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History of Ju Jitsu

The term ju jutsu was probably only first used in the 1630’s and literally means "gentle (ju) art (jutsu)", although it is anything but gentle.

Traditional ju jutsu was a method of close combat, either unarmed or armed, and used for both defense and offense and shares many commonalities with modern ju jitsu.

Ju jutsu was the hand-to-hand, close-combat art, employed by samurai on the battlefield, as well as the personal protection of lords and other prominent individuals. A samurai may have been hired to protect a lord and/or the lord’s guests and should a situation arise requiring the protectors attention this was to be done discreetly so as not to alert anyone and draw attention to the situation — the would-be attacker is quickly restrained and removed without commotion. Samurai take their work very seriously — failure to protect his lord or anyone in his care would often mean his death.

Unlike modern ju jitsu, the traditional ju jutsu jujitsuka (practitioner) often had to use strength and endurance to defeat his opponent who often wore heavy armour. Even if the jujitsuka was able to throw his opponent down, he still had to grapple him and be the first to reach his dagger or sword. The jujitsuka would then have to either penetrate the armour with his blade or attack atemi (vital points) not covered by the armour.

Traditional ju jutsu is the basis for many martial arts, including Judo, Karate and Aikido. Although there are many different styles and ryuha (schools) of ju jitsu in the Western world the basic techniques are similar.

Some early Edo-period schools, especially those founded by warriors with practical combat experience, still showed a very pragmatic and effective approach, and included techniques suitable both for combat on the battlefield and for peacetime situations. In these more pragmatic ju jutsu schools, the nucleus of the curriculum was ju jutsu, but instruction was also given in the use of various weapons. At the end of the Edo-period some ju jutsu schools shifted their focus from combative systems for warriors to peacetime fighting systems. A new type of ju jutsu appeared, the so called “commoner’s yawara.”

COMMONER'S YAWARA: This style of ju jutsu was developed for, or by, common people, usually those with little or no martial arts training. It had limited application and focused mainly on unarmed fighting. This was very logical, because commoners were not allowed to posses the weapons that the samurai needed to be familiar with. Commoners also had no use for techniques that could only be mastered with years of rigorous training since for them, unlike samurai, martial arts training was not part of their daily routine. Techniques were often such they could be used in ordinary self-defense situations, such as street fighting. Because the techniques were, for the most part, defensive in nature, these fighting arts were also referred to as “goshinjutsu” (art of self-defense).

Since the commoners were not allowed to carry weapons they used concealed weapons such as: Suntetsu, yawara stick, edged weapons and everyday use weapons or weapons of opportunity.

Our current modern techniques taught at Goshinkan-Ryu Ju Jitsu date back to the Edo-period of Japan (1603 - 1868). The style itself is made up of:

  • Suntetsujutsu;
  • Yawara Jutsu;
  • Atemi-Waza Jutsu (pressure points);
  • Kansetsuwaza (joint locking);
  • Taihojutsu (arresting art);
  • Osae waza (holding technique);
  • Nage waza (throwing technique);
  • Shime waza (neck restraints);
  • Arnis De Cadena & Balintawak Cuentada Eskrima (single & double stick, edged weapons)

The very essence of modern ju jitsu is the ability to move from one technique to another to defend yourself. This art can be devastating and continues to prove effective in all close combat situation — It is not uncommon to see police learning ju jitsu as there are only a small number of techniques; but by understanding the system one can easily change one technique into many.

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Bushido, the warrior's way, means many things to many people, but its underlying principle is the never-ending quest for self-perfection through mastery of technique and of self; a commitment to deal with all things honestly, honourably, and with a healthy dose of humility.