A Short History of JU-JITSU –

 According to Laura Peil Sensei


As I am an Abstract/ Random Learner I would find it difficult to bore you with dates and timelines, so I wont. Instead I will present a selection of theories based on historical fact.

I cannot profess to know the true origins of Ju-Jitsu, as I was not around at the time. Most of the texts I have read seem to agree that its about 2, 500 years old, originated in India and then passed on to China, Okinawa, and then Japan.

One good hypothesis that I have read is that the take downs and ground work techniques of Ju-Jitsu similar to wrestling could have come from Ancient Greece in the form of Pankrateon. Pankrateon was a sport that involved both boxing and wrestling techniques. It was later overshadowed by the Roman Gladiators, and then banned from the Olympics by Christian leaders of the Roman Empire. Greek customs and ideas spread to India, where Ju-Jitsu's foundation was likely to have been born.

Another theory is that it came from china around the time of the Ming dynasty. The story states that a man named Chen Yuang ping came to live in Tokyo at a Buddhist temple. Here he met three Ronin. Chen Yuang ping told the Ronin about a grappling art he had seen in China. The Ronin were interested and Chen Yuang ping started teaching in Japan, this later became Ju-Jitsu.

A similar story states that Chen Yuang ping introduced an early form of Ju-Jitsu called Kempo that was mainly strikes and this was developed into a more effective art and called Ju-Jitsu.

Another theory is that it came from Chikura Karube a sport wrestling from 200 B.C.

The origins of Ju-Jitsu that I learned while coming up the grades was that Ju-Jitsu could be traced as far back as 712 AD and it was widely practiced by the Samurai warriors. The Ju-Jitsu practiced by the Samurai focused primarily on annihilating the enemy, which led to the development of dangerous and fatal techniques. Of course today the techniques are modified slightly for practice otherwise you wouldn’t have too many people wanting to be your Uke!!! Also we don’t wear armour and as far as I know no one teaches Art, calligraphy, poetry any of the other stuff the Samurai were also masters of in their Dojo today.


My theory is that Ju-Jitsu probably did start in Greece, which spread to India and then China, Okinawa and then Japan. I believe the Samurai used various forms of it on the battlefield and other classes possibly used it to defend themselves too. In fact I think the term Ju-Jitsu was used as a blanket term for martial arts in Japan as the samurai practiced many unarmed arts with emphasis on different aspects of combat.  The various unarmed arts developed into schools (Ryu). One was started by a man called Jigoro Kano. Kano studied two styles of jujitsu Tenjin Shin'yô-ryû and Kitô-ryû. Kano took the bits he liked from these and started Kano Ju-Jitsu which later became Judo.

Another pioneer of Ju-Jitsu was E W Barton Wright he was a railway engineer when Japan was building its railroads in the Meiji era. He was in Japan building railroads and learning Ju Jitsu.  He studied Shinden Fudo-Ryu Ju Jitsu and Kano Ju Jitsu. He returned to London in 1898 and opened his own school (Bartitsu) in 1901. Two instructors that Barton Wright brought over with him were Sadakazu Uyenishi and Yukio Tani; they trained at the Handa School of Ju Jitsu in Osaka.  Once they separated company with Barton Wright they set up their own Ju Jitsu School called The Japanese School of Ju Jitsu, based in London. One of their students was Jack Britten, who went on to set up the Alpha Ju Jitsu Institute in Liverpool.


Since then Ju-Jitsu has spread and there are many different schools. It is difficult to trace particular school lineage, as there are few records. Today some Schools have tried to make Ju-Jitsu a sport, some concentrate more on groundwork, others self defence and a few try to keep the traditional art alive.

Personally I like a mixture, I want to keep the traditional stuff alive but I also believe that Ju-jitsu should keep evolving just as we are evolving.



In our Dojo (place of the way) we use the metaphor of the water cycle to explain its philosophy. The source of knowledge can be perceived as a trickle of water or spring that begins its journey on the side of the mountain. Then as our knowledge increases the trickle gets stronger and faster widening to become a stream and then a river gradually flowing into the sea. For our Dojo the source has a physical representation of the metaphor in Glastonbury. Glastonbury has two major sacred springs, the Chalice well with its red tinged water due to the Iron content and the White spring with its rich calcium content.

The colours Red and White have significant symbolisation in Japan. The Gen Pei War (1180-1185) had two sides the Taira or Heike clan who used red flags and the Minemoto or Genji family who used a white flag. In Japanese folklore they believe these two rival families can be seen in the night sky still battling. They are seen on the Orion constellation as Betelgeuse a giant red dwarf star and Rigel a very bright white star. Red and White have figured prominently in Japanese motifs including of course the two colours of the national flag. Kano was drawing on a well established concept when he created the red and white block belt. This belt was originally created for sixth – eighth Dans but is now considered to be a teaching belt worn by fourth Dan and above. This is why we consider it important for teachers who wear the red/white block belt to undertake the annual pilgrimage to Glastonbury- the closest we get to a spiritual seminar. This also emphasises the importance of our “water cycle” metaphor.

Jutsu Do and Ho

Jutsu Do and Ho have different meanings that are best understood by imagining a mountain. In this context “Jutsu” explains how to climb a mountain, the technique used. “Do” is the way, the available routes leading to the mountains summit. “Ho” is the cloud above the mountain, when it rains the water forms the trickle which becomes the stream, the source of knowledge. We feel “Ho” is important in our Dojo as it is an important part of the water cycle metaphor so we have kept the rank of Shodan- Ho, Shodan being first level or step- the black belt. Shodan –Ho a provisional black belt grade before Shodan.

Key Principles

Our four key principles act as “hooks”or tools to help us climb the metaphorical mountain. They are the four bioethical principles taken from the Hippocratic oath.


-          Respect for the individual and their ability to make decisions with regard to their own future.


-          Actions that are intended to be beneficial


-actions intended to not cause harm or bring harm


-          Being fair and just to the wider community in terms of the consequences of an action



We hold on to certain traditions in the Dojo to set us apart from being just a sport such as boxing. The martial arts are a mind and body relationship which is symbolised by the physical action of tying a belt around your waist- tying mind and body together. We begin class with Za-rei- kneeling bow. This is performed towards Kamiza (seat of the gods) in the North of the Dojo- where ever possible. Za-rei is followed by two claps, another bow and then a third clap. These claps were performed traditionally to wake the Kami (gods) and ancestors and to remove Tengu (bad spirits), today these claps in NLP perspective serve as an auditory anchor to switch on into the mind-set required for training and learning.







WEB SITE BUILT BY LAURA PEIL Shihan          last updated June 2016
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