‘The Origin of Jûjutsu’
Jujutsu is a generic term used since the beginning of the Edo (1603-1867) period that incorrectly describes a set of open-hand techniques, lightly armed or using different weapons. Although this word is recent, it refers more to a way of moving the body than a specific combat technique. Jûjutsu is inherent to all martial arts who require a supple body allowing to free oneself from an enemy, armed or not, to subdue an enemy’s body (articulations, tendons, muscles, etc.) and of course to be one with the weapon used. Thus, what will be calledjûjutsu and will borrow several names during Japanese martial art history is more of an attitude, a way of being, a way of moving that adapts to all situations and weapons rather than a type of technique used to get rid of an enemy with «suppleness ».
What is called sôgô bujutsu (総合武術), or composite combat techniques uses the art of jûjutsu as a central axis for the utilization of different weapons. The origin of open- handed fighting techniques in Japan finds its origins very far in Japan’s history. One of the first reference on the type of body techniques or fighting system including unarmed combat is found in two important Japanese historical works: the Kojiki (古事記Chronicles of Ancient Facts written in 712) and the Nihon Shoki (日本書記Historical Chronicles of Japan, 720) which in the case of the Kijiki recounts the mythological creation of Japan as well as the establishment of the imperial family and in the case of the Nihon Shoki recounts the other history of Japan. Other references can be found in various japanese chronicles or in paintings and drawings illustrating the sumai no sechi (相撲節), a ritual of the Nara and Hein Imperial Court were wrestlers would challenge the others abilities.
According to several densho of several jûjutsu schools, among others the pioneers such as Shoshô ryû (諸賞流) and Takeuchi ryû (竹内流), these open handed fighting systems in combination with the use of various weapons first began during the Muromachi period. Nonetheless, we must emphasize the fact, the body movement in the art of kenjutsu, sôjutsu, etc., in the writings about renowned masters such as Kamiiizumi from shinkage-ryû, and Tsukahara Bokudenfrom shintô-ryû, had developed a profound and subtle art of displacement and of handling any and all weapons as it can be observed in the last technique of theMutô-dori (無刀捕り).
On of the most astonishing example, that is found in the Shuki (手記) and containing all the stories related to the Kamiizumi. Kamiizumi was disguised as a monk in order to save a child held hostage by a maniac armed with a short sword. This document reveals how, by getting the maniac’s trust, the person is able to disarm him within a split second.
How could this person renowned all over Japan as a sword master have disarmed the maniac? The art of holding and using a sword requires suppleness, strength, softness, flexibility of the arms, forearms, wrists, fingers, etc hence, of the entire body in the same way as holding a brush for calligraphy. Thus, it is not excluded to affirm that Kamiizumi was a master of his own body and new how to disarm any kind of enemy because he mastered the art of moving with suppleness and to glide like water in his displacements. This ability is a sine qua non condition to moving in the art of kenjutsu and other weapons.
The different terminology:
The word jûjutsu means the use of suppleness and not the « supple technique », therefore in order to use suppleness one must have a supple and flexible body and to know how to use such supple body because the utilization of the body is the key to all forms of jujutsu. Here are the various appellations according to the different school that use jûjutsu.
In the Sekiguchi-ryû (関口流), Araki-ryû (荒木流), Seigô-ryû (制剛流) schools, thejûjutsu techniques are named as follows : Hade(羽手), Hakuda(白打), jûjutsu(柔術),Kenpô(拳法), Torite(捕手).
For Takeuchi-ryû and Yagyu Shigan-ryû (柳生心眼流) : Koppô(骨法), Gôhô (強法),Kogusoku(小具足), yawara-jutsu(和術), Koshi no mawari(腰之廻), Yoroi kumiuchi(鎧組打).
For Tenshin Shôden Katori shintô-ryû (天真正伝香取神道流), Tatsumi-ryû (立身流) andShoshô-ryû (諸賞流) : Kumiuchi(組打), Shubaku(手縛), Tôde(唐手), Torite(捕手ou取手, les deux graphies existent), wa-jutsu(和術), yawara-jutsu(和術), Kowami(剛身).
These various appellations were used throughout the different historical periods, geographical regions and successors. Each one of these appellations refers to slightly different technical characteristics were the entire body or a part of the body is used.
Blows, percussions, dodge, absorption, use of the center…:
Among all these different schools of jujutsu, we find three currents that use different body movement techniques. The first uses jointly the techniques of blows and percussions with those of articular, blood controls and of tendons, using a very broad palette of kyûsho, sensitive and vital points of the body.
The second current uses little blows and percussions but they remain present.
Finally the last current does not use or almost blows and percussions. However, it is necessary to add that one of ultimate state of this practice is to be able to not use said blows and percussions, also called atemi. In effect, the purpose is to acquire the most judicious use of the body in its entirety (central control of the line, seichûsen, a subtle displacement, absorption and joint dodge in the different angles of exit and in the timing of dodge.
All this allows not using atemi. The schools, which use the terms of hakuda, shubaku, kenpô, often use atemi. This reveals that these techniques of battle were subjected to an influence of different open-hand fighting techniques from China. Without limiting itself to Chinese influence, these techniques of percussions were used when warriors wore armor, because it was essential to be able to apply torsions, projections and different controls. It shows that it was not about a form of violent percussions as there is always had, but rather an art of striking which allows not to hurt itself against the armor and to touch the sensitive parts of the body.
Besides, we cannot classify all schools of jûjutsu in systems where there is 50 % of techniques of projections, torsions, immobilizations and controls, and 50 % of blows and percussions. What the great majority of densho, makimono, shuki, etc, reveal is that all types of jûjutsu is fundamentally an art the central axis of which domiciles in the use of the body in its entirety through subtle displacements which can be connected to the use of different weapon. The use of blows and percussions is individually developed within every schools, some people make a balanced use, others less balanced, or even occasional or at all.
It does not mean that blows and percussions are not efficient, but it reveals that the use of the suppleness of the body, the positioning of the body, displacements and dodge, was pushed to the highest level of application. The other reason for which atemi (blows and percussions) is of sometimes not so important is that most of the schools, which were born during the Edo period, for a great majority, favored the control of the attacker rather than his destruction.
In effect, during this period rather than to kill the enemy, it was necessary to control it in order to stop him from using his weapon or to draw it. We find this principle of control in the katas Kime no kata, nikikata and kiri oroshi of the school tenshin shinyô ryû of which we can also find some traces in modern jûdô..
However, when there are blows with the feet such as mawashigeri, yoko geri or even oi tsuki, gyuka tsuki, uraken, jôdan uke, etc, such as they can be observed in different karate schools, or when we see circular movements inspired from boxing and other styles, we can be completely certain that is not traditional Japanese jûjutsu. Karate was introduced in Japan in the twenties by Gishin Funakoshi (1868-1957), and therefore several years after the birth of the most jujutsu schools or schools that use jûjutsu.
Jûjutsu: a multidisciplinary art.
For a lot of martial art practitioners in the world, jûjutsu, as well as similar arts, is only a short distance fighting system, used to free oneself from an enemy or to control an opponent opened-handed; sort of wrestling without weapons. Or else, it is about open-handed ” flexible techniques “. As we’ve demonstrated throughout our explanation, jûjutsu is the fundamental of a set of fighting techniques using different weapon. It includes various techniques of blow and percussions, blockages, parades, dodges, torsions, locks, strangulations and immobilizations, as well as a break falling, and even techniques to neutralize an attack before it is completed, etc
However, the most important remains the profound understanding, which allows erasing the transfer of the weight of the body by the control of body-weight shift. This method known under the name of musoku no hô (無足之法), suri ashi (摺足), yoko aruki (横歩), ninsoku (忍足), etc, is at the basis for the use of all weapons and obviously one of the secrets of Mutô dori or shinken shirahadome (真剣白刃留).
According to another point of view, based on the nomenclature of the classical Japanese Ryuha techniques, jujutsu is composed of techniques using short weapons, referred to as minor weapons, such as the jutte, the tantô, kakushi buki (hidden weapon), the kusari fundô (ballasted chain), the tetsuken (steel fist), the bankoku choki (glove in the form of ax), etc, against adversaries armed or not.
The term Jûjutsu is also used to refer to tactics or an inherent movement in the use of major weapon such as ken or tachi (swords of different length), the yari, the naginata, the bô and the jô. These fighting techniques were preponderant in the different ryûhas which were developed in order to be used in the battlefield. Here again we distinguish the kaichû bujutsu or yoroi kumiuchi (battle in armor with or without weapon) of the Kamakura, Muromachi and sengoku periods, and the suhada bujutsu (fighting techniques developed to be used with normal daily clothing) developed during the Edo period.
The Edo period, with the institution of peace, the freedom of movement allowed by the clothes, the ban on duels and to fight to deaths, brought a new dimension to jûjutsu and numerous schools such as Tenshin shinyô-ryû, Kitô-ryû, Yôshin-ryû, etc, abounded and developed a form of jûjutsu more appropriate to the epoch of time and to the morals of the Edo period.
On the other hand, several manuscripts offer two different perspectives. The first argues that jûjutsu is primarily a fighting technique created in countryside by low ranked warriors. High ranked warriors would not dare to use their hands to fight. The second theorie explains that jûjutsu was transmitted as a secret technique among high ranked warriors as a survival skill or to control and disarm an adversary within a castle or else not to dirty the blade of their sword.
The jûjutsu of the Edo period.
Jûjutsu is a set of fighting techniques extensible, including the use of different weapons in order to face different battle situations. This fighting method has been secretly transmitted to a single person within a warrior elite. Before the Edo period (1603-1867), the jujutsu schools were not very numerous, and the practitioners occupied either an instructor position in a fief, or remained free from any responsibility. The spread of jûjutsu was very restricted, unknown of the general public.
However, during the Edo period, with the new relatively peaceful society, the creation of new schools, the spread of knowledge, the teaching to different social classes not belonging to the warrior class, will give a new form in the jûjutsu.
During this period, although the practice of the jûjutsu was very widely spread, it had not the same prestige as had sword fighting skills or the spear. For several warriors jûjutsu was generally considered an occupation of low ranked warriors, often of « rural warriors », and members of the police to which it was useful in the exercise of their function.
For high ranked warriors, a fight rested by definition rested upon the use of weapons, the most noble of all being the sword. Most of the warrior society considered open hand fighting as a vulgar form of battle and warriors of the fief of Asano in Mihara in the province of Bingo often said this:
« Only by seeing jujutsu our eyes are spoiled ».
Nevertheless, jûjutsu was not considered as such by the entire warrior class.Many high level masters had great respect for this art. In effect, certain classical schools which continued during the Edo period, such as Takeuchi-ryû (竹内流), Hokki-ryû (伯耆流), Shoshô-ryû (諸賞流) were very respected by the warrior elite. Kitô-ryû (起倒流) was a school founded at the beginning of the 17th century by Ibaragi Toshifusa.
This last, taught the shôgun Iemitsu Tokugawa (1604-1651) as master of weapon all at once with the very famous Yagyû Munenori du Yagyû Shinkage-ryû (柳生新影流) of whom the masters were going to be in the service of shôgun till the end of the bakufu. Both men, Yagyû Munenori and Ibaragi Toshifusa, had as mentor the monk Zen Takuan, and this last played a preponderant role undoubtedly in the choice of the name of the school Kitô, literally ki (起), « to get up, to produce », and tô (倒), « to fall, to overturn ».
The Edo period is going to be the instant at which classical jûjutsu will slowly loose its place in favor of various fighting forms where survival, adaptation to all situations and the use of various weapon are rare. The multiplication of schools, dôjô, places of practices, the education of the masses to the detriment of secret transmission, is going to amputate the jûjutsu of its technical essence based on non-technical limitation and the use of weapon.
But the transmission of classical jûjutsu always existed in parallel with, certainly, a very reduced number of disciples since the purpose searched by the masters of these schools, was not quantity but quality.
2) The Meiji period: the forgotten classical jûjutsu.
With the abrogation of social classes and therefore the disappearance of the warrior class and the ban on the carrying of a sword, as dictated by the haitô-rei (廃刀令), issued in 1876, the practice of the fighting arts, jûjutsu included, which had served the government in order to strengthen the independent feeling of warrior class to maintain the feudal society, seemed to have lost it reason to exist. Thus most the authors assumed as a fact that most fighting arts, including jûjutsu, were forgotten during Meiji period (1868-1912). It is necessary to specify that although most schools or styles were forgotten by the public their transmission was perpetuated in parallel during the social, political and technical transformations which occurred during the Meiji period.
Even if certain schools of jûjutsu were still active during this period, neither the intellectuals nor the bourgeoisie paid it any interest. After the intense request for fighting techniques during the disturbances of the end of the Edo period, the Meiji period was for many teachers very tragic. Fukuda Hachinosuke, master of shinyô-ryû Tenshi (天神真楊流), and Iikubo Tsunetoshi, master of Kitô-ryû (起倒流), had taught both at the Kôbusho (講武所), training centre in fighting arts created by the bakufu of Tokugawa in 1855 in response to the threat created by the arrival of foreign ships near the Japanese coasts.
During this epoch, when Kanô Jigorô became their disciple; they were renowned masters but were not able to live entirely from their practice of jûjutsu. Fukuda had a dôjô of eight tatamis, filled with different objects, used also as a waiting room of the room where he practiced as bonesetter, as did several jujutsu experts of the time. In turn, Iikubo Tsunetoshi worked as a post office employee. These men did not have the will or the ability to adapt to the new epoch. Therefore, various masters of classical schools died without leaving a successor. For example, Kitô-ryû and Tenshin shinyô-ryû do not have official representative anymore today.
In spite of the complete contempt shown by a great majority of the Japanese society during the Meiji periof, certain martial arts masters were able to have very interesting positions. For example, in 1928, in an article of Tôkyô nichinichi shinbun (東京日日新聞社会部編), Kanô will only mention the name of Yamaoka Tesshû (1836-1888) as a personality having had serious interest in martial arts during the same period as him. Reference is here prestigious, Yamaoka Tesshû, politician, fine calligrapher and a man versed in weaponry, having been initiated since his early youth into the art of kenjutsu and miscellaneous classical bujutsu, had founded his own school, Ittô Shôden mutô-ryû (一刀正伝無刀流), which is very influenced by the practice of Zen. He worked for the Meiji government and was initially in charge of the promotion of Shizuoka, where he, among other thinfs, worked on the development of tea production. Yamaoka Tesshû was finally named chamberlain of the emperor.
It is in this social context, where all knowledge and the warrior culture was disregarded to the advantage of any western techniques and industrial innovations, that Kanô Jigorô (1860-1938) developed a new model of action referring to notion of dô (道) and elaborated from the warrior culture. This new model of action correctly combined knowledge of Western Philosophy with the model of action of the warriors. It was the birth of Jûdô « 柔道: the way of suppleness ».
3) Kanô Jigorô, ingenuous modernizer
Born in 1860, Kanô Jigorô was not simply the brilliant founder of the jûdô, he held concurrently different positions of high responsibilities in prestigious schools and universities. An outline of his career shows a brilliant success as teacher and a burning desire to make the world acknowledge Japan.
First of all professor of politics and economy at Gakushûin (学修院), very famous establishment, recruiting his pupils in the upper class, assistant manager of the same school 4 years later, manager of the high school of the ancient regime of Kumamoto (the actual national university of Kumamoto), 33-year-old manager of the high school of Tôkyô (actual faculty of the liberal arts of Tôkyô) and three months later of the college of higher education of Tôkyô (actual university of Tsukuba), several times counselor to the Ministry of Education, he was the first Asian to become member of the Olympic Committee in 1909, and the leader of the first Japanese deputation at the Olympic Games of Stockholm in 1912.
The athletes whom accompanied him did not practice jûdô, but they were specialists at running. Making numerous trips abroad at the request of the ministry of education in order to investigate the different education systems, to spread judo throughout the world, and to remain in touch with the Olympic movement, he died at sea in 1938, at the age of 78. A life spent at studying and promoting jûdô across the world.
All authors agree that Kanô Jigorô’s first motivation to practice of Jûjutsu was originally very simple origin and entirely personal: jûjutsu had the reputation to allow to overcome an adversary stronger than one, and Kanô, of small size and of weak constitution surely suffered from an inferiority complex.
It will have been necessary to wait for a long time and its only after numerous researches that Kanô had the opportunity to meet a jujutsu master, the later had become very rare. He met Fukuda Hachinosuke in 1877, sôke of Tenshin shinyô-ryû, date when he entered university. Fukuda Hachinosuke had followed the education of the same school conducted by Iso Masatomo when he died in 1879. The later died two years later and Kanô turned to another school, Kitô-ryû, of which the master was Iikubo Tsunetoshi.
So, having only studied the jûjutsu of two traditional schools of the Edo period, Tenshin shinyô-ryû (天神真楊流) and Kitô-ryû (起倒流), as well as various western body conditioning methods, Kanô concluded that jujutsu was the most efficient and most balanced of all.
Concentrating in most cases on the instructive aspect and gymnastics of jûjutsu, he withdrew the parties which he considered dangerous and founded in 1882 his private school, the Kôdôkan (講道館: residence where the way is taught) where he developed jûdô, a discipline based on physical practice and morals for the modern world. Jûdô rapidly became very popular.
The characteristic of Kanô in the landscape of the end of the 19th century or the beginning of the 20th century is that he did not satisfy his interest for education by dedicating himself to an activity that is mainly intellectual but rather through a physical commitment, by training, and by a physical discipline. It is through physical training, the practice of the jûdô, that he aimed at promoting a spiritual training.
However, throughout his life, Kanô always tried to promote the Kôdôkan jûdô as a physical method of training derived from the “modernization” of the jûjutsu, in order to avoid that anybody makes the mistake of considering jûdô as a fighting or warrior art destined for use in wars like classical bujutsu. After Kanô’s death, the military slowly took over judo and incorporated it in military training which lead to interpretation that it was a true bujutsu, which it is not.
On the other hand, the publication of Sugata Sanshirô (known in France through Akira Kurosawa’s adaptation of “the legend of the great judo”) by Tomita Tsuneo in 1942 and the tremendous popularity, which followed, is certainly at the origin of the confusion which led a great part of today’s practitioners to consider the jûdô to be fighting art.
According to Kano, « judo is not a simple martial art, it is a great way (do) principle of which applies to everything. ». The way aims at « the optimal use of vital energy to achieve perfection and therefore success, for oneself as well as for others. ». The perfection that is contemplated arises through studies in which « one dedicates himself completely (…) by trusting in his own force, », leading to a “great future success” which will allow to become « a pillar of the State (…) capable of helping the country to evolve. ». Kano’s thoughts closely link the individual to the group, which in this case is the developing Japanese State. The concept of “way” (michi or do), which is fundamental for Kano, has its roots in taoïsme and Buddhism, and means the research of harmony between men and the universe. This idea that the human being can improve living in harmony with the universe through the practice of certain techniques is implicit in the martial arts of the end of the Edo period, but Kano is the first to formulate it in terms, which respect the modern Japanese society’ requirements. The sought-after harmony now conforms to the collective good, which is to say that of the new State.
During the same period that judo was created, another form derived from jûdô, Kôsen-jûdô, which is the abbreviation of Kôtô Senmon jûdô (高等専門柔道), created in Kyotô within Nihon butokukai (日本武徳会), institution founded in 1895, developed. Kôsen-jûdô is different from jûdô in a very important way: everything concentrates on Ne-Waza (寝技), ground-fighting submission techniques. The challenge is not limited in time, there are no weight categories and the fights usually take place on the ground. The first competition of Kôsen-jûdô took place in 1926 in Kansai. Kôsen-jûdô, for its founders, was materialization of the concept so dear to Kanô, Seiryoku zenyô (精力善用).
For the Butokukai’s members of high rank, Kôsen-jûdô was pure and splendid judo, and to them the beauty and the rationality of its movements honored Kanô’s judô. There was no use of physical strength, they use suppleness only and a judicious system of lever, on which rests the functioning of the bones of the body to free or to apply the different techniques of strangulations, muscular and bony controls.
Ground techniques, as opposed to Kôdôkan jûdô, were pushed to their paroxysms and they were fully applied. A great number of strangulations, dislocations of ankles, wrists, etc, which were not used in Kôdôkan-jûdô, were used and studied during Kôsen-jûdô classes and tournaments gave the opportunity to apply them to different types of opponents.
With the introduction of Okinawa tôte (沖縄唐手), which will become Karate-dô (空手道), by Funakoshi Gishin (1870-1957), the creation of Ueshiba-ryû (植芝流) which will become Aikidô (合気道), Kendô and all disciplines in dô disciplines which are going to follow, classical fighting art and jûjutsu are slowly going to become part of a clandestine world …
Kanô helped Funakoshi and Ueshiba to establish and promote their discipline. The first demonstration of Karate in Tôkyô was performed by Funakoshi and took place at the Kôdôkan following an invitation of Kanô. Funakoshi had a very deep respect for Kanô. The best black belts of Kanô were sent to study these new martial arts. Most of them, such as Tomiki, Sugino, Mochizoku, etc, even stopped the practice of Jûdô in order to dedicate themselves to their new discipline.
All the disciplines created during this period borrowed the Kôdôkan ranking system. Kanô’s contribution during this period is invaluable and many people forgot it.
Kanô’s work as well as his vision of jûdô is still not well knows to the western world and even Japan were the knowledge about the man and his vision of jûdô during his personal evolution remains very fragmentary not to say non-existent. Apart from the erudition work about Kanô accomplishments undertaken by Yves Cadot and based on original texts written by Kanô himself, one find nothing very concrete about Kanô’s vision and his judo in the literature.
But what happened with classical jûjutsu, that which is transmitted to a single heir? What happened to this fighting art, which includes weapons, strikes and percussions?
Let us specify certain key points of importance. First of all, Kanô did not study jûjutsu for a long time, even if he was gifted with a not very common intelligence among the practionners of his period. He was well aware of the vast science which jujutsu offered and, but he had not been able to meet the first level of classical jûjutsu masters.
Although Kanô study a significant number of manuscripts, his practice of jûjutsu was restricted only to Kitô-ryû and Tenshin shinyô-ryû. These two schools were founded during the Edo period and therefore the move the body as well as the use of weapons had already been diluted or were not transmitted because of the incapacity to find a valid successor. Therefore we are not talking about jûjutsu that allows to deal with various situations, weapons, etc, as the one of the following classical schools: Takeuchi-ryû (竹内流), Hokki-ryû (伯耆流), Shoshô-ryû (諸賞流), Asayama Ichiden-ryû (浅山一伝流), Yagyû shingan-ryû (柳生心眼流), etc.
Also let us note that Kanô did not receive the complete transmission of the jujutsu schools he studied. His deep respect for classical styles made him send some of his own students to study other classical schools such as, among others, Tenshin shôden katori shintô-ryû (天神正伝香取神道流) which is one of the first branch of kenjutsu and jûjutsu of Japan.
Consequently, if a great visionary with extraordinary teaching skills such as Kanô, creator of the incomparable jûdô, had little or incomplete practical knowledge classical jûjutsu, what about his pupils and other Japanese practitioners and non-practitioners of this period?
Most Kôdôkan judo practitioners, as today’s practitioners, knew almost nothing about classical jujutsu. For the great majority of them, Kôdôkan jûdô was the most efficient jûjutsu, since most of them had seen true jûjutsu. The study of classical schools was not done in public. Obviously, there were exceptions, for example masters such as Toku Sanbô, Kyôzô Mifune, etc, had had the chance to meet classical jujutsu masters, which were really not ordinary.
Also let us underline the fact that the rapid development of Kôsen-jûdô, techniques of which were issued from the technical heritage of jûdô, led several Kôdôkan judo practitioners to reconsider the importance of the use ground fighting techniques. Let us specify that this type of techniques is interesting on a tatami or a similar surface, but in a real fight, in the street or on a battlefield, it is totally different: you do not go on the ground because there are several opponents, and the ground is not of the tatami, etc.
So, if the knowledge of jûjutsu from a Japanese standpoint, as well as within Kôdôkan, was incomplete, what can we say about the other countries?
In the middle of the 19th century, numerous Japanese immigrated to Brazil. Since the immigration stream to the USA, Hawaii and New Zealand were now closed, Brazil appeared as the new El Dorado in order to escape lack of space and the militarism that was taking over the Japanese archipelago. Several families went to Brazil in to cultivate tobacco and rice.
4) The origin of the Brazilian jujutsu: Kôsen-Jûdô
Everybody is very familiar with Gracie from Gracie jiujutsu. A lot of people believe that this family practices classical Japanese jûjutsu, but in fact, when one studies the history and and techniques of this worldwide know style, the truth reveals quite another reality. Gracie Jiujutsu is simply Brazilian jiujutsu for most Brazilians, but in this large and outstandingly beautiful country, cradle of renowned fighters, historical and technical knowledge of classical jûjutsu is vague and has a halo of several phantasmagoric histories. The same goes for in the numerous Japanese community that has lived in Brazil for generations.
Through a profound analysis of the fighting techniques of Gracie jujutsu and their application during various battles, it is apparent that they are principally centered on ground fighting. The Ne- waza used are similar to those of Kôsen-Jûdô. In fact and first of all, Brazilian jiujitsu has no historical links to Japanese classical jûjutsu, which was created to survive on the battlefield and deal with attackers armed with different weapon.
The striking techniques of Gracie jujutsu are very limited and are developed according to the different submission techniques. Besides, when studying the or the several guards used by the members of the Rickson or Royce family, etc, we observe that there guards are always similar and very close to that used in boxing. The science ofstrikes and percussions is very poor, which is not the case in classical jûjutsu. The great Brazilian championships are proof of the foregoing, since all striking is prohibited. In classical jûjutsu, there are no competitions.
The use of weapons or application of open hand techniques using a weapon is non-existent in Brazilian jujutsu. As we have demonstrated in previous articles, classical jûjutsu is always used jointly with weapons of different sizes and shapes.
The conclusion is clear: as all other disciplines blending different fighting styles, Brazilian jiujutsu, as jûdô or Kôsen jûdô or other jujutsu styles created by the different federations, is not a fighting techniques made to survive during a street fight nor on a battlefield.
However, the effectiveness of their submissions techniques remains incredibly efficient in a tournament where rules are always present. In classical jujutsu there are not rules. Then, why is it called Brazilian “jujutsu”?
It is necessary us to take back up to a certain Maeda Kôsei, more knew under the name of Konde Koma or count Koma. Neither Sekai ôgyô jûdô musha shûgyô (世界横行柔道武者修行) and nor Sekai ôgyô dai nor shin jûdô musha shûgyô (世界横行第二新柔道武者修行) are two spacious works which bring back in the detail, facts and gestures, various big faces which worked at the spread of the jûdô after its foundation by Kanô.
In order to understand the origin of this appellation, we must go back to a man called Maeda Kôsei, or more famous under the name Konde Koma or Comte Koma. The Sekai ôgyô jûdô musha shûgyô (世界横行柔道武者修行) and the Sekai ôgyô dai ni shin jûdô musha shûgyô (世界横行第二新柔道武者修行) are two large volumes that explain in detail the ways and gestures of the various important figures that contributed to the propagation of jûdô after is was founded by Kanô.
According to these two sources, Maeda was a high level practitioner of jûdô which also had a thorough knowledge of Kôsen-jûdô as most high level jûdôka of the Kôdôkan. Of course, his knowledge of classical jûjutsu was very poor, and for him, as for most people who frequently trained at the Kôdôkan, jûdô was the best open hand fighting method. Maeda had been sent to the United States with a deputation in order to introduce jûdô, however his understanding of fighting arts exceeded greatly the techniques that respect the frame of rules which govern Kôdôkan-jûdô. During a demonstration where Maeda had to show the superiority of jûdô on a stronger adversary than him, he used submission techniques and strikes that are forbidden by the Kôdôkan rules.
During his life, Kanô had forbidden his students from participating in fights against other schools. Kôdôkan taught morality and high bodily keeping, it was always necessary to be polite, useful for society and to avoid any actions, which could negatively affect the reputation of the school, the master and one’s self. Once a person was accepted in the Kôdôkan, there was a moral contract of profound meaning, which was passed between the future student and the Kôdôkan. To act in contradiction to this contract was to go against every precept of Kanô and of Jûdô.
This ban from fights already existed in the old bujutsu and classical jûjutsu schools because if a student lost a battle against a person of another school, the adversary would have been able to learn the fighting style and techniques used by the loser. A famous example is when the renowned Saigô Shirô was expelled from the Kôdôkan after having taken part into a fight.
After this battle, Saigô Shirô, also known as Maeda, could not remain in the Kôdôkan, since he had been deprived of the financial allocation that the Kôdôkan provided. To earn a living he began to participate in fights and met professional wrestlers, boxers and any type of combatants able of striking, grabbing and of controlling, of bringing to the ground, etc. He rapidly got involved in a form a free fights, which were very easy to organize and very popular in the United States. Although his journey will ultimately bring him to Brazil, he will have time to test his fighting techniques in the preceding years. He wrote the following regarding these battles or free fights:
« In a battle between two judo practitioners the first fundamental rule resides in the obligation to wear a keikô-gi (clothes made specifically for the practice of the jûdô). This fundamental rule of wearing a keikô-gi sets the exit of the battle easily. Let us add that in jûdô the techniques of striking with the feet or fists are not used. This shows that the practice of judo works only in a well regulated predetermined environment which restricts the individuals and do not allow them to be confronted with other styles. »
This revealing text shows the future orientation of Maeda and obviously his lack of knowledge of the classical jûjutsu. He understands that the Keiko-gi is an obstacle, because in a fight against a person who does not wear it, or his dressed in a T-shirt, or is bare torso, the different jûdô techniques are difficult to apply. From this analysis, we can see that his knowledge of atemi remains limited to strikes with the fist and foot, and that the use of fingers and weapons is foreign to him, although we must grant him the benefit of the doubt since he does not discuss them.
Maeda goes even farther:
« When I fight against a foreign wrestler, even if I grab him by the sleeve, there is certainly no reason to believe that he will loose the battle, but the battle is not either won beforehand. It is very difficult to achieve a projection with the type of clothes, which they carry, and on top of that, they get up again right away or roll to amortize their fall. I can neither use their sleeve to strangle them or to wrap the arm or the wrist of the adversary. It is really difficult to fight while respecting the rules of the jûdô. »
The experience acquired in his various battles against boxers, leads Maeda to consider the necessity for every jûdô practionner to learn the different strikes with the fist and foot and to learn to avoid them:
« Very early, I understood that it was necessary that I practice kicks and punches. After 3 – 4 years of practicing these strikes, the necessity to develop different types of gloves and instruments for practice became quite obvious. So, I have created a type of glove of a sufficiently thick to allow me to practice striking. However, with this type of glove it is difficult to grab the partner or to apply on him a wrist lock… I think that it is necessary for every judo practitioner to think profoundly on this subject. »
Maeda’s numerous battles are going to make him understand the importance of ground techniques. Everything fighter that he met had, wrestler and even boxers, a common weakness: ground control techniques. In this area of expertise, the techniques of Kôsen-jûdô are those who present most similarities with Gracie Jiujutsu. Maeda understood right away that battles would be won right away if he succeeded in putting to the ground and immobilizing his adversary on the ground.
It is important to note the battles in which Maeda participated did not put the life of the fighters at risk. They were similar to fights that can be seen in Pride, Free Fight or UFC, with and audience of curious and gamblers. The one who wins the fight and stays on the fighting surface earns the money. There were rules, this unquestionable, although the later were reduced to strict minimum. In the end, there were rules, which is something that does not exist in the classical jûjutsu.
The remaining of his life is very simple: rich of his experience in battles he established himself in Brazil and shares his huge knowledge with the members of the Gracie family. However, neither the Gracie nor the average Japanese or Maeda himself can tell the difference between classical Jûjutsu and judo or kôsen-jûdô. Besides, Maeda’s knowledge of Portuguese was very precarious, and the Gracie family’s Japanese must have been reduced to basic forms of politeness such as “Arigatô”, “Kon nichi hectare”, “Sayonara”. Therefore confusion and ignorance, already in existence in Japan cradle of the Kôdokan elite, if elite there was apart from Kanô himself, was passed on to the Gracie family and in all of Brazil.
We do not either want to reduce the relation with Maeda to a simple transmission of errors. If Hélio Gracie succeeded in finding the concept of leverage in a ground fight based on the use of suppleness, it is because Maeda did a great job as a teacher. To do this, Maeda had attended the best school of the world, the Kôdôkan, and a master in this art, Kanô himself. So, in light of these facts, we can easily conclude that kosen-judo, based only on ground fighting, was the foundation of the technical arsenal that we find Gracie jujutsu. This arsenal comes from the technical heritage of the judo, since it rests on the concepts introduced by Kanô in order to explain and show his jûdô.
5) Deserve and demerits today …
The first UFC, Pride, etc, are going to show the importance for a fighter to be versatile. Therefore, a great number of fighter are going to study not only Gracie jiujutsu, but also Sanbo, Shoot, and others are even going to rediscover the jûdô, etc. This will create a world trend, which in turn is going to trigger profound debates: which art or system is the strongest? Ground fighting? Sticking arts? etc.
A large number of new disciplines are going to be born, pancrace, cross pancrace, contact, Pitt fighting, systema, MMA, free conflict, wrestling, kempo fighting, etc But the common point between all these new disciplines is the same. The system is always about techniques to bring the opponent to the ground and apply a joint lock or control, which we can find judo or Kôsen-jûdô. Even though several organizations or federations pretend to defend and preserve genuine Japanese jujutsu under the cover […] it is not the case. Here also we are dealing with a mixture of sticking techniques from karate and other techniques from jûdô, aikidô, etc, Such systems are generally created by retired jûdôka whose knowledge of classical jûjutsu remains very fragmentary and based only on preconceived ides and not on a real practice or transmission of a classical school. Strickes such as mawashi geri, yoko geri, etc simply do not exists in classical jujutsu. Let us add that karate was imported to Japan in 1920, and that jûjutsu exists in the Japan since at least 1400. This historical difference does not need any further comments.
The practitioners of MMA and several other disciplines newly created because of a lack of knowledge are athletes whom we must respect. Why? Because their practice demands privation, a discipline of iron, an uncommon will and endurance, which do not always, pay. Most of them never become stars of free fights in Japan or in USA. Many of them have never had the chance to get proper education, yet the practice and discipline of their practice allows them to find self-esteem. The same respect should help them realize through an improved rationality that the career MMamp;A fights is short and that the wounds are often serious and dangerous and can compromise one’s future. If the most practionners become teachers, without any skills or pedagogy, they cannot stand up any more to their young pupils who are full of enthusiasm and in the physical force of age. The ideal of Glory is very often a dream, which becomes blurred after time as in any sports. The dream is not at the level of effort and the sacrifice provided.
The practice of MMamp;A also allows many realize the fact that several people who pretend to be masters of classical jûjutsu refuse to confront them using as an excuse tradition, philosophical differences, mastery etc. MMamp;A practitioners must be versatile. Therefore, in a battle they must have an intuitive knowledge of striking distance, timing and of course, speed, breathing, suppleness and a technical and physical potential as well as tactics, etc. Like any fighter he prepared for the fight with his staff, which is often reduced to a single person. The fighter knows his body and therefore he knows how to engage into battle from different positions.
In classical Jûjutsu on the other hand, the great majority of pseudo-masters hide, since their techniques are supposedly lethal and based survival skills, therefore they do not give themselves the trouble of studying further their style or to test and take challenges against other styles. Truly enough, classical jûjutsu has no rules, since it is about killing and survival skills but many hide behind this illusionary wall to conceal their ignorance and their fright of fights. As a consequence, they never fight and they have no experience of true fighter or people that are used to the ring.
In classical jujutsu the competition is internal, it is about a competition against one’s self and rare are those who win it. Because in this competition there is no teacher, no staff, no deadline, it is a battle that lasts without any knowledge of the final outcome. One of numerous purposes is to be able train for the longest possible period of time and be able to deal with any kind of assailant whatever one’s age since as time passes by the needs are greater and therefore the danger is proportionate.
Since its creation, classical jûjutsu was transmitted within an elite and to a single successor. To be able to receive the transmission of the knowledge of numerous generations, which sacrificed their life, who gave their blood in order to transmit the art through centuries, requires human qualities, physical and psychological that are beyond the ones found in the common practionners that we are. It is therefore normal that the practitioner who can demonstrate the effectiveness of classical jûjutsu against any type of fighter whatever the style are quite rare.
The practice of both disciplines, Gracie or classical jujutsu, must allow one to remain open and to study the other arts without any veiled intentions. This is very difficult when one’s practice, whatever the style, the name or the rank is only based money, control, power, and the search for honor and recognition. « Man can easily be corruptible, he can do it by himself » once said a holy man.
In general, the true one, whatever the style, respects all disciplines and their practitioners because he knows that stakes differ in every style and that they all require practice and patience. It is in fact the one that is most patient in a respectful way that is the flower among all practionners in any style. He is the one who respects everybody and any practice without expecting anything in return, the one who studies with patience and perseverance without ever being caught in a trap of idealizing what he would like to be, because he knows deep inside that in reality: he is simply a man.