Introduction and History

The origins of Jujutsu date back to the Muromachi period in Japan between 1333 and 1575. This old style jujutsu was known as Nihon koryu jujutsu.  To fight a heavily armed warrior this old style of martial arts training was focused on teaching the unarmed or lightly armed warrior. This eventually led to the teaching of a significant amount of grappling, throwing, restraining and weaponry skills to a Samurai.

Jujutsu - Samurai Fight

During the 17th century the term jujutsu began to take hold. During that time in Japan it described all the martial arts that involved grappling-related disciplines that were used and taught by the Samurai. “Jū” translates to mean “gentle, soft, supple, flexible, pliable, or yielding.” “Jutsu” translates to mean “art” or “technique” and represents manipulating the opponent’s force against himself rather than confronting it with one’s own force.

It changed with times and evolved to the Nihon jujutsu that is seen today.  Since this contemporary style was founded during the Edo period, it is known as Edo jujutsu. Since today no one wears armor today the striking in these styles is not designed to be effective against any armor. However, it would be very effective against a normal person of today, that is, a plain-clothed person.

Further it can be added that this martial art was developed to combat the samurai of feudal Japan.  It was a method in which an armed and armored opponent could be defeated without using a weapon, or using only a short weapon. This striking against any armored opponent proved to be ineffective. Thus the practitioners learned the most efficient methods for neutralizing an enemy which was in the form of pins, joint locks, and throws. Rather than directly opposing an attacker, these techniques were developed around the principle of using the attacker’s energy against him.

Due to the many variations of this martial art, it has led to a diversity of approaches. The schools of this martial art, also known as ryu, may utilize all the forms of grappling techniques to some degree.  There are following types of grappling or similar kinds of techniques that are involved in this martial art: throwing, trapping, joint locks, holds, gouging, biting, disengagements, striking, and kicking.

Today this martial art is practiced in both the forms: traditional as well as modern sports forms. Many different martial sports or martial arts have evolved from jujutsu. These include Judo, which was developed by Professor Jigoro Kano in the late 19th century from different styles of jutusu. The other being the Brazilian jiu-jitsu which was derived from pre-World War II era versions of Kodokan Judo.

The goal of jujutsu is simple. Practitioners hope to disable, disarm, or even kill opponents, depending on the situation.

Development of jujutsu

Other koryo developed into systems more familiar to the practitioners of Nihon Jujutsu in later times. This is what is seen today commonly. As it was founded during the Edo period, these practitioners are classified as Edo jujutsu. These practitioners are generally designed to deal with the opponents without wearing any armor or meet in a battlefield environment. Atemi waza (vital striking technique) is used extensively by the most Edo systems of jujutsu. This technique would be of little used against an armored opponent on a battlefield. During peacetime dressed in normal street attire (referred to as “suhada bujutsu”), they would be quite valuable in confronting an enemy or opponent. Occasionally in the curriculum of Edo jujutsu modest weapons such as tanto (daggers) or tessen (iron fans) were included.

The series of techniques which were originally included in both Sengoku and Edo jujutsu systems have been another seldom-seen historical side. These techniques involve the of hojo cord (sometime the sageo or tasuke) to restrain or strangle an attacker and also referred to as Hojo waza (hojojutsu, Tori Nawa Jutsu, nawa jutsu, hayanawa, etc.). Even though these techniques have faded from active jujutsu training and practice, but they are still being used by the Tokyo police units who still train in their use and continues to carry a hojo cord in addition to handcuffs. One of the better recognized methods that still continue extensive training in hojo waza is the very old Takenouchi-ryu. With the Samurai and wearing of swords being abolished since the establishmentof the Meiji period, the ancient tradition of Yagyu Shingan Ryu (Sendai and Edo lines) has focused much towards the jujutsu (Yawara) contained in its syllabus.

Even though many other Nihon jujutsu ryu exist, they are not considered koryo (ancient traditions). These are called either Gendai jujutsu or modern jujutsu. After or towards the end of the Tokugawa period (1868), there were more than 2000 schools (ryu) of jujutsu that existed. During these times modern jujutsu traditions were founded. The gendai jujutsu are the various traditional ryu and ryuha that are commonly thought of as koryu jujutsu. A very few gendai jujutsu systems have direct historical links to ancient traditions and are incorrectly referred to as traditional martial systems or ryu even though they are modern in formation. As opposed to the Sengoku jujutsu systems, their curriculum reflects a clear bias towards Edo jujutsu systems. The reason for this bias is the improbability of confronting an armor-clad attacker.

Many law enforcement official s worldwide have embraced this Gendai jujutsu over time. It continues to be the foundation for many specialized systems used by the police. Kesatsujutsu (police art) and Taiho jutsu (arresting art) systems formulated and employed by the Tokyo Police Department are perhaps the most famous of these specialized police systems.

Many military unarmed combat techniques (including British / US / Russian special forces and police units) have used the techniques of this martial art as the basic part of their specialized military training. Every military service since the early 1900s in the world has an unarmed combat course founded on the principal teachings of this old martial art.

Judo is one of the most popular forms of sports jujutsu that is now an Olympic sport. Competitors apply a variety of strikes, throws, and holds to score points in mixed-style competitions. These are one of the most common style competitions. There are now kata competitions that are held. In these competitions the competitors of the same style perform techniques and are judged on their performance. There are also free-style competitions that are held. In these competitions the competitors take turns in attacking each other. The defender then is judged on performance. Random Attack form of competition is another more recent form of competition growing very popular in Europe. This is similar to Randori but more formalized. Randori is a term used in Japanese martial arts to describe free-style practice.


Jujutsu - Various Images

Unlike the martial arts such as Karate that rely more on striking techniques, the Japanese jujutsu systems typically emphasize more on throwing, pinning, and joint-locking techniques. Because to protect the samurai body armor the striking techniques were seen as less important in most older Japanese martial arts systems. Thus were used as set-ups for their grappling techniques.

The practitioners are used in the use of many potentially fatal moves in jujutsu. The risk is however minimized as the students mostly train in a non-competitive environment. Students are taught break falling skills to allow them to safely practice otherwise dangerous throws.


To further add to the discussion above in the introduction section, the word jujutsu can be broken down into two parts, viz., “ju”, and, “jutsu”. “Ju” is a concept”. The idea behind this word means “”to be gentle”, “to give way”, “to yield”, “to blend”, “to move out of the harm’s way”. “Jutsu” is the principle or “the action” part of Ju-Jutsu. In Japanese this word means science or art.

Derivatives and influences

Many of today’s martial arts have been developed from or have been influenced by jujutsu. The examples are: aikido, bartitsu, hapkido, judo (from this Brazilian jiu-jitsu and sambo), kajukenbo, Krav Maga, pangamot, and kenpo.

Modern Japanese karate was also influenced by some of the schools of jujutsu. In 1905 a number of jujutsu schools joined the Kodokan, thereby occurring a major Japanese divergence. The relationships between schools and styles can be complex. For example, the Wado-ryu school of karate is partially descended from Shindo Yoshin-ryu  jujutsu, itself in turn influenced by Okinawan karate.

Jujutsu - World Competition


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