Part I: In the beginning…
Have any of you ever wondered where the Ju Jitsu you practise comes from? Ever questioned why we end up doing particular moves and how the syllabus was actually developed?
Well, I have often pondered these questions and decided to do some research to find some answers. I must admit that when I started reading I didn’t expect the story to unfold quite as it did! There are gaps, and I’ve speculated where I thought appropriate and where there is a lack of documentation. If there are omissions or mistakes it is because there was no documentation, that I missed it, or I left it out for the sake of brevity to focus on what I felt was the most relevant information. However, as far as I can tell, based on the available information, what follows is more or less how things happened.
Lots of my information has come from online sources and discussion forums but is all corroborated by the book ‘Beginning JIU JITSU’ by James Shortt and Katshuharu Hashimoto (1), which was kindly loaned to me by Sensei Chris Henry. I am also very grateful to numerous Senseis both within the Bushido Academy and the greater Ju Jitsu community for taking the time to talk to me about their history and to answer my many questions. Doing this has not only allowed me to reflect on what the journey has been but also where we are heading. This is a living document, and so if anyone spots mistakes or has additional information then please comment and this record can be updated.
The story needs to start somewhere, but perhaps the most relevant place for us to start is in the early 1800s in Japan with Motsugai Takeda (1795 – 1867) who founded the Fusen-Ryū style of Ju Jitsu (2). Fusen-Ryū specialised in wrist locks and ground fighting but practised a full syllabus including throws, strikes, and weapons including bo, jo, sword, and scythe (2).
In the late 1800s, Ju Jitsu schools were being dominated by Kano Ju Jitsu (founded by Jigoro Kano (1860 – 1938)). In 1881 the Fusen-Ryū gained notoriety when their top master Mataemon Tanabe (1869 – 1942) defeated Takisaburo Tobari from Kano Ju Jitsu in a challenge match, mainly thanks to his vastly superior groundwork (2). A result of this was Jigoro Kano studying the newaza (ground fighting) of Fusen-Ryū and incorporating it into Kano Ju Jitsu, and his subsequent establishment in 1882 of Kodokan Judo, which evolved into Olympic Judo (3).
It is worthwhile pointing out at this stage that martial arts evolve. This is a prime example, Kano realised Judo could be better so he assimilated the ground fighting of Fusen-Ryū. For the development of Ju Jitsu in Britain, this is important and is something we will return to frequently. We will also come back to Kodokan Judo, but at this point, we must spend a little more time understanding how Fusen-Ryū and a couple of its greatest students, in particular, Yukio Tani (1881 – 1950) contributed to the development of British Ju Jitsu.
To be continued….
(1) Beginning Jujitsu: Ryoi-shinto Style (Ryoi Shinto Ryu) by Katsuharu Hashimoto and James G. Shortt, ISBN 901764-426.