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Ju Jitsu history

Today, Ju Jitsu ( or Jui Jitsju ) is a martial art and is all about Self defence. However, in ancient Japan where it was conceived, 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 systgems and martial art competitions or displays of martial art skill existed up to 1000s of 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.

With little written law and the feudal head of each state tribe or clan dispensing justice on an ad hoc basis and the added pressures from neighboring feudal states tribes and clans, these lords soon developed an elite guard for their personal safety as well as the protection of their families clans and property. More than police, more than soldiers, an entire elite noble class bore 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 1000s of years of tradition and ritual.  Civil, military, and judicial matters were controlled only by the bushi (samurai) class, the most powerful of whom was the de-facto national ruler, the shogun. Through mot of Japan's history the emperor was largely a ceremonial head. 

Through centuries of military rule and internal conflicts the samurai distilled a set of the most potent combat techniques. In battle,a samurai may have had to have fought 5 to 50 individuals to survive. it was rarely 1 on 1 nor even a series of 1 on 1 encounters. The basic principle was to defeat the enemy in any way possible, using the least amount of force necessary. Ju Jitsu emphasizes turning an attacker's own force against himself. The opponent is put off balance and immobilized. Ju Jitsu also emphasizes certain grappling & joint locking moves and striking to vital areas. This immobilization allowed the warrior to finish of his attacker, usually with a small dagger or a lethal manual technique. The techniques of 'surviving' samurai were closely examined and passed on to their descendants and clan.  The Kamakura period saw a consolidation of these potent techniques the most important of which allowed  disarmed warriors to defend themselves against enemies who were still armed. This art developed from the ancient techniques of Kumi-tachi (or Yawara) as described in the Konjaku-monogatari, a Buddhist work dating from the thirteenth century. The art is known today as Ju Jitsu.

Over the next centuries, various schools of Ju-jitsu 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 Ju-jitsu 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.

Ju-jitsu became a martial art only in the Edo period, when Japan was at peace. Numerous schools created by the Ronin (or masterless 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. 

Samurai, in particular those without masters, established many schools of Ju Jitsu. 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 similar to modern day descendant, Judo.

From this unruly beginning, the style developed a disreputable quality. Ninja and peasants began to use the art, and so it was associated with non-noble individuals, which did not enhance its prestige. The art became more and more ruthless with dangerous, even fatal, results. Schools tested their efficiency in contests with other schools. These contests, though dangerous and even deadly, could enhance the status of a particular school or instructor, and also helped improve techniques. 

Around 1922, the date of the official creation of the Kodokan, only Ju-jitsu 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 particular art, to give them some advantage in fighting situations. Even today, the majority of the armed forces of the world teach their recruits some techniques of 'close combat' which are inspired by Ju-jitsu, Karate and various types of combat from local sources such as boxing, wrestling, Savate, etc.

Until the 1960s, to a large extent, Ju-jitsu has taken a back seat to sporting variations and descendants of the art such as Judo, Karate and Aikido. This fall from favour has been attributed  to its being  widely considered as 'too dangerous' and inappropriate as a sport and practiced only by devotees of the art or for the techniques for real fighting and self defence.

In recent years some variations have appeared, mainly in the West, and followers of such systems have devised sporting contests with rules and methods of scoring. International Ju-Jitsu tournaments have been staged in Canada and in Great Britain. This relatively new trend is reversing the first one and demonstrating the prevailing state of flux in martial arts. However, it is from the ancient schools of Ju-jitsu that almost all the current techniques used in martial arts flow.  

Today no matter what school of Ju jitsu is followed, the proficient Ju Jitsu 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 against an opponent; and know how to attack in case the vulnerable areas of the opponent's body are not open to attack.

In modern times most close quarter combat arts or technique sets can be traced directly to Ju Jitsu. The majority of the world's police forces and armed forces teach their recruits some techniques inspired by Ju Jitsu. 

Although they have long since ceased to exist as a class, we can thank the sacrifices of centuries of Samurai and the life long complete dedication of Ju Jitsu masters for this valuable art.