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Jujitsu: The Gentle Art

From Jujitsu Basic Techniques of The Gentle Art


George Kirby


History of Jujitsu

Jujitsu has not had a neat, organized history as many other martial arts have. It is easier to trace a martial art when there is a single source from which it began. It is more difficult to trace the roots that form the base of an art. Such has been the case of Jujitsu.

The practice of Jujitsu can be traced back in history more than 2,500 years. Jujitsu (ju means gentle: jitsu means art) developed from many individual teachings that either originated in Japan or found their way to Japan from other Asian countries. In 2674 B.C. the first mention of martial arts comes from Huang-Di (China) who founded Wu-Su (martial arts), a concept in which the body was used for self defence purposes. Going far back into Japanese legend one might be able to trace Jujitsu back to ancient Japanese gods Kajima and Kadori who allegedly used the art to chastise the lawless inhabitants of an eastern province.

The first dated mention of Jujitsu was during the period 481-772

B.C. when open-handed techniques were used during the Choon Chu era of China. In A.D. 525 Boddhidharma, a Zen Buddhist monk, traveled from India to China, visiting the Shaolin monastery. He soon combined Chinese Kempo (Kenpo in Japanese) with Yoga breathing to form Shaolin Chuan Fa (Shorinji Kenpo in Japanese). As legend has it, Boddhidharma eventually developed the system further into what became Go-Shin-Jutsu Karate (self defence art of open hand). In 230 B.C. the wrestling sport of Chikura Kurabe developed in Japan and was integrated into Jujitsu training. Approximately 2,000 years ago there is also mention of the development of wrestling and related techniques that served as the base of Jujitsu.

there is evidence that empty-hand techniques were in use during the Heian period (A.D. 794-1185) in Japan, but in conjunction with weapons training for Samurai. In A.D. 880 Prince Teijun (also known as Sadagami) formed the Daito-Ryu Aiki Ju-Jitsu school. Daito-Ryu Aiki Jujitsu was based upon the secret teachings of Shugendo (shu means search,ken means power, do means way), the eventual source of Kendo which used circular hand motions to assist in defending oneself with weapons. It was from this school that Morihei Uyeshiba took portions of the art to start his own system of Aikido in 1925.

Most of the actual credit for founding the formal art of Jujitsu goes to Hisamori Tenenuchi who formed the school of Jujitsu in Japan in 1532. In 1559 Chin Gen Pinh, a monk migrated from China to Japan, bringing Kempo with him, parts of which were integrated into the current teachings of Jujitsu. During the Tokugawa era (circa 1650), Jujitsu continued to flourish as a part of samurai training.

The next historical phase of Jujitsu, which had gone into decline with the closing of the Tokugawa era, was in 1882 when Jigoro Kano developed the sport of Judo from Jujitsu in order to increase the popularity of the martial arts and provide a safe sport using selected techniques taken from the art of Jujitsu.



Jujitsu in the West


Jujitsu made its way into the United States in the early 20th. century. Although there are historical accounts that indicate President Theodore Roosevelt practiced Jujitsu, it actually may have been Judo.

A significant influx of the art was first felt in Hawaii and on the Pacific coast of the United States in the period between 1920-1940, during which time a number of Japanese migrated from Japan. A second influx was felt following World War II when a number of United States military men returned from tours of duty in Japan.

There is no single style of Jujitsu in the United States today. This is perhaps a weakness. Jujitsu has been called many things in the United States, from one form of Karate to a synonym for Judo. This may be a consequence of the Americans' desire for simplification, or ignorance of what Jujitsu really is and where it came from.

Regardless of the style of Jujitsu, practitioners all seem to cover the same ground even though there may be different emphases, and elements may be taught in different sequences. The art has survived, though, and that is its strength. It has been flexible enough to endure though the ages and grow, once again, in today's world.


Jujitsu Defined


Stated simply Jujitsu is the gentle art of self-defense. This is very a very simple definition for a very complicated art. It does have a more complex definition. If we look at the many characteristics of the art it will be possible to come up with a more complete definition, one that is more suitable for the serious student.

First, Jujitsu is what might be called a parent art. A parent art is an art from which other martial arts develop. Since Jujitsu has such a broad history it was inevitable that other arts, or more correctly, ways would evolve from it. Judo (gentle way) and Aikido (the way of mind and spirit) can trace direct lines to Jujitsu. Many styles of Karate, especially Kenpo, can trace some of their techniques back to Jujitsu. Therefore, in addition to being a parent art, Jujitsu is also a combination of many of the more popular martial arts taught today. Upon observing a practitioner of Jujitsu one will see flashes of each separate do. One will also see how many separate moves can be combined into an effective self-defense system.

Jujitsu is a series or combination of techniques that have been separated into other arts. Why was Jujitsu separated into specific do of ways? Jujitsu may have become too complex as an art or, because there was no single system or systemized way of teaching it, too difficult to learn. Both Kano and Uyeshiba were able to simplify and systemize their ways. There are perhaps 30 to 50 basic moves in Jujitsu. However, it is the combinations and variations of the basic moves that make the art so complex and almost infinite in its variety of moves. By dividing the art into three general areas (Judo for throws and leverage, Karate for strikes and hits, and Aikido for nerves and use of the attackers momentum), portions of the art would be easier to teach. They would also be easier to organize and perpetuate as a system, the way would also become more attractive to potential students. I am not placing a value judgment on the validity of any martial art, as all are effective when placed in their proper context. I am mealy presenting one logical possibility in the evolution of the martial arts. Jujitsu was in decline in 19th.-century Japan, a time period when other martial arts were on the rise. Jujitsu was a complex art> the other martial arts were also complex, but because they could be organized and limited in their scope they became easier to teach. Their growth was inevitable.

Jujitsu ultimately survived by traveling two parallel pathways. there were those who continued to teach the art as an art, realizing that students would recognize the virtue of studying Jujitsu and pass that knowledge on. There were also those who studied one of the do that involved from Jujitsu, became proficient, realized something was missing, and developed proficiency in each of the other do that make up a major portion of Jujitsu. In their own way, they put the pieces of the puzzle back together again. It may not have been quite the same puzzle that Jujitsu started out as, but all the pieces still fit. They were able to integrate Judo, Karate, and Aikido back into the martial art of Jujitsu to provide an effective system.

this history of two paths can be borne out by observing the variety of styles of Jujitsu that exist in the United States and throughout the world today. Despite their differences in terminology (and sequence in which techniques are taught) they are all remarkably similar. Many, in fact, are identical by the time the student gets to the level of Shodan. It was my own instructor's belief that there are no styles of Jujitsu--only the art of Jujitsu.

Jujitsu is an extremely effective self-defense system. If Jujitsu is taught as an art the student will have a vast resource to draw upon to defend himself with. He has learned a series of basic moves that can be combined in an almost unlimited manner. His only limitation is his knowledge and understanding of the moves and how tend why they work. A skilled student can create and control the amount of pain his assailant may feel without any injury taking place. He can also create sufficient pain and disabling injuries that will make it impossible for the assailant to continue his attack.

If you give a man a fish he has enough food for the day. If you teach him to fish he has enough food for a lifetime. The same saying applies to the martial arts. If a student learns specific defenses for specific attacks he may survive those attacks. If he learns a variety of moves as an art he will not only survive the attacks but also develop a greater variety of responses to any given situation. He has been given the tools of survival rather than a simple meal.

If Jujitsu is taught as an art a proficient student can use his knowledge to create new and different combinations of moves based upon the basic moves he has learned. the student is encouraged to take the basic moves and combinations, master them, and then reorganize them into other combinations. It will be like lighting the first candle in a tunnel. You'll be surprised how far it can go.

Surprisingly, Jujitsu is also a form of relaxation. There is nothing more rejuvenating than letting your developed Ki (energy) control your situation on the mat. You don't know what attacks are coming at you and don't have time to think about them anyway. It's a pleasure to let your Ki control your own body, executing techniques smoothly, without your sensing any mental or physical output taking place. this is a skill that is acquired after much practice and patience. this is also what makes Jujitsu an art.


A Philosophy of Jujitsu


If a person seriously studies any martial art it is inevitable the such a study will include the development of a philosophical background. It is also inevitable that, as a person grows further into the art, the interrelationship between the physical and mental aspects of the art will also be developed and strengthened. The results can be a philosophy of life in which the martial arts training serves as a base.

Such is the case with Jujitsu. There is a philosophy that goes with the knowledge; there is a close interrelationship between the physical and mental aspects of the art; the resultant philosophy can have a profound influence on one's daily life.

There are a number of factors that affect a student's philosophical growth in Jujitsu. The first factor is the destructive potential of Jujitsu techniques from a purely physical viewpoint. A skilled Jujitsuka can control his attacker's Ki, which is the inner spirit, driving force, or center of energy. If a person commits himself to a course of action he is committing his Ki; his Ki is directed toward that end. The skilled Jujitsuka can control that energy. As a student becomes more knowledgeable in the use of nerves and pressure points he will also develop the ability to create and control pain without doing any real harm to the assailant. Combine both of these elements with the ability to create real pain and disabling injuries and you can recognize the potential control and havoc that a skilled Jujitsuka can deliver to an attacker. Because of this destructive potential, Jujitsu places a strong emphasis on the concept of non-violence. a physical confrontation should be avoided whenever possible. There are two additional reasons that support this concept of non-violence. First, as the Jujitsu student is confident of his skill he recognizes that he has a better than average chance of defending himself successfully. thus it is unnecessary to prove he can if such a confrontation can be avoided. Second, a physical confrontation indicates that all rational means of resolving the problem have failed. It is humanly degrading to become involved in a physical confrontation--it indicates that reason and intelligence have failed.

A second factor that will affect philosophical growth is the knowledge that can be obtained by studying the art. In addition to learning the forms and moves of the art there is a continuous process of combining and varying the forms to deal with the same of different situations in different ways. It is an infinite mental press. Once the student masters basic techniques and the ability to integrate them the result is greater confidence.

The ability to control one's own Kid and an attacker's Kid is a third element affecting growth. To control one's own Kid the student must be relaxed. Learned techniques should flow from the center of the body automatically, spontaneously. The student can sense and use his attacker's Ki only if he (the student) is relaxed. If the student can control his own Ki it is possible for him to remain calm and in control of himself in stressful situations.

Fourth, an understanding of the circle theory can be of profound importance. At this point the circle theory will be stated simply: everything moves in circular motion. For every action there is an appropriate consequence suitable to the action. This theory, with respect to the physical aspect of the art, will be dealt with later in far greater detail.

The last major factor affecting the philosophical growth of the student is the circumstances under which the art is learned. If the student is taught Jujitsu solely as a means of self-defense, then that is all that the student will learn. If the student learns Jujitsu as an art--perhaps for relaxation, as I did-- he can gain much more. He can look at the art as an art form rather than solely as a means of self-defense. He can see why techniques are done as they are and what makes them work. Rather than just learning techniques he can learn to understand them. If he can understand them he can adapt them to different situations and integrate basic moves with one another, knowing in advance what the consequences will be. the process can be related directly to daily life.

The philosophy of Jujitsu as an art is based on the concept of continuity. Within the teachings of Jujitsu is the concept of the continuous flow of things; by extending one's own Ki one can control the Ki of others and by controlling the others Ki it is possible to control that person. As techniques must be modified to meet different situations so must we be able to change to meet new situations successfully.

Learning the art also involves developing a great deal of patience. Techniques are not learned and then put aside. They are constantly reviewed, improved upon, modified, and perfected. A good instructor will strive to train his students psychologically as well as physically, as my teacher did with me. "Words are cheap," Seki Sensei would always say. The higher in rank we became the more verbal harassment we had to put up with. The harassment served to encourage those of us who stuck it out to do better. It also taught us not to let words affect us, who we were, or our goals. To persist in our studies was our goal. Patience was the key.

By understanding Jujitsu--the art and its concepts--it is possible to recognize that you can have greater control of your environment while accepting it at the same time. By studying the art you can develop a better understanding of the limits of your environment, yourself, and others. this is particularly trus if you become an instructor. Students will come to you as clay, each one with a different malleability. You can do a great deal with your students if you nurture, mold, push, and recognize them. You can help them recognize their own potential.

With time and training a student will develop a feeling of self-confidence combined with humbleness; it is not necessary to always prove oneself. He can be patient, tolerant, and understanding of others--a real asset to growth. He will also develop greater self-control, recognizing that he can control his environment through confidence and an understanding of his abilities. All of this can give the serious student a positive outlook on life.

Jujitsu can be learned as an art in all of its facets. It can give the student an understanding of what life is and how to be an active participant in it.