of emperor Meiji was a period of restoration in Japan including the legalization of Christianity, the dissolve of the samurai class and the opening of trading links with the western world opposed to those held by the black ships.

The dissolving of the samurai class left the government with a huge problem. Thousands of highly trained fighting men whose talents were now superfluous, twinned with the western demands for the Japanese race to become more tolerant and less barbaric in the eyes of the westerners.

The solution took many years to come to. Essentially it involved the cultural development of everything Japanese, which of course included the martial arts whose schools by now were highly specialized. The government’s ultimatum was resisted by many traditionalists who felt the only way for them was to flee the country and become exiles, remaining true to their individual values. This is how in fact martial arts methods arrived in the west. Many of these masters became seamen to escape and taught their skills wherever their ship landed at port.

For those who stayed and faced the Cultural Revolution, they had to endure the reshaping of martial systems, which we now know today. In 1905, the majority of diverse systems and main stream jujitsu schools had merged and synthesized together under the auspices of professor Jigaro Kano to produce the method of combat then known as Juido later to be known as Kodokan Judo.

Aikijujutsu schools and following the cultural wave his Schools later became Aikido. Much later the striking arts shared the same fate at the hands of Gichin Funakoshi who did for the arts of striking what Kano and Uyeshiba had done for Judo and Aikido respectively. These forms are practised worldwide today and have become almost household names. What became of the old schools; Well the old schools still survive today but in a greatly diluted form. The format known as Jujutsu has shared many names over the years viz. Wa jutsu, Taijutsu, Yawara, Kogusoku, Chikara kurabe, Hakushi, Torite, etc.

The schools of Aiki-jujutsu did not join Kano’s synthesis of the ‘jutsu’ arts, preferring to remain independent. Morihei Uyeshiba was virtually the last representative of the ways to redirect their skills – sport was a popular choice, Sumo being particularly favoured among the biggest and strongest. Clearly the Meiji government applied all their energies and resources into the new Cultural Japan and tried to leave the shackles of the old Japan behind but this was not met without resistance.

The birth of the new Martial Ways (budo) systems had happened and was picking up impetus in various countries of the world through the now many foreign trading connections. Just as it seemed to be gaining popularity, along came the next problem. World War 1.

The Japanese government withdrew its entire people involved in teaching the martial ways from various corners of the globe, in an attempt to avoid a politically sensitive situation. Virtually all the Europeans adept in the old ways perished during the war and the returning injured remainder had somehow lost the direction to carry on.

Then followed a difficult period of rebuilding the new budo, only to find, 20 years later war destroying this development. World War 2 was much more protracted than the proceeding war and saw the Japanese fight to the bitter end. However, once the war was over and government began allowing freer trade to industry and passage to their peoples, the development of budo was back on track with the full support of the Japanese government.

Now, systems such as Karate, Judo, Aikido and Kendo with the official backing of the Japanese government began to flourish both in Japan and abroad. USA, Hawaii, Germany, Austria, Holland, France, South Africa, Great Britain, Philippines and Spain all shared a resurgence of interest in the Japanese methods of combat. Many ex-servicemen returned to their home countries and started teaching a form of Judo, though many of the techniques were founded upon Jujutsu. But few had any real Knowledge of Jujutsu and even fewer were qualified to teach.

Then there is the notion that generally people usually like to take the easy way out and in stark contrast to some of the old forms, budo forms were considered by traditionalists to be the soft option. Certainly from the standpoint of marketing a combatative form, the Japanese took this softer option in order to attain the acceptance of the western world.

Ju-Jitsu is a generic term for an almost indefinable system of fighting, primarily unarmed, but in some instance using weapons. JuJitsu Techniques are including of punching, kicking, striking, throwing, holding, locking, choking and tying as well as the use of certain weapons. As a name for a system of combat, ju jitsu tells the practitioner very little. The meaning of the term is not often debated. The character jitsu means method or art, while the first character ju is usually translated as gentleness, pliability or flexibility. No style can be regarded as the authentic or official style. What is common to all Ju-jitsu systems and styles is that they are combative by nature.

The origin and development of jujitsu is open to much debate. However, the historians seem to agree that Ju-Jitsu derived from ancient Asian styles of hand to hand combat. Ju-Jitsu was often referred to as secret techniques and teachers gave instruction to selected students behind closed doors. Jujitsu is far from secretive today. Ju-Jitsu means 'flexible science' and this is the key to success for today's practitioner just as it was for the warrior of yesterday. Flexible science somewhat obscures the fact that jujitsu has a practical application. Ju-Jitsu does not rely on brute strength but upon skill and finesse. It is the use of minimum effort to achieve maximum effect.

Applying this principle enables anyone, regardless of physique or stature, to control and release their energy to its greatest potential. Flexibility also means keeping an open mind. You don't reject this move or that technique simply because it is different. Combine the two kinds of flexibility, of mind and body, and you have Ju-Jitsu, and adventurous, dynamic martial art. There is something for everyone in Ju-Jitsu. You may practise it for self defensce, as a personal challenge, to acquire a skill, or simply to become fitter. If you are attracted to it as popular sport as it is practised worldwide, with team and individual tournament, you will enjoy sports jujitsu.