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The History of Ju-Jitsu

The methods of combat known as Ju Jitsu are at least, by historical definition, about 2000 years old, with mention of them in Japanese mythology. The modern beginnings of Ju Jitsu can be traced to the turbulent period of Japanese history between the 8th and 16th Century. During this time, there was almost constant civil war in Japan and the classical weapons systems were developed and constantly refined on the battlefield. Close fighting techniques were developed as part of these systems to be used in conjunction with weapons against armored, armed opponents.

The first publicly recognized Ju Jitsu ryu was formed by Takenouchie Hisamori in 1532 and consisted of techniques of sword, Jo-stick and dagger as well as unarmed techniques.

In 1603, Tokugawa Ieyasu brought peace to Japan by forming the Tokugawa military government. This marked the beginning of the Edo period of Japanese history (1603-1868), during which warring ceased to be a dominant feature of Japanese life. In the beginning of this period there was a general shift from weapons forms of fighting to weaponless styles. These weaponless styles were developed from the grappling techniques of the weapons styles and were collectively known as Ju Jitsu. During the height of the Edo period, there were more than 700 systems of Ju Jitsu.

The end of the Edo period was marked by the Meiji Restoration, an abortive civil war that moved power from the Shogun back to the Emperor. A large proportion of the Samurai class supported the Shogun during the war.

Consequently, when power was restored to the Emperor, many things related to the Samurai fell into disrepute. An Imperial edict was decreed by Emperor Melse declaring it a criminal offense to practice the old style combative martial arts. During the period of the Imperial edict, Ju Jitsu was almost lost. However, some masters continued to practice their art `underground', or moved to other countries, allowing the style to continue. It was during this oppression that the first Japanese exponents of the art arrived in Britain. By the Mid twentieth century, however, the ban on Ju Jitsu had lifted, allowing the free practice of the art.

Because of its ancient traditions, Ju Jitsu draws from many different martial arts systems. Students are taught to kick, punch and throw, lock and immobilize limbs and also to use various weapons, such as the sword, staff, knife, sai and rice flails.

Ju Jitsu has not adapted as a sport as easily as other martial arts, so competition therefore plays a minor role.

A wide range of Kata is studied however. Kata is the formal presentation of a martial art's techniques, and in Ju Jitsu, Kata may involve one or two persons, or feature a weapon, such as the sword or sai.

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