Jiu-Jitsu, unlike other martial arts, did not evolve from one source or root; instead it has multiple roots and traveled through many Asian countries before its final development in Japan.
The development of Jiu-Jitsu techniques started around 5000 years ago. A Babylonian copper stand (see picture), dating from the third Millennium B.C., shows two men engaged in a grappling technique found in Jiu-Jitsu. Both men are trying to unbalance each other by controlling the hip.
Buddhist Monks in northern India greatly contributed to the early development of Jiu-Jitsu. Bandits constantly assaulted the monks during their long journeys through the interior of India. Buddhist religious and moral values did not encourage the use of weapons so they were forced to develop an empty hand system of self-defense.
These Monks were men of great wisdom who possessed a perfect knowledge of the human body. Consequently, they applied laws of physics such as leverage, momentum, balance, center of gravity, friction, weight transmission and manipulation of the human anatomy’s vital points in order to create a scientific art of self-defense.
THE ART OF THE SAMURAI
In 230 BC the techniques of Jiu-Jitsu arrived in Japan where the wrestling sport called chikara kurabe was developed. The techniques of this art later served as the base of contemporary Jiu-Jitsu.
From 230 BC onward, many different schools of Jiu-Jitsu were formed. Empty hand Jiu-Jitsu techniques were incorporated as part of the samurai warrior’s training during the Heian period (ca. 784 AD). In approximately 880 AD, Prince Teijun established the Diato-Ryu Aiki Jujitsu school.
The period of Japanese history between the 8th and 16th centuries was covered with constant civil war and many systems of Jiu-Jitsu were utilized, practiced and perfected on the battlefield. This training was used to conquer armored and armed opponents.
Many close fighting techniques were created and mastered during this era. In 1532 Hisamori Tenenuchi officially established the first school of Jiu-Jitsu in Japan.
In 1559, a Chinese monk named Chin Gen Pinh came to Japan, accompanied with his knowledge and experience of Kempo, known as the “China Hand.” Shortly after Chin Gen Pinh arrived in Japan, Hideyoshi Toyotomi also migrated to Japan from China, bringing with him Ch-an Fa and Korean Tang Su, a punching and nerve striking skill and method of fighting. These skills were perfected and integrated into Jiu-Jitsu.
In approximately 1603, Japan came to a fairly peaceful period following the formation of the Tokugawa military government by Tokugawa Ieyasu. During this time (1603-1868), the feudal civil wars that had plagued Japan for centuries started to disappear. However, following the adage “living in peace, but remembering war,” the practice of jujitsu continued to spread. Forms and techniques displaying weapons skills of fighting began to yield to weaponless styles which incorporated many of the grappling ground fighting techniques of the older styles.
The traditions of classical budo (martial arts) required that a everyone should learn a method of self-defense for those situations where weapons could not be used. Universally, these techniques were known as Jujutsu.
It has been estimated that there were about 725 recorded systems of jujutsu in vogue during its golden age from 1680 to 1850.
The Meiji Restoration of the Emperor replaced the feudal military regime established by Tokugawa Ieyasu in 1603.
This happened because growing internal unrest in the middle 1800’s convinced the shogun that return of power to the Emperor was called for. During the Meiji period, with the collapse of the feudal system, Japan started to open up to western culture and customs.
The increased immigration of westerners into Japan during the Meiji period caused Jiu-Jitsu masters, who were very secretive with regard to their techniques, to worry about the possibility of westerners, generally bigger and stronger than the Japanese, learning Jiu-Jitsu.
As they felt that it would be virtually impossible to hide the Jiu-Jitsu techniques from Westerners, the Japanese decided to break Jiu-Jitsu down into several styles with limited effectiveness in a real fight.
The arts of Karate, Judo and Aikido were developed from Jiu-Jitsu. These styles were transformed into sports in order to keep secret the most lethal and street effective techniques.
MITSUYO MAEDA – “CONDE KOMA”
In 1914, a Japanese Jiu-Jitsu and Judo master named Mitsuyo Maeda, (AKA Count Koma) stopped in Brazil during his World Judo tour. Maeda decided to prolong his stay and help a Japanese colony settle in the North of Brazil.
A Brazilian diplomat named Gastão Gracie helped the colony with land and cattle. In return Koma, went against the Japanese tradition and volunteered to teach real Jiu-Jitsu to a non-Japanese, Gastão’s son Carlos.