Early Development of the Martial Arts (Bugei) 1000AD

As the feudal era advanced, the Samurai came to occupy the uppermost strata of Japanese society. Their principal duty was to learn and practice many martial arts, the skills necessary to fulfil their allegiance to the feudal lord for whom they were expected to fight and die.

There were numerous martial arts which the Bushi were required to learn: Kenjutsu (sword), Bajutsu (horsemanship), Kyujutsu (archery), and Sojtsu (spear) constituted the principal combat arts. A favourite saying among Bushi at that time was ‘Master Eighteen Martial Arts’. Additionally, it was necessary that the Bushi learn a secondary system of combat techniques to support their armed fighting methods. These unarmed techniques were referred to as Kum7iuchi and involved a form of grappling techniques which evolved from Sumo (combat wrestling). Throughout the feudal era, the distinction between armed and unarmed techniques became greater.

Development of Unarmed Techniques and Aiki-Jujutsu

By degrees, unarmed combat techniques developed into different systems and styles (ryu). Varying battlefield situations and the technical requirement of feudal warfare led to the establishment of various ryu which were controlled by, and passed down through, the larger powerful families. One of these systems was Aiki-Jujutsu. It is not completely clear where Aiki techniques originated, but it is said to have originated with Prince Tei Jun, the 6th son of the Emperor Selwa (850-880), and passed on to succeeding generations of the Minamoto family. By the time the art reached Shinra Saburo Yoshimitsu, the younger brother of Yishite Minamoto, it seems that the foundations of modern Aikido had already been laid.

Yoshimitsu was a man of exceptional learning and skill, and it is said that he devised much of his technique by watching a spider skilfully trap a large insect in its fragile web. His house, Daito mansion has given its name to his system of Aiki-Jujutsu which came to be called Daito Ryu Aiki-Jujutsu.

Yoshimitsu’s second son lived in Takeda, in the province of Kai, and his family became known by the name Takeda. Subsequently, the techniques of Daito Ryu were passed on to successive generations as secret techniques of the Tekeda house and were made known only to family members and retainers. When Kunitsugu Takeda moved to Aizu in 1574, the technique came to be known as Aizu-todome (secret techniques).

During the 16th century, Japan was embroiled in civil wars. Each feudal Lord (Daimyo) struggled to maintain a powerful, independent position within the country. In order to do so, each Daimyo had to create a stable, unified force of his own, which required a very strong bond between the lord and his Bushi. Bushido, the code of the Samurai, encouraged the development of combat techniques; cultivated the qualities of justice, benevolence, politeness and honour; and above all inculcated the idea of supreme loyalty to lord and cause. It was during this period of independence and feudal isolation that combat forms developed into numerous ryu.