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Martial Arts History


Goshin-jitsu, (or Goshin-jutsu as it was first called), means ‘the truth or essence of self-defense’. It was originally created by Tatsu Tanaka in 1952 in Tokyo. Tanaka found classical jujutsu unsuitable, and developed this system that focused on locking and throwing techniques. Really this style was just jujutsu with the striking and kicking techniques removed, as Tanaka had decided to eliminate injurious techniques and focus more on controlling the opponent. Goshin-jutsu originally had 21 techniques against a knife, a stick, a gun, a grab, or a strike.

However, today in North America there are many versions of Goshin-jitsu, including ours. Somewhere along the line Goshin-jitsu got changed into what it is today, a blend of different martial art styles. Some Goshin-jitsu dojos teach a karate/judo mix, some a jujutsu/karate mix, others a jujutsu/judo mix, and so on. By the time it reached Canada, Goshin-jitsu had become a blend of Karate, Judo and Jiu-jitsu.


Jujutsu means ,’the gentle art’, and has been around for a long time, since the emergence of the Samurai class in Japan in 792 AD. It was the style of combat used by the Samurai and included strikes, throws, joint locks, kicks, chokes and the study of many weapons. It was a combat form meant for the battlefield really, and was designed for combat in armor against opponents in armor. Therefor there are no fancy leaps, kicks or moves found in other styles that would prove difficult or impossible while wearing armor. Although the techniques of this style had been used for centuries by the Samurai class, jujutsu was not developed into an actual art until the Edo period,(1603-1868 AD),. It was during this time that certain masters began to actually teach jujutsu as a style in over 700 schools throughout Japan.

In 1873, the government of Japan changed its social structure. The Samurai were no longer allowed to carry swords in public as a result of these changes, which led to a rebellion by many Samurai. This rebellion was eventually suppressed, but these actions seriously damaged the reputation of the martial arts in Japan. This, along with the many social changes made in Japan led to a major decline in the popularity of jujutsu. It was then that two recent offshoots of jujutsu, Judo and Aikido, began to gain in popularity.

During the aftermath of World War II,. the occupation forces in Japan prohibited the practice of the martial arts. Many jujutsu practitioners left Japan at this time and began to introduce their art to the western world. This ban was not revoked until 1951.

Jujutsu has come a long way since its creation many centuries ago. It has been the origin of many styles of combat such as Judo, Aikido, Danzan-Ryu, Hapkido, Kenpo Karate, Small Circle Jujitsu, Gracie Jujitsu, Goshin-jutsu and others.


Judo means ‘the gentle way’, and has its origins in Japan in 1882 by its creator Jigoro Kano. Kano was a practitioner of Jujutsu ,(Kito-ryu and Tenshin-ryu), but wanted to develop a style that was safer for competition and could be used as a form of exercise in the public schools of Japan. As such, Kano removed all strikes and most of the joint locking techniques of jujutsu and made his new style concentrated on falling techniques,(ukemi), throwing techniques,(nage waza), ground techniques,(ne waza), and vital-point techniques,(atemi waza) . These vital points were strikes that were only taught to advanced students and were taught to Kano by Gichin Funakoshi, the creator of Shotokan Karate. Kano claimed that judo’s purpose was not to win competitions, but to perfect the mind and body of the student for the mutual benefit of all mankind. However, Judo soon turned into a popular international sport in the 20th century and is now practiced worldwide both for self-defense and competition. Judo has had many names over the past as it developed. Kano originally named this style Kano Jujutsu, and later Kano Judo. After that came Kodokan, (after a Shinto temple), but eventually it was changed to Judo. Judo is actually the name of a style of Jujutsu that has been around for many centuries, but Kano felt that this name best expressed his philosophy toward his new style.


In 1904, Kano Jigoro, the founder of Judo, sent five of his top expert students to demonstrate Judo to the world. One of them, Mitsuyo Maeda, visited many countries, demonstrating 'Jiu-do', before arriving in Brazil in 1914. When Maeda left Japan, judo was still often referred to as "Kano Jiu-Jitsu",or simply "Jiu-Jitsu.” Outside of Japan, this term was used even more, and so when Maeda arrived in Brazil, all the media of the time was referring to their art as “Jiu-jitsu”, even though he was a judoka of Kano's, 'Kodokan'.

In 1917, Carlos Gracie, the eldest son of Gastão Gracie, watched a demonstration by Maeda and decided to learn judo. Maeda accepted Carlos as a student and after a few years, Carlos passed this knowledge on to his brothers. Carlos's youngest brother, Helio, who was very frail and unable to perform many of the Judo moves, was limited mostly to watching his brothers train for several years before beginning to develop his own version of Jiu-jitsu. He called his adaptation, 'Gracie Jiu Jitsu'.

In 1925, the Japanese government officially declared that the name of the martial art taught to children in public schools would be “judo”, rather than “jujutsu”. The term 'Jiu-jitsu' is still the one used in Brazil.Today, most Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is largely identified with the Gracie family, but there are other families that teach Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, all with their own slight variations, (Fadda, Machado, etc.).Other members of the Gracie family often call their style by personalized names, such as Charles Gracie Jiu-Jitsu or Renzo Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, Today there are four major branches of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in Brazil: Gracie Humaita, Gracie Barra, Carlson Gracie Jiu-Jitsu and Alliance Jiu-Jitsu, Each group can trace its roots back to Mitsuyo Maeda and the Gracie family. When the Gracies went to the United States to spread their art, they used the terms "Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu" and "Gracie Jiu-Jitsu" to differentiate from the already present styles using similar-sounding names.

In combat, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu emphasizes getting an opponent to the ground in order to finish them off with joint-locks, (submission holds), or chokes. It takes the advantage away from the attacker by using defensive groundwork, to immobilize, disable, or choke him out. Once on the ground, a practitioner of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu will either go on their back into what is known as the 'guard' position, where they will remain in a 'safe' defensive position while their opponent wears themselves out with attacks, or they will themselves counter-attack with any number of techniques from either the full-mount, back-mount, or side-mount positions.Over the years in MMA, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has been showing itself to be a very effective form of self-defense, and thanks to UFC performances from Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu legend, Royce Gracie, it is now very popular as a martial art worldwide.


The Chinese martial arts are very difficult to research with any real certainty, as it is estimated that there are between 400 and 800 unique styles of Kung fu, (Gong fu) in existence. Collectively, the Chinese styles are among the most ancient martial arts in human history. The development of martial arts in China can be traced back thousands of years. Pottery found in China, dating as far back as 2000 B.C., depict armed and unarmed hand-to-hand combat. What most people don't know about this style though, is that the spelling of "Kung Fu" was actually taken from an old form, (called 'Wade Giles') of Romanization. Using this method, the sounds of the English "G" and "K" were both written as "K" and an apostrophe after the "K" indicated that it was supposed to sound like a "G". Nobody in the west knew this rule when translating, so most people pronounced it with a "K-sound". 'Gong Fu', became 'Kung fu', and it has since been referred to as such in the west ever since. In Chinese, Gōngfu (功夫) is a compound of two words, combining (gōng) meaning "work", "achievement", or "merit", and (fū) which translates into "man", so that a literal meaning would be "achievement of man". Originally, to practice gong fu did not just refer to the Chinese martial arts, but to any activity that the person practiced hard at to perfect, and that also strengthened the body and/or mind. For example, it could be said that a person's gong fu in sewing was very good, or that their gong fu in horse-riding needed improvement. However, for the purposes of this article, due to the popular western understanding of the term, I will use 'Kung fu' in reference to the Chinese martial arts.

Although there is much uncertainty and disagreement as to the origin of ancient Chinese martial arts collectively known as Kung fu, one thing that most historians agree on is that it all began in Honan province at a temple known as Shao-Lin Ssu, (the Young Forest Temple), which was built at the foot of Sung Mountain in 495 A.D.

Many historians also credit the introduction of certain techniques, (which much later developed into what became known as Shaolin Kung fu,), to China by an Indian monk known as Bodhidarma (who was known to the Chinese as Ta Mo or Da Mo, 506–556 AD). Emperor Liang Wu invited the Buddhist monk Da Mo his court at around 520 A.D. After the Emperor decided he did not like Da Mo's Buddhist teachings and answers to his questions, Da Mo withdrew to Shao-Lin Ssu, in Honan Province. When he arrived there, he saw that the priests were weak and sickly, so he entered into seclusion to ponder the problem at a nearby cave. Legends say that when he emerged after nine years of seclusion, he wrote two classics: Yi Gin Ching or I Chin Ching (Muscle/Tendon Changing Classic) and Shii Soei Ching or Hsi Sui Chin (Marrow Washing Classic). Da Mo's teachings instructed the Shaolin priests how to gain health and change their physical bodies from weak to strong (muscle/tendon changing), and taught the priests how to use chi to strengthen the blood and immune system, and to energize the brain and attain enlightenment (marrow washing). The basis of these works, the physical drills of which are called Shihpa Lohan Shou, or 'Eighteen Hands of the Lohan (Buddha)', were incorporated into the Shaolin qi gong and martial arts training of the times.

Many decades later, a rich young noble named Chueh Yuan, who was also an experienced martial artist, began training at the Shaolin Monastery. He devoted all his studies to the further development of Shaolin Kung Fu. He expanded the 18 Hands of the Lohan into 72 techniques, and after training many years, he went on a journey to test his methods. On his travels, Chueh Yuan met a local master named Pai Yu-feng. Chueh Yuan convinced him to accompany him back to the Shaolin temple. Over the next few years they combined the Shaolin teachings together with Pai Yu-feng's pressure point grappling/wrestling techniques' and redeveloped the Shaolin 72 Fist Kung Fu into 170 exercises that were a mixture of striking, controlling, evading and countering techniques. This form of Kung Fu would remain relatively unchanged for over 400 years.

The next man to contribute to the development of Kung Fu was a martial art expert named Zhue Yuen. After he joined the Shaolin and trained there, he decided to better organize the style. He traveled thoughout China in search of other martial art styles and found many which he learned and evaluated. He met another practitioner named Li Sou, who introduced Zhue Yuen to Bai Yu Feng, who was another famous martial arts practitioner of the time. Zhue Yuen was able to convince both to come back with him to Shao-Lin Ssu to further develop Shaolin Kung Fu. Together they redeveloped the existing Shaolin Animal Kung Fu of the time into the 5 Animal Fists ( Tiger, Snake, Dragon, Leopard/Panther and Crane ). Although originally just physical exercise and martial techniques, the 5 Animal style blended well with the developing Traditional Chinese Medicine views of the time and became very popular. The techniques of the five animal styles consist mainly of:


The tiger style focuses on exercises to strengthen the bones, legs, hands and forearms, and to promote vitality. The attitude with tiger style is one of aggression and is performed with almost complete disregard for incoming attacks. In combat, the tiger practitioner will rush the attacker with powerful forward moving punches, kicks, low sweeping attacks to the legs, and its main technique, the tiger claw hand. This attack is not merely a swipe of the extended and curled fingers, but a powerful palm-strike followed by a strong ripping or tearing motion with the fingers into the opponent's flesh. The tiger style is obviously external.


Another external style, leopard style teaches exercises for developing strength, power and speed. The thinking here is to evade the attack, then to strike weak areas, (throat, ribs, joints and nerves), with short powerful swipes and strikes of the extended knuckles called 'Leopard Fist'. The style also utilizes powerful elbow and knee techniques, and fast low kicks.


The snake style is an internal style. It teaches exercises to cultivate chi and correct breathing to strengthen internal power. It also focuses on evasion techniques combined with serpentine-like movements of the arms which entwine incoming limbs. Also taught are techniques to increase endurance, flexibility, and the ability to strike an opponent’s soft and vulnerable areas, (eyes, throat, groin, joints and nerve clusters) with the tips of the extended fingers, (Snake hand).


The crane style is another internal style that teaches one to strike with power using odd angles. It focuses on balance, precision, elegance, and techniques that are designed to keep the opponent at a distance. This style uses straight linear palm-strikes, bent-wrist attacks, knife-hand strikes, powerful fast kicks, and crane hand, which is the formation of the hand into a 'beak'. This beak is used to peck at the eyes, ears, and sensitive nerve points of the body, as well as defensively to hook to parry incoming attacks.


The Dragon represents intelligence, internal power and the ability to flow in combat. The dragon, makes much more use of the fist as a striking weapon than the other animal styles, but it also features the Dragon Claw, which is used to strike with the palm, to chop, to claw or to grasp an attacker. Dragon style emphasizes circular, explosive and long distance attacks, as well as close-quarters grabs, joint-locks and nerve-strikes. The Dragon, is neither internal nor external; rather, it is considered as the balance between the two. Dragon style has its focus on teaching the student to flow on the attack, and seeks the development of the spirit and of chi. Dragon exercises stress to imitate this animal’s imagined flowing spirit, courage and energy, and the techniques involved are a progression of the other animal forms.

The development of these five animal forms over time became known as Shaolin Kung Fu, named after the temple in which it was developed in. Due to their involvement in several battles at which monks from the Shaolin Temple came to the assistance of the Emperor's forces, the Emperors of those times declared that the Shaolin Temple be given certain rights, such as land rights and the rights to train their own soldiers. The temple became a very prestigious place to study, and a Shaolin monk was a man to be feared. Entrance to the temple became very restricted as time went on. Entrance exams and even bribery were common ways to gain entrance to studies at the temple.

The Manchu invasion of China in 1644, along with the establishment of the Ching Dynasty, led to the destruction of many temples throughout China, including Shaolin. Even though the monks were forced to flee to other areas of China, they continued to teach and modify the forms and techniques of the Shaolin Temple. Each monks’ style evolved as each monk placed emphasis upon their own interests and special skills. Another factor that determined a difference in styles was physical environment. The Northern styles, for example, being in high mountainous country, focused on high, powerful kicks and long distance attacks, whereas the Southern styles from the lowlands focused more on hand techniques and close combat. Travel out of the country by teachers, and into the country by willing students from other lands, have helped to spread these styles as well. These various styles have now spread throughout the world, forming the wide variety of martial arts styles that exists today. In order to prevent the Han from rebelling against the government, martial arts training was outlawed between 1644 and 1911 AD. In 1911 the Qing dynasty fell in a revolution led by Dr Sun Yat-Sen. The value of Chinese martial arts was re-examined and Chinese martial arts were again permitted to be openly taught to the public. During the Chinese civil war in 1928, the Shaolin Temple was burned for the last time by Warlord Shi You-San's soldiers. The fire lasted forty days and destroyed all major buildings which contained priceless books and records. In order to preserve the Chinese martial arts, President Chiang Kai-Shek ordered the establishment of the Nanking Central Guoshu Institute at Nanking in 1928. The traditional name for Chinese martial arts, 'Wushu', was renamed 'Zhong Guo Wushu' or simple 'Guoshu'. It was at this time that all of the major martial arts organizations in China came together to share their knowledge.

This was short-lived however, as at the end of World War II, when China was taken over by Communists, all training was discontinued. All religions and all Shaolin training was prohibited under Communist rule. Wushu training was established at the National Athletics Institute, however this was a watered down version based on performance and acrobatics, not combat, so as not to encourage rebellion. It seems now that the Chinese martial arts, or, Wushu, have been divided into two separate systems. One for entertainment, and one for survival and self-development.


Kempo is very similar to the philosophies of Goshin-jitsu and Jeet Kune Do, in that it is a blend of different styles in an attempt to create a complete and total system. The techniques and kata in this system were taught to the Okinawans by Chinese immigrants mostly, and as such this style has heavy Chinese influence. Kempo was introduced to Japan from Okinawa, with karate being a secondary designation that came later. The people of Japan liked the techniques of kempo, but preferred to maintain their own culture by practicing jujutsu and kendo. Therefore, during this time, several masters began to combine the kempo karate of Okinawa and China with classical forms of jujutsu, judo, and kendo. These new styles became generally referred to as ‘kempo’.

The first was called Shaolinssu Quan in China, which is the oldest form of kempo. In Japan this style became called Shorinji Kempo. Shorinji Kempo was founded by Michiomi Nakano So Doshin. Nakano was a spy for the Japanese government, and during his stay in China he learned Shaolinssu Quan, and blended it with his knowledge of jujutsu that he learned in Japan from his grandfather and also from Ryuho Okuyama,(Daito-ryu aiki-jutsu).

Another popular form of kempo was, and still is, Jikempo,(temple fist law). These Buddhist temples were either started by Chinese monks visiting Japan to spread their religion, or Japanese monks who had traveled to China to train in their new faith. They date back from as early as the tenth century and many continue on today. These martial arts were a combination of Chuan fa (Chinese kempo), and existing Japanese arts like jujutsu and various weapon arts.

Later on the five animal forms were added to the Okinawans’ knowledge of Shaolinssu Quan by the Chinese, but by this time Japan had closed its borders to foreigners, which is why the animal forms of China did not influence Japanese martial arts until Okinawan karate brought the influence over in modern times. It is this style, a mix of Okinawan karate and Japanese jujutsu that has become popular in North America and other parts of the world today as Kempo, and there are many versions.


Karate, or ‘empty hand’ (‘kara’, meaning empty,’ te’, meaning hand), is a Japanese martial art that actually has its origins in Okinawa, and was originally called ‘Tote’, or just ,’te’. Te had been developed by the Okinawans, with heavy Chinese influence at about the sixth century. The style was taught in kata form only. Most of the katas were of Chinese origin, which were changed by the Okinawans, but some of the Te katas are of Okinawan origin as well.

According to legend and Japanese history, Okinawa was unified under King Shohashi of Chuzan in 1429, and later, during the reign of King Shoshin, a proclamation was issued making it illegal to practice the martial arts. Also, in 1609 an order issued by the Satsuma clan of Kagoshima,(the rulers of Okinawa at the time), was put into effect which made it illegal to carry weapons. Tote then became the last means of self-defense for the Okinawans, and since the Satsuma clan were in control and martial arts and weapons were illegal, Tote had to be practiced in total secrecy. And so the Okinawans practiced secretly for centuries, and learned to adapt common farming tools such as the staff, sai, kama, tonfa and nunchaku into deadly weapons that could be carried openly in public without fear of punishment. During the period between these events and the changes made in social structure centuries later, the Okinawans refined this art into a deadly form of self defense. The secret training however continued until 1905, when a school in Shuri and the regional first middle school adopted karate as an official subject in physical education.

In 1922, the Japanese Ministry of Education invited the Okinawa Shobu Kai,(the society for the promotion of the martial arts), to give a demonstration of Tote. The president of the Okinawa Shobu Kai at that time was a man named Gichin Funakoshi, who was a master of both the Shuri-te,(also called Shorin-ryu), and Naha-te,(also called Shorei-ryu), the two main styles of Tote in Okinawa. Tote became known in Japanese society as karate-jutsu,(art of empty hand), and in 1929 Funakoshi changed the name of Tote to Karate-do. He also changed the names of the katas, techniques, stances, everything, to Japanese, so that it would be more acceptable by Japanese society. At that time Japan was not so open to foreign ideas and concepts. During the 1920’s and 1930’s, Karate-do became extremely popular in Japan.

Many Okinawan Tote masters were not pleased by Funakoshi’s decision but after much debate the issue was settled in 1935 by Funakoshi’s book Karate-do Kyohan. This book established Karate-do and Funakoshi’s changes. Funakoshi had decided to take the extremely fast movements of Shorin-ryu and the powerful moves of Shorei-ryu and blend them together in one style. He called this new style Shotokan, (Shoto was Funakoshi’s pen name and kan means ‘hall’). Shotokan was a combination of the strong points of both Shorin-ryu and Shorei-ryu, but had major differences. Whereas before the two styles had been taught only in kata form, Funakoshi’s new Shotokan Karate system taught kata, fundamentals, and kumite,(sparring).

Two years later various karate societies in Okinawa joined the Japan Martial Arts Association, and a branch of the association was established in Okinawa. By 1940 every major university in Japan had its own Karate club. After World War II, requests were frequently received from the Allied Forces stationed in Japan to see exhibitions of the martial arts. Two or three times a week experts from judo, kendo and karate-do assembled to perform. In 1952 the Strategic Air Command of the United States Air Force sent a group of officers to Japan to study judo, aikido, and karate-do for three months to train as physical education instructors. For more than a dozen years after that, two or three groups came every year to train. Soon various countries also asked that karate instructors be sent to train more instructors, which has helped to add to the current popularity of the art around the world.


At Ryuuko Dojo we study Gogyou Goshin-jitsu, which at this club is a blend of Karate, Judo, Jujutsu/Jiu-jitsu, Shaolin/Okinawan Kempo, and the internal martial art of Qi-gong. Other blends exist, but all mixed styles, regardless of the blend, are attempting to create a rounded style. Gogyou Goshin-jitsu addresses many aspects of the martial arts; striking, blocking, grappling, kyusho, weapons, sparring, throws, mediation, chokes, holds and locks. The system has 10 levels, from white belt to black belt. It currently does not go further than Shodan. For some, this is enough. This is the goal. Remember, a belt's only true use is to hold our pants up. If further training above Shodan rank is desired however, the system taught here gives the student a solid foundation on many martial art styles so that he or she can tailor the training to suit their abilities and interests, and if desired, pursue further study on another path/specific style, based on those abilities and interests.

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