Jujutsu practices evolved and refined among the samurai of feudal Japan as a method for defeating an armed and armored opponent in which one uses no weapon or only a short weapon. During the heat of battle, sometimes, samurai would find themselves weaponless because their weapons were broken or lost in the battlefields.  Because striking against an armored opponent proved ineffective, practitioners learned that the most efficient methods for neutralizing an enemy took the form of pins, joint locks, and throws. They had over 1000 years of civil wars among themselves to perfect these techniques.  These techniques were developed around the principle of using an attacker’s energy against him rather than directly opposing it.  One could just imagine what hand-to-hand combat was like on the 16th-century battlefields of feudal Japan.

Video of heavily armored samurai in armed and unarmed combat demonstration from YouTube

Armored Samurai, Ō-Yoroi (大鎧)

(Photo courtesy of Wikipedia-Samurai)

A heavily armored samurai wore their Ō-Yoroi, which weighed about 30 kg or 66 lbs, to battle.  This armor can trace its roots back to the Romans and Egyptians.  Ō-Yoroi provided lightweight protection from sword thrusts, slashes, arrows, mobility, and comfort for the wearer.   However, the lighter medieval European armor knights’ armor, made of tempered steel, weighed 45 lbs.  Falling and getting back up would not be easy in battle. It would easily expose the vulnerable areas of their body to knife attacks; neck, armpits, groin. By the 16th century, Ō-Yoroi designs were heavily influenced by European designs and the introduction of the rifle by the Portuguese.  By contrast, contemporary body armor and helmets that U.S. combat troops wear weigh around 38 lbs. and ruck up to 150 lbs of gear during operations.  But, then again, times are quite different.  Hundreds of years ago, one used swords, pikes, and arrows in battle, while today’s soldiers use assault rifles and call-in drone strikes.

HISTORICAL DEVELOPMENT OF JUDO- (A lecture presented by Syd Hoare 8th Dan to the European Judo Union Foundation Degree Course at Bath University July 2007)

From Jujutsu to Judo

The Unification of all Jujutsu styles toward

the development of modern Judo-July 24, 1906

(Photo courtesy of Sawtelle Judo Dojo)

Close-up image of the leading Jujitsuka at the Dai Nihon Butokukai in Kyoto on July 24th, 1906 to formulate the official katas to be used by Kodokan Jujitsuka (Judoka).

 (Front row, left to right): Katsuta Hiratsuka of Kagawa (Yoshin Ryu); Koji Yano of Kumamoto (Takenouchi Ryu); Jushin Sekiguchi of Wakayama (Sekiguchi Ryu); Hidemi Totsuka of Chiba (Yoshin Ryu); Jigoro Kano of Tokyo (Kodokan Judo); Kumon Hoshino of Kumamoto (Shiten Ryu); Takayoshi Katayama of Kagawa (Yoshin Ryu); Yazo Eguchi of Kumamoto (Kyushin Ryu); Masamizu Inazu of Kyoto (Miura Ryu).

(Back row, left to right): Yoshimaki Yamashita of Tokyo (Kodokan Judo); Hajima Isagao of Kyoto (Kodokan Jiu-do); Sakugiro Yokoyama of Tokyo (Kodokan Judo); Shuichi Nakaoka of Kyoto (Kodokan Judo); Shikataro Takano of Okayama (Takenouchi Ryu); Mataemon Tanabe of Himeiji (Fusen Ryu); Kotaro Imei of Okayama (Takenouchi Ryu); Hoken Sato of Kyoto (Kodokan Judo); Hikosaburo Oshima of Kagawa (Takenouchi Ryu); Mogichi Tsumizu of Wakayama (Sekiguchi Ryu); Kehei Aoyagi of Fukuoka (Sosuishi Ryu)

(Photo and translation of individuals’ name and schools

courtesy of History of Sosuishi-Ryu website)

The following is a summary of the different martial arts schools represented in the above photographs.

Yoshin Ryu楊心流 Jujitsu, Kendo-17th century (Tokyo-Akiyama family)

Sekiguchi Ryu関口流Kenjutsu, Iaijutsu, and Jiu-jutsu 17th century (Aichi-Imagawa family)

Takenouchi Ryu竹内流 Jujutsu Grappling art, unarmed or with minor weapons Bōjutsu Staff art Kenjutsu Sword art Iaijutsu Sword drawing art Naginatajutsu Glaive art Tessenjutsu Iron fan art Hojōjutsu Rope-tying and restraining art Sakkatsuhō16th century (Okayama-Takenouchi family)

Shiten Ryu四天流Jujitsu (Kumamoto-Hoshino family)

Kyushin Ryu扱心流, Jujitsu-16th century (Shiga-ken-Iugami family)

Fusen Ryu 不遷流Jujitsu-19th century, (Takeda Motsuge founder)

Miura Ryu 三浦流 Jujitsu-17th Century (Nagasaki-Miura family)

Sosuishi Ryu  双水執流 Kumi Uchi Grappling (unarmed or with minor weapons) Koshi-no-Mawari Iaijutsu (Sword Drawing & fencing)-17th Century (Oita/Fukuoka-Shitama family)

Jujitsu writings

(Photo courtesy of Goshin Ryu)

Although there were hundreds of different jujitsu schools in Japan during the Tokugawa period, many were only different in names and not in techniques.  Documents and records over the centuries were lost through fires, wars, and the passing of the head instructors.  Many schools did not openly share their techniques with other clans out of competitiveness and rivalry.  With Japan’s mountainous terrain, the relative isolation from each other was another contributing factor in the different schools across the country.  With over 250 years of peace, those who did not become public administrators or bandits, sometimes “ronin,” had free time on their hands to develop and refine their battlefield techniques.  Over time, the teachings of the different styles, now divorced of body armor, were passed down through generations of clan or family members, keeping the most coveted “secret” techniques to only the most trusted members. 

The following is a summary of some of the most influential jujitsu schools or styles (Ryu) that influenced Jigoro Kano and the rise of Judo.  Some styles have similarities to one another.  Kano chose each style’s most useful and practical elements to fulfill his physical education curriculum.  He eliminated many dangerous techniques still being taught at the time in jujitsu.  With the rapid modernization of Japan, the need for close combat fighting arts was dying.  Jujitsu was gaining a reputation for brawling and criminal activities.  From the different schools, he invited various grandmasters or soke to the Kodokan to contribute to his teachings. 

Jigoro Kano at age 17-5’2” and 90 lbs.

(Photo courtesy of “Judo-The Gentle Way”)

He would become as large as 165 lbs in his prime.  During the Meiji Period, a time of epic transformation of a long, self-imposed isolation from the world to a modern industrialized society, Jigoro Kano, a Renaissance man of the time, created Judo as a form of physical education but also for moral and philosophical education.  Kano, a learned man who spoke fluent English, was a master of jujitsu, had earned himself a degree in literature and opened the original Kodokan by the age of 22.

(“A Brief Look at the “Root Arts” of Judo” by Steven R. Cunningham, Ph.D.-6th dan Judo, 7th dan Jujutsu, 6th dan Karate)

Next time, we will delve into some of the many different schools of Jujutsu and the ones that mainly influenced the foundation for Judo.