The autumn leaves are falling like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are always two cups at my table.

T’ang Dynasty poem

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~


Sunday, December 24, 2017

A Brief History of Jujutsu


First of all, Advent officially ends today to the Advent Challenge is over!

At Because Jitsu, was a brief history of jujutsu. Below is an except. The full article may be read here.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is easily one of the most popular and combat effective martial arts of the present day.  But when asked, most Jiu-Jitsu students couldn’t tell you much about the actual history of the art or how it came to be.  They would likely say something about how a frail Helio Gracie created leverage (as if there was never leverage before) based on Jiu-Jitsu that he had learned, which came from Japan, used by the samurai warriors of old. Truth be told, there is very little documented evidence of how the Gracie family was even taught Jiu-Jitsu in the early 1900’s, beyond second hand stories, newspaper articles, and straight up conjecture. Going further back in time to its ancient Japanese origins is even more vague, especially considering the secretive ways that medieval Japanese military arts were transmitted to soldiers at the time. But in this multi-part series we will attempt to do just that; take a trip back and try to piece together the real history of Jiu-Jitsu.

No one actually knows of the true beginnings of Jiu-Jitsu, and anyone who claims to is either ignorant or lying.  It likely had multiple influences from outside of Japan.  We know that the word Jujutsu as a name for various fighting styles started around 500 years ago, but also that it was known by other names, such as “Yawara.”  It would make sense if it was related to Japan’s other wrestling style Sumo, with its origins in traditional Mongolian folk wrestling, but there’s no real proof of that.

Some say it was brought to Japan in the 1500s by a Chinese doctor moonlighting as a martial artist.  But we have evidence of martial arts in Japan before that.  Some go further back to suggest it originated from the Buddhist monks of the Shaolin Temple in China, the origin of all martial arts, around 500 AD… except for that the Shaolin temple is not the birthplace of martial arts. There is plenty of evidence for martial arts existing in China predating the construction of the Shaolin Temple by thousands of years. For example, the classic Chinese literary saga “The Spring and Autumn Annals,” written in the 5th century BC, describe a sportive form of wrestling called “Jiao Di,” which dates back to 2700 BC, where two fighters wearing bull horned helmets basically just head butt each other out of consciousness.  And it is common knowledge that even the arts of the Shaolin Temple have their origins in India, when in around the 5th or 6th centuries AD, a traveling Indian monk named Bodhidharma brought Zen along with his kung fu exercises to keep the monks from being lazy. Then in all his irony, lazily meditated in a cave for 9 years whilst literally staring a hole through the wall.

There are even some historians who believe that it was the ancient Roman Empire who brought martial arts from the west to the east, which is actually quite plausible considering the military might and cutting-edge training methods of their armies.  After all, even the English term “martial arts,” which dates back to 16th century England, comes from the concept “Arts of Mars,” the Roman god of war.

If true, it would mean that Jiu-Jitsu and western folk wrestling are actually much closer related than we thought, with a shared ancestry in ancient greek martial arts such as Pankration.

The Japanese samurai who practiced Jujutsu often told Shinto-based origin stories of how their particular martial arts were passed down to the grandmaster of their school from the gods, transmitted unto him through meditation in a sort of spiritual vision of enlightenment.  Unfortunately, we don’t really know how Jiu-Jitsu started, but if I had to guess, it wasn’t mythological or religious in nature.  Like all of the ethnic martial arts from around  the world, and amongst the other great human inventions in general, it most likely arose from our need to survive.

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