Judo & Jujitsu History

Ju-jitsu is the ancient Japanese combat system devised by the Samurai of Japan. It is widely believed that most schools (or Ryu) opened during the Edo period (1607 – 1867)

There were many different Ryu each specialising in a different system each using a different weapon. Only later did the unarmed systems develop, the grappling methods evolved as most samurai wore armour into battle (the heavy armour became lighter over time) but it was still difficult to penetrate with kicks and punches, so techniques evolved to bring an opponent to the ground thereby rendering him (or her) more vulnerable.

In the early 1800’s during the Tokugawa Shogunate (The period of the Tokugawa Emperor) there was a long period of relative peace and these Ryu flourished. Many of the teachers of these Ryu would roam; visiting rival schools issuing challenges to other teachers to prove whose system was better.

The Aizu Samurai, who served the Tokugawa Shogun (Emperor) led by Saigo Tanomo clashed with rival clans and were defeated. Many of the defeated Samurai committed suicide in disgrace. Saigo Tanomo survived and returned to the Aizu prefecture and became a teacher of Kenjutsu (sword fighting).

Jigaro Kano. The founder of judo.

Jigaro Kano was born in Hyogo prefecture October 28 1860. The only son in a family of 6 children. Kano started out learning Ju-jitsu, reading secret techniques from Hontai and Seiko, which showed the fundamentals of throwing.

In parallel he studied the Tenshin Shin’Yo ryu which taught grappling techniques. In 1882 he retired to Eishoji temple on Tokyo, where he rented a small room to develop his new system of JUDO.

Jigaro Kano, Founder of the Kodokan, and developer of modern judo.

Jigaro Kano believed that judo was, and should be, practiced as more that just a sport. The principles he laid down in those early days still permeate all judo clubs and associations. Kano believed that the teaching of morality, knowledge and physical training are the cornerstones of a stable the strong life.

Many students of the Kodokan Judo system visited, and later became instructors all over the world, in 1940 judo became an official discipline in the 12th Olympic games (which were sadly cancelled due to the war).

On the 4th of May 1940 Jigaro Kano died at the age of 79, his legacy has resonated down through many generations of martial artists of many styles and Ryu. It is in no small part due to Jigaro Kano and his students that Ju-Jitsu exists today.

In the early part of the 20th century Ju-Jitsu was fading as a practiced art, after demonstrations across the world (one in front of General Grant former American President), where judo and Ju-jitsu practitioners would easily defeat numerous challenges. Interest in this method of fighting espoused by men in white pyjamas rose dramatically. Most of the modern military unarmed combat systems are based on (or have uncanny echoes of) Ju-Jitsu.

Ju-Jitsu has also evolved over the intervening decades and spreads all over the world. From southern America where Royce Gracie and the phenomenal rise of Brazilian Ju-Jitsu which has taken the sport grappling world by storm, to the other extreme as in Skegness where the more traditional system is still taught.

Ju-jitsu is an ever evolving art with contributions coming from many unexpected sources, allowing it to grow with the world where many old traditions such as honesty and honour seem to be in short supply, or at the very least unfashionable. Practising the arts of Judo or Ju-Jitsu (not to forget the other martial arts; Karate, Aikido, Kenjutsu, Iaido, Iaijutsu etc. etc.) teaches us much about ourselves, from whom we are to who we can be.

Judo can be trained at any age (if you can walk and hold something), most of the premier Judo-ka (student of judo) including many champions started at a very early age, it is from small clubs such as Skegness Judokwai that the worlds best emerge. Ju-Jitsu usually starts a little later as the methods used can be more easily misused so a more mature mind is a greater advantage (not to say that judo cannot also be extremely effective!)

There can only be benefits gained from starting the martial arts, be it for fitness and confidence, through to competition. Age and condition should be no barrier to your dreams.

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