The art of Jujutsu has enjoyed resurgence in popularity over the last decade. At the end of the Meiji Era (late 1800’s) there was only a handful of jujutsu ryu in Japan. Indeed most of the martial art schools taught some form of kenjutsu. Many of the jujutsu schools also had the sword within their teachings.
Nowadays, there are literally hundreds of jujutsu “styles.” Most of these have no, or very tenuous, links to the art of jujutsu as known several decades ago in Japan. Unfortunately this has led to the “watering down”, loss, or non-teaching of numerous key principles of jujutsu. This is not to say that many of these systems are not effective, many are. However, the true historical Japanese jujutsu has a proven record of several hundred years and it is incumbent upon us to keep this art alive.
It is the belief of some jujutsu Sensei that the period from 1882 to 1951 threw a proverbial curve ball at the art of jujutsu. Early in this aforementioned period, Jigoro Kano Sensei began his school of Judo, which he intended as another school of jujutsu. This school, like many jujutsu ryu before it, combined many of the other jujutsu school’s principles and began a homogenization of many of the jujutsu ryu, ultimately leading to their demise or severe decline in esteem and recognition . The popularity of Judo as a sport accelerated this trend. Interestingly, it has been said that Professor Kano supported the sport aspect of Judo hoping that as students became too old to compete they would seek out the more traditional instruction and waza based in koryu jujutsu.
Karate was introduced to Japan and enjoyed some popularity with Japanese martial artists. In fact, there are numerous stories of karateka defeating jujutsuka at this time ostensibly proving that it was a more effective art. This may have led to further declines in the art of jujutsu.
During the Second World War, several ranking jujutsu Sensei perished and a number of the makimono (hand scrolls) were destroyed, thus the generational flow of knowledge stopped or was seriously hindered. After the war, all martial arts, including jujutsu were outlawed in Japan until 1951. This dealt another blow to jujutsu, although some still practiced the art secretly. Interestingly, at this point we now see the birth of many of the “do” arts and the loss of “jutsu” arts during this period. Martial artists of the day were quick to display and advertise their arts as vehicles of spiritual and personal development as well as a cultural, versus martial, tradition.
One of Shindo Ryu’s own forefathers, Ohtsuka Sensei, provides evidence of many of these above noted phenomena. Ohtsuka Sensei combined many of Karate’s techniques into his art of jujutsu. Some argue this fact vice versa, in that Ohtsuka incorporated jujutsu into karate. However, it cannot be denied that Ohtsuka continually named his versions of Shindo Yoshin Ryu Jujutsu combined with Karate as forms of jujutsu, for example “Sunshu Wado Jujutsu” or “Wado Kempo Jujutsu.” As well, the kata of Wado ryu have bunkai that are jujutsu. Ohtsuka Sensei is well-known to have wanted to make his art as “Japanese” as possible. Jujutsu was the indigenous martial art derived from the warrior class whereas Karate was the “import” that was derived from the peasant classes. Finally, Ohtsuka embraced the cultural and personal development aspects of the martial arts and continually used the term “wado” or way of peace.