History of Jujutsu, Ketsugo Jujutsu, and Kongo Tatsu Kai

Jujutsu is the self-defense art of the Samurai

Jujutsu is the self-defense art of the Samurai

Jujutsu (柔術, jūjutsu ),also spelled (“jujitsu”) or Jiu-Jitsu, literally meaning the “art of yielding”, is a collective name for Japanese martial arts developed by the samurai of feudal Japan. Due to the ineffectiveness of striking against an armored opponent, the most efficient methods for neutralizing an enemy took the form of pins, joint locks, and throws. These techniques were developed around the principle of using an attacker’s energy against him, rather than directly opposing it.

There are many variations of the art, which leads to a diversity of approaches. Jujutsu schools (called ryu) may utilize all forms of grappling techniques to some degree (i.e. throwing, trapping, joint locks, holds, gouging, biting, disengagements, striking, and kicking). In addition to jujutsu, many schools teach the use of weapons.


Jujutsu was first developed by the Samurai. The term “jūjutsu” was not coined until the 17th century, after which time it became a blanket term for a wide variety of grappling-related disciplines. Prior to that time, these skills had names such as “short sword grappling” (小具足腰之廻, kogusoku koshi no mawari), “grappling” (組討 or 組打, kumiuchi), “body art” (体術, taijutsu), “softness” (柔 or 和, yawara), “art of harmony” (和術, wajutsu, yawarajutsu), “catching hand” (捕手, torite), and even the “way of softness” (柔道, jūdō) (as early as 1724, almost two centuries before Kano Jigoro founded the modern art of Kodokan Judo).

Today, the systems of unarmed combat that were developed and practiced during the Muromachi period (1333–1573) are referred to collectively as Japanese old-style jujutsu (日本古流柔術, Nihon koryū jūjutsu). At this period in history, the systems practiced were not systems of unarmed combat, but rather means for an unarmed or lightly armed warrior to fight a heavily armed and armored enemy on the battlefield. In battle, it was often not possible for a samurai to use his long sword, and would therefore be forced to rely on his short sword, dagger, or bare hands. When fully armored, the effective use of such “minor” weapons necessitated the employment of grappling skills.

Methods of combat (as just mentioned above) included striking (kicking and punching), throwing (body throws, joint-lock throws, unbalance throws), restraining (pinning, strangulating, grappling, wrestling) and weaponry. Defensive tactics included blocking, evading, off-balancing, blending and escaping. Minor weapons such as the tanto (knife), ryofundo kusari (weighted chain), kabuto wari (helmet smasher), and kakushi buki (secret or disguised weapons) were almost always included in Sengoku jujutsu.


In later times, other koryu developed into systems more familiar to the practitioners of Nihon jujutsu commonly seen today. These are correctly classified as Edo jūjutsu (founded during the edo period): they are generally designed to deal with opponents neither wearing armor nor in a battlefield environment. Most systems of Edo jujutsu include extensive use of atemi waza (vital-striking technique), which would be of little use against an armored opponent on a battlefield. They would, however, be quite valuable in confronting an enemy or opponent during peacetime dressed in normal street attire (referred to as “suhada bujutsu”). Occasionally, inconspicuous weapons such as tantō (daggers) or tessen (iron fans) were included in the curriculum of Edo jūjutsu.

Another seldom-seen historical side is a series of techniques originally included in both Sengoku and Edo jujutsu systems. Referred to as hojo waza (捕縄術 hojojutsu, torinawa jutsu, nawa jutsu, hayanawa and others), it involves the use of a hojo cord, (sometimes the sageo or tasuke) to restrain or strangle an attacker. These techniques have for the most part faded from use in modern times, but Tokyo police units still train in their use and continue to carry a hojo cord in addition to handcuffs. The very old Takenouchi-ryu is one of the better-recognized systems that continue extensive training in hojo waza. Since the establishment of the Meiji period with the abolishment of the Samurai and the wearing of swords, the ancient tradition of Yagyu Shingan Ryu (Sendai & Edo lines) has focused much towards the jujutsu (Yawara) contained in its syllabus.

Many other legitimate Nihon jujutsu ryu exist but are not considered koryu (ancient traditions). These are called either Gendai Jujutsu or modern jujutsu. Modern jujutsu traditions were founded after or towards the end of the Tokugawa period (1868), when more than 2000 schools (ryu) of jūjutsu existed. Various traditional ryu and ryuha that are commonly thought of as koryu jujutsu are actually gendai jūjutsu. Although modern in formation, very few gendai jujutsu systems have direct historical links to ancient traditions and are incorrectly referred to as traditional martial systems or ryu. Their curriculum reflects an obvious bias towards Edo jūjutsu systems as opposed to the Sengoku jūjutsu systems. The improbability of confronting an armor-clad attacker is the reason for this bias.

Over time, Gendai jujutsu has been embraced by law enforcement officials worldwide and continues to be the foundation for many specialized systems used by police. Perhaps the most famous of these specialized police systems is the Keisatsujutsu (police art) Taiho jutsu (arresting art) system formulated and employed by the Tokyo Police Department.

If a Japanese based martial system is formulated in modern times (post Tokugawa) but is only partially influenced by traditional Nihon jujutsu, it may be correctly referred to as goshin (self defense) jujutsu. Goshin jujutsu is usually formulated outside Japan and may include influences from other martial traditions. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, which was developed from judo, but with greater emphasis on ground grappling (ne waza), is an excellent example of Goshin Jujutsu.

Jujutsu techniques have been the basis for many military unarmed combat techniques (including British/US/Russian special forces and SO1 police units) for many years.

There are many forms of sport jujutsu, the original and most popular being judo, now an Olympic sport. One of the most common is mixed-style competitions, where competitors apply a variety of strikes, throws, and holds to score points. There are also kata competitions, where competitors of the same style perform techniques and are judged on their performance. There are also freestyle competitions, where competitors take turns attacking each other, and the defender is judged on performance.

Ketsugo Jujutsu

While the term “ketsugo” was used as early the 1930’s in martial arts instructional books sold through comic books, it’s use there has no practical relation to the art known as Ketsugo Jujutsu. A former Navy Frogman instructor and Police officer named Harold Brosius is credited with coining the term Ketsugo Jujutsu in 1951 thus making Ketsugo Jujutsu a gendai (modern) art. Additionally, it’s focus on self-defense also characterizes Ketsugo Jujutsu as a goshin jujutsu ryu.

The Japanese word “ketsugo” means to mix or blend and is meant to describe the eclectic number of styles that Ketsugo Jujutsu borrows from including Aikido, Judo, Wrestling, and Boxing. As such, ketsugo jujutsu is one of the very firs Mixed Martial Arts (MMAs).

The art was evolved in the 1980s by Peter Freedman sensei who combined his extensive background in different styles of martial arts with his real life experiences on the streets of Boston’s tough South End.  The Freedman Method of Ketsugo Jujutsu focuses on teaching students the underlying concepts and principles of self defense instead of memorizing fossilized katas or dead techniques.

Freedman Sensei teaches in New Hampshire and is also the head of the Boston Arnis Club.

Kongo Tatsu Kai

In 2009, John Moore sensei (one of Freedman sensei’s students who has received a menkyo teaching license) moved to the state of Maine where he has established the Kongo Tatsu Kai (School of the Thunderbolt Dragon) to continue to study and spread Freedman Method Ketsugo Jujutsu. Moore sensei, teaching privately, holds to the principles he learned from over a decade of study with Freedman sensei, while mixing in knowledge gained from independent research and study in the true spirit of “Ketsugo”.

The Japansese word “Kongo” here is the diamond thunderbolt, known in Sanskrit as the vajra. It is both a weapon and spiritual tool, symbolizing the wisdom that cuts through all obstacles.

“Tatsu” is the ancient Japanese word for dragon. In Japan, dragons are frequently seen as temple guardians and are often associated with the water element. In yogic practices, the spiritual energy known as kundalini shakti is visualized as a coiled serpent at the base of the spine. It represents unrealized enlightenment.

In both of these symbols we combine the spiritual with protective. The combination of both provides deep layers of meaning for students learning self defense combined with body / mind / spirit development.

*significant portions of the historical details of jujutsu came from Wikipedia, therefore the text of this page only is made available under the Creative Commons Share Alike license.

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