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History of Jujitsu

Jujitsu, Jui-jitsu, Jujutsu, Ju Jitsu, Juijitsu, Ju Jutsu, or any other way you can spell it - it was created on the battlefield as the most effective close quarter combat system ever developed, over some 1000 years by samurai who survived battles, rather than in a sport stadium or a gym. One system that dealt in the most efficient way with hand to hand, armed or unarmed against single or multiple attackers.


Jujitsu loosely translated means "science of softness" or "gentle art" and is applied to many schools of unarmed and hand-to-hand combat. The soft grappling style was intended to help unarmed soldiers to fight against armed enemies in any way possible, using the least amount of force necessary.

Miyamoto Musashi:
The Samurai Who Never Lost a Fight in His Entire Life


Aikido, Judo, Karate, BJJ and Sumo are modern day descendants of Jujitsu. Modern Day Ju-Jitsu is a very effective method of self defence rather than a fighting sport.

Today, Jujitsu is a martial art and is all about self defence. However, in ancient Japan it was about survival, the law, war, and the way society worked in general.  The law was administered under a feudal system originating from the tribal or clan groups of the Yayoi period (400 BC to 250 AD). Although there is archaeological evidence that fighting systems and martial art competitions existed a 1000 years earlier, it was the Kofun period from 250 AD that saw the establishment of strong military states, each of them concentrated around powerful clans or zoku.

There was little written law so the feudal head of each clan dispensed justice as they saw fit. With the added pressures from neighboring feudal clans, these lords soon developed an elite guard for their personal safety and the protection of their families and property. More than police, more than soldiers, an entire elite noble class born and bred to serve and defend their local lord.  From then until the Kamakura period, (1185 to 1333), a strong class system developed steeped in thousands of years of tradition and ritual.  Civil, military, and judicial matters were controlled only by the bushi (samurai) class, the most powerful of whom were the shogun. They became the defacto rulers of Feudal Japan, leaving the emperor as largely a ceremonial figurehead. 

Through centuries of military rule and internal conflicts, a samurai may have had to fought up to 50 individuals to survive each battle. it was rarely one on one combat outside of organised duels. The basic principle was to defeat the enemy in any way possible, using the least amount of effort necessary. Jujitsu emphasizes turning an attacker's own force against himself - the opponent is put off balance and immobilized, allowing the warrior to finish of his attacker, usually with a small dagger or a lethal manual technique. The techniques of the 'surviving' samurai were closely examined and passed on to their descendants and clan.

Over the next centuries, various schools of Jujitsu developed, such as Wa-jutsu, Yawara, Kogusoku, Kempo, Hakuda and Shubaku; each being a part of the 'Way of archery and horsemanship' (Kyuba-no-michi). They improved on the more primitive techniques and combined them with movements and countering grips taken from Chinese methods of combat (see Shaolin-si) as well as specific techniques used by the peasants of Okinawa. A reciprocal movement took place when Jujitsu was exported to China by Chen Yuanbin (1587-1671), a Chinese poet and diplomat sent to Japan, when he returned to his native land around 1638.

Jujitsu became a martial art only in the Edo period, when Japan was at peace. Numerous schools created by the Ronin (or master-less Samurai) spread their techniques throughout the country. These were codified only with the dawn of the Meiji period (1868-1912), from the time when the Samurai were no longer permitted to carry swords and the fighting feuds between noble families were forbidden. 

The Samurai established many schools of Jujitsu. Through these schools (or ryu), usually family or clan based, and over several centuries, the basic techniques have been improved upon by many important martial artists. Techniques from Chinese and Okinawan martial schools use small weapons, but the techniques consist primarily of anatomical weapons, with some schools favoring hitting and kicking like Karate, and others favoring throws and groundwork like the modern-day descendant, Judo.

Around 1922, the date of the official creation of the Kodokan, only Jujitsu was recognized and taught in innumerable Ryu in Japan as well as abroad. Around this time, the armed forces and the police in Western countries were interested in this art, to give them some advantage in fighting situations. Even today, most of the armed forces in the world teach their recruits some techniques of 'close combat' which are inspired by Jujitsu, Karate and various types of combat from local sources such as boxing, wrestling, Savate, etc.

Until the 1960s, Jujitsu had taken a back seat to sporting variations and descendants of the art such as Judo, Karate and Aikido, due to being widely considered as 'too dangerous' and inappropriate as a sport and practiced only for real fighting and self defence. In recent years, international Jujitsu tournaments are now being held in countries such as Canada and Great Britain.

Today no matter what school of Jujitsu is followed, the proficient Jujitsu practitioner (Jujitsuka) is expected to know how to gauge the force of an opponent's attack and use that force against the opponent; know how to evade an attack; know how to use leverage and balance against an opponent; and know how to attack the vulnerable areas of the opponent's body from a variety of standpoints and techniques, allowing smaller opponents to defeat greater strength with skill and technique - ideal from a self defence perspective.


1. [image] (2018). Miyamoto Musashi: The Samurai Who Never Lost a Fight in His Entire Life. [online] Available at: [Accessed 11 Oct. 2018].

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