Ju-Jitsu a brief history

Methods of combat resembling Ju-jitsu have their earliest mention in Japanese mythology; these stories date back over 2500 years. The true home for the development of Ju-jitsu was on the battlefield. Unarmed techniques were required in the event that a warrior became disarmed during battle.

Practicality was the driving factor in the development of techniques. Those techniques that worked on the battlefield survived. The users of ineffective techniques didn't. Thus training in armed and unarmed fighting at close and long range was a necessity. These battlefield techniques were extensively developed between the 8th and 16th centuries.

The last of the shogun rulers Ieyasu Tokogawa came to power in 1603. Under his rule came a more peaceful period of Japanese history known as the Edo or Tokugawan era. This relatively more peaceful period encouraged a rapid growth in the unarmed forms of combat and an explosive growth in schools, students and techniques followed. At the peak over 700 styles of Ju-jitsu were officially registered.

In the 1850's Japan came under increasing pressure to reform it's society, particularly from the western nations. In 1876 the Meiji government issued a decree banning the wearing of swords. A period of decline in the martial arts occurred after the Meiji restoration. The new, enlightened society saw little use for them. Teachers saw classes dwindle and many ceased teaching and had to look for work elsewhere. Efforts were made to keep the martial arts alive by those remaining instructors.

It was in this climate that Ju-jitsu student Jigoro Kano developed ideas for rescuing the floundering martial arts. His idea was to increase the popularity of martial arts by changing the emphasis; he removed techniques in Ju-jitsu that had the potential for serious injury and concentrated more on a system that promotes general exercise, health and well being. To make the distinction between his system and traditional Ju-jitsu Kano utilised the name Jiu-do.

Kano promoted Judo as a national system of exercise and training in Japan's schools. He is credited as the founder of the Kyu and Dan belt grading system that is used by many martial arts around the world today. Kano's Judo became a nationally promoted martial arts system that was intended to be accessible to all. It incorporated a large proportion of the techniques found in Ju-jitsu at the time.

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