What are Jujutsu, Judo, Aikido, and Brazilian jiujitsu? 柔術、柔道、合気道、ブラジリアン柔術とは Part 1 Jujutsu

This is an interesting subject but also a heavy one as each item has a long and unique story behind it.

Maybe many readers know that these four arts are all somehow related. However, only a few would probably know exactly how they are intricately related. In fact, by doing this research I wanted to educate myself and I became more interested in the subject as I learned more of the history. It turned out to be truly an interesting subject and I am happy to share the information that I have discovered with the readers.


Now I want to introduce each art but first I want to start from the oldest and the newest one very last. Jujutsu being the oldest (the first written document is found in the 16th century) will be first. Judo will be second as it is supposed to have started in 1882 when Kano Jigoro (嘉納治五郎 1860 – 1938) opened a dojo, Kodokan (講道館) in a small temple in Tokyo. Aikido will be the third as it was started by Ueshiba Morihei (植芝盛平 1883 – 1969) when he opened a dojo, Ueshiba juku (植芝塾) in 1920. The last one is Gracie jujitsu or Brazilian jujitsu (BJJ). This art was created by the Gracie brothers, particularly by the youngest out of five brothers, Helio (1913 – 2009). The exact year of its creation is not clear but we can assume that it was some time in the early 1930’s.

I will post my articles in four parts; Part 1 Jujutsu, Part 2 Judo, Part 3 Aikido and Part 4 Brazilian Jujitsu.

OK, let us start with Part 1 Jujutsu.


Part 1: What is Jujutsu (柔術)?


Believe it or not, jujutsu is the least known martial art out of those four arts, at least in Japan. It is the origin of all the other martial arts, thus I need to do the most investigation here and provide you detailed information. Having said that I am not going to write a book on jujutsu so the information I will provide will only be superficial and more or less, a summary of what this art is about.

Ju (柔) can be translated to mean “gentle, soft, supple, flexible, pliable, or yielding”. Jutsu (術) can be translated to mean “art” or “technique” and represents manipulating the opponent’s force against himself rather than confronting it with one’s own force. Jujutsu was developed to combat the samurai of feudal Japan, and is defined as, and is a method for defeating an armed and armored opponent in which one uses no weapon, or only a short weapon. For this reason this art was also referred as Yawara (柔).

Because striking against an armored opponent proved ineffective, practitioners learned that the most efficient methods for neutralizing an enemy took the foYawararm 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.

The oldest jujutsu style as documented is Takeuchi-ryu (竹内流). It was founded by Takeuchi Hisamori (竹内久盛) in 1532 during the Sengoku period (戦国時代 a civil war period) between the end of the 15th century and the end of the 16th century. The martial arts used in the battles are called Bugei juhappan (武芸十八般 18 martial arts). As old as the 12th century, jujutsu was developed combining various martial arts which were used on the battlefield for close combat in situations where weapons were ineffective. The name of Jujutsu started to be used only in the Edo era (江戸時代 after the 17th century).

In contrast to the neighboring nation of China whose martial arts used mainly striking and kicking techniques, Japanese hand-to-hand combat forms focused heavily upon throwing, joint locks and choking in addition to striking techniques because striking techniques were somewhat ineffective on someone wearing armor on the battlefield. The original forms of jujutsu such as Takeuchi-ryu also extensively taught parrying and counterattacking long weapons such as swords or spears with a dagger or other small weapon.Kumiuchi

In the early 17th century during the Edo (江戸) period, jujutsu would continue to evolve due to the strict laws which were imposed by the Tokugawa Bakufu (徳川幕府) to reduce war that was influenced by the Chinese social philosophy of Confucianism which spread throughout Japan via scholars. During this new ideology weapons and armor became unused decorative items, so hand-to-hand combat flourished as a form of self-defense and new techniques were created to adapt to the changing situation of unarmored opponents. This included the development of various striking techniques in jujutsu which expanded upon the limited striking previously found in jujutsu which targeted vital areas above the shoulders such as the eyes, throat and back of the neck. However towards the 18th century the number of striking techniques was severely reduced as they were considered less effective and exert too much energy; instead striking in jujutsu primarily became used as a way to distract your opponent or to unbalance him and lead up to a joint lock, strangle or throw.Koryu jujutsu

The term jujutsu was not coined until the 17th century, after which time it became a blanket term for a wide variety of grappling-related disciplines and techniques. Prior to that time, these skills had names such as “short sword grappling” (小具足腰之廻), “grappling” (組討 or 組打), “body art” (体術), “softness” (柔 or 和), “art of harmony” (和術), “catching hand” (捕手), and even the “way of softness” (柔道as early as 1724).

Today’s systems of unarmed combat were developed and practiced during the Muromachi period (室町時代 the 14th through 16th centuries) and are referred to collectively as Japanese old-style jujutsu (日本古流柔術). During this period in history, the systems practiced were not systems of unarmed combat, but rather a means for a lightly armed warrior to fight an armored enemy on the battlefield. In battle, it was often impossible for a samurai to use his long sword, and would therefore be forced to rely on his short sword, dagger, or bare hands. When fully armored, the effective use of such “minor” weapons necessitated the employment of grappling skills.

Methods of combat (as mentioned above) included striking (kicking and punching), throwing (body throws, joint lock throws, unbalance throws), restraining (pinning, strangling, grappling, wrestling) and weaponry. Defensive tactics included blocking, evading, off-balancing, blending and escaping. Minor weapons such as the tanto (knife) and kakushi buki (concealed or disguised weapons) were almost always included in Sengoku jujutsu.

In later times, Nihon jujutsu (日本柔術) or Edo jujutsu (江戸柔術) founded during the Edo period was developed.  It was generally designed to deal with opponents who were neither wearing armor nor in a battlefield environment. Most systems of Edo jujutsu included extensive use of atemi waza (当身技 vital-striking technique), which would be of little use against an armored opponent on a battlefield. They would, however, be quite effective in confronting an enemy or opponent during peacetime dressed in normal street attire. Occasionally, inconspicuous weapons such as tanto (短刀 柳生心眼流knife) or tessen (鉄扇 iron fans) were included in the curriculum of Edo jujutsu.

Another seldom-seen historical side is a series of techniques originally included in both Sengoku and Edo jujutsu systems. Referred to as hojo jutsu (捕縄術), it involves the use of a cord or rope, to restrain or strangle an attacker. These techniques have for the most part disappeared 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 old Takeuchi-ryu is one of the better-recognized systems that continue extensive training in hojo waza. Since the establishment of the Meiji period in 1868 with the abolishment of the Samurai and the wearing of swords, the ancient tradition of Yagyu Shingan Ryu (柳生心眼流) has focused mostly on the jujutsu contained in its syllabus.

Many other legitimate Nihon jujutsu ryu exist but are not considered koryu (古流 ancient traditions). These are called either Gendai Jujutsu (Sagawa 2現代柔術) or modern jujutsu. Modern jujutsu traditions were founded after or towards the end of the Tokugawa period (end of the 19th century), when more than 2000 styles (ryu) of jujutsu existed. Various traditional ryu and ryuha that are commonly thought of as koryu jujutsu are actually gendai (modern day) jujutsu. Although modern in formation, very few gendai jujutsu systems have direct historical links to ancient traditions and are incorrectly 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 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 Keisatsu jutsu (警察術 police art) Taiho jutsu (逮捕術 arresting art) system formulated and employed by the Tokyo Police Department (警視庁 Keishicho).

In general, it is believed that koryu jujutsu (old jujitsu) had declined as soon as Judo became popular in the Meiji era. However, this is not true. In fact in rural areas Jujutsu training was actively carried out until the Second World War. Even though it no longer enjoys the popularity it once did, multiple schools do exist today. It is interesting to see that some schools are experiencing further decline while others are gaining popularity due to a renewed interest in koryu budo (古流武道).



A few of the famous koryu jujutsu schools:



(Will continue to Part 2: Judo)


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