Jujutsu is a Japanese martial art that focuses on grappling, fending, and throwing techniques developed as self-defense. It is a method of unarmed combat, often called the “art of gentleness” because its techniques are based on using an opponent’s strength and momentum against him, neutralizing his attacks with quickness and sensitivity.
There are three main branches of Jujutsu: Kendo, Aiki-jujutsu and Judo. These three martial arts styles evolved from one common source known as “Ju,” an unarmed and gentle combat technique used by the Samurai during their training or on the battlefield to finish off an opponent quickly when using a sword could have been too dangerous. Kendo is the art of sword-fighting with bamboo swords called shinai. The other two styles are similar in that both involve grappling techniques with little or no striking with fists or feet. Each system has its strengths and weaknesses, which makes each of them more effective in certain situations than others.
Ju Jutsu is now practiced both primarily as a form of self-defense and as a fighting sport. It has spawned other combat sports, including the well-known Judo, which is an Olympic event on its own. Ju Jutsu has also influenced the development of other modern fighting sports such as aikido, sambo, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, etc.
The History of Ju Jutsu
The history of Ju Jutsu can be traced back to the 7th century. However, it wasn’t given the name “Ju Jutsu” until the 17th century, making it impossible to determine precisely when and how it first began. The fighting style was originally intended to support a warrior’s use of a sword in battle as a form of close combat used to neutralize an enemy’s attack, particularly if they are armed. Over the years, Ju Jutsu has evolved in many ways. By the 18th century, most Ju Jutsu procedures had been significantly reduced since they were considered unnecessary, ineffective, and energy-intensive. This transformed Ju Jutsu into a style geared largely at disarming and throwing opponents off balance. Various Ju Jutsu schools began conducting combat tournaments for recreation during this period.
Many military units, notably the British, US, and Russian special forces, adopted Ju Jutsu as a combat method over time. Additionally, every military unit had a Ju Jutsu-based unarmed fighting school as early as the 1900s.
Ju Jutsu Techniques
Essentially, Ju Jutsu is centered on controlling your opponent’s equilibrium to make it impossible for them to withstand or evade your counterattacks instead of attempting to confront force with force. Like many other martial arts, Ju Jutsu practitioners use leverage and timing to throw their opponents to the ground, immobilize them with holds, or knock them senselessly with striking techniques. As mentioned above, Ju Jutsu was primarily developed as a method of unarmed self-defense against armed attackers in battle. It was also used by Samurai, who would often dismount from their horses to fight their enemies on foot.
Practitioners of Ju Jutsu specialize in throwing and takedown moves called “newaza.” Essentially, the Ju Jutsu method emphasizes techniques like tossing, immobilizing, pinning, joint-locking and strangling instead of using brute force like punching, hitting, and kicking. The Ju Jutsu practitioner will attempt to take their opponent down so they can begin applying joint-locks and other types of submission hold until they surrender or cannot continue.
Although Ju Jutsu is a sophisticated combat method, it is a skill that can be learned. However, it can take up to 20 years to master the skills required in the sport; thus, it requires patience and consistency.
Culture and Philosophy of Ju Jutsu
Traditional Japanese Ju Jutsu includes a highly recognized and enforced cultural element. To nurture the correct heart (Kokoro) in this art, students are taught to always preserve genuine courtesy, simplicity, and respect. As a result, traditional JuJutsu schools do not practice bestowing accolades, badges, or tags to champions. However, they have a rating system that classifies students into levels based on their learned skills.
One of the important lessons in Ju Jutsu is that a true fighter must possess the three mental states of Zanshin, Mushin, and Fudoshin. Zanshin signifies alertness, meaning the fighter reaches a mental condition where he is completely aware of his surroundings and constantly prepared for anything at any moment. The Mushin state stands for a “no-mind” mentality that enables a combatant to act without even being aware. The last state, Fudoshin, denotes an immovable mental state of tranquility or imperturbability. These states, however, may only be reached after a sustained and protracted period of training.
Derivatives and Schools of Jujutsu
Ju Jutsu has developed into several forms and schools of martial arts throughout the years. Some martial art methods derived from Ju Jutsu have evolved to the point that they are essentially nothing like traditional Japanese Ju Jutsu. These numerous varieties of Ju Jutsu emerged due to different instructors incorporating their styles and methods into their various Ryu (schools). These variants were given names like Yoroi, Kumuichi, Torite, Taijutsu, Koppo, Hakuda, Kempo, etc. Some subsequent newer forms were even created from the existing Ju Jutsu variants.
Another significant factor that aided the evolution of Ju Jutsu into several variations was the introduction of Ju Jutsu to the west. Several modifications were made to the art to make it easier for people to adapt to the Japanese-based maneuvers, resulting in a range of westernized martial art styles present today. However, it is noteworthy that many of these variants stuck to the basics of the traditional Ju Jutsu style. Some of the most popular variants of Ju Jutsu include Judo, Aikijutsu, Aikido, German Ju-Jutsu, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, etc. Certain stories have also suggested that Karate evolved from Ju Jutsu, gathering massive attention worldwide today alongside Judo and Brazilian Jiu-jitsu.
The Japanese Ju Jutsu remains one of the oldest martial arts skills today. Instead of fighting with force, the strategies of this combat style entail disrupting the opponent’s equilibrium and manipulating his attack. Many other martial art styles have evolved from Ju Jutsu, including Karate, Judo, and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.