Centuries ago in battle torn Japan there existed a class of warriors known as the samurai. They lived and died by a strict code of honour in humble service to their masters, the emperors, shogons and daimyos of feudal Japan. The samurai wore heavy armour and skillfully used many various weapons in combat. Sometimes as a last resort the samurai would turn to unarmed hand to hand techniques in order to defeat an enemy. These methods of hand-to-hand fighting went by several names such as kogusoku, kumiuchi, taijutsu, yawara and jujutsu.
There were many ryu (schools/styles) of ju jutsu with many varying principles, techniques and philosophies. Though a great many of the true 'old school' jujutsu styles have since disappeared there are still a few which have been preserved and passed on from generation to generation.
Some of the well-known styles are; Takagi Ryu, Sekiguchi Ryu, Takenouchi Ryu, Tatsumi Ryu, Tenjin Shinyo Ryu, Kito Ryu and Yoshin Ryu and Shibukawa Ichi Ryu. In its name, the 'Ju' can be translated to mean 'gentle, supple, flexible, pliable, or yielding' and the 'jutsu' can be translated to mean 'method' or 'technique'. Therefore jujutsu is a method of combat that does not greatly rely on muscular strength or brute force to overcome the opponent. Good jujutsu relies on sound principles of bio-mechanics that allows for efficient and effective combat.
The Meiji Restoration is one of the most significant periods in the history of Japanese martial arts because it brought an end to warring states in Japan, and eventually lead to the end of the samurai class. In 1868 a government and political system was implemented to unify the country and abandon its feudal system. The Meiji emperor prompted huge military reforms which introduced nationwide military conscription for the army.
The terms koryu and kobudo literally mean old “old school” or “old martial arts” and specifically refer to styles that were founded before the Meiji Restoration of 1868. These were the exact systems of combat that were practiced in the time of the samurai and remain relatively unchanged up to the present. The term kobudo in this context should not be confused with Okinawan Kobudo which refers to armed Okinawan martial arts.
Styles of martial arts that were created after the Meiji Restoration are referred to as gendai or modern styles. There were previously hundreds or htousands of koryu but many have become extinct or absorbed into modern systems, leaving just a few koryu schools left in Japan.
Today, many of the koryu are strongly guarded and often very selective when accepting new members. Though there is no real need for them to train for combat, one of their biggest goals is to preserve their techniques and training methods.
In Japan there are two major organisations that recognise and promote koryu styles. They are the Nihon Kobudo Kyokai and the Nihon Kobudo Shinkokai.