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Jiu jitsu

Jujutsu (柔術 "Gentle/Yielding Art") is a Japanese martial art.

Table of contents
1 What's In A Name?
2 The Beginning
3 The Development of Close Combat Systems
4 Heritage
5 Technical Characteristics
6 Philosophical Dimensions

What's In A Name?

Jujutsu, jujitsu, jiu jitsu - there are a wide range of spellings used in English for this Japanese martial art. In the native Japanese, jujutsu is written in kanji, Chinese idiograms, but the romanization of the Japanese word into the English language has been performed several times using several different systems since Japan was forced out of isolation in 1854 by the United States.

Jujutsu, the current standard, is derived using the Hepburn romanization system. Before the first half of the century, however, jiujitsu and then jujitsu were preferred. Since this corresponded to a period of time when Japanese martial arts first became widely known of in the West, these earlier spellings are still common in many places, though the romanization of the second kanji as jitsu is unfaithful to the Japanese pronunciation and jujitsu means military preparedness.

Some define jujutsu and similar arts rather narrowly as "unarmed" close combat systems used to defeat or control an enemy who is similarly unarmed. Basic methods of attack include hitting or striking, thrusting or punching, kicking, throwing, pinning or immobilizing, strangling, and joint-locking. Great pains were also taken by the bushi (classic warriors) to develop effective methods of defense, including parrying or blocking strikes, thrusts and kicks, receiving throws or joint-locking techniques (i.e., falling safely and knowing how to "blend" to neutralize a technique's effect), releasing oneself from an enemy's grasp, and changing or shifting one's position to evade or neutralize an attack. From a broader point of view, based on the curricula of many of the classical Japanese arts themselves, however, these arts may perhaps be more accurately defined as unarmed methods of dealing with an enemy who was armed, together with methods of using minor weapons such as the jutte (truncheon), tanto (knife), or kakushi buki (hidden weapons), such as the ryofundo kusari (weighted chain) or the bankokuchoki (a type of knuckle-duster), to defeat both armed or unarmed opponents. Furthermore, the term jujutsu was also sometimes used to refer to tactics for infighting used with the warrior's major weapons: katana or tachi (sword), yari (spear), naginata (glaive), and bo (staff). These close combat methods were an important part of the different martial systems that were developed for use on the battlefield. They can be generally characterized as either Sengoku Jidai (Sengoku Period, 1467-1603) katchu bujutsu or yoroi kumiuchi (fighting with weapons or grappling while clad in armor), or Edo Jidai (Edo Period, 1603-1867) suhada bujutsu (fighting while dressed in the normal street clothing of the period, kimono and hakama).

The Beginning

Fighting forms have existed in Japan for centuries. The first references to such unarmed combat arts or systems can be found in the earliest purported historical records of Japan, the Kojiki (Record of Ancient Matters) and the Nihon Shoki (Chronicles of Japan), which relate the mythological creation of the country and the establishment of the Imperial family. Other glimpses can be found in the older records and pictures depicting sumai (or sumo) no sechie, a rite of the Imperial Court in Nara and Kyoto performed for purposes of divination and to help ensure a bountiful harvest. There is a famous story of a warrior Nomi no Sekuni of Izumo who defeated and killed Tajima no Kehaya in Shimane prefecture while in the presence of Emperor Suinin. Descriptions of the techniques used during this encounter included striking, throwing, restraining and weaponry. These systems of unarmed combat began to be known as Nihon koryu jujutsu (japanese old-style jujutsu), among other related terms, during the Muromachi period (1333-1573), according to densho (transmission scrolls) of the various ryu-ha (martial traditions, "schools") and historical records.

Most of these were battlefield-based systems to be practiced as companion arts to the more common and vital weapon systems. These fighting arts actually used many different names. Kogusoku, yawara, kumiuchi, and hakuda are just a few, but all of these systems fall under the general description of Sengoku jujutsu. In reality these grappling systems were not really unarmed systems of combat, but are more accurately described as means whereby an unarmed or lightly armed warrior could defeat a heavily armed and armored enemy on the battlefield. Methods of combat (as just mentioned above) included striking (kicking, 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 (dagger), ryufundo kusari (weighted chain), jutte (helmet smasher), and kakushi buki (secreted 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 jujutsu (founded during the edo period): systems generally designed to deal with opponents neither wearing armor nor in a battlefield environment. For this reason, most systems of Edo jujutsu include extensive use of atemi waza or vital-striking. These tactics would obviously be of little use against an armored opponent on a battlefield. They would, however, be quite valuable to anyone confronting an enemy or opponent during peacetime dressed in normal street attire. Occasionally, inconspicuous weapons such as tanto (daggers) or tessen (iron fans) were included in the curriculum of Edo jujutsu.

Another seldom seen but interesting historical aside is a series of techniques originally included in both Sengoku and Edo jujutsu systems. Referred to as hojo waza (捕縄術 hojojutsu, nawa jutsu 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 today 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.

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 are founded after or towards the end of the Tokugawa period (1603-1868). Various traditional ryu and ryuha that are commonly thought of as koryu jujutsu are actually gendai jujutsu. These include Hakko Ryu, Kaze Arashi Ryu, Daito Ryu, and many others. Although modern in formation, gendai jujutsu systems have direct historical links to ancient traditions and are correctly referred to as traditional martial systems or ryu. Their curriculum reflects an obvious bias towards Edo jujutsu systems as opposed to the Sengoku jujutsu systems. The improbability of confronting an armor-clad attacker is the obvious 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.

Today, there are very few traditional jujutsu systems that still exist are in regular use by both law enforcement and civilians alike. Some people claim Himizu Ryu (火水流 Fire-Water School) as one such school. Himizu Ryu is also alleged to be one of the most comprehensive martial systems still in practice today. They have a large curriculum consisting of all four kinds of combat including striking, throwing, restraining and weaponry.

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. The popular Gracie jujutsu system, (heavily influenced by modern judo) and Brazilian jujutsu in general are excellent examples of Goshin Jujutsu.

The Development of Close Combat Systems

Regardless of where they live, people spend a great deal of time developing and perfecting methods of using weapons for hunting and fighting. If successful, personal experiences and insights (often gained on the battlefield) help individuals to establish particular "styles," "schools," or "traditions"--in Japanese, the bujutsu ryu-ha. Compared with the empty-handed fighting arts of neighboring China and Korea, Japanese jujutsu systems place more emphasis on throwing, immobilizing and/or pinning, joint-locking, and strangling techniques. Atemiwaza (striking techniques) are of secondary importance in most Japanese systems, whereas the Chinese ch'uan-fa (kempo) emphasize punching, striking, and kicking. It is generally felt that the Japanese systems of hakuda, kempo, and shubaku display some degree of Chinese influence in their particular emphasis on atemiwaza, while systems that are derived from a more purely Japanese source do not show any special preference for such techniques, but will use them as and when appropriate.

Although there were and are many ryuha or systems of Japanese jujutsu, there are features that are characteristic of most (if not all) of them. Since there seems to be a number of relatively new martial systems identifying themselves as jujutsu these days, it is appropriate to look at those characteristics which distinguish a style as traditional Japanese jujutsu.


All Nihon jujutsu have cultural indicators which help give a sense of the traditional character of a school, and include:

Technical Characteristics

Although there is some diversity in the actual look and techniques of the various traditional jujutsu systems, there are significant technical similarities:

Philosophical Dimensions

Although jujutsu and the ancient arts in general often do not have the suffix -do or "way" to designate them as paths toward spiritual liberation and inner development, there are some philosophical and mental components, which have significance and application in these systems, at least because of their value in developing the actual combat effectiveness of the practitioner. These include: an all-encompassing awareness, zanshin (literally "remaining spirit"), in which the practitioner is ready for anything, at any time; the spontaneity of mushin (literally "no mind") which allows immediate action without conscious thought; and a state of equanimity or imperturbability known as fudoshin.

Together, these states of mind tremendously strengthen the jujutsu practitioner, allowing him the utmost potential for effective action. Such effectiveness and the technical competence and mental mastery on which it stands, however, is possible only after a considerable period of serious and devoted training. These various characteristics or components, taken together, largely describe the principal elements of traditional Japanese jujutsu. If most or all of these characteristics are not noticeable in a so-called jujutsu system, then the legitimacy of the system as bona fide Nihon jujutsu would be highly suspect. This is not to say that the system or school in question does not offer a good training program or effective techniques. It simply suggests that such a system may be more accurately labeled with some other term.

See also: Judo