“Jiu Jitsu” translates as the “technique or art of suppleness, flexibility and gentleness” and is thus often referred to as “the gentle art”. Judo founder Jigoro Kano traced the art’s emergence to the period between 1600 and 1650. In its golden age between the late 17th to mid 19th century, more than 700 jujitsu systems appeared in Japan.
Among those mentioned prominently in martial arts chronicles are: Tenjin-Shinyo-ryu, Takenouchi ryu, Sousuishitsu ryu, the Kito ryu and the Sekiguchi-ryu. Many other ancient and reputable schools, such as the Yagyu-Shingan ryu or the Date clan and the Juki ryu or Sawa Dochi, are listed within the doctrine of jujitsu.
The vital issue in jujitsu was effectiveness in combat. Methods were tested in duels and public competitions among members of various schools. These encounters were frequently lethal. Such testing not only improved weapons and ways of employing them, but established the reputations of the survivors.
Jujitsu techniques include kicking, striking, kneeing, throwing, choking, joint locking, holding, and tying, as well as use of certain weapons. Most systems emphasised only one or two major techniques. Jujitsu was always a secondary method of combat to the warrior, since he relied so heavily on his sword.
Although Jujitsu techniques are initially learned individually, in a static position, the essence of Jujitsu is the ability to move from technique to another, or a second or even a third as needed – and as quickly and as often as necessary to control an attacker. Since each system emphasises only a few major techniques (or waza), the principle behind each technique can be applied in numerous situations, not just in the manner in which it is learned in a certain technique. Each technique, in fact, is designed to illustrate and teach a specific principle.
In 1905 the majority of the old schools merged with Kano’s school, the famed Kodokan. The schools of aiki-jitsu, however, did not join Kano’s movement toward synthesis in jitsu arts. Today, as in the past, they remain independent in matters of organisation and public affi liation, although instructional exchanges are taking place with increasing regularity.