Jujutsu is a traditional Japanese martial art that employs a combination of techniques that aim to defeat an opponent. Most of the techniques make use of hand-to-hand combat and a number of kicking techniques. Jujutsu is traditionally used in battles that do not involve arms and weapons. “Gentle practice” is what Jujutsu is all about. The Jujutsu warrior uses his opponent’s aggressiveness, momentum and balance to win over the battle. Jujutsu techniques are also employed in battles that make use of weapons such as samurai swords and sears.
History / Origins
The word “jujutsu” is a combination of Japanese words “ju” which means flexible, versatile or gentle and “jutsu” which means practice or art. Joining these two words together, it gives this Japanese martial art the literal meaning “gentle practice” or “flexible art.”
When this art of self-defense became popular in the Western regions before the first half of the 20th century, people preferred to use the terms “jiu-jitsu” and “jujitsu” rather than its original counterpart.
The traditional Jujutsu was developed in Japan during the Muromachi period which dated from 1333-1573. Takenouchi Hisamori, a lord and military tactician from Mimasaka Province, developed Jujutsu by combining various Japanese martial arts used in the battlefield for close combat. The traditional Jujutsu focused on learning how to defeat a heavily armed warrior without using any weapons. True to its literal translation of “gentle practice,” a Jujutsu warrior uses his attacker’s aggressiveness and momentum, as well as his attacker’s weapons, to win the fight. Hand-to-hand strikes such as throwing, choking, immobilising and joint-locks are used in traditional Jujutsu.
The Edo Period between 1603 and 1868, under the Tokugawa military ruling, was Japan’s peaceful era where the use of a weapon was not permitted. Due to the restriction, hand-to-hand combat continued to flourish and became a well-known Japanese martial art. Eventually, most Jujutsu moves were developed for battles that make use of weapons such as samurai swords and sears.
The passing of time has morphed and evolved Jujutsu. In the present times, Jujutsu is being practiced with the use of both traditional and modern martial arts techniques. From traditional Jujutsu, various fighting moves and self-defense actions are added to modernize it and cater to different needs, fighting styles, and preference of the warrior. Examples of modernized Jujutsu include Brazilian Jiu-jitsu which is a combination of Jujutsu techniques, Judo and old-style Russian wresting; Okinawan Karate which makes use of Jujutsu and Kung Fu; Kempo, a martial art that is half Karate and half Jujutsu; and Edo Jujutsu that is designed to defeat an opponent without a weapon or armour.
Because there are different versions of Jujutsu’s history, extracting a story on how Jujutsu began is not easy. There is Japanese folklore that tells how a warrior in Izumo named Nomi no Sekuni killed and won over Tajima no Kehaya in Shimane prefecture right in front of Emperor Suinin. Izumo won because he did Jujutsu’s striking, throwing and restraining techniques during the battle. Another mythical story that made use of Jujutsu tackles about two mythical characters, the legendary gods Kajima and Kadori. These gods reprimanded the inhabitants of an eastern providence for their lack of order and law. Kajima and Kadora punished the inhabitants through the use of the Jujutsu martial art.