What is Ju Jutsu


The Samurai Arts of Ju Jutsu


Ju Jutsu KanjiTraditional Ju Jutsu is considered a Japanese martial art. Traditional Ju Jutsu systems all have documented and verifiable lineages. It is composed of techniques such as joint locking, throwing, sweeping, reaping, choking, and striking with all parts of the body. Weapons' training is also an integral part of Ju Jutsu, typically, knife, sword, and staff. The essential principle of Jujutsu is to defeat the enemy by any and all means, using minimal force. Force rarely ever meets force directly and techniques should not need to best strong-armed to be effective. Movements emphasize circularity to take advantage of the attacker's momentum to break the opponents balance in preparation for joint locking or throwing techniques. Traditional jujutsu systems can be utilized offensively as wel las defensively. A brief list of some representative ryu ha would be Hontai Yoshin-ryu, Takenouchi-ryu, Saigo-ryu Aiki-jujutsu,Tenjin Shinyo-ryu, Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu, and Sosuishitsu-ryu,to name just a few.

In a Nihon Jujutsu Ryutraining utilizes Japanese terminology, the primary method ofinstruction through the use of kata. Students are instructed inthe history, culture, and traditions of the ryu. The environmentis one of respect and discipline (self-discipline, and not militaristTraining frequently presents situations with historical significance (wrist grabs, sword attacks, defenses from seiza to name just afew).

The Names of Unarmed and Close Combat Martial Arts Systems

Although these arts aremost commonly referred to under the general term "Ju Jutsu," there were many different names for these types of techniquesand tactics, varying from ryu to ryu. Hade, hakuda, jujutsu, kempo(Sekiguchi-ryu, Araki-ryu, Seigo-ryu), koppo, kogusoku, and koshino mawari (Takenouchi-ryu and Yagyu Shingan-ryu), kowami, kumiuchi,shubaku, tode, torite, yawara [jutsu] (Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto-ryu,Tatsumi-ryu and Shosho-ryu), and yoroi kumiuchi (Yagyu Shingan-ryu)are a few of the words that were used over the years. In some traditions, such as the Takenouchi-ryu and Yagyu Shingan-ryu,more than one term was used to refer to separate parts of their curricula. Each of these words denotes systems with different contents or slightly varied technical characteristics.


SamuraiUnderthe feudal system of ancient Japan, several military arts flourished among the bushi (samurai). Among them was jujutsu. However, because knowledge of these fighting arts meant survival to the warriors who used them, there was not much publicity or documentation givento them among the various schools. What records there were ofthe development of jujutsu were probably destroyed in 645 AD-when the National Archives of the Regency of Taishi Shotoku were destroyed during the Taika takeover. However, other sources prove that the art is definitely of Japanese origin.

Although the art of jujutsu dates back thousands of years, the art actually began to blossom during the Edo, or Tokugawa era (1603-1867). "Some Japanese historians regard the Takenouchi-ryu, founded by Takenouchi Hisamori,and Yoshin-ryu, founded by Akiyama Yoshitoki, as the core jujutsu ryuha from which all jujutsu system's sprang." With the increasedpopularity of martial arts tournaments and the many disputes betweenthe daimyos of Japan, techniques were being developed and refined that would stand the true test of "no holds bared" tournaments.Schools were founded with systematic training methods, techniques were catalogued, and development was at an all time high.

Because of the violent period during jujutsu's development, it emerged as one of thefew martial arts that does not claim to be only a defensive art.The creators and following refiners of jujutsu were not so naive as to believe that one should only strike out in response to anattacker's assault. They recognized the theory that sometimesa good defense is a strong offense. "Ni sente nashi,"(There is no first attack), which is the maxim of karate, buthas no place in jujutsu. During this time of growth and developmentin Japan, "several hundred jujutsu systems were officiallydocumented and recorded." However, most of these schoolsof jujutsu differed in name only and not in substance or technique.

As the feudal period ofJapan waned, the need for jujutsu also began to die. Many schoolsclosed or fell into disrepute as the instructors hired out their services as bodyguards or bill collectors after the end of feudalism with the Meiji restoration. It was then that a young man named Jigoro Kano began to consolidate many of the jujutsu schools inan effort to keep the art alive.

However, Kano made many changes in the art of jujutsu and what developed from those changes ultimately became a sport that he called judo. In developing judo,Kano refined the art to such a large extent that the art was no longer practiced as a martial art. The violent techniques of jujutsu that he felt were too dangerous, or could not be executed duringthe practice sessions, were replaced by safe techniques. Thisalso contributed to the decline of jujutsu.

Recently however, therehas been a re-emergence of the study of jujutsu. People are lookingfor a martial art that is practical and effective that does notrequire extraordinary strength and flexibility. Jujutsu meetsthese requirements. Jujutsu is a martial art that does not hidebehind a veil of mysticism and psychology, but instead deals withthe realities of combat with no exaggerated claims.

What is Jujutsu?
Translated into English, jujutsu means "gentle, pliable,or flexible art." The "gentleness" of the art is expressed in the execution of the techniques, and is not reflected in the effect upon the attacker, except at the discretion of theperson executing the technique. Using the techniques, a personmay either control an attacker with a minimum amount of pain (neutralization),or use a technique designed to produce a great deal of pain (immobilization).Many times the only difference between neutralization and immobilizationis the amount of pressure applied to the technique. Other factorsthat determine the difference would be the attacker's resistance,the direction of the line of force, and of course, the circumstancesof the situation where force was deemed necessary.

Jujutsu is the most potentiallydestructive of all of the martial arts. According to martial artsexpert and historian, Donn Draeger, "It was always a 'no-holds-barred'type of fighting." "Jujutsu proper includes methodsof kicking, striking, kneeing, throwing, choking, joint-locking,use of certain weapons, as well as holding and tying an enemy."A student proficient in jujutsu has studied the techniques thatwere the forerunner of judo (throws, chokes and leverage); aikido(joint locks and circular control of an attacker); karate (punching,striking and kicking); and weapons (yawara stick, hanbo, jutte,and knife--tanto). However, jujutsu is not defined as either anoffensive art or a defensive art.

The execution of the techniquesdepends upon the motion and attitude of the attacker, and seriousnessof the encounter. A jujutsuka learns to exploit the weaknessesof an attacker's motions and capitalize on those weaknesses, andalthough the jujutsuka is obligated to use good judgment and responsibilityin the selection and execution of his techniques, the techniquesare many and varied and can be violently effective.

Jujutsu Techniques

Ju Jutsu TechniquesThetechniques of Ju Jutsu can be used against one attacker, or multipleattackers, and whether the attackers' are armed or unarmed. Accordingto Draeger, "Jujutsu is often erroneously defined as unarmedfighting methods applied against an unarmed or armed enemy. Butjujutsu, while stressing unarmed techniques, also deals with smallweapons techniques, which are, incidentally, equally applicableto larger weapons. Jujutsu can, therefore, be defined as variousarmed or unarmed fighting systems that can be applied againstarmed or unarmed enemies." As with all jujutsu techniques,the amount of force is controlled and the line of force (direction)is controlled. With very minor changes in the position of thejujutsuka's arms or legs, an attacker can be thrown on his front,back, or side, making breakfalls very difficult, if not impossible.The point is that the throws are taught from several angles andin several directions so that, once again, pain results at thediscretion of the jujutsuka and not from the execution of thetechnique. This method of throwing differs from judo, which stressesthrows to the side permitting breakfalls and safe landings. Also,unlike judo, the throws are taught by grabbing the body insteadof grabbing the clothing.

Although judo is a directdescendent from jujutsu, the refinements made by Jigoro Kano,transforming this martial art into judo, left only a surface similarityto the original techniques, and when viewed side by side, thetwo are quite distinguishable. The most discernible differencebetween the two is the atemi (striking) employed during the executionof the throw. Jujutsu uses a wide variety that striking in orderto unbalance or redirect the attacker's attention, gaining controlof the situation. Judo is primarily a grappling system that placesrules and restriction on the use of striking techniques, becauseof this lack of striking, judo is in-effective as a self-defensesystem. This element of control is an advantage of jujutsu overpunch and kick defense systems (karate, tae kwon do, etc.). However,controlling techniques can regulate the amount of force so thatthe effects can be judged immediately and adjustments made inthe technique, if necessary.

There are three kicksfound in traditional jujutsu; the front kick, side kick, and backkick. With the popularity of karate, and the blending of techniquesby students and instructors, many systems now claim the same kickingtechniques as the karate systems, but traditionally, there areno high kicks, no turning kicks, and no aerial kicks in the art.The kicks of jujutsu are also used as secondary weapons designedto set up an attacker or to inhibit his motion. Once control ofthe attacker has been gained, a kick may be used as a stunningweapon should control prove difficult.

Jujutsu does not use thepowerful blocks as do most of the karate systems. Instead, lightquick parries are used to deflect or misdirect an attacker's assault.By parrying a technique, there is an unhampered line of forcefrom the attacker and this allows the technique to follow throughuntil the attacker is over committed or off-balance. Generally,both the attack and the target are displaced, maker it easierfor the jujutsuka to regain his posture before the attacker canregain his. All parries are focused approximately one inch throughthe attack; this allows a return to the centerline position. Thiscenterline defense helps maintain the center of gravity as wellas allowing maximum efficiency in switching from one techniqueto the other for attack, or responding to the attacker's assaultand feints. The parry is faster and more flexible than a traditionalblocking technique.

Another characteristicof jujutsu is that all techniques have a complementary techniqueon the other side of the body. This means that should a jujutsukainadvertently attempt a right side technique against a left sideof the attacker's body, and effective technique will still result.Knowing this provides a tremendous psychological advantage duringcombat because the mind is free of the distraction of having towonder from which side the attack will originate. This complement,or mirror image, technique is apparent in all jujutsu techniques.

 Jujutsu and The Samurai Warrior

Samurai WeaponsTheSamurai warriors. The founding of its various schools (ryu inJapanese) date from the 8th to 16th centuries. During this time,there was almost constant civil war in Japan and the classicalweapon systems were developed and constantly refined on the battlefield. Since the warriors donned armor before entering the battlefield,kicks and punches had little effect, so chokes and joint lockswere used to attack unprotected targets like the neck, wrists,and ankles.

Jujutsu is not a contestof muscular strength, nor does it attempt to maim or kill. Itspurpose is to temporarily incapacitate the opponent, using throws,locks, and striking techniques, with a strong emphasis on defensivetechniques. It is also characterized by in-fighting and closework. It is a circular, hard/soft, external style. Training istactical with a heavy emphasis on sparring and mock combat.

The first publicly recognizedJujutsu ryu was formed by Takenouchie Hisamori in 1532 and consistedof techniques of sword, jo, and dagger as well as unarmed techniques.In 1603, Tokugawa Ieyasu brought peace to Japan by forming theTokugawa military government. This marked the beginning of theEdo period of Japanese history (1603-1868), during which warringceased to be a dominant feature of Japanese life.

In the beginning of thisperiod, there was a general shift from weapon types of fightingto weaponless styles. These weaponless styles were developed fromthe grappling techniques of the weapon styles and were collectivelyknown as Jujutsu. During the height of the Edo period, there weremore than 700 systems of Jujitsu. Most modern training focuseson empty-hand combat. The end of the Edo period was marked bythe Meiji Restoration, an abortive civil war that moved powerfrom the shogun back to the Emperor. A large proportion of theSamurai class supported the shogun during the war. Consequently,when power was restored to the Emperor, many things related tothe Samurai fell into disrepute. An Imperial edict was decreed,declaring it a criminal offence to practice the old style combativemartial arts. During the period of the Imperial edict, Jujutsuwas almost lost. However, some masters continued to practice theirart "underground," or moved to other countries, allowingthe style to continue. By the 1900's, the ban on Jujitsu in Japanhad lifted, allowing the free practice of the art.

There are many (sub) stylesof Jujutsu, each associated with a different school Some schoolsare: Daito-ryu, Danzan-ryu, Shidare-yanagi-ryu, Hokuto-ryu, Hakko-ryu,Hontai-yoshin-ryu, Sosuishi-ryu, Kito-ryu, and Kyushin-ryu.

Since its creation, Jujutsuhas spawned a number of martial arts, including Judo, Aikido,and possibly Hapkido and Kuk-sool. It is categorized mostly asa system of self-defense, although competitions have recentlybecome popular, especially in Brazilian Jujutsu or Gracie Jujutsu,which incorporates Capoeria techniques and ground work.

Hakko Ryu Ju Jutsu

Hakkoryu is a school or'style' of jujutsu related to Daito Ryu founded by Shodai SokeOkuyama Ryuho (1901-1987) a student of Sokaku Takeda and a practitionerof shiatsu. The school is now headed by his son Nidai Soke OkuyamaRyuho. The headquarters or hombu dojo is located in Omiya City,Japan in the Saitama Prefecture outside of Tokyo.

The influence of orientalmedicine is one of the distinguishing elements of the style andcan be seen in the Koho Shiatsu system taught to its members atthe higher levels of the art, as well as in the jujutsu system'semphasis on using pressure points and manipulation of the opponent'sbody through both the skeletal structure and the body's meridians.

 Yagyu Shingan Ryu Ju Jutsu

Yagyu Shingan-Ryu was designed for one purpose, effectiveness on the battlefield. Warriors were usually dressed in armor and hand-to-hand combat was at close-range. The techniques of Yagyu Shingan-Ryu were therefore designed to eliminate an enemy quickly and effortlessly.

Today there are several lineages of Yagyu Shingan-Ryu. The Yagyu Shingan-Ryu Heihojutsuis headed by Shimazu Kenji (Shihan). This school is consideredthe hard style and consists of thrashing strikes and numerouspressure point attacks. The lineage stems from Hoshi Sadaki, astudent of the second headmaster, Koyama Samon.

The Yagyu Shingan-RyuTaijutsu lineage is recognized by the Japan Budo Association asthe mainline (unbroken lineage) of Yagyu Shingan-Ryu and is directedby Kajitsuka Yasushi (11th Lineal Headmaster). This lineage stems from Matsuo Oriemon, a senior student of the second headmaster,Koyama Samon. The Taijutsu school is considered the soft styleand is practiced without armor. The techniques are based on bodyphysics rather than brute strength. This makes the style particularlyappealing to female students of kobudo. Although the taijutsutechniques appear swift and soft, they are devastatingly powerful.

Unlike modern Japanese budo, which was created for the masses and is largely sport oriented,kobudo ("ko" being short for koryu, meaning traditiona lor old) was designed for the warrior, whose sole purpose was tokill or be killed. Many of Japan's modern budo have their rootsin the Yagyu-Ryu, and in particular, Yagyu Shingan-Ryu. MoriheiUeshiba, the founder of Aikido, was a student of Yagyu Shingan-Ryu.He received Menkyo Kaiden (Full License to Transmit) from a lineage which stems from the sixth Lineal Headmaster (Yagyu Shingan-RyuTaijutsu), Gotoh Saburou. Likewise, Kanou Jigoro, the founder of Judo, trained under the seventh Lineal Headmaster (Yagyu Shingan-RyuTaijutsu), Ohshima Masateru.

Tenjin Shinyo Ryu

TENJIN SHINYO RYU is a traditional 'style' of the ancient Japanese martial art of Ju Jutsu. It is currently under the headmaster Kubota Sensei who is based in Tokyo, Japan.

There are also dojos inother parts of the world where instructors hold a Menkyo TeachingLicense. There is also a stream of Tenjin created by Kubota Sensei in 1986 in the United States; Tenjin Shinyo Goshin-Ryu.

Tenjin Shinyo Ryu is an extensive system of traditional jujutsu. There are 124 kata with unarmed combat and weapons defence from kneeling and standing positions, and the style also includes special healing methods and resuscitation (kappou).

The specialty of the Tenjin Shinyo Ryu when compared to other styles of Jujutsu are its use of atemi-waza (striking techniques).

It has been studied by many famous Japanese martial artists including Jigoro Kano, the founder of Judo, and Ueshiba Morihei, the founder of Aikido.


This page was created in part by Glenn Perry, Goshin Ryu.

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