Ju-jitsu (jiu-jitsu, ju-jutsu) – Japanese martial arts system.
Basic methods of attack include hitting or striking, thrusting or punching, kicking, throwing, pinning or
immobilizing, strangling, and joint-locking..
Word ju-jitsu (jiu-jitsu) is a generic term for an almost undefinable
system of fighting, primarily unarmed, but in some instances using weapons, which has descended to us over
many centuries and across several continents. Originating in Japan, the techniques of ju-jitsu - many of
which had existed for centuries before the term was coined - are generally considered to have been organized
into an identifiable system by Hisamori Taken-ouchi, founder of the Takenouchi Ryu (school) in 1532. This
school of martial arts tends to be regarded as the first homogeneous source of ju-jitsu techniques. However,
there were many other different ryu practicing numerous specialized systems of combat and which emphasized
different elements of the art. Ju-jitsu therefore came to include techniques of punching, kicking, striking,
throwing, holding, locking, choking and tying as well as the use of certain weapons.
As a name for a system of combat, ju-jitsu tells the practitioner very little.
The meaning of the term is not often debated. The character jutsu means method or art, while the first
character ju is usually translated as gentleness, pliability or flexibility. This could equally describe
the practice of yoga, but the central axiom of the system is more revealing. The techniques of ju-jitsu were
based on abstract Taoist philosophical concepts which had originated in China. Indeed, the best known maxim
of the ju-jitsu ryu was ju yoku go î set sum which means “flexibility masters hardness” and was expanded to
“softness can overcome hardness” and “in yielding there is strength”. This is the basic principle underlying
all ju-jitsu techniques; force should not be directly opposed, but rather given way to and redirected.
The range of techniques which the system comprises is vast, and thousands pages are needed to describe them
The classical jiu-jitsu ryu were the ancestors of the modern Japanese weaponless martial
arts schools, but it would be misleading to think that jiu-jitsu was ever a clearly defined homogeneous
activity in its own right. Many of the techniques of jiu-jitsu existed within other older combat systems
prior to the coining of the term jiu-jitsu.
The inherent confusion in the situation is made even greater because of the existence of two distinct types
of jiu-jitsu: classical and modern. Classical jiu-jitsu is a very different phenomenon to the modern variety.
Surviving classical jiu-jitsu schools are very few in number, all in Japan and all teaching the techniques
in the traditional way. Practitioners or classical jiu-jitsu in modern Japan are regarded by their society
in much the same way as English medievalists who dress in armour and joust; as entertaining eccentrics.
In reality traditional jiu-jitsu in Japan as a living, developing activity has been almost completely replaced
Modern jiu-jitsu, on the other hand, is almost exclusively a western phenomenon and is practiced by thousands
in different clubs and organizations throughout Europe and America. In common with classical jiu-jitsu, it, too,
is anything but homogeneous. Different styles and associations have their own philosophies and emphases,
ranging from the highly aesthetic (and sometimes functional) to the purely practical. Some dojo train in the
use of weapons (as opposed to the study and practice of unarmed techniques against armed attacks), others
market their systems as 'all-in', but unarmed fighting. Some schools teach reactive defensive philosophies
while others advocate 'getting in first', taking as their motto 'do unto others as they would do unto you,
but do it first'. Some exponents do not even regard ju-jitsu as a martial art and prefer to regard it as
pure self-defense, leaving aside all ethical considerations.
One of the most important principles of modern ju-jitsu is finding an opponent's weakest point, based on a
knowledge of anatomy and the body's basic processes. The effectiveness of atemi-waza, or pressure-point
gripping attacks on nerve centers, is multiplied considerably by selecting the correct target area. One of
the first things a student of ju-jitsu learns is basic anatomy and the location of the body's vulnerable
areas. Of course, many of these vital points are common knowledge while others are better known in the
combat sports. The eyes, throat, nose, solar plexus and testicles are particularly likely to be the target
in a street assault. The lower regions of the body are more likely to be the target in a kicking attack,
while the face is more readily vulnerable in a punching attack.
Atemi-waza, however, is a far more exact science than the crude blows of the typical street-fighter or
mugger and there are far more target areas for a wider range of techniques than the untrained person could
Ju-jitsu is practiced in a dojo or training hall which contains a large tatami or on which students go
through their paces practicing kicks, punches, blocks, throws, holds and locks. In a good dojo the techniques
are performed quickly and crisply flowing from one into another. The co-operative nature of the training
ensures that injuries are rare, but one of the most important elements for ensuring that injuries are
minimized is learning the correct falling techniques.
Falling techniques are a vital part of ju-jitsu training; it is essential that all trainees know how to
fall in order to facilitate throwing practice and to avoid training injuries. Training in ukemi-waza also
improves confidence, co-ordination and agility — especially the latter, which is a vital component of
effective combat skill. Falling techniques are also known as breakfalls — because you use them to break