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Ju Jutsu the Renaissance Art

Jujutsu: The renaissance Martial art.

Over the 40 plus years I have spent in the world of Martial arts I have seen many different fighting systems have their day in the sun as the next best thing.

One thing is for sure I am can predict that another will appear on the scene soon boasting to be the latest and the greatest.

I have been around long enough to remember when Taekwondo, Tang so do and Muay Thai were the new kids on the block in the Western World. Blazing a trail also was JKD, Silat, Savate, American Kenpo and Freestyle kickboxing amongst many more.

In recent times BJJ, Krav Maga and Kapap are the latest fighting systems that have had mass coverage.

I love to embrace the new and have been an avid fan of cross training for years. This open mindedness led me into the sport of MMA.

So as much as I love the evolution of the Martial arts, I feel it is also good to know its roots. There would be no present without the past.

My base art for as long as I can remember is Jujutsu. The roots of Jujutsu are in Japan although some will say its true origins may have been in India. Needless to say, it was in Japan that this art flourished.

This Martial art is truly unique in the fact that it is over 2,500 years old and is still being trained in some shape or form today with great success. That is amazing.

Although the way it has been taught has changed and evolved significantly over the decades it is still essentially jujutsu.

Brazilian Jujutsu is one of the most popular Martial arts in the world. It really came to prominence in the middle to late 90’s, although it existed well before this.

But even since the early days of the UFC and Pride fighting championships were the public in general were exposed to BJJ, it has also changed and evolved.

Now it would be fair to say it has largely become a Combat sport and the self-defence element of BJJ is not particularly emphasised. 

This is not unlike Judo, which changed dramatically from Kano’s early art to Olympic judo of today.

Judo let’s not forget derived from Japanese Jujutsu as too did Brazilian Jujutsu.

They both took the art in a different direction and added their own stamp to it and what was a proven battlefield art of close quarter combat also became a proven combat sport.

This again is a major achievement and one worth noting. Jujutsu in whatever shape or form had a fearsome reputation in past history and it still does today. It is a Martial art that has proven itself over and over and has survived the passage of time and kept reinventing itself more times than Madonna.

You have to go back to 900AD to find the birth of jujutsu on the battlefields of Japan. The Samurai warrior used its unarmed techniques only after their weapons were lost, broken or if there was a clash and tie up of swords.

Then trips and sweeps were used to down the enemy to then dispatch them with a weapon or to stomp or knee drop them.

Striking was limited as most of the vital points on the body were protected by armour.

Strikes were used more to stun or unbalance the enemy to help take them down or to assist a weapon disarm.

This early form of grappling in armour was referred to as Kumiuchi or Yawara .

Jujutsu was tested and blooded in the heat of battle and it was a brutal art. Its end purpose was to put an enemy in a position of helplessness to kill them.

That is a far cry from how most jujutsu is practised today. But let us not forget when you choke an opponent out and they have tapped, if there was no concept of ‘tapping’ they have been literally killed.

Although the intent in modern day competitive jujutsu isn’t to kill, but the potential is still there.

Jujutsu by the early 17th century had changed again. The reign of the Samurai had come to an end and the wearing of armour was no longer required this then allowed Atemi-waza’ (striking vital points) to become more prevalent. The striking took its emphasis from Chinese Kenpo.

Also as Japan moved more towards peaceful society law enforcement was introduced and the joint breaking techniques became more control and restraint techniques with the goal being to arrest rather than maim. This was referred to as Taihojutsu.

Also the use of tying techniques with cord (hojowaza) which pre-dated handcuffs.

Thence the many locking techniques in jujutsu found both standing and on the ground. 

Jujutsu has been the basis for many military unarmed combat techniques (including British/US/Russian Special Forces and SO1 police units) for many years. Since the early 1900s, every military service in the world has an unarmed combat course that has been founded on the principle teachings of Jujutsu.

By the late 19th century the more dangerous forms of jujutsu were frowned upon and were only practised in Kata form.

A more competitive sporting form of jujutsu was formulated. Jigoro Kano was the main founder of this type of training. This was eventually to become Kodakan Judo.

The big emphasis was on throwing techniques although (newaza) groundwork was still allowed it wasn’t heavily encouraged. Some of the more dangerous leg locks, spinal and neck cranks and body squeezing in groundwork were eliminated.

Also, at this time was a style called Kosen Judo. It was similar but allowed for much longer periods of Newaza and encouraged a ground finish.

In 1914 Mitsuyo Maeda brought Judo to Brazil and taught Carlos Gracie and the rest is history, as they say.

At this time Judo it was still being referred to as Kano jujutsu.

This is why the term Brazilian jujutsu was coined rather than Brazilian judo which it really was.

The Gracie family liked the concept of taking an opponent down to the ground and controlling and finishing the fight from there. This principle allowed a smaller or lighter person to triumph over a larger person.

Even today in BJJ competition the ultimate way to execute their technique is to seek the takedown , get to mount position and finish ,this ties in with its origins as an art of self - defence and no rules fighting as well as sport.

It would be fair to say that Jujutsu in the form of BJJ came to the general public prominence with the birth of the Ultimate fighting championships and Royce Gracie’s early victories. 

For older people I have spoken to, they will tell me of their jujutsu training for the Military and how it was a far cry from what the younger generation know as jujutsu today.

Personally, for me I just love to have the name jujutsu out there in the public eye no matter from what source it is coming from. It can only be good for the art.

Although I hate the term ‘jitz’. It is Jujutsu and, in my book,, it doesn’t shorten to any hip or trendy word!!

I feel though sometimes when people turn up to train in jujutsu it needs to be explained clearly what style it is and what it emphasises.

Most people are looking for BJJ these days and are not so aware of Japanese jujutsu and the different way it is taught.

The simplest way I explain one of the major differences it that, BJJ is 95% on the floor and 5% standing were Japanese jujutsu is 95% Stood up and 5% on the floor.

Although BBJ has self- defence in its syllabus like Judo it isn’t emphasis very often if at all. It is more sporting based today than it has ever been, and it even now evolved to a far cry from the original system taught to the Gracie’s.

As with everything it evolves. Whether that is for better or worse is a subject open to debate.

Japanese jujutsu is an art of self- defence and is taught as such. There are still old school systems that teach the original battlefield arts defending against sword attacks and the like.

Then there are more modern systems normally termed as ‘Goshin jujutsu’ (combat jujutsu) that have adapted their techniques to deal with the modern enemy on the streets. Their techniques will include dealing with attacks from bats, knives and even firearms. 

Going to the ground would be the last resort or only if it was tactically right to do.

There is certainly a place for both arts and although their principles may differ, they still come under the family of jujutsu.

I find it fascinating that when I teach my syllabus I am at any one time practising a technique that is well over two thousand years old used the feudal battlefields, to a technique of control from the 17th century, to techniques used in close quarter combat in World War 1 and 2, to a technique that has worked recently in the cage in MMA or the world of security and body guarding.

That is the beauty of the art. It is multifaceted and flexible enough to suit any situation.

Jujutsu in whatever arena it has been used has proved itself as a highly effective martial art and it has stood the test of time and hopefully will go on doing so.

On a personal level I would like to see more of a bond between BJJ and JJJ because their paths are interwoven in history and it would be good to explore the link between old and new.

After all, BJJ would not have existed without the existence of Japanese jujutsu.

Nothing is new - just recycled.

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