The Art of the Samurai
The period of Japanese history between the 8th and 16th centuries was covered with constant civil war and many systems of Jiu-Jitsu were utilized, practiced and perfected on the battlefield. This training was used to conquer armored and armed opponents.
It was originally an art designed for warfare, but after the abolition of the Feudal system in Japan, certain modifications needed to be made to the art in order to make it suitable for practice. During Feudal times, Jiu-Jitsu was also known as Yawara, Hakuda, Kogusoko, and an assortment of other names.
The earliest recorded use of the word “Jiu-Jitsu” happens in 1532 and is coined by Hisamori Tenenuchi when he officially established the first school of Jiu-Jitsu in Japan. The history of the art during this time is uncertain because teachers kept everything secret to give their art a feeling of importance and then would change the stories of their art to suit their own needs.
In approximately 1603, Japan came to a fairly peaceful period following the formation of the Tokugawa military government by Tokugawa Ieyasu. During this time (1603-1868), the feudal civil wars that had plagued Japan for centuries started to disappear. However, following the adage “living in peace, but remembering war,” the traditions of classical budo (martial arts) required that everyone should learn a method of self-defense for those situations where weapons could not be used and the practice of Jiu-Jitsu continued to spread. Forms and techniques displaying weapons skills of fighting began to yield to weaponless styles which incorporated many of the grappling ground fighting techniques of the older styles.
After the Feudal period in Japan ended (Jiu-Jitsu was no longer needed on the battlefield), a way to practice the art realistically was needed, which is why Jigoro Kano (1860-1938), an educated man and member of the Cultural department and a practitioner of Jiu-Jitsu, developed his own version of Jiu-Jitsu in the late 1800s, called Judo. Judo was helpful because it allowed practitioners the ability to try the art safely and realistically at the same time.
After a match-up between older styles of Jiu-Jitsu and Judo at the Tokyo police headquarters, Judo was named the national martial art in Japan. It was the official art used by law enforcement in the late 1800s, and continues to be popular to this day.
Because of the sportive outlet (rules that made practice safe), students of Jiu-Jitsu from Kano’s school were able to practice more frequently due to the fact that they were not always recovering from injuries. This multiplies the amount of training time for students of Kano’s school and drastically increased their abilities. Judo (Kano’s version of Jiu-Jitsu) was watered down from the complete form of Jiu-Jitsu, but still contained enough techniques to preserve its realistic effectiveness. He named it Kodokan Judo. The one problem that occurred was, in Kano’s opinion, ground work was not as important as achieving the throw or take down, therefore ground fighting was not emphasized in Judo.
There is a theory that claims that Judo was developed with the purpose of hiding the realistic effectiveness of Jiu-Jitsu from the western world. During World War II, many U.S. soldiers were exposed to the art of Judo and brought it back to America with them.
The Origins of Jiu Jitsu
“As to the origin and native land of Ju Jutsu, there are several opinions, but they are found to be mere assumptions based on narratives relating to the founding of certain schools, or some incidental records or illustrations found in the ancient manuscripts not only in Japan but in China, Persia, Germany, and Egypt. There is no record by which the origins of Ju Jutsu can be definitely established. It would, however, be rational to assume that ever since the creation, with the instinct of self-preservation, man has had to fight for existence, and was inspired to develop an art or skill to implement the body mechanism for this purpose. In such efforts, the development may have taken various courses according to the condition of life or tribal circumstance, but the object and mechanics of the body being common, the results could not have been so very different from each other. No doubt this is the reason for finding records relating to the practice of arts similar to Ju Jutsu in various parts of the world, and also for the lack of records of its origins.”
—Sensei G. Koizumi, Kodokan 7th Dan
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