The Origin Of Jiu Jitsu

The Origin Of Jiu Jitsu

Jiu-jitsu was referred to as Yawara, Hakuda, Kogusoko, and various other names in Feudal Japan. Looking back in the history books, the earliest mention of the word dates back to as early as 1532 by Hisamori Tenenuchi who is one of the founders of the first schools in Japan to teach jiu-jitsu.

Today, jiu-jitsu has evolved to one of the most popular martial arts for self-defense, MMA, and even as a sport. It has certainly come a long way but it’s always good understanding how it really came to be. Like boxing, wrestling, and other martial arts before it, jiu-jitsu does have a long history behind it.

If you want to learn more about this popular extreme sport, then here is the story of the origin of jiu-jitsu.

When Did Jiu-Jitsu Originate?

In truth, there are various opinions about how jiu-jitsu really came to be. The answer depends on who you really ask. Manuscripts also say that the art originated from China, Germany, Persia, and Egypt. Japan isn’t the only potential source.

It’s safe to assume that the main concepts behind jiu-jitsu as a martial art might have stemmed from humanity’s purpose to defend themselves against attacks. As such, it wouldn’t be surprising to see that other periods before Feudal Japan already had a grasp of the gentle martial art.

However, it’s worth noting that of all the possible origins, it’s Japan that has the clearest backing of what jiu-jitsu is. In fact, the word even came from them. Japanese people used the art but not for sport. Instead, Japan’s mightiest warriors used it for war.

History Of Jiu-Jitsu Begin With The Samurai

The samurai were Japan’s most noble and most popular warriors. People see the samurai as brave and honorable. Of course, people also know them for being good swordsmen. Additionally, the samurai also learned the way of jiu-jitsu for battle.

The samurai learned the techniques of jiu-jitsu to take on armed and armored opponents. People modified the practice eventually. This was when people ended Feudalism. These modifications of course focused on using the martial art without the sword.

In 1531, Hisamori Tenenuchi coined the terms jiu-jitsu and he launched his first school of the art in Japan. It’s worth noting that since teachers were secretive about the techniques they teach at the time, not much is known how students were taught.

In 1603, Japan was in a peaceful period thanks in part to the Tokugawa military government made by Tokugawa Ieyasu. The Tokugawa Shogunate required people to learn martial arts. This was despite the fact that Japan was at peace. despite Japan being at peace. These included jiu-jitsu which was the most common practice at the time.

The absence of war made jiu-jitsu obsolete. Jigoro Kano developed his own version of the art in the 1800s. He was a member of the Cultural department and was an expert practitioner in the art.

That art became Judo. People were able to practice Judo because its techniques were safe. People could also use the techniques in a realistic setting. The government of Japan eventually made Judo as the national martial art of Japan. Law enforcement also adopted the art in the 1800s.

Judo was focused primarily on takedowns such as hip throws and leg trips. However, the art also incorporated submissions which were found in jiu-jitsu as well.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, The Gracie Connection

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, The Gracie Connection

There’s no doubt that jiu-jitsu’s origins can be traced back to Japan. However, if we’re talking about the launch of the martial art into mainstream popularity, we have to relate that to the Gracie family and Brazilian jiu-jitsu.

Jiu-jistu underwent various transformations once the samurai went away. Eventually, it reached foreign lands as well.

Esai Maeda introduced judo and jiu-jitsu to the Gracie family in Brazil in 1914. Maeda was an expert in jiu-jitsu and he was also a direct student of Kano in Japan. On a trip to Brazil, Maeda was able to meet and befriend Gastao Gracie who in term helped Maeda launch Brazilian jiu-jitsu. No Gi Brazilian jiu-jitsu is born after.

Maeda offered to teach jiu-jitsu to Gastao’s eldest son, Carlos Gracie. He mastered the art for years and eventually, he passed his knowledge of jiu-jitsu down to his brothers. Helio Gracie – the youngest of the siblings eventually learned the art as well.

The Birth Of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu

Helio Gracie was a particularly frail child. Because of his weak body and condition, he wasn’t taught jiu-jitsu by practice. Instead, Helio only learned by watching his brothers train. When he was 16, Helio had the opportunity to teach a class of jiu-jitsu because Carlos was late to teach. The students enjoyed the class and Carlos agreed to make Helio into a teacher.

As he was physically weaker, Helio Gracie couldn’t execute – let alone teach, most of the techniques that Carlos was teaching his class. As this was the problem, Helio developed his own set of techniques for jiu-jitsu and most of them took advantage of body mechanics and physics so physical strength wasn’t always required.

This was the origin of Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Eventually, the Gracie family developed their own set of techniques to differentiate themselves from traditional jiu-jitsu. Aside from opening up schools, the family also entered a mixed martial arts tournament called Vale Tudo to showcase their jiu-jitsu.

The Gracies are a huge part of the origin of jiu-jitsu, as well as its rise.

Style Of Fighting

Style Of Fighting

Brazilian jiu-jitsu does include the basic principles of jiu-jitsu such as takedowns and leg trips. However, the Gracie style of fighting focuses primarily on securing positions, as well as securing a wide variety of joint locks and submission.

In Brazilian jiu-jitsu, the uniform called gi is part of the fighter’s skill set. This is to be used to initiate a variety of techniques and chokes as well.

The discipline isn’t just about executing one technique at a time. Instead, Brazilian jiu-jitsu is about creating your own flow of techniques and counters to an opponent. Your primary goal is to secure a position so you must have your own framework on how you can reach your goals.

Ground Fighting

Brazilian jiu-jitsu teaches you most techniques while you are on the ground – be on top of your opponent, or under them. Let’s look at the full mount. The full mount sees a person completely on top of another. Brazilian jiu-jitsu teaches you techniques to execute submissions from the top. Alternatively, there are also techniques from the bottom that allow you to attempt your own submissions or to sweep your opponent as well.

Though MMA fights are without gi, a variety of techniques in jiu-jitsu apply well in MMA. It’s the base form of grappling techniques in MMA and most of those techniques come from an off-shoot of Brazilian jiu-jitsu called no-go jiu-jitsu.

Training Methods

Let’s talk about the flow of how jiu-jitsu classes work.

At the start of classes, students are made to stretch their bodies in preparation for class. It’s important for students to stretch their bodies as training and the practice itself requires a lot of flexibility. 

Additionally, students are taught to learn various methods on how students can break their fall to lessen the impact.

Instructors focus on teaching a set of techniques each class. Instead of teaching students a lot of techniques at a time, classes are focused on 1-3 techniques at a time up until students master them.

Students eventually spar with one another after class. During sparring, they use the techniques they learned but they also develop their skills as well.

Body conditioning jiu-jitsu focuses primarily on improving flexibility, muscle stamina, and cardio.

Belts are given to students as they progress. This dictates their level of expertise in the discipline. Going up in rank means having to learn and master techniques from beginner to advanced. The journey to becoming a black belt in jiu-jitsu takes time and dedication. In fact, it will take you a minimum of 10 years to become a black belt.

The origin of jiu-jitsu dates back to centuries worth of culture and history. Now, we can see the sport and the discipline nearly everywhere. It might not be as popular as other fighting styles out there but in reality, jiu-jitsu’s culture and history are just as rich as any other out there.

About Carla Mesina

I'm a journalist passionate about extreme sports. I love writing and reading stories about those brave people that are going beyond the limit of their physical capabilities.

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