The various armed and unarmed fighting techniques used in Ju-Jitsu probably date back over 2000 years and were developed on the battlefield by Japanese warriors. With the advent of the Samurai class in Japan in the 8th century, these skills were honed and the unarmed combat skills were mastered so that a warrior could still defend himself if he lost his weapon in battle.
In the 12th century, a school for samurai warriors, the Daito Ryu, taught these techniques but there was still a great emphasis on weapons skills. The first time that unarmed fighting techniques were codified into a uniform system was in 1532 when Prince Hisamori Takenouchi established the Takenouchi Ryu. These unarmed or open-hand fighting skills were called Ju-Jitsu.
Tokugawa Ieyasu established the Tokugawa shogunate in 1603 with a commitment to bring peace and stability to the country. This period (the Edo period 1603-1868) was a mainly peaceful time in Japan after centuries of civil war and the samurai found themselves as a class without a purpose. Without battles in which to hone their skills many became teachers of the martial arts with an emphasis on weaponless styles. Ju-Jitsu enjoyed its most popular time and there were over 700 different styles practised.
With the restoration of the Emperor in 1868 the military class was replaced by civil government and there began the dismantling of the samurai class. The samurai were forbidden to carry their swords and their fighting techniques started to fall in to disrepute and became associated with thieves and vagabonds.
From art to way and back again
The skills of Ju-Jitsu may have died out but for one Ju-Jitsu master, Jigoro Kano, who turned the "art" into a "way" by abandoning the more violent aspects of Ju-Jitsu. In 1882 he established the Kodokan Judo school which quickly became the most popular martial art in Japan.
A similar approach to fighting was taken some years later by another Ju-Jitsu master, Ueshiba Morihei, who founded Aikido.
In the 20th century, Ju-Jitsu has again become popular with its appeal to people regardless of age, gender or build. Modern Ju-Jitsu has few sporting or competitive aspects. It remains true to its original concept of self-defence. Ju-Jitsu is probably the grandfather of all the Japanese martial arts and is most closely adapted to equipping students to deal with real street fighting situations.
For a more detailed history of Ju-Jitsu, see the links page