Ancient History of Jiu Jitsu

Many fighting systems developed in Japan during its feudal era - the use of the lance, sword, staff, archery, hand-to-hand combat, and many more. Systems of unarmed combat became known as jiu jitsu (also spelled ju jitsu or jujutsu), also referred to as taijutsu and yawara.

The birth of jiu jitsu probably coincided with the origins of the Samurai class in 792 AD. The army at that time consisted of foot soldiers armed with spears. Officers were recruited from the young sons of the high families and schooled in archery, swordsmanship, and unarmed combat. The Emperor Kammu built the Butokuden (Hall of the Virtues of War) as a formal school for these officers who became known as Samurai.

Jiu jitsu techniques involved throwing, locking, striking, choking, and pinning, and the defences to these and all manner of weapons. Because these techniques were designed for combatants wearing armour, the large leaping and kicking movements found in many other arts were not used in jiu jitsu.

During the 12th century, the Emperor was overthrown and approximately 400 years of civil war followed. During this time, jiu jitsu was continually tested and refined on the battlefield. Although jiu jitsu techniques had been used for centuries, it was during the Edo period (1603 - 1868) that jiu jitsu developed into a systematic art taught by numbers of masters, with over 700 different schools at the height of its popularity.

However, in 1873, the government brought the rigid social structure to an end and prohibited the Samurai from wearing swords in public. Many Samurai resisted this legislation and although they were eventually suppressed, their resistance seriously damaged the reputation of the martial arts. This, together with sweeping social changes in Japan, led to a vast decline in the popularity of jiu jitsu, although the recent offshoots of Judo and Aikido (not associated with the Samurai, however) began to gain in popularity.

After World War II, the occupation forces prohibited the practice of the martial arts and this ban was not revoked until 1951. Many jiu jitsu practitioners left Japan at this time and began introducing their art to the western world.

Go Rin No Sho; Musashi
Kodokan Judo; Kano
The Judo Manual; Reay & Hobbs

Shorinji Kan Jiu Jitsu

The precise origins of our style are hard to determine however it can be traced to Riukiu Mura, a policeman and unarmed combat instructor at the Tokyo police academy. Since a child, he had studied jiu jitsu and judo. While in Japan, Matthew Komp, a highly graded practitioner of judo, aikido and karate, studied jiu jitsu (under Riukiu Mura's tutelage) and Shorinji Kempo. From these influences, Matthew Komp formed his style of jiu jitsu which he took to Australia in the early 1950's, where he founded a school in Footscray, near Melbourne. One of his first students was Brian Graham, who later returned to England as a black belt.

On his return to England, Graham Shihan renamed the style Shorinji Kan Jiu Jitsu and established the first Samurai Jiu Jitsu Club in Keighly, Yorkshire. Under the guidance of Graham Shihan and Peter Farrar Sensei (who himself was one of Graham Shihan's first students), the style spread rapidly in Britain. An association was formed called the National Samurai Jiu Jitsu Association, which was renamed The Jitsu Foundation in 1990 and now has over 100 clubs in Britain.

As well, a number of instructors have moved to other countries and opened clubs. The first was Cyprus in 1989, then Canada in 1993, and the U.S.A in 1994. More recently, clubs have also opened in Greece, Holland, Belgium, Australia, Germany, and Japan, placing Shorinji Kan Jiu Jitsu at an international level.