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THE ORIGIN OF JIU-JITSU

“As to the origin and native land of Ju Jutsu, there are several
opinions, but they are found to be mere assumptions based on
narratives relating to the founding of certain schools, or some
incidental records or illustrations found in the ancient manuscripts not
only in Japan but in China, Persia, Germany, and Egypt. There is no
record by which the origins of Ju Jutsu can be definitely established.
It would, however, be rational to assume that ever since the
creation, with the instinct of self-preservation, man has had to fight
for existence, and was inspired to develop an art or skill to implement
the body mechanism for this purpose. In such efforts, the
development may have taken various courses according to the
condition of life or tribal circumstance, but the object and
mechanics of the body being common, the results could not have
been so very different from each other. No doubt this is the reason
for finding records relating to the practice of arts similar to Ju Jutsu in
various parts of the world, and also for the lack of records of its
origins.”
-Sensei G. Koizumi, Kodokan 7th Dan

THE VARIOUS THEORIES


Like many other subjects of history, it would be impossible to
accurately describe the origin of Jiu-Jitsu. However there is no lack
of hypotheses. Every culture has shown to have some form of hand-
to-hand combat in its history. Weaponless combat usually appears
in the form of wrestling and sometimes boxing. Looking at fighting
timeline, it is possible that the wrestling techniques of Jiu-Jitsu could
have been influenced by Ancient Greece. The Olympic Games
were one of the Greek’s traditions. In fact one of its most popular
sports, Pankration was a sport that involved both boxing and
wrestling techniques and became more popular to the Greeks than
each of them individually. During Alexander the Great’s conquests
(356 – 323 B.C.), he brought the Greek culture to the areas he
conquered. His conquests stretched all the way to India, where he

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THE ORIGIN OF JIU-JITSU

introduced the customs and ideals of Greek culture to the people of


that area where Jiu-Jitsu’s foundation was likely to have been born.
The general idea embraced by most historians is that systemized
martial arts techniques came from India along with Buddhism
(Dharma). The concept here is that the Shaolin temple was built in
the center of China and this is where Dharma introduced Buddhism
and Boxing. Buddhist Monks in northern India are said to have
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 had system of self-defense.
These Monks were men of great wisdom who possessed a perfect
knowledge of human body. Consequently, they applied laws of
physics such as leverage, momentum, balance, center of gravity,
friction, weight transmission, and manipulations of the human
anatomy’s vital points in order to create a scientific art of self-
defense.
Another version supports the idea of Jiu-Jitsu coming from China
around the time of the fall of the Ming Dynasty. When a Chinese
monk named Chin Gen Pinh came to Japan, accompanied with his
knowledge and experience of Kempo, known as the “China Hand.”
Another theory says that there were practitioners of Chikura Karuba,
a wrestling sport developed around 200 B.C. It is said that Chikura
Karuba later became Jiu-Jitsu in Japan.
One thing is certain about these stories, and that is that the
Japanese were responsible for refining a grappling art into a very
sophisticated grappling system called Jiu-Jitsu which was developed
in Japan during Feudal period.
THE ART OF THE SAMURAI
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.

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THE ORIGIN OF JIU-JITSU

It was originally art designed warfare, but after the abolition of the
Feudal system in Japan, certain modifications need to be made to
the art in order to make it suitable for practice. During Feudal times,
Jiu-Jitsu was also known as Yawara, Hakuda, Kogusoko, and an
assortment of other names.
The earliest recorded use of the word “Jiu-Jitsu” happens in 1532 and
is coined by Hisamori Tenenuchi when he officially established the
first school of Jiu-Jitsu in Japan. The history of the art during this time
is uncertain because teachers kept everything secret to give their art
a feeling of importance and then would change the stories of their
art to suit their own needs.
In approximately 1603, Japan came to a fairly peaceful period
following the formation of the Tokugawa military government by
Tokugawa leyasu. 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 traditions of classical budo (martial arts) required that
everyone should learn a method of self-defense for those situations
where weapons could not be used and the practice of Jiu-Jitsu
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.
After the Feudal period in Japan ended (Jiu-Jitsu was no longer
needed on the battlefield). A way to practice the art realistically was
needed, which is why Jigoro Kano (1860 - 1938), an educated man
and member of the Cultural department and a practitioner of Jiu-
Jitsu, developed his own version of Jiu-Jitsu in the late 1800’s, called
Judo. Judo was helpful because it allowed practitioners the ability
to try the art safely and realistically at the same time.
After a match-up between older styles of Jiu-Jitsu and Judo at the
Tokyo police headquarters, Judo was named the national martial art
in Japan. It was the official art used by law enforcement in the late
1800’s and continues to be popular to this day.

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Because of the sportive outlet(rules that made practice safe),


students of Jiu-Jitsu from Kano’s school were able to practice more
frequently due to the fact that they were not always recovering from
injuries. This multiplies the amount of training time for students of
Kano’s school and drastically increased their abilities. Judo (Kano’s
version of Jiu-Jitsu) was watered down from the complete form of
Jiu-Jitsu, but still contained enough techniques to preserve its realistic
effectiveness. He named it Kodokan Judo. The one problem that
occurred was, in Kano’s opinion, ground work was not as important
as achieving the throw or take down, therefore ground fighting was
not emphasized in Judo.
There is a theory that claims that Judo was developed with the
purpose of hiding the realistic effectiveness of Jiu-Jitsu from the
western world. During World War II, many U.S. Soldiers were exposed
to the art of Judo and brought it back to America with them.

THE GRACIE CONNECTION


When the days of the Samurai came to an end, the gun replaced
the sword, and new sportive ways to practice martial arts were
developed. Eventually, in Japan many different variations of Jiu-Jitsu
took shape, including Karate, Aikido, and Judo. But these arts were
missing essential pieces of what the complete art of Jiu-Jitsu
originally held.
This lack of reality created years of confusion in the martial arts
community, a confusion that legendary Bruce Lee would later refer
to as the “classical mess.” Bruce Lee was actually a student of Judo
and did many studies on grappling while he was alive. He criticized
traditional martial arts as being ineffective. The more traditional
combat schools were simply practicing techniques no longer
suitable for modern day combat, and with no way to safely test
them, practicing these arts became like swimming without water.
It wasn’t until the sport art of Judo and the combat art of Jiu-Jitsu
were introduced to the Gracie family in Brazil that the real art of Jiu-
Jitsu would be brought to life again. Japanese Jiu-Jitsu (practiced

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as Judo) was introduced to the Gracie family in Brazil around 1914


by Esai Maeda, who was also known as Conde Koma. Maeda was
a champion of Jiu-Jitsu and a direct student of Kano, at the
Kodokan in Japan. He was born in 1878, and became a student of
Judo (Kano’s Jiu-Jitsu) in 1897.
In 1914, Maeda was given the opportunity to travel to Brazil as part
of a large Japanese immigration colony. In Brazil, in the northern
state of Para, he befriended Gastao’s oldest son, Carlos Gracie.
Carlos learned for a few years and eventually passed his knowledge
to his brothers.
Helio Gracie, the youngest son of Gastao and Cesalina Gracie’s
eight children (three were girls), was always a very physically frail
child. He would run up a flight of stairs and have fainting spells, and
no one could figure out why.
At age fourteen, he moved in with his older brothers who lived and
taught Jiu-Jitsu in a house in Botafogo, a borough of Rio de Janeiro.
Following doctor’s recommendations, Helio would spend the next
few years limited to only watching his brothers teach.
One Day, when Helio was 16 years old, a student showed up for
class when Carlos was not around. Helio, who had memorized all
the techniques from watching his brothers teach, offered to start the
class. When the class was over, Carlos showed up and apologized
for his delay. The student answered, “No problem. I enjoyed the
class with Helio very much and, if you don’t mind, I’d like to continue
learning from him.” Carlos agreed, and Helio became an instructor.

The Birth Of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu


Helio soon realized that due to his frail physique, most of the
techniques he had learned from watching Carlos teach were
particularly difficult for him to execute. Eager to make the
techniques work for him, he began modifying them to
accommodate his weak body. Emphasizing the use of leverage
and timing over strength and speed, Helio modified virtually all of the

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techniques and, through trial and error, created Gracie/Brazilian Jiu-


Jitsu.
In order to prove the effectiveness of his new system, Helio openly
challenged all the reputable martial artists in Brazil. He fought 18
times, including matches against onetime world heavyweight
wrestling champion, Wladek Zbyszko and the #2-ranked Judoka in
the world at the time, Kato, whom Helio choked unconscious in six
minutes. His victory against Kato qualified him to enter the ring with
the world champion, Masahiko Kimura, the best Jiu-Jitsu fighter
Japan has ever produced, and who outweighed Helio by almost 80
pound. Kimura won the match but was so impressed with Helio’s
techniques that he asked Helio to go teach in Japan claiming the
techniques Helio presented during their bout did not exist in Japan.
It was the recognition by the world’s best to Helio’s dedication to the
refinement of the art.
At 43 years old, Helio and former student, Waldemar Santana, set
the world record for the longest uninterrupted no-holds-barred fight
in history when they fought for an incredible 3 hours 40 minutes!
Widely regarded as the first sports hero in Brazilian history, Helio also
challenged boxing icons Primo Carnera, Joe Louis, and Ezzard
Charles. They all declined.
A dedicated family man who exemplified a health life-style he was
the epitome of courage, discipline, determination, and an inspiration
to people everywhere. A modern-day legend, Helio Gracie gained
international acclaim for his dedication to the dissemination of the
art and is recognized as the creator of Gracie/Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

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