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The History of Classical Judo Before WW II

By: Robert V. Anderson, Jr

Date Posted: 2001-03-02

Judo was derived from Ju Jutsu. Thus, in order to understand the development of Judo, it is necessary to understand the history of Ju Jutsu, and bugei, or martial arts. Be it known though, that Ju Jutsu is a generic term applied to numerous systems of combat that are not all similar in appearance or technique. Other names included Yawara, Taijutsu, Wajutsu, Torite, Kogusoku, Kempo, Hakuda, Kumiuchi, Shubaku and Koshinomawari, etc.

Ju Jutsu had 725 officially documented systems, or Ryu or Ryu-ha. A Ryu was the traditional family organizational grouping of the bugei; A Ryu-ha was a non-bloodline system. The differences between these systems were generally attributable to specialization in certain techniques. However, many of the systems were so identical that it was virtually impossible to distinguish them from other systems

Japan had isolated itself for over 200 years prior to Admiral Perry of the United States forcing Japan to open its country to foreigners. Since 1636, Japanese subjects were expressly forbidden by law to leave the country or, once having left, never to return. The penalty was death. Thus, Japan was a backwards country in terms of weapons. The primary weapons used by the bushi were bows and arrows, and in close combat, swords and spears. The bushi specialized in these weapons and learned Ju Jutsu as a secondary system.

Ieyasu became the Seii Taishogun of Japan in 1605. His clan, Tokugawa, and its military dictatorship consolidated power and ruled Japan for 267 years until political power was restored to the Emperor in 1868. The Tokugawa divided Japan into provinces and districts and ruled the country from the central government established by Ieyasu in Edo (later to become Tokyo). The Shogun, or head of the Tokugawa clan, resided in a mighty castle while the Emperor and his court nobles were forced to live in virtual seclusion in Kyoto in a substantially less significant dwelling.

During the rule of the Tokugawa clan, the military class formed an army of over 400,000 families. The military soldiers were known as men of war (bushi), or more commonly, as retainers (mononofu, wasarau). However, the term samurai, from the Chinese meaning vassal, was the name generally applied to all warriors who were permitted to wear the long and short swords (daisho) in the service of a lord

The Japanese art of combat involved a variety of forms, methods and weapons, each having a particular specialization of that art. Each specialization was known as Jutsu, a word that may be translated as “method”, “art” or “technique.” The name applied to the Jutsu generally came from three sources:

1. Identified by the name of the weapon specialization such as Ken Jutsu, the art (Jutsu) of the sword (Ken).
2. Identified by the primary method of unarmed combat, such as Ju Jutsu, the art of suppleness; flexibility; giving way (Ju).
3. Identified by the name of the master who devised the Jutsu or by the name of the school where this particular style was taught.
The entire body of these Jutsus, or specializations of the Japanese art of combat is most often termed Bu Jutsu. Bu means “military” or “martial.” Bu Jutsu is defined as “military technique”, “art” or “method.”

Ryus were found everywhere. Each military clan included centers of specialized martial instruction within the territory under its jurisdiction. Instruction took place in a dojo, the training hall of the martial ryu. The name was borrowed from the Buddhist nomenclature for the halls set aside for meditation and other spiritual exercises in virtually every monastery and convent.

The independent development of unarmed methods of Bu Jutsu probably came about because of the long period of peace and the many legislative and police controls strictly enforced by the central authorities in Edo. This had a subtle weakening effect on the traditional armed specializations of Bu Jutsu, which during the period could be used only in occasional individual and clandestine confrontations of an exceptional nature. Unarmed methods of combat filled the void. But, it is unlikely that they did not include weapons because weapons of any sort, whether legally carried and used by the warrior or camouflaged for use by members of other classes of Japanese society, were the norm, not the exception. Furthermore, those methods of unarmed combat that survived clearly have techniques inspired by the use of swords, spears, sticks, parries and whirling blades of various kinds.

Contact: Mr. Anderson at uscjs@yahoo.com for more information.

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