Development of Unarmed Techniques and Aiki-jujutsu
By degrees, unarmed techniques developed into different systems and styles. Varying battlefield situations and the technical requirements of feudal warfare led to the establishment of various ryu which were controlled by, and passed down through the large powerful families. One of these systems was Aiki-jujutsu. It is not completely clear when Aiki techniques began, but the Aiki system is said to have originated with Prince Teijun, the 6th son of the Emperor Seiwa (850-880 AD) and was passed on to succeeding generations of the Minamoto family. By the time the art reached Shinra Saburo Yoshimitsu, the younger brother of Yoshie Minamoto (the leader of the Minamoto clan), it seems that the foundations of modern Aikido had already been laid.
Yoshimitsu was a man of exceptional skill and learning. It is said that he devised much of his technique after watching a spider skillfully trap a large insect in its fine web. It is also reported that Yoshimitsu studied anatomy by dissecting the bodies of war dead and criminals. Yoshimitsu’s house, Daito Mansion, had given its name to his style of Aiki-jujutsu (later called Diato Ryu Aiki-jujutsu).
During the 16th century, Japan was embroiled in civil wars. Each feudal lord tried to maintain a powerful, independent position within the country. But to do so it was necessary to create a stable unified force and this called for a strong bond between the lord and his Bushi.
The “Code of the Samurai” (Bushido), in addition to encouraging the development of combat techniques, cultivating the qualities of justice, benevolence, politeness, honour and above all, loyalty to lord and cause. It was during this period of independence and isolation that combat forms developed into numerous schools or ryu.
Aiki-jujutsu and it’s Social Background
The next two and a half centuries (Tokugawa period) were relatively peaceful for Japan. The Samurai, as a class, saw little combat, though they continued to practice and refine the various martial arts of Ken-jutsu, iai-jutsu, ba-jutsu, and forms of Ju-jutsu.
Ju-jutsu is a term applied to numerous systems of combat which are not all similar in appearance or technique. The word “Ju” is a Chinese character meaning, “pliable”, “harmonious”, “adaptable” or “yielding”; “Jutsu” means technique. As a collective term applied to all fighting forms, Ju-jutsu came into existence long after the forms it describes were originated. While stressing unarmed techniques, Ju-jutsu also deals with small weapon techniques. It can, therefore, be defined as various armed or unarmed fighting systems that can be applied to armed or unarmed enemies. It is important though, to realize that combat Ju-jutsu was always a secondary system of the Bugie. Ju-jutsu’s golden age extended from the late 17th century to the mid-19th century; it is thought that a Chinese immigrant of the early 1600′s was the founder of Japanese Ju-jutsu. After the 1850′s the truly fighting style of Ju-jutsu remained in its Bugei ryu, categorized with major weapons it supported.
However, as the martial arts became strongly influenced by Buddhist concepts they were transformed from combat techniques (Bugie) into combat “ways” (Budo), inculcating self-discipline, self-perfection and philosophy. Their dimensions grew until they went beyond the simple objective of killing the enemy to encompass many elements concerned with everyday living. Particularly after the decline of the Samurai class, the martial arts became martial ways, and great value was placed upon them as a means of generating the moral strength necessary to build a strong society.
Aikido at that time was know by many names, but it still remained an exclusively Samurai practice handed down within the Takeda family until Japan emerged from isolation during the Keiji period. The Meiji Revolution (1868) not only saw the return of the Imperial supremacy, but the adoption of a westernized cultural, political, and economic way of life in Japan. The Bushi class virtually disappeared under a new constitution that proclaimed all classes equal, but the Bushido spirit, cultivated for many centuries, continued to play an important part in daily lives. The Budo, being less combative and more concerned with the spiritual discipline through which elevates himself mentally and physically, were more attractive to common people and were readily taken up by them. Accordingly, Ken-jutsu had become Kendo, Iai-jutsu – Iaido, Kyu-jutsu – Kyudo, Jo-jutsu – Jodo, and Judo, a synthetic form, adapted some of the better techniques of Ju-jutsu.