A Basic History of Jiu-Jitsu

(This document was prepared and formulated by the NLMAF National Commission Body from 1986)

There is no clear answer as to how old the principles of Jiu-Jitsu actually are, or how it actually began. It may even have started somewhere in the stone age, when some little fellow, very low in the order of his society, discovered that when he was being bullied, he could shut his fist and strike the bully hard and have some peace. There is an old saying that “necessity is the mother of invention”, and nowhere is this more true than in the martial arts. The roots of Jiu-Jitsu, while truly Japanese in concept, can trace its origins through China to India.

India has always been rich in the study of the different pathways of life, which have led to the foundations of a myriad of religions. But religious beliefs have never been far removed from the ways of war and consequently the martial ways of defeating enemies. From old books and reference works, we can see that there were many hundreds of schools of thought on the subject of war, and ways of waging war. Also there are many hundreds of martial arts systems, training schools and means of teaching armed and unarmed combat. What we have today are a multitude of legacies from many schools from the ancient past.

The main Indian martial way is, and was then, Kalari, which is one of the oldest “martial arts way” still surviving. Kalari teaches a complex system of techniques using two short sticks. It also teaches the use of the sword, steel whip (flexible sword), staff, archery, spear, chain and rope. In addition, it incorporates many short kicking and punching/hand strikes.

There is some belief that some martial arts can trace their ancestry back to an Indian warrior priest/monk (Bushi) named Bhoddhidaruma, or Daruma in Japanese. This monk had studied deeply in Kalari, and in his travels he also had the opportunity to study the methods of grappling in Tibet and parts of China. In approximately 600 A.D., he traveled from India to China, where he also began to study the more complex philosophies of the Chinese people. These philosophies he combined with his already established beliefs to form a new, different school of thought in Zen-Buddhism.

Zen-Buddhism, as near as can be assessed by the authors, translates roughly as follows; “Enlightenment is the ability to see ones self in life as it really is, devoid of sentimentalism, hypocrisy and the delegation of responsibility to any but ones self.”

Enlightenment comes from deep study, both of the human condition and all life associated with it.

Bhoddhidaruma settled for a short time in a place called Shaolin (little forest) in China, where he is purported to have meditated, “listening to the ants scream”, as he allegedly said.

It is reckoned he spent nine years in this place, and is reported to have spent so long in the same position that his shadow is still visible on the wall of his cell. Apart from the mental studies, his studies of the physical were equally amazing.

Having already studied the martial arts in depth in India, and having studied the more personal methods of single combat, wrestling and grappling systems prevalent at that time in Shaolin, he began to combine the two systems, forming a new, unheard of, form of combat – incorporating selected forms from the Indian Kalari, Tibetan and Chinese grappling systems, and the mental disciplines of the emerging Zen-Buddhism.

Such was the power of this new form of combat, which he called Shaolinssu (little forest boxing), that all practitioners were taught that it was too dangerous to teach to any but a Zen-Buddhist.
The same principles are taught today in the more modern art of Shorinji-Kempo (founded approx. 1900), a Japanese interpretation of many old and modern systems.

Now we must return to 680 A.D. – Over a period of approximately 10 years, Bhoddhidaruma’s students began to travel, moving away from their home-base in Shaolin. A great new monastery was opened in a place called Shorinji, and here Bhoddhidaruma’s new system was further refined.

For the first time he taught people who were not monks enclosed in the disciplines of the monasteries and Zen-Buddhism. However, the stipulation remained that the art was only to be taught to Zen-Buddhists. In their travels the students began, naturally enough, to teach what they knew to selective groupings. As a result “new” martial arts began to blossom all over China.

This was the development of the martial arts structure in China, which now takes us to Japan.

The teachings of Bhoddhidaruma came into Japan proper, through Korea, between 1165 and 1185 approximately.

The Government in Japan at that time was the Kamakura Shogunate, a military dictatorship, with its headquarters in Kamakura, a sea coast city southwest of present-day Tokyo. They called their government the Bakufu, or tent government, as the Shogun believed that living in palaces had made previous governments too comfortable and as a result, forget what it meant to be true warriors. This Shogunate (Shogun: great general who subdues the barbarians) lasted from 1185 A.D. to 1335 A.D., and was the flowering of the Samurai ethic. (Samurai: from Samurao, to guard, lit. servant guard.)

The Kamakura Shogunate represented a whole new political structure for Japan. This was a veritable phenomenon, which lead to a government organization created for and totally dominated by members of the Samurai/Warrior class.

From the earliest periods of history up to this point, both civil and military power had been wielded personally by the Emperor, assisted by an elaborate Central and Provincial bureaucracy, based on similar administrative systems in China.

The rising of the Samurai to this peak of power had strange roots.
At the end of the 8th century, the Emperor bestowed the title of Seii-Taishogun (great general who subdues the barbarians) on a court official and promptly sent him off to Oshu Province to conquer the hairy barbarians (the Ainu) in the north. The title, subsequently abbreviated to Shogun, was to figure greatly in later Japanese history, when the title designated the military ruler of the nation. But in the 8th century there was no distinct warrior class, although there were many warrior guilds.

During the long years of the Heian period (745-1185 A.D.) when the capital was located at Kyoto, the situation began to change. The court aristocrats, who headed the Chinese style government, began to pay more and more attention to artistic and cultural pursuits, at times going so far as to discourage the learning of any aspects of the martial arts.

They began to neglect their governmental and administrative duties, particularly in the provinces. As a result, with the lack of a military to protect them, there began to emerge a new class of farmer/warrior, commonly referred to as Samurao, or guard.

To avoid tax on their land from a government which otherwise ignored them, the Samurao began to nominally entrust their lands to some powerful Daimyo or Lord, or to a local Buddhist monastery. But, in effect, they constituted private holdings, protected by the Samurao whose name began to change to Samurai: servant warrior.

To strengthen their position, the Samurai began to group together, and then placed themselves in service to one or other of the great clans, or houses. Soon they came to represent a new class of professional warrior, leaving the actual working of the lands to carefully selected stewards who represented the new middle class.

This left the Samurai free to concentrate on the development of the military arts and the ideals of fortitude that go with them.
Foremost among the weapons, which were the instruments of these ideals were the bow (Kyujutsu), the sword (Kenjitsu), Bo and So (spear and staff), and a new system of grappling, learned from mercenary Chinese soldiers, which was adopted, and then adapted by the Japanese and called Hakuda. This point takes us on, once again to 1196, to the Kamakura Shogunate.

Over the years, the Samurai class has had a certain mystique built around them, which makes it appear that they were very much like King Arthur’s Knights of the Round Table in England. They were tough, honourable fighting men, merciful and very chivalrous in their warrior code.

In fact this may have been far from the truth. The Samurai code of honour was Bushido (the way of the warrior) and was built around the Shinto religion, rather than Zen philosophy.
Due to their culture and the age they lived in, they were little more than highly paid mercenaries. The reason that so much detail is given on the Samurai is that, while the Samurai may not have developed Jiu-Jitsu themselves, they were largely responsible for its development.

The first mention of Ju-Jutsu (Ju-Jitsu / Jiu-Jitsu) was a reference from the history of Edo, dated 1196 A.D.. The reference states: “On this day, the birthday of our Lord of Kamakura, two Ken (senior Samurai) demonstrated an advancement in unarmed grappling/combat. They call this method Ju-Jutsu. As the demonstration progressed, it was evident that the Lord of Kamakura was very impressed by this new military innovation.

For, while we have seen the traditional methods of Hakuda, this new form consisteed of many new strange movements, which included twisting, turning and locking of joints, as well as many strikes with the open hands and the feet, and grips with the fingers that caused obvious pain.

At the end of the demonstration, the Lord of Kamakura called the Samurai and engaged them to teach in his house. Their names were Chojun Yoshinsei from Kyoto, and Genji Suzuki from Nagasaki.

Hakuda was the fore-runner of Kumi-Uchi (grappling), and, as the systems developed, the Samurai found that a certain number of selected techniques could be used while wearing armour (Kumi-Uchi Yoroi/Yoroi denoting the style of the armour).

It should be noted that Japanese armour was totally different from European armour. European armour was made from shaped plates of iron or steel, whereas Japanese armour had a lot less refined material to work with. They used native materials, sparing the use of iron and steel.

They made their armour from light materials, such as leather underbase overlaid with laminated strips of bamboo. At a later stage of development, the used steel plate overlay. The whole affair was held together by a complex arrangement of lacing. The exposed laces were spot welded drops of molten lead or tin over wax. They made suits of armour works of art.

The Martial Arts are forever changing, this was as true then as it is today. As time passed, Kumi-Uchi Yoroi was adapted and altered to meet changing circumstances. The system split into two factions, separate schools of thought. First, there was the Naga-Te, which was adapted and absorbed by the “Tong of Amida Buddha,” an outlawed society of assassins and mercenaries. This society was, in turn, swallowed up by the Fascho-Da, another fanatical outlawed society. From there it was taken in hand and redirected by the then rising Ninjutsu-Kai, yet another assassin society.

In contrast to today, where so-called “Ninja” are apparent throughout martial art systems, in truth the mark of a good Ninja was not how well known he was, but, how little known.

The Ninja, as a whole, were thieves, assassins and political agitators. Quite in contrast to the press they receive today, there were people with little honour and no scruples, considering these virtues to be a sign of weakness.

It was not unknown for Ninja to accept a cross commission, to kill the two people who hired them. The price of hiring a Ninja to fulfil just one commission could cost a Daimyo the a year’s income from his estates, the price being measured in Koku or rice.

The second school of thought was the Shuri-Te. This was made up of the older schools of Ju-Jutsu and some of the forerunners of modern Karate.

The main differences between the two schools of thought were that, while the Ninjutsu schools believed that every action should show a profit and used the methods of stealth and murder (incorporating dark and silent ways of throat slitting, poisoning and back-stabbing while always avoiding the possibility of direct confrontation. This is a far cry from the ‘superman’ depicted on the film screens), the Shuri-Te favoured suggestion instead of force, using bold, direct and forceful methods in the initial action, followed by psychological methods. These methods varied from system to system.

When the divergence from the established systems occurred, the Shuri-Te continued with traditional values, adjusting their systems only as it became absolutely necessary, while retaining all the old ways.

Then in 1330 A.D., the Kamakura Shogunate issued the first Kinbu Seisaku (a royal edict forbidding the bearing of arms by any, save the Samurai). This edict was the result of the actions by the Emperor Godaigo, who had made several attempts to overthrow the Shogun, Hojo.

The Emperor Godaigo finally toppled Hojo in 1333 with the assistance of two main Houses, the Taira and the Minamoto. This was no small achievement. Uniting the two main clans for any purpose was going to be difficult as they were always at war with one another. This ended Hojo rule, however, Samurai code of ethics reigned supreme until 1887, when Western influences began to change the political structure and methods of Japan.

This edict led to changes in the Shuri-Te systems of combat. As any recognizable weapon was forbidden to a commoner,the peasantry had to find a way to develop new weapons and methods in order to defend themselves against both Ronin (masterless Samurai) and bandits. The result of this new development gave rise to various ingenious “new” weapons. The Sai became the ideal weapon to use against the sword. The sai was an implement used for stretching harness. The Bo, or six foot staff, became the next most effective weapon to the sword. The bo was used as a walking aid.

Separate martial arts were also developed from the walking stick (4ft. staff). The So (short fishing spear), Su-Jari (toothed fishing spear), Nawa (the rope), the Gama (chain) replaced the steel whips of India, and Naihu-Do (the Way of the Knife). You cannot ban the use of the knife, as it is the most commonly used tool by Man.

More importantly, as far as Jiu-Jitsu was concerned, the Kinbu-Seisaku had a devastating affect on the unarmed systems.The unarmed peasant now had to learn to deal with and fight against armed and unarmed attackers. The peasantry had to depend on wandering Bushi (warrior monks) to teach them the basic essentials to build upon for this purpose. Sometimes, they would be fortunate enough to meet a Samurai warrior, who would teach them a number of tricks. For this to happen, the Samurai had to be very poor indeed.

The Bushi had developed their own systems from the “true” ways. The Samurai systems differed from House to House, but there were obvoius similarities in these systems.

It only took a short time before the Shogun realised he had made a very serious error of judgement. Far from turning Japan into a nation of unarmed sheep, the edict had forced some amazing results, as it turned every man or woman who owned a rake (kami), an axe (maskari), or even a simple length of rope, into a warrior who could match, and often defeat, his best Samurai.

Therefore, in 1332, he revoked the edict of the Kinbu-Seisaku. However, matters had now changed and the martial arts were now, for better or worse, in the hands of the peasantry.

New systems continued to develop. Some of the writings from that period mention the founding of the following schools of the new Ju-Jutsu. (Jiu-Jitsu is a western variation of Ju-Jutsu, affect of pronunciation): 1421; Sochin-Kai. 1421; Go-Kan. 1576 Keikyo-Ryu. 1585; Yoshin-Ryu. 1595; Kito-Ryu. 1598; Hakko-ryu.

Ju-Jutsu is given Chinese origins, as anything with a Chinese pedigree was considered learned and scientific. There is some evidence to suggest that Ju-Jutsu was practiced first as Hakuda, then Kumi-Uchi-Yoroi and then as Ju-Jutsu.

Ju-Jutsu evolved in a strife torn Japan, policed by Samurai, who needed to restrain or incapacitate rather than kill. Though they often did kill following an insult.

A more definite version is that the founding of Yoshin-Ryu in 1585. Having studied the modern (at that time) systems of Jumi-Uchi-Yoroi, and the earlier systems of Hakuda, Akiyama, a physician from Nagasaki was caught in the mountains during a blizzard, and discovered the principle of Ju (yielding) while watching the reaction of trees bending in the wind.

The solid trees like the Oak and the Pine stood erect and were often snapped by the weight of snow and the ferocity of the wind. He noticed that the Willow and the Aspen bent before the wind and when they became laden down with snow, they bent to the ground shedding the weight and sprang erect again, undamaged.

From this was born the concept of Ju, “not responding to violence with violence”. The opposite of the dominant “Ken” principle at that time, which is to counter violence with a greater violence.

Many of the histories of Jiu-Jitsu agree on this occurrence as the origin of the term Ju-Jutsu (yielding science), despite the discrepancy in the dates. The principle was adopted with alacrity by the other systems and within a very short period of time, other systems began to appear.

Hakko-Ryu was “adjusted” using the older system of Hakuda, turned to the “new” principles and did very well up to the present day. Shortly after came the Kito-Ryu system and later still came Tenjin-Shin yo-Ryu, a branch of Yoshin-Ryu.

As Ju-Jutsu developed and more and more people became proficient in its use, the Zen philosophy, rather than “pure” Buddhism or Shinto became more prevalent and largely remains so today. Although in the modern world the philosophical attitudes and religious beliefs appear to be regarded as less important.

One of the main reasons Samurai found for adopting the Zen philosophy rather than any other, was the annual tournaments (Basho) held by Royal Decree each year. These tournaments were a far cry from the tournaments of today. The rules were almost non-existent, and the combat continued until one or other of the contestants was either killed or maimed.

The Buddhist ethic forbade the taking of life, as all life is considered sacred. The Zen ethic was not so strict. The tournaments were very important, in that the winners were automatically inducted into the Palace Guard – politically a very desirable position for a member of a Samurai family.

A Samurai was expected to be proficient in all weapons, but the primary weapon was not, surprizingly, the sword. It was the bow. Archery being the foremost of samurai abilities. They were also expected to be proficient in the use of the box (kyujutsu), the sword (kenjutsu), the way of the knife (Naihu-Do), 6ft. staff (Bojutsu), swimming in armour (Batjutsu), horse riding and Zen philosophy and poetry.

Up until the 15th and early 16th centuries, kicking techniques in Ju-Jutsu had remained basically the same. Whereas the Chinese art of Shaolinssu, founded by Bhoddhidaruma, had developed very spectacular, effective and efficient kicking techniques.

The techniques were far superior to anything on the Japanese mainland (Korean martial systems developed independently of Japan and China). So it was only natural that a Ju-Jutsu exponent would sooner or later learn to adapt them, then introduce them into the system.

These new techniques were first seen in Japan in a tournament in 1680 “when one Hideyoshi Miyari, in fighting the previous years champion, Takei Suyori, proceeded with many strange and wonderful kicks to beat Suyori Takei to death”.

This, in turn, led to many more advances being made in Ju-Jutsu technique, including the development of Atemi-waza (vital point techniques) developed from Shiatsu. Tsuppari, developed from the slapping techniques from Sumo wrestling, and Ate-waza (hard hand slaps) from Chinese Kempo/Shaolinssu.

From its origins as an effective combat system, Jiu-Jitsu has differed from all other martial arts. As Jiu-Jitsu was not, strictly speaking, a military art, it is not taught using the military regimented methods of say, Karate, where all students are required to do the techniques exactly the same, regardless of each person’s individual physical capabilities.

Jiu-Jitsu is taught today as it has always been taught, as a series of “tricks” of defence/offence. A student, depending on grade, is given up to five “tricks” at a time to practice. All “tricks” are initially learned by rote and then the student is encouraged to use their initiative, adapting the basic technique to their own physical capabilities, while not losing sight of the basic technique and its relevance.

All these defences consist of breaks on balance, throws and strikes with hands and feet, strikes with open hands, elbows, wrists, fingers, hips, knees, ankle spurs, head. Also finger locks, joint locks/holds, head/neck locks, and nerve or vital point strikes.

The next series of major changes in Jiu-Jitsu occurred in the late 17th century and the reason for the first of these changes was the arrival from Portugal of the matchlock rifle, or Ho. The most major effect of this weapon was, strangely enough, on the unarmed systems – the hand to hand systems like Jiu-Jitsu.

The advent of the gun meant that hand to hand combat would be far more limited than before and was much more savage. The role of the traditional weaponry systems had to change completely (the sword/spear/naginata/knife).

However, the role of Ju-Jutsu was assured as the primary method of unarmed combat, as it was taught to an emerging civilian police force who needed to restrain, but would find it necessary to kill as well, should the situation warrant it. Jiu-Jutsu suited this role perfectly.

The reason for the next big change was the arrival in the late 19th century of Admiral Perry, the first American Ambassador, who, having been kept waiting in Yokohama Bay, in true old fashioned Japanese political fashion, for six months, finally lost his temper. In a fit of righteous anger, he stuck a cannon between Japan’s eyes and said “either awake and join us in the modern world, or we will blow you to the other side of the Pacific Ocean”. (In point of fact, he lost his temper and fired one cannon in annoyance to attract the attention of the Japanese envoy on shore, but the Japanese thought they were firing in earnest). The point was well taken and the awakening was, to say the least, sudden and dramatic.

Seven hundred years of Western development had to be crammed into decades. It only took four decades before Japan proved herself worthy to join the International Mugging Society by slapping first China and ten years later, Russia, into a state of political stupor in 1894 and 1904 respectively.

However, back to Jiu-Jitsu, we will go back to 1873 when a Royal edict ended the Samurai charter of rights, the right to wear a sword in public, the right to a state pension, the right to strike dead for “disrespect” and the right to immunity from prosecution for debt and from the process of common law.

This, naturally enough, resulted in a growing discontent among the Samurai and in 1874 they split into two factions. One group joined the newly established force so that they could continue to wear their beloved swords, which was still considered to be the soul of the warrior.

The other group also united and formed Machi dojo, or free gyms and continued to protest, both verbally and physically, about unfairness of the Royal edict until 1877. This is the year, which came to be known as the Satsuma rebellion took place. The rebellion flared from a protest march in Nara.

The final knell sounded for the Samurai that same year when an army of the new militia met and defeated the Samurai, who had a vastly superior force, in a final battle. (The militia was mainly composed of the sons of peasants, merchants and farmers.)

All this directly affected Jiu-Jitsu, as it was now cast out on its own as an independent entity, rather than as an addition to other art forms. After the Satsuma rebellion all the martial arts went into decline. Initially, one of the causes of the decline of Jiu-Jitsu was the anxiety of the Japanese to impress the Westerners, both culturally and economically.

Jiu-Jitsu was considered too hard for the Western mentality. Therefore it would have to be softened if it were to attract the “new” Japanese and the Westerners.

So it was at this time that a young man named Jigoro Kano took up Jiu-Jitsu to help build up his body, which was pitifully wasted due to a very sickly and delicate childhood. Jigoro Kano studied didigently in his chosen art from of Tenjin-Shin-Yo-Ryu system of Jiu-Jitsu, which was an off-shoot of the Yoshin-Ryu system. His instructors were Fukuda and Iso Sensei and they taught in the Koma Sho Central Martial Arts College in Kyoto. This college was superceded in 1885 by the Butoku Kai. After the death of Fukuda Sensei in 1882, he continued his studies for a time under Iso Sensei and finished his training in the Kuto ryu system under Ikubo Sensei.

In 1892, the now Doctor Kano began to clarify his knowledge of Jiu-Jitsu and the related arts to the point at which he considered he was ready to demonstrate to the public.To this end he acquired a small room at Eishojii Temple and founded the Kodokan for the study of Judo and Kano Jiu-Jitsu.

In the early stages, there was very little difference between Jiu-Jitsu and the sport of Judo today. On the mechanical level, Judo and Jiu-Jitsu do resemble one another.

With the vast range of hand/fist/foot/elbow and knee strikes, plus a massive repartoire of throws, locks, chokes and strangles, Jiu-Jitsu combat had to be very tightly controlled. Even so, in consequence, the sparring, whether in competition or otherwise, invariably ended with a death or a serious injury.

Up to this point, no system had reduced its form to the level of Kano Judo (Jiu-Jitsu, still) and Dr. Kano continued to refine his new system, reducing it further to provide for the possibility of competition, removing the more dangerous throws, reducing the severity of some of the locks, removing some of the locks altogether, restricting the use of the restraining locks and restricting the groundwork and in the process he created a new SPORT, not a new martial art.

During the development of Judo, Dr. Kano took great pains to remove any part or element which he considered excessively dangerous, however, other Masters disagreed and preferred to retain many of the old ways in their systems. They called their system Combat Judo, and operated loosely under the cover of the Jutokukai.

In 1896, after the founding of the Kodokan, which was then and still remains today, the Headquarters of Judo in the world, there was a lot of bad feeling about between the Machi Dojo and the Kodokan, as the Kodokan considered itself superior to all methods which lacked its own characteristics.

There were insults bandied about, and finally a group from the Machi Dojo broke into the Kodokan and vandalised it to provoke a response. The response was in the form of a number of challenge matches. At these matches Kano Judo was always represented by one Sakujiro Yokoyama, the foremost Judo/Jiu-Jitsu exponent of his day, as he always won. Not very surprising, as he was also a master of the Aiki aspect of Jiu-Jitsu as well.

Jiu-Jitsu remained a very silent art, that is, no one talked about it much, but anybody who was anybody in martial arts knew about it. A demonstration was arranged of the Tenjin-Shin-Yo-ryu system and the Yoshin-Ryu system, using the top Jiu-Jitsu exponents of the day. The actual demonstration was shredded by the press.

One noted reporter from the London Times, wrote “This so-called devastating art could be very easily put in its place. If any of these so-called “fighters” were to be pitted against even a third rate wrestler from Devon, it could very easily be shown how the wrong person could be thrown”.
And so the match was arranged, the English were represented by one of the top wrestlers from Yorkshire, and the Japan Society represented by Hironori Ikubo and Jiu-Jitsu was demonstrated to be a very devastating art, indeed, the wrong person not being thrown.

In 1913, the American armed forces tested and approved Combat Judo for use by their troops. The British followed suit shortly after. Teddy Roosevelt, the American President, was a Jiu-Jitsu exponent and was one of the reasons why the Americans developed their own “style” of Jiu-Jitsu:- Juko-Ryu.

In 1920 a Japanese named Gungi Koizumi founded the Budokwai in London and brought over a leading Jiu-Jitsu exponent, Yukio Tani to teach. He was a very gentle man who became very much respected by the martial arts community as a whole and he continued to teach in the Budokwai until his death in 1951

Subjects taught in the Budokwai were: Judo, Kyudo, Jiu-Jitsu (Yoshin-Ryu), Hakko-Ryu, Tenjin-Shin-Yo-Ryu and Yagyu-Ryu, as well as Kendo and Zen philosophy. Today, the subjects also include four styles of Karate, Tae-Kwon-do and Tai-Chi-Chuan.

From the beginning, the Japanese have maintained that a martial art with Japanese origins, should automatically be run by the Japanese. They consider themselves to be the only true authorities on the art, with particular reference to Karate, Judo, Aikido and Jiu-Jitsu.

Common sense would dictate that the Japanese lost control of the martial arts when the first “gaijin” with a knowledge of Jiu-Jitsu stepped off the ship in Portugal in the mid 15th century.

However, there are schools of Jiu-Jitsu which teach very much in the old ways and, as such, it is taught to Europeans with less stress on the Zen philosophy, but much more emphasis on self control and self discipline as the Zen teachings appear to conflict with Western attitudes.

It is an ideal art form for use by the military, as it is used by the S.A.S., who learn Jiu-Jitsu with Bong-Soo-Do and Karate; G.S.G. 9, the anti-terrorist unit in Germany, who learn Jiu-Jitsu with Nin-Jutsu; the British Commandos who were the first military to accept Jiu-Jitsu instruction; the Green Berets in America who have also developed their own system of unarmed combat; Tokyo police who use Jiu-Jitsu and the Hong Kong police have Jiu-Jitsu techniques alongside many forms of Kung-Fu; the San Francisco police who were the first to adopt a Jiu-Jitsu weapon, the Ton-Fa or “night stick” (the word is Chinese, the weapon is not), and quite recently there have been many discussions on the adoption of the use of the Yubi-Bo or finger staff by some police forces.

As a self-defence system, it is second to none.


There are some aspects of this history which cannot be 100% proven. In any event, they are taken into account in this basic introduction to the History and Philosophy of the Martial Arts in general.

The first doubt refers to Kalari, which came from the Scarlet Book of Edo Province, the diary of Sun Tzu Tzusa, secretary to the Royal court, 629 to 692 A.D.
The second reference is to the origin of the kicking techniques, this was taken from two letters from Hideoshi Miyari to a friend in Sinkiang, Ite Kanawa, and an old book, The Matchless Warrior by Tadaki Kemura.

Books and Reference Materials

Jui-Jitsu Manual for Beginners by Jean Du Bellosar

Modern Jui-Jitsu by Eric Dominy

Jiu-Jitsu Today by R.B. Kirk

Ancient Oriental Grappling by G. Hayashi

On Life and Death by Funakoshi Gichin

Go Rin No Sho by M. Mushashi

Unarmed Combat the Oriental Way by Lt. Col. J.B. Harbison

Basic Jiu-Jitsu by W.Jay

The Philosophical Outline of Jiu Jitsu

To understand the philosophical principles, it is necessary to look at the religious state of Japan from, the 6th century A.D.

Tradition states that in the mid 6th century, Buddhism was introduced into Japan from Korea. At first, it met stiff competition from the more strongly established Shinto faith, in time however, it became quite fashionable among the upper classes and soon the government was taking an active role in encouraging the “new” faith, and even built a temple to the Buddha Vairochana in 749 A.D.

However, Buddhism itself was changing in much the same way as the martial arts.

In 835 A.D., a new school of thought was introduced into Buddhism called the Shingon school, which encouraged the use of song and dance. This was considered an ideal situation for the Samurai who adopted it with alacrity.

Then Zen Buddhism was introduced into Japan in approximately 1220 A.D. and this form of Buddhism, more than anything else was to lay the philosophical guidelines for the various systems of Ju-Jutsu.

Akarui-No-Chishiki Kan Jiu-Jitsu
Basic Philosophy

Founder John D. Lupton 10th Dan Jiu-Jitsu.

“Knowledge is not determined by Physical Ability”
Ernest Lieb
10th Dan Black Belt

A great friend of Hanshi Lupton and Jiu-Jitsu Ireland

Ernest Lieb was a great friend with great vision, strength and principle. He devoted his life to karate, and to growing and fostering the sport as more than a competition, but as a way of living life to its fullest. Ernie was a brother, husband, father and friend, but most of all, he was a teacher, who changed so many lives through his unquestioned example.

Ernie’s incredible story began on a steel-grey day in 1940, in the war-torn city of Berlin, Germany, which was spreading its occupation throughout Europe. On April 14, 1940, just days after Germany’s invasion of Denmark and Norway, Ernest and Hilda Lieb found reason to celebrate in those uncertain times, with the birth of a baby boy, a son they named Ernest.

Ernie’s father was a painter by trade, who worked as a policeman during the war, while his homemaker mother also joined the workforce as a hat maker and cook. The Liebs had a long history in the country, as their ancestors were feared land barons in the 16th Century. As a child, Ernie found time for sports, soccer and swimming like most children, not yet fully aware of the hardships around him.

After the war ended and the bomb-ravaged Berlin was occupied by Allied forces, his father was sent to a Siberian prison. Ernie’s older brother Herbert became the man of the house, and risked his life to steal food for his family. Eventually, Ernie’s father escaped with several others from Siberia, and travelled all the way across Russia to re-unite with his family.

Seeking a better life, the family emigrated to the United States in 1952. They eventually settled in the Muskegon, Michigan in 1956. The previous year, Ernie began his lifelong love of martial arts, when he started learning Judo and Karate.

Ernie attended Muskegon High School, where amongst other activities, he served as the Big Red Indian mascot, and loved to go bowling with friends. In 1959, Ernie graduated from Muskegon High School. He also became a U.S. Citizen, a proud moment for Ernie, who possessed a great love for his adopted home.

In 1961, Ernie enlisted in the U.S. Air Force, and attained the rank of Airman First Class in his four years in the service. By then he was a 3rd Dan in karate, with a natural, special gift for the discipline, and indeed, was soon considered one of the best in the world of Karate. In 1963, he was chosen as team captain for the U.S. Air Force competition teams, and from 1963-64 he trained advisers to the U.S. Armed Forces for those going to Vietnam. The advisers represented the Special Forces, Rangers, and Navy Seals, and Ernie trained these “best of the best” in hand-to-hand combat, self-defence and methods of interrogation. In 1964 he also became the U.S. Air Force Lightweight Karate Champion, and became the first American to win the Korean International Tai-Soo Do Championships, just one of the many impressive accolades he earned in his chosen martial art.

When his service ended in 1964, he returned to Muskegon. He opened his first karate club, where he founded the American Karate System, which would receive wide international recognition. He also joined the Michigan National Guard the following year, where he became a training officer for the academy. He taught Karate and expert sniper techniques. He served until 1969. Ernie also served in the Guard from 1975-79, where he was became the Top Sergeant for the State of Michigan.

In 1969, Ernie also earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology and Sociology from Grand Valley State College. Always anxious to learn more, Ernie earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1979, in physical education and a diploma in German from Grand Valley.

He became a Psychologist and family counsellor. But the job became too difficult for him, because he used to become emotionally involved. Ernie also worked as a guard in the prison system, and for several years he owned a medical supply company serving West Michigan. He also continued to teach Karate, during which time he promoted more than 380 people to the rank of Black Belt.

Karate was more than a career to Ernie, it was a way of life. He became one of the luminaries of the sport, and he befriended fellow legends Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris. He won more than 127 trophies and 43 awards. He was named 1973 Martial Artist of the Year by the Black Belt Hall of Fame and Man of the Year by Black Belt Magazine, and was recognized as the head of American Karate in 1978 in “Who’s Who.” He also coached the Muskegon Community College Karate team for 12 years, from 1970-82, leading undefeated teams for 11 of those seasons!

But there was so much more to this great man. Ernie was deeply affected by the death of his brother Herbert from lung cancer. This was a sad, life-changing event for him. He idolized Herbert as his hero and from that day forward he devoted his life to becoming a more loving and caring person. Ernie dedicated his life to helping other people. Indeed, Ernie’s great strength was his love for people and life.

He loved animals of all kinds, from his pit bulls to his magnificent Arabian horses, and had a special bond with a stallion named Bay Rafeeq. He also loved cats, which included his beloved Molly and Bubba.

Ernie loved cars, and during his working years he bought a new car every year. Sadly, in 1998, following his second car accident, he needed a lot of surgery to his back, neck and pancreas. Consequently, he was no longer able to participate in active training in Karate. So he turned Club operation over to Dave Thomas. Teaching was his passion and was able to continue with this aspect.

Ernie also found a special love in a beautiful woman named Jennifer Berlit, who enriched his life so much. The two met in Germany, while he was teaching at a Karate seminar in the city of Holzminden in 2002. She was too scared to talk to Ernie, who was such an important figure, so her instructor introduced them. Ernie invited the very nervous Jennifer to a party later that evening, and when they sat in the car that night, he held her hand, so cold from nervousness, and gently calmed her down. It was a special moment, and a magical evening for both of them, one Ernie would gladly recount to all who asked. They began talking on the phone daily, still connected even when separated overseas, and Ernie visited her every year at his annual seminars in Germany. The two became engaged in November of 2004, and were married on June 21, 2006, in Roosevelt Park, Michigan.

Tragically, Ernie died in Lathen, Germany on Friday, September 22, 2006, in a freak train accident. He was a truly amazing man, who led an amazing life. A life full of great accomplishments. Ernie was blessed with much in his life. He earned accolades by staying true to himself and what he believed in. As he once wrote, “If we stand by the true principles of life, then life will stand by us and allow us to enjoy it to the fullest.” Ernie always stood by his principles, and enjoyed his life to the fullest. Most of all, he taught us to do the same. He is greatly missed.

Mr. Ernie Lieb, age 66, founder of the American Karate System, died unexpectedly in a maglev train accident in Lathen, Germany on Friday, September 22, 2006. SURVIVORS: wife, Jennifer; 1 sister, and his children.


1961-1964 – United States Air Force – rank of Airman First Class

1965-1969 – Michigan National Guard – Second Lieutenant

1965-1967 – Training Officer for the Academy

1975-1979 – reentered the National Guard as a Staff Sergeant and retired as a Master Sergeant and chosen as the Top Sergeant for the State of Michigan

Martial Arts

1955 started in Judo and Karate

1958 certified as a 1st Dan in Karate in USA

1960 certified as a 2nd Dan in Karate in USA

1963 certified as a 3rd Dan in Karate in USA

1963 was chosen as team captain for the U.S. Air Force competition teams

1963-1964 In Kunsan, Korea, trained advisors to the U.S. Armed Forces for those going to Vietnam. The advisors represented the Special Forces, Rangers, and Navy Seals. Subjects included hand-to-hand combat, self-defense and methods if interrogation

1964 certified as a 1st Dan in Judo and Aikido in Korea

1964 U.S. Air Force Lt. Wt. Karate Champion

1964 became the first American to win the Korean International Tae Soo Do Championships

1964 opened his first karate club in Muskegon, Michigan

1965-1973 won over 127 trophies in competitions and 43 awards as the best referee, judge, and martial arts practitioner

1965 first instructor to teach karate for the Adult Education program

1969 National USA Lightweight Champion

1969 first karate instructor to be approved as an accredited college program in the State of Michigan

1970-1982 Head Karate Instructor at Muskegon Community College for 12 years.

as coach of the Muskegon Community College Karate Team, he lead an undefeated college karate team during 11 seasons

1973 Martial Artist Man of the Year for Black Belt Magazine’s Hall of Fame – the highest award bestowed by the magazine by tabulation of all votes sent to the magazine by fellow Martial Artists across the nation

1973 Martial Artist of the Year from Black Belt Hall of Fame

1973 first AAU Karate Chairman

1978 became recognized as head of American Karate in “Who’s Who”

1979 earned Master ranking in the martial arts from the American Karate Association

1983-1985 was trained and upgraded in Aikido programs held at the Michigan State Police Academy in Lansing, Michigan. He trained correctional officers at the Muskegon, Michigan Correctional Facility.

Credits for the slider images used can be found here.