History and Introduction
Jujutsu, commonly spelled as “jiu-jitsu” and “ju-jitsu”, is a martial art and a system of close combat of Japanese origin. Jujutsu is classified as a grappling art, but consists of both striking and grappling. It covers a vast array of techniques, such as takedowns and throws (nage-waza), joint locks (kansetsu-waza) and chokes (shime-waza). The art was an essential part of training for the samurai warriors.
“Jū” can be translated as “yielding, gentle, soft, supple, flexible, or pliable”, and “jutsu” can be translated as “art, skill, or technique”. “Jujutsu” thus has the meaning of “yielding-art”, as its core philosophy is to manipulate the opponent's force against him/herself rather than confronting it with one’s own force.
Jujutsu has been known from feudal times under various names, such as kumiuchi, kogusoku, taijutsu, wajutsu, torite, and even judo (as early as 1724). Since the Edo period, the names jujutsu and yawara were the most widely used, yawara being an alternate pronunciation for the kanji of “jū”.
The old jujutsu schools (koryu) were not limited by style boundaries, but made use of the best possible methods and techniques that their circumstances allowed. They were truly mixed martial arts schools and complete systems.
To date, many koryu jujutsu still exist thanks to unbroken transitions of leadership through the ages. When the Edo period brought lasting peace to Japan, jujutsu evolved into unarmed combat systems for civilian life. These are correctly classified as Edo jujutsu. After or near the end of the Tokugawa period (1868), what is known as gendai (modern) jujutsu started developing.
Some of the ryu also include seifukujutsu (adjustment and restoration art) and kappo (resuscitation methods). It was believed that one who knows how to cause damage to the body and to life, must also know how to reverse it and preserve life.
Over time, gendai jujutsu has been embraced by law enforcement officials worldwide, and continues to be the foundation for many specialized systems used by police. The most famous of these specialized police systems is the taiho-jutsu (arresting art) system formulated and employed by the Tokyo Police Department. Jujutsu techniques have been the basis for many military unarmed combat techniques (including British/US/Russian special forces and SO1 police units) for many years.
Some derivative forms developed into competitive sports, most notably judo (Olympic sport), BJJ and sambo. Jujutsu skills and techniques were fundamental in the development of MMA (mixed martial arts) competition, where they continue to prove their worth.
Original Kodokan Judo (founded in 1882 by Jigoro Kano) was a form of, and a development of, jujutsu. In fact, it was a collection of some of the best techniques from a number of jujutsu schools. It was Kano’s vision to unite jujutsu under one system with the ideals of ‘mutual benefit’ and ‘minimum efort, maximum efficiency’. Several of Japan’s prominent jujutsu masters frequently gathered under the guidance of Kano to form the syllabus of judo and its technical ruleset. One such event was the famous gathering at the Butoku Kai in 1905.
One of the most prominent jujutsuka at the time was Mataemon Tanabe, 4th soke (headmaster) of Fusen Ryu. Mataemon Tanabe was a pioneer of modern ne-waza (ground fighting). He developed his skills mostly through experience while touring the country with his father, since the age of 14, accepting challenges and taking part in tournaments, often fighting older and heavier men. He bested the Kodokan exponents with his ground fighting skills on many occasions, and thus, it is of no surprise that Kano invited Tanabe to input his knowledge in the formation of Kodokan Judo. He was equally skilled in tachi-waza (stand-up techniques). Tanabe has long been considered as one of the greatest gendai jujutsuka.
Jujutsu, the proper spelling, is derived using the Hepburn romanization system. Before the first half of the 20th century, however, jiu-jitsu and then ju-jitsu were preferred, even though the romanization of the second kanji as jitsu is unfaithful to the Japanese pronunciation. Jitsu has a different kanji, and its meanings are unrelated to martial arts. Since Japanese martial arts first became known of in the West in that time period, these earlier spellings became popular and are still widely used worldwide.