History Of Japanese Ju-jutsu

        Because the survival of a professional samurai fighter was directly dependent on his or her ability to fight without using weapons, the art of fighting without weapons reached its pinnacle of development during the mediaeval period in Japan. This art form has gone a long way in its evolution. It has changed its name a number of times throughout the years. Sumo, yoroi-kumiuchi (wrestling in heavy armour “yoroi”), and kogusoku (knee-to-knee fighting) are only a few of the wholly different forms of hand-to-hand combat that have been identified as historical precursors of ju-jutsu (wrestling in light armour “gusoku”). True, it is not totally accurate to refer to these systems as variations of “unarmed fighting,” since in actuality they contained a wide range of methods including a variety of improvised tools, such as knives, throwing “stars” and blades, poles, ropes, and other such implements.


        Around the 10th century, in tandem with the rise of the military class of the samurai, the method of hand-to-hand combat in armour – known as “kumiuchi” – began to take shape, and it is believed to have originated in Japan. There are also other names for this technique, including “yoroi-kumiuchi” (fighting while wearing armour), “yoroigumi” (grip while wearing armour), and “kattyu-gumi” (grip in helmet and shell).

        Jerks, power grips, and overpowering with the weight of her body were used to her advantage in numerous ways, much like a “sumo” wrestler. Due to the fact that the warriors battled in armour, the weight of which effectively replaced the artificially pumped fat of the sumo wrestler, this is an obvious explanation. As a result of her absence of the conditional limits of “sumo,” which included wrestling only when standing, not falling to the ground, and refraining from using blows and weapons, “yoroi-kumiuchi” already contained various methods, including the use of improvised means, in her style. The combatants were free to use whatever technique of battle they choose; only the outcome mattered. When a warrior misplaced or shattered a weapon, the technique “yoroi-kumiuchi” was utilised to recover it.

        Already at the end of the 12th century, technology played no less role than strength. For a very long time – from about the 11th to the 16th centuries, “yoroi-kumiuchi” was the main form of unarmed wrestling, but it was canonized quite late, only in the 14th-15th centuries. Two schools of bu-jutsu claim to be the first in his canonization: Muso chokuden-ryu, founded in the 13th century by the Buddhist monk Ikeibo Chohen, and Tsutsumi Hozan-ryu, created in the 14th century by the master Yamashiro-nookami Hozan. In case of need to protect their lives in everyday life, when they were not wearing armor, samurai also used kumiuchi techniques for a long time. However, wrestling in everyday dress allowed a wider arsenal of techniques to be used. As a result, on the basis of yoroi-kumiu-chi, the technique of wrestling without armor began to form.

        As mentioned above, samurai used the art of fighting without weapons in the case when the sword broke, when the enemy suddenly attacked at night, or when the soldiers went after fighting with swords to hand-to-hand combat.

Traditional Schools

        Traditional schools of ju-jutsu actively used throws, painful and suffocating techniques, and striking techniques. The blows were applied to biologically active points, nerve endings and joints with the ends or phalanges of the fingers, different parts of the palm, elbow, knee and feet. A well-known case of the use of striking techniques in classical ju-jutsu is the duel of the founder of the Tenshin school of Tenshin ryu ju-jutsu, master Iso Mataemon, described in historical chronicles, simultaneously with almost a hundred opponents, which took place in the Omi province in the first half of the 19th century. Iso Mataemon, with the help of a single student, laid more than 40 people with his bare hands and dispersed the rest. It is believed that in this duel the master experienced a mystical insight and realized the principles of effective use of atemi – a striking technique for hitting vulnerable points. This section became the hallmark of the school he created, which also included the techniques of the Yeshin-ryu and Shin-no Shindo-ryu schools. Interestingly, for competitive practice, the school has developed a special section that includes less dangerous throws. The real training program also includes painful and suffocating techniques, impacts on points by pressing or blowing, and methods of resuscitation using medicinal herbs to treat the consequences of exposure to pain points and other injuries.

        Some schools of jujutsu were transformed over time, and the military-applied aspect was relegated to the background. This is how the world-famous judo appeared, the founder of which was the master Kano Jigoro. The art he created is a synthesis of Kito ryu and Tenshin shinye ryu ju-jutsu – traditional schools of samurai combat training, from which they removed the emphasis on most dangerous techniques, retaining them, however, in the form of kata. Kosiki no kata in judo is one of the basic forms of the Kito ryu school, preserved in the judo certification program, as the most ancient source. Classical judo includes 8 basic kata, among which there is a modern form of self-defense against an unarmed and armed enemy – Kodokan goshin jutsu no kata and an ancient form of self-defense, collected from the techniques known since the 15th century – Kime no kata.

        Another, which won a huge number of fans of the art, was aikido, which was born from the traditional martial method of the samurai of the Takeda clan. The founder of aikido, O-Sensei Ueshiba Morihei is known as a master of several styles of traditional ju-jutsu and schools of fighting with cold weapons. Modern aikido is a version of Daito ryu aiki ju-jutsu devoid of a military-applied accent, and the main task is to develop the personality in the spirit of humanism and harmony. In turn, formed at the same time and from the same roots, Hakko ryu ju-jutsu is one of the most effective schools of real self-defense. Along with a large number of military equipment, aimed primarily at immobilizing the enemy with painful effects on the joints or on the nerve centers, this school includes a section of shiatsu, – acupressure applied in accordance with the current of internal energy along strictly localized meridians. Thorough knowledge of biologically active points and anatomy included in the official certification program has made this martial art school one of the most progressive and popular, both in Japan and in other countries.       

        Now it is difficult to determine which version of the origin of ju-jutsu is true. You just need to admit that this martial art, in dozens of variations that has come down to us from ancient times and tested in thousands of battles, continues to live and develop in accordance with the changes taking place around, while maintaining its roots and relying on more than a thousand years of experience. Since the real warriors, who were samurai, needed an absolutely effective and most practical fighting technique, jujutsu crystallized into a perfect martial art, the techniques of which are now in service with many special services in various countries of the world.

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