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Gaijin Ryu Jiu-Jitsu History Founder Ranking System Rank Register Testing Information Rules Etiquette

First of all, there are many different spellings for Jiu-Jitsu. These include Jiu-Jitsu (the preferred spelling of the Gaijin Ryu Dojo), Jiu Jitsu, Ju-jitsu, Jujitsu, Jujutsu, etc. While they all share the same definition, they don't all teach the same techniques. Some schools of the same system may even have different principles and/or philosophy.

Jiu-Jitsu, literally translated, means "Gentle Art" in Japanese. However, the dictionary defines Jiu-Jitsu as "an art of weapon-less fighting employing holds, throws and paralyzing blows to subdue or disable an opponent." This is not a bad definition of Jiu-Jitsu, but it is incomplete. Jiu-Jitsu does not use brute strength to overpower an opponent, but rather skill, leverage, finesse and flexibility. Economy of energy, balance, and grace are the outstanding hallmarks of a good Jiu-Jitsuka (practitioner of Jiu-Jitsu). To better understand Jiu-Jitsu, it is necessary to look at its origins and the fundamental principles that underlie this comprehensive fighting system.

The Nihon Shoki (the Chronicle of the Japanese nation) documents public unarmed competitions (Hikara-Kurabe) dating back to 230 BC. The Samurai, also known as Bushi (warrior), of feudal Japan are usually credited for developing Jiu-Jitsu. However, unarmed combat originally went by other names. These include: Taijutsu, Wajutsu, Torite, Yawara, Kempo, Kugusoku, Kumi-Uchi, and Koshinomawan to name a few. Jiu-Jitsu became a generic term sometime during the Edo period (1603-1868). Samurai were required to be adept in a vast range of combat skills. Kyujutsu (techniques of the bow and arrow), Kenjutsu (art of the sword), Bajutsu (horsemanship), Sojutsu (use of the spear) and Kumi-Uchi (grappling in armor) were among the basics. These skills were part of a vast array of Bugei (martial arts), essential to combat in feudal Japan. Under a Daimyo (a regional authority) or within a family clan, instruction was offered to retainers or family members in the weapons and skills of the Samurai as taught by their particular Ryu (school or style). There were often many different arts taught within any one Ryu. The schools differed in emphasis and strategy. Some specialized in throwing (Nage), others in groundwork (Osae, Shime, Kansetsu), and others in striking (Atemi). In matters of strategy, some schools valued taking the initiative in combat while others preferred timely reaction to an opponent's aggression. Those that followed the principles of swordsmanship insisted on sudden, total attack. Others preferred to neutralize the opponent's attack once it was in motion. Given the constant state of war in Japanese feudal history, each Ryu tested their version of Jiu-Jitsu on the battlefield, where the premium was on survival.

The three hundred years of peace that followed the Japanese civil wars led to a change in the nature of Jiu-Jitsu. Under the harsh Tokugawa martial codes, battlefield warfare and combat between Bushi largely became a thing of the past. On the other hand, unarmed combat became more common. Since duels to the death were now frowned on by the government, the severity of the techniques began to lessen and the ability to control or disable an opponent using non-lethal methods became respected and valued. The rise of the common citizen at the end of the period required that Jiu-Jitsu techniques be adapted to the needs of everyday life. Several Ryu then lost their insistence on ceremonial or ritual posturing in favor of a more practical approach to hand-to-hand combat. By the end of the Tokugawa period, the ancient martial arts of Japan (Bujutsu) created for the warrior class began to lose importance as the martial ways (Budo) created for the commoner gained ascendancy. Budo was not simply a collection of fighting techniques but also a spiritual discipline, a way of life. During the Meiji Restoration after 1868, the transition from Bujutsu to Budo was completed. Schools now passed on their tradition to students in the form of techniques, philosophy, and codes of ethics. Students were expected to be fully versed on hand-to-hand combat, but also to embody the philosophy of the Ryu's founder. Several branches of the martial arts changed names and orientation entirely. Kyujutsu became Kyudo, Iai-Jutsu became Iaido, Aiki-Jutsu became Aikido, and Jiu-Jitsu became Judo. There was a shift from warfare techniques to everyday life principles, with the spiritual side of the arts being more emphasized.

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