Does anyone know of any good references covering the history of Jujitsu?

I've been studying Judo, Jujitsu (Japanese), and BJJ, and everyone I ask has a different version of the history of these arts. The internet doesn't help much either, so if anyone knows of a book that might be useful, that would be great.

I don't expect there to be a single definative version of this history, but I'd love to know more about it.

Seems to me there's a lot of cross fertilisation between Judo, Pre-Judo Jujitsu, Post-Judo Jujitsu, Aikido, and BJJ.

  • 2
    I think a better question is why doesn't a single definitive historical resource exist. Your question leans too much on polling for various answers which doesn't fit the Q&A model of Stack Exchange.
    – Matt Chan
    May 15, 2012 at 13:31
  • Good point. Seems I need to rethink my question a bit :) But I suspect the answer to "why isn't there a definative history?" is that each school tends to tell their own biased version. They are all true enough in their own right, but I've found that big picture objectivity is a rare thing.
    – nedlud
    May 17, 2012 at 21:56

2 Answers 2


Jujutsu means soft techniques, aka techniques done without a sword. Those were definitely not soft on people. It is an all encompassing term for Japanese martial arts. As such, your questions is What is a good reference covering the history of martial arts in Japan.

Stephen Turnbull is a good source to start of with. Otherwise, you likely are going to have to go through historical sources on different families' styles.


The basics are: First there was jui jitsu (or ju jutsu, or a billion other ways of englishizing the Japanese name for it). then Kano took it and made it more gentle and sport like, taking out most of the strikes and such. Then Maeda took judo to Brazil, and it was turned into Brazilian jiu jitsu or bjj. which, in North America, is quickly being simplified to being just called jiu jitsu.

as far as books that tell the history and how they evolved form each other, I doubt one really exists that tells the whole story. Like Sardathrion mentioned, you'll likely need to read several sources about the individual arts to get the entire story.

Here is the wikipedia page about Maeda: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mitsuyo_Maeda
It's actually got a fairly accurate (as far as i know) summary of it all.

  • 2
    Just to clarify a point. Aikido, derived from Daito-ryu Aiki-jutsu, does not have roots in judo although Shodokan Aikido has some inspiration from judo training methods. Yet, Aikido comes from ju-jutsu roots thus not all ju-jutsu evolved into judo. May 15, 2012 at 15:48
  • 1
    good point @Sardathrion I didn't mean to imply that Aikido was part of this transition. I don't know a lot about aikido.
    – Patricia
    May 15, 2012 at 16:04
  • 1
    No problems, I did not think you were even implying it. Just a small clarification really, nothing more. Your answer is a good. May 16, 2012 at 6:43

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.