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History of Japanese Jujutsu

Jujutsu is known as the gentle art, techniques of combat developed by the Bushi (warriors) durning the Kamakura period (1185-1333) in Japan. The art was designed for disarmed warriors so they could defend themselves against enemies who were still armed. It originated from the ancient techniques of Kumi-tachi as described in the Konjaku-Monogatari, a Buddhist work dating from the 13th century. Over the centuries, various schools of jujutsu were founded such as Wajutsu, Yawara, Kogusoku, Hakuda and Shubaku. the original primitive techniques were improved upon by combining them with movements and countering grips taken from Chinese methods of combat as well as from peasant arts of Okinawa. The sword arts also played a major role in Japanese jujutsu since the sword was the major weapon.

Numerous schools of jujutsu were created throughout Japan by Ronin (masterless warriors). As of the 20th century more than 700 systems of jujutsu were founded in Japan. The essential principal of jujutsu is to defeat the enemy by any and all means available using minimal force. To be effective in jujutsu, a practitioner must:

  1. Be able to judge the force of an opponent's attack and use it against him before it takes effect.
  2. Be able to unbalance an opponent at any given time during a confrontation
  3. Evade an attack through body evasion and body movements.
  4. Know how to attack the weak points of an opponents body.
  5. Be able to topple an opponent during combat.
  6. Know how to immobilize an opponent on the ground.
  7. know how to twist the limbs, bend his limbs, or strangle him.
  8. know weapons and their defenses and be able to attack vital spots of the body.

Indeed a jujutsu-ka had to be well schooled in combat as a whole since they had to defend against all types of armed and unarmed enemies at an instants notice.

Modern day jujutsu systems are often termed as Goshin-jutsu. There seems to be a misunderstanding in the West concerning proper titles for this old art. You will often see the word jujitsu and/or jiu-jitsu being used. Both are incorrect, however you can basically state the following:

Jujitsu or jiujitsu will consist of basic throws and locks minus weapons.

Jujutsu is the total art including weapons.

Jigoro kano often used the title of jujitsu in his publications in the early 1900's. This is how the West obtained this particular spelling through the study of judo. Jujutsu is considered to be the father art of today's modern martial arts and ways.

Many seem to feel that jujutsu is strictly a Japanese developed art, yet as shown above, Okinawa and China played an important role in making this art what it is today. In the West, people who have achieved legitimate ranking in traditional jujutsu are few and far between. Most are self-promoted, self founded or have phony mail order ranks.


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Last modified: 05/13/15