History of Ju-Jitsu
The unarmed combat techniques generically referred to as jujitsu, or jujutsu, are generally accepted as emerging from Japan's feudal period, which extended from the 11th to 16th centuries. The political unease that occurred during this period, known as 'the age of troubles' resulted in centuries of uninterrupted warfare as rival clans battled for political supremacy.
During this period great emphasis was placed upon the major martial arts, particularly the art of Kyujutsu (archery), kenjutsu (use of the sword) and Iaijutsu (drawing of the sword).
Unarmed combat was not considered of great importance and was considered as purely a means of enabling a warrior to continue fighting should he lose or break his weapon.
Skilled participants in these arts kept their skill and techniques secret and would not divulge them to anybody outside the clan in order to prevent rival clans from developing counter techniques that could be used against them on the battlefield.
Due to the development of armour and the strong likelihood that an attacker would be armed, an unarmed warrior had limited options. The techniques developed during this period exploited the lack of mobility, due to the wearing of armour, and concentrated upon preventing the drawing of, or a strike with a sword. Various techniques were devised to deal with the various range and ways in which weapons such as the nodachi (long sword), Katana (standard weapon) and Tanto (dagger) were used.
These early techniques place great emphasis upon initially blocking or stopping an attack, striking an unprotected body part and finally subduing an attacker before taking his weapon to continue in the surrounding battle.
In 1603 Tokugawa Ieyasu established the shogunate (Shogun) and became the military ruler of Japan. In 1615 Ieyasu overcome all opposition from other rival military clans by conclusively defeating Hideyori's stronghold in Osaka.
After this conclusive victory Ieyasu issued the Buke-Shohatto (Laws of Military Houses). The Buke-Shohatto dictated and documented guidelines, penal codes, legal positions and functions of the imperial court and military classes. For instance the carrying of all but the shortest blades in public was banned except for the elite classes i.e. Samurai.
This period is known as the EDO period and lasted until 1867 when the shogunate was resigned and power was restored to the emperor. This period was the boom period for the development of the unarmed martial arts.
Police forces where created to enforce these laws and ensure all regulations were adhered to. These police forces were empowered to deal with offenders immediately and often without mercy.
Without the continuous outbreak of war the development of martial arts during the EDO period changed direction. The strict controls imposed by the issue of the Buke-Shohatto and the dedication of the police forces to ensure complete adherence to its rules should have discouraged the development of the martial arts. However, even during the EDO period combat still took place although the threat to personal safety came not from the battlefield but from the increase in muggings, unlawful activity of gangs and challenges from Ronin (samurai unattached to a master or Dayimo (Lord)) and Samurai keen to test and prove their skill.
This period of peace created an environment in which the martial art schools were able to develop and refine the techniques used on the battlefield. Unarmed combat become more popular which in turn encouraged an abundance of private schools to become established.
In the late 19th century Japanese masters exported their skills to the Western hemisphere where various displays and demonstrations were performed to the admiration of the western public. Various entrepreneurs of the time recognised the potential of this these new fighting styles and promoted their eastern fighters as invincible, offering to take on all comers in the boxing booths located throughout the show grounds of the land.
Today the martial arts are split into two main categories those that concentrate on the martial element for personal fulfilment and self defence and those that have been adapted into sports. However, the vast majority of Japanese martial arts being practised today can trace their origins back to those ancient times.