jujutsu, means the "art or science of softness", is a Japanese martial art consisting primarily of grappling techniques. Jujutsu evolved among the samurai of feudal Japan as a method for dispatching an armed and armored opponent in situations where the use of weapons was impractical or forbidden. Due to the difficulty of dispatching an armored opponent with striking techniques, 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, and came to be known as jujutsu.
There are many variations of the art which leads to a diversity of approaches. Jujutsu schools (ryū) may utilize all forms of grappling techniques to some degree (i.e. throwing, trapping, joint locking, holds, gouging, biting, disengagements, striking, and kicking). In addition to jujutsu, many schools taught the use of weapons.
Today, jujutsu is still practiced both as it was hundreds of years ago, but also in modified forms for sport practice. The Olympic sport and martial art of judo was developed from several traditional styles of jujutsu by Kano Jigoro in the late 19th century. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu ("Jiu-Jitsu" is a common informal romanization of "jujutsu") was developed after Mitsuyo Maeda taught judo in Brazil, but at that time was still referring to it as "Kano’s jujutsu".
Jujutsu was first developed by Samurai. Fighting forms have existed in Japan for centuries. The first references to unarmed combat arts or systems is in the earliest purported historical records of Japan.
These systems of unarmed combat began to be known as Nihon koryu jūjutsu (Japanese old-style jujutsu), Most of these were battlefield systems to be used with the more common and vital weapon systems. These fighting arts had various names, including kogusoku, yawara, kumiuchi, and hakuda, all under the general description of Sengoku jūjutsu. They were not systems of unarmed combat, but means for an unarmed or lightly armed warrior to fight a heavily armed and armored enemy on the battlefield. Ideally, the samurai would be armed and would not need to rely on them.
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 (dagger), ryufundo 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. 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. Occasionally, inconspicuous weapons such as tanto (daggers) or tessen (iron fans) were included in the curriculum of Edo jūjutsu.
If a Japanese based martial system is formulated in modern times 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, having been developed from Judo, with 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.
Japanese jujutsu systems typically place more emphasis on throwing, immobilizing and pinning, joint-locking, choking, and strangling techniques (as compared with other martial arts systems such as karate). Atemi-waza (striking techniques) were seen as less important in most older Japanese systems, since samurai body armor protected against many striking techniques. The Chinese quanfa/ch’uan-fa (kenpo or kung fu) systems focus on punching, striking, and kicking more than jujutsu.
In jujutsu, practitioners train in the use of many potentially fatal moves. However, because students mostly train in a non-competitive environment, risk is minimized. Students are taught break falling skills to allow them to safely practice otherwise dangerous throws.
Although there is some diversity in the actual look and techniques of the various traditional jujutsu systems, there are significant technical similarities common to all schools:
* Students learn traditional jujutsu primarily by observation and imitation of the ryu’s waza.
* The unarmed waza of most schools emphasize joint-locking techniques, that is, threatening a joint’s integrity by placing pressure on it in a direction contrary to its normal function, aligning it so that muscular strength cannot be brought to bear, take-down or throwing techniques, or a combination of take-downs and joint-locks.
* Sometimes atemi (strikes) are targeted to some vulnerable area of the body; this is an aspect of kuzushi, the art of breaking balance as a set-up for a lock, take-down or throw.
* Movements tend to capitalize on an attacker’s momentum and openings in order to place a joint in a compromised position or to break their balance as preparation for a take-down or throw.
* The defender’s own body is positioned so as to take optimal advantage of the attacker’s weaknesses while simultaneously presenting few openings or weaknesses of its own.
* Weapons training was a primary goal of Samurai training. Koryu (old/classic) schools typically include the use of weapons. Weapons might include the roku shaku bo (six-foot staff), hanbo (three-foot staff), katana (long sword), wakizashi or kodachi (short sword), tanto (knife), or jitte (short one hook truncheon).
Derivatives and schools
Because jujutsu contains so many facets, it has become the foundation for a variety of styles and derivations today. As each instructor incorporated new techniques and tactics into what was taught to him originally, he could codify and create his own ryu or school. Some of these schools modified the source material so much that they no longer considered themselves a style of jujutsu.
Jujutsu was first introduced to Europe in 1899 by Edward William Barton-Wright, who had studied the Tenjin-Shinyo and Shinden-Fudu ryu-ha in Yokohama and Kobe, respectively. He had also trained briefly at the Kodokan in Tokyo. Upon returning to England he folded the basics of all of these styles, as well as boxing, savate and French stick fighting, into an eclectic self defence system called Bartitsu.
Some schools went on to diverge into present day Karate, and Aiki styles. The last Japanese divergence occurred in 1905 where a number of jujutsu schools joined the Kodokan. The syllabi of those schools was unified under Jigaro Kano to form judo.
Modern judo is the classic example of a ‘sport’ which derived from jujutsu and became distinct. Another layer removed, some popular arts had instructors who studied one of these jujutsu-derivatives and later made their own derivative succeed in competition. This created an extensive family of martial arts and sports which can trace their lineage to jujutsu in some part. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu dominated the first large mixed martial arts competitions, causing the emerging field to adopt many of its practices.
The way an opponent is dealt with also depends on the teacher’s philosophy with regard to combat. This translates also in different styles or schools of jujutsu. Because in jujutsu every conceivable technique, including biting, hairpulling, eyegouging etc. is allowed (unlike for instance judo, which does not place emphasis on punching or kicking tactics, or karate, which does not heavily emphasize grappling and throwing) practitioners have an unlimited choice of techniques (assuming they are proficient).
Old schools of Japanese jujutsu include:
* Daito-ryu aiki-jujutsu
* Hontai Yoshin-ryu
* Sekiguchi Shinshin-ryu
* Tenjin Shinyo-ryu
* Yagyu Shingan Ryu
* Yoshin Ryu
Judo and jujutsu
Not all jujutsu was used in sporting contests, but the practical use in the samurai world ended circa 1890. Techniques like hairpulling and eye poking were and are not considered conventionally acceptable to use in sport, thus they are not included in judo competitions or randori. Judo did, however, preserve the more lethal, dangerous techniques in its kata. The kata were intended to be practiced by students of all grades, but now are mostly practiced formally as complete set-routines for performance, kata competition, and grading, rather than as individual self-defense techniques in class. However, judo retained the full set of choking and strangling techniques for its sporting form, and all manner of elbow locks. Even judo’s pinning techniques have pain-generating, spine-and-rib-squeezing and smothering aspects. A submission induced by a legal pin is considered a fully legitimate way to win. Kano viewed the safe sport-fighting aspect of Judo an important part of learning how to actually control an opponent’s body in a real fight. Kano always considered judo to be a form of, and a development of, jujutsu.
A judo technique starts with gripping of your opponent followed by off-balancing an opponent, fitting into the space created, and then applying the technique. In contrast, kuzushi (the art of breaking balance) is attained in jujutsu by blocking, parrying or deflecting an opponent’s attack in order to create the space required to apply a throwing technique. In both systems, kuzushi is essential in order to use as little energy as possible during a fight. Jujutsu differs from judo in a number of ways. In some circumstances, jujutsuka generate kuzushi by striking one’s opponent along his weak line. Other methods of generating kuzushi include grabbing, twisting, or poking areas of the body known as atemi points or pressure points (areas of the body where nerves venture close to the surface of the skin).
After the transplantation of traditional Japanese jujutsu to the West, many of these more traditional styles underwent a process of adaptation at the hands of Western practitioners, molding the arts of jujutsu to suit western culture in its myriad varieties. There are today many distinctly westernized styles of jujutsu, that stick to their Japanese roots to varying degrees.
There are a number of relatively new martial systems identifying themselves as jujutsu.
Some of the largest post-reformation (founded post 1905) jujutsu schools include (but are certainly not limited to these in that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of new branches, etc. of "jujutsu"):
* Danzan Ryu
* Goshin Jujitsu
* Hakko Ryu
* Hakko Denshin Ryu
* Jukido Jujitsu
* Kumite-ryu Jujutsu
* Sanuces Ryu
* Shingitai Jujitsu
* Shorinji Kan Jiu Jitsu
* Small Circle JuJitsu
* Real Aikido – "Serbian Jujutsu"
Heritage and philosophy
All Japanese jujutsu have cultural indicators which help give a sense of the traditional character of a school. The more traditionally Japanese and the less westernized the school, the more you will see:
* An atmosphere of courtesy and respect, a context intended to help cultivate the appropriate spirit.
* The type of keikogi or training suit worn, which is usually plain white, often with a dark hakama (the most colorful uniform might be plain black or the traditional blue of quilted keikogi; you are not likely to see stars and stripes or camouflage uniforms).
* Lack of ostentatious display, with an attempt to achieve or express the sense of rustic simplicity (expressed in such concepts as wabi-sabi in Japanese) common in many of Japan’s traditional arts.
* The use of the traditional (e.g., Shoden, Chuden, Okuden, Kirigami and menkyo kaiden levels) ranking system, perhaps as a parallel track to the more contemporary and increasingly common dan-i (kyu/dan) ranking.
* The lack of tournament trophies, long-term contracts, tags and emblems, rows of badges or any other superficial distractions.
Japanese culture and religion have become intertwined into the martial arts. Buddhism, Shintoism, Taoism and Confucianism philosophy co-exist in Japan, and people generally mix and match to suit. This reflects the variety of outlook one finds in the different schools.
Jujutsu expresses the philosophy of yielding to an opponent’s force rather than trying to oppose force with force. To manipulate an opponent’s attack using his force and direction, allows jujutsuka to control the balance of their opponent and hence prevent the opponent from resisting the counter attack.
The Japanese have characterised states of mind that a warrior should be able to adopt in combat to facilitate victory. 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 (literally "immovable mind").