Ju Jutsu

Jujutsu (from the Japanese 柔術 jūjutsu meaning “gentle/yielding/compliant art”) is a Japanese martial art whose central ethos is to yield to the force provided by an opponent’s attack in order to apply counter techniques from the resultant ensuing situation.

There are many ryu (styles) of the art which leads to a diversity of approaches. Jujutsu ryu may utilize all techniques to some degree (i.e. Throwing, trapping, locking, holding down, grappling, gouging, biting, disengagements, Strike, and kicking). Generally jujutsu ryu make limited use of strikes since they were predominantly developed in feudal Japan under the auspices of the samurai warrior class. The techniques evolved to become effective against armed opponents wearing bamboo body armour to protect vital parts of the face, throat, and body. In addition to jujutsu, many schools taught the use of weapons.

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 jūjutsu (Japanese old-style jutsu), among other related terms, during the Muromachi period (1333-1573), according to densho (transmission scrolls) of the various ryuha (martial traditions) 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 jūjutsu. 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. Ideally, the samurai would be armed and would not need to rely on such techniques.

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. These are correctly classified as Edo ju¯jutsu (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 (vital-striking technique). These tactics would 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 ju¯jutsu.

Another seldom seen 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, 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.

Many other legitimate Nihon jujutsu ryu exist but are not considered koryu (ancient traditions). These are called either Gendai jūjutsu or modern jujutsu. Modern jūjutsu traditions were founded after or towards the end of the Tokugawa period (1603-1868). During this period 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, 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 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. The popular Gracie jujutsu system, (heavily influenced by modern judo) and Brazilian jujutsu in general are excellent examples 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. 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 were competitors of the same style perform techniques and are judged on their performance. There are also freestyle competitions where competitors will take turns being attacked by another competitor and the defender will be judged on performance.

Japanese jujutsu systems typically place more emphasis on throwing, immobilizing and pinning, joint-locking, 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.

The Japanese systems of hakuda, kenpo, and shubaku display some degree of Chinese influence in their emphasis on atemi-waza. In comparison, systems that derive more directly from Japanese sources show less preference for such techniques. However, a few jujutsu schools likely have some Chinese influence in their development. Jujutsu ryu vary widely in their techniques, and many do include significant numbers of striking techniques, if only as set-ups for their grappling techniques.

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

* 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).

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.

Circa 1600 AD there were over 2000 ryu (schools) of jujutsu in Japan and there were common features that are characterised of most of them. The technical characteristics varied from school to school. Many of the generalizations noted above do not hold true for some schools 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. Barton-Wright 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 was derived from jujutsu but is today 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 is also dependent on the philosophy of the teacher 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).

Jujutsu was always used in sporting contest, but the practical use in the samurai world ended circa 1890. Techniques like hair pulling 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).

A Japanese based martial system formulated in modern times (post Tokugawa) that is only partially influenced by traditional Nihon jujutsu, is correctly referred to as goshin (self defense) jujutsu. Goshin jujutsu is usually formulated outside Japan and may include influences from other martial traditions. The Brazilian Gracie jiu jitsu system, and all Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in general, although derived originally from judo have evolved independently for many years, and could be considered examples of Goshin Jujutsu.

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.

Jujutsu, the current standard spelling, is derived using the Hepburn romanization system. Before the first half of the 20th century, however, jiu-jitsu and then jujitsu were preferred, even though the romanization of the second kanji as jitsu is unfaithful to the standard Japanese pronunciation. Since Japanese martial arts first became widely known of in the West in that time period, these earlier spellings are still common in many places. Ju-Jitsu is still the standard spelling in France, Canada and the United States. The martial art is known as Jiu-Jitsu in Germany and Brazil.

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. As jujutsu is a collective term, some schools or ryu adopted the principle of ju more than others.

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; also called jitte), 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 jo (short staff), bo (quaterstaff). 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 Chinese character 柔 (Mandarin: róu; Japanese: jū; Korean: yū) is the same as the first one in 柔道 (Mandarin: róudào; Japanese: judo; Korean: Yudo). The Chinese character 術 (Mandarin: shù; Japanese: jutsu; Korean: sul) is the same as the second one in 武術 (Mandarin: wǔshù; Japanese: bujutsu; Korean: musul)

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, 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”).

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