What is the Jiu Jitsu Martial Arts?

So, what is Jiu Jitsu martial arts? Jujitsu, also written jujutsu, ju jitsu, ju jutsu, or jiu jitsu; is a gentle,yielding,compliant and flexible Japanese Martial Art. It is believed to be the ancient hand-to-hand fighting art of Samurai Warriors.

Jujutsu has seen the gradual evolution from weapon styles to more weaponless styles, and hundreds of ryu (styles/Schools) have flourished, each emphasizing different techniques. 

Jiu Jitsu martial arts specializes in close quarter combat techniques and may include joint locks, chokes, throws, holds, and/or grappling techniques, it may also include strikes, kicks, blocks, and explores efficient movements designed to elude and/or counter attacks.

There is a wide range of spellings used in English for this Japanese martial art. In the native Japanese, jūjutsu is written in kanji (Chinese ideograms) as 柔術, but the romanization of the Japanese word into the English language has been performed several times using several different systems since Japan from isolation in 1854. 

Since words can often lend meaning to a given martial art, I will attempt to break down the different words used for this grappling art.

Jutsu often refers to the art or the skills; in general it determines physical and/or technical level, contrary to do, which generally means 'way' with some sort of personal enlightenment as it's goal

Jitsu refers to, and in this context is translated as, techniques or training skill.

Ju/Jiu like many words translated from another language to english, have many meanings. These words often have the refer to flexibility, yielding, and gentle compliance. Ju is also the #10 in Japanese.

Jujutsu, the current standard, is derived using the Hepburn romanization system. Before the first half of the century, however, jiu-jitsu and then jujitsu were preferred.

Since this corresponded to a period of time when Japanese martial arts first became widely known of in the West, these earlier spellings are still common in many places, though the romanization of the second kanji as jitsu is unfaithful to the Japanese pronunciation, especially since jujitsu can mean "military preparedness".

Characterizing Jiu jitsu martial arts. like other warrior martial arts, can be characterized in many different ways...

  1. jujutsu, jujitsu, jiujitsu martial arts can be methods of self-defense without weapons and is believed to have been developed in China and Japan; It uses holds and blows that are supplemented by a clever use of the attacker's own weight and strength.                                                                 
  2. Jujutsu and similar jujitsu related arts are often defined as "unarmed" close combat fighting systems used to defeat or control an enemy who is also unarmed.                                        
  3. However, based on many of the classical Japanese arts themselves, jujitsu arts are more accurately defined as unarmed methods of dealing with an enemy who was armed.                         
  4. While many jiu jitsu martial art methods also use minor weapons to defeat both armed or unarmed opponents. 

A few examples of such weapons are:

These can be classified as any hidden weapon, such as;

  • Jutte (truncheon)
  • Tanto or knife
  • Kakushi buki
  • Ryofundo kusari (a weighted chain)
  • Bankokuchoki (a type of knuckle-duster)

Basic Jiu Jitsu martial arts methods of attack can include:

Jujitsu Throw
  • hitting
  • striking
  • thrusting
  • punching
  • kicking
  • throwing
  • pinning
  • immobilizing
  • strangling
  • joint-locking
  • joint manipulation

Great pains were also taken by many ancient warriors to develop effective methods of defense, including parrying, blocking strikes, thrusts and kicks.

Jiu jitsu martial arts concentrate on receiving throws or joint lock techniques by learning to fall safely and knowing how to "blend in to the technique " in order to neutralize the technique's effectiveness.

Thus, releasing oneself from an enemy's grasp, and changing or shifting one's position to evade or neutralize an attack.

Furthermore, the term jujutsu was also sometimes used to refer to tactics for infighting used with the warrior's major weapons like the:

  1. Katana or Tachi (sword)
  2. Yari (spear)
  3. Naginata (glaive)
  4. Bo staff.

These close combat methods were a very important part of the different warrior martial systems that were developed for use on the battlefield. 

Recorded as early as 230 BC, Jiu jitsu martial arts had there renaissance during the Edo period of Japan (1603-1868) after Tokugawa Ieyasu formed the Tokugawa Shogunate and brought unification and peace to Japan.

After the collapse of the Shogunate and the restoration of the Empire after the Edo period, samurai were outlawed and Jiu jitsu martial arts training almost disappeared. 

A few schools still practiced in secret, however, and in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, aikido (stressing spiritual and less destructive aspects) and judo (emphasizing health and sport aspects) were created from the study of various schools of Jujitsu. 

Jiu jitsu martial arts can generally be characterized as either Sengoku Jidai (Sengoku Period, 1467-1603) katchu bujutsu or yoroi kumiuchi (fighting with weapons or grappling while clad in armor).

Or Edo Jidai (Edo Period, 1603-1867) suhada bujutsu (fighting while dressed in the normal street clothing of the period, kimono and/or hakama).

Beginning of Jiu Jitsu Martial Arts

Fighting forms have existed in Japan for centuries. The first references to such unarmed combat arts or systems can be found in the earliest purported historical records of Japan, the Kojiki (Record of Ancient Matters) and the Nihon Shoki (Chronicles of Japan), which relate the mythological creation of the country and the establishment of the Imperial family. 

Other glimpses can be found in the older records and pictures depicting sumai (or sumo) no sechie, a rite of the Imperial Court in Nara and Kyoto performed for purposes of divination and to help ensure a bountiful harvest.

There is a famous story of a warrior Nomi no Sekuni of Izumo who defeated and killed Tajima no Kehaya in Shimane prefecture while in the presence of Emperor Suinin. Descriptions of the techniques used during this encounter included striking, throwing, restraining and weaponry. 

These systems of unarmed combat began to be known as Nihon koryu jujutsu (japanese old-style jujutsu), among other related terms, during the Muromachi period (1333-1573), according to densho (transmission scrolls) of the various ryu-ha (martial traditions, "styles or schools") and historical records.

Most of these were battlefield-based systems to be practiced as companion arts to the more common and vital weapon systems. These fighting arts actually used many different names. Kogusoku, yawara, kumiuchi, and hakuda are just a few, but all of these systems fall under the general description of Sengoku jujutsu. 

In reality, these grappling systems were not really unarmed systems of combat, but are more accurately described as means whereby an unarmed or lightly armed warrior could defeat a heavily armed and armored enemy on the battlefield.

Methods of combat (as just mentioned above) included:

  • striking (kicking, punching)
  • throwing (body throws
  • joint-lock throws (unbalance throws)
  • restraining (pinning, strangulating, grappling, wrestling)
  • different forms of weaponry

Defensive tactics included:

  1. Blocking
  2. Evading
  3. Off balancing
  4. Blending
  5. Escaping. 

Minor weapons such as the:

  • tanto (dagger), 
  • ryufundo kusari (weighted chain), 
  • jutte (helmet smasher), 
  • and kakushi buki (secret or disguised weapons) 

were almost always included in Sengoku jujutsu.

In later times, other koryu developed into systems more familiar to the practitioners of Nihon jujutsu commonly seen today. These are correctly classified as Edo jujutsu (founded during the edo period). 

These systems generally designed to deal with opponents neither wearing armor nor in a battlefield environment. 

For this reason, most systems of Edo jujutsu include extensive use of atemi waza or vital-striking. These tactics would obviously be of little use against an armored opponent on a battlefield. 

They would, however, be quite valuable to anyone confronting an enemy or opponent during peacetime dressed in normal street attire. 

Occasionally, inconspicuous weapons such as tanto (daggers) or tessen (iron fans) were included in the curriculum of Edo jujutsu.

Another seldom seen but interesting historical aside is a series of techniques originally included in both Sengoku and Edo jujutsu systems. 

Referred to as hojo waza (捕縄術 hojojutsu, nawa jutsu and others), it involves the use of a hojo cord, (sometimes the sageo or tasuke) to restrain or strangle an attacker. 

These techniques have for the most part faded from use in modern times, but Tokyo police units still train in their use today and continue to carry a hojo cord in addition to handcuffs. 

The very old Takenouchi Ryu is one of the better-recognized systems that continue extensive training in hojo waza.

Many other legitimate Nihon jujutsu ryu exist but are not considered koryu (ancient traditions). These are called either Gendai jujutsu or modern jujutsu. 

Modern jujutsu traditions are founded after or towards the end of the Tokugawa period (1603-1868). Various traditional ryu and ryuha that are commonly thought of as koryu jujutsu are actually gendai jujutsu. 

These include:

  1. Hakko Ryu
  2. Kaze Arashi Ryu
  3. Daito Ryu
  4. Many Others.

Although modern in formation, gendai jujutsu systems have direct historical links to ancient traditions and are correctly referred to as traditional martial systems or ryu. 

Their curriculum reflects an obvious bias towards Edo jujutsu systems as opposed to the Sengoku jujutsu systems. The improbability of confronting an armor-clad attacker is the obvious reason for this bias.

Over time, Gendai jujutsu has been embraced by law enforcement officials worldwide and continues to be the foundation for many specialized systems used by police

Perhaps the most famous of these specialized police systems is the "Keisatsujutsu" (police art) Taiho jutsu (arresting art) system formulated and employed by the Tokyo Police Department.

Today, the very few traditional jiu jitsu martial arts systems that still exist are in regular use by both law enforcement and civilians alike. Some people claim Himizu Ryu (火水流 Fire-Water School) as one such school. 

Himizu Ryu is also alleged to be one of the most comprehensive martial systems still in practice today.

They have a large curriculum consisting of all four kinds of combat including striking, throwing, restraining and weaponry.

If a Japanese based martial system is formulated in modern times (post Tokugawa) but is only partially influenced by traditional Nihon jujutsu, it may be correctly referred to as goshin (self defense) jujutsu

Goshin jujutsu is usually formulated outside Japan and may include influences from other martial traditions. The popular Gracie jujutsu system, (heavily influenced by modern judo) and Brazilian jujutsu in general are excellent examples of Goshin Jujutsu.

Technical characteristics of Jiu Jitsu Martial Arts Training

Although there is some diversity in the actual look and techniques of various jiu jitsu martial arts warrior systems, there are significant technical similarities:

If a student is studying traditional jujutsu, then h/she will learn primarily by observation and imitation as patterned by the ryu's kata or prearranged forms. 

Most kata emphasize joint-locking techniques, that is threatening a joint's integrity by placing pressure on it in a direction contrary to its normal function, or take-down or throwing techniques, or a combination of take-downs and joint-locks.

Very occasionally a strike (atemi) targeted to some particularly vulnerable area will be used to help create kuzushi (break in balance) or otherwise set-up the opponent for a lock, take-down or throw. 

Force essentially never meets force directly, nor do most jiu jitsu martial arts techniques need to be strong-armed to be effective.

Rather, there is great emphasis placed on flow and technical mastery. This is evident in the name of the art, whereas 'ju' connotes pliability and suppleness.

Movements tend to emphasize circularity, and capitalize on an attacker's momentum and openings in order to place a joint in a compromised position or to break balance as preparatory for a take-down or throw.

The defender's own body is positioned so as to take optimal advantage of the attacker's weaknesses while simultaneously presenting as few openings and weaknesses of its own. 

A common inclusion in any given ryu is the addition of weapons training, which also uses kata as the primary instructional method, and stemming from the historical development of jujutsu and other koryu when active battles were waged.

These weapons may include, for example,

  1. the roku shaku bo (long staff)
  2. han bo (short staff)
  3. katana (long sword)
  4. kodachi (short sword)
  5. tanto (knife).

Jiu jitsu Martial Arts as Sport

Jiu jitsu martial arts as a competitive sport is somewhat controversial. According to most practitioners, what makes jujitsu jujitsu, is the fact that every conceivable technique to win in combat is allowed - there are no rules or limitations, surviving the fight is what counts.

In order to safely compete in jiu jitsu martial arts, rules have to be made and techniques limited. According to many, this takes away the very heart of what jujitsu is. They claim this would turn jujitsu into a combination of judo and karate, while it is so much more. 

This includes some very dangerous techniques, which will result in serious injuries. Such techniques include; throwing a person from a standing position while having their arm in a joint lock.

The most popular competition method is called 'fighting system'. This system consist of one round of combat with different phases. 

  1. In the first phase, only atemi (striking) are allowed. 
  2. In the next phase, grappling and throwing are added, but continuing on the ground (ne-waza) is not allowed. 
  3. In the last phase, ground fighting is allowed, including chokeholds.
  4. There is only what is called 'half-contact' between opponents, which means it is allowed to actually hit your opponent, but you're not supposed to hit for a knockout (like boxing). 
  5. Judges award points for techniques used and the fighter with the most points wins.

An other, less known system, is called 'practical'. In this system, 2 defenders will take their places in the center of the mat (tatami), surrounded by 4 attackers, 1 on each corner of the mat. 

  1. The attackers will choose who and how to attack. A defender can therefore be faced with 0 to 4 opponents. Attacks must be straightforward, without feints. 
  2. This is also 'half-contact'. Combat is one round of 2 minutes. There are 3 judges who will indicate at the end of the round which defender did the best job of defending himself.
  3. The judges watch not only for effectiveness of individual techniques, but also how the defender keeps oversight and control of the situation when faced with multiple attackers.
  4. Taking down one opponent with a difficult technique but leaving yourself open for the other attackers will not score very well, while using a simple one throwing your attacker in the way of the other(s) will.

A third competition method is called 'duo system'. During such a competition, a couple of fighters (same sex or mixed) has to present defenses for different predetermined attacks. 

  1. These defences can be freely chosen and are awarded with points from judges.
  2. The attacks are divided into 4 groups of 5 attacks each. The 4 attack groups are gripping, embracing/neck locks, punches/kicks and weapons.

What You Need To Know About Jiu Jitsu Martial Arts

Due to the fact that jiu jitsu martial arts involve a variety of facets, it became a foundation for numerous derivations and styles today.

When instructors started to incorporate their own new tactics and techniques into what they were originally taught, each instructor was able to create and codify their own school (ryu) or a Federation to assist other clubs, schools and instructors.

There are a few schools that have gone onto modify the sourced material to such a degree and are now no longer regarded or considered derivatives or styles of the jiu jitsu martial arts

In the era of the 1600's there were more than 2000 Japanese jiu jitsu ryū (schools) and the common features is what characterized the majority of them.

However, the specific types of technical characteristics varied from one school to the next. 

Old Schools Of Japanese Jiu Jitsu Martial Arts

Some of the examples of the martial arts which were developed or were influenced by the art of jujutsu include:

  • Aikido
  • Hapkido
  • Bartitsu
  • Krav Maga
  • Judo (which includes Brazilian jiu-jitsu and Sambo)
  • Kajukenbo
  • Kenpo
  • Kapap
  • Pangamot

Some of the schools also had influences over the modern Japanese karate. A significant Japanese divergence began in 1905 when many of the jujutsu schools started to join the Kodokan.

Relationships between styles and schools is often complex. An example of this would be the Wado-ryu school for karate which is in part descended from Shindō Yōshin-ryū jujutsu is in itself influenced by the Okinawan karate.

Aikido, An Extension of the Jiu Jitsu Martial Arts

Aikido is one of the modern types of martial arts that was developed between the years 1910 to 1930 by Morihei Ueshiba derived from the system of the Daitō-ryū Aiki-jūjutsu techniques that focuses on spiritual principles associated with harmony and peace which is what distinguishes the Budō from Bujutsu.

Morihei Ueshiba happened to by one of the accomplished students of the Takeda Sokaku.

The martial arts technique known as Aikido is the systemic refinement of the defensive techniques derived from Aiki-Jujutsu in association with the intention to stop harm to the defender or attacker.

Aikido evolved a lot during the lifetime of Ueshiba, so that the earlier styles like Yoshinkan were more similar to original Aiki-Jujutsu than the types like Ki-Aikido which more resemble philosophies and techniques that Ueshiba taught and stressed at the later parts of this man's life.

Bartitsu, Jiu Jitsu Martial Arts in Europe

Jiu jitsu martial arts were introduced into Europe in 1898 by a man by the name of Edward William Barton-Wright who successfully studied Tenjin Shinyō-ryū and Shinden Fudo Ryu in Kobe and Yokohama.

He also briefly trained at the kodokan which was based in Tokyo. When he returned to England, he combined the basics of each style along with Savate which is a type of stick fighting and boxing into a self-defence system which was named Bartitsu.

Judo Kanō Jigorō - Founder Of Judo - Student of Jiu Jitsu Martial Arts

The modern judo happens to be one of the classical examples of a type of sport which is derived from jiu jutsu martial arts, which became distinct.

The majority of those that have studied judo have the same beliefs that Kano did. These beliefs involve that judo is not classified as a type of sport but rather a type of self-defense system that creates the pathway towards universal harmony and peace.

Some of the popular arts had the instructors who had studied in a jiu jitsu martial art derivative, which later resulted in their own derivatives successful in competition.

This went onto create extensive families in martial sports and arts that can all trace their own lineages to the jiu jitsu martial arts.

The way in which opponents are dealt with is also dependent on the teacher's philosophy in association to combat and this also translates into the various schools or styles of jujutsu.

Due to the fact that any type of technique is permitted in jiu jitsu martial arts which includes striking the area of the groin, eye-gouging, hair-pulling and biting, the technique choices are unlimited.

In contrast, judo has an emphasis on throwing and grappling, while karate is emphasized on kicking and punching.

Not all of the jiu jitsu martial arts were utilized for the purpose of the sporting contests. However, practical use within the Samurai world ended in 1890.

The techniques such as eye-poking and hair-pulling are not and were not considered to be acceptable in this sport, therefore are excluded from randori or judo competitions.

However, Judo has preserved more dangerous and lethal techniques in association to its kata. The kata was first intended for practice by the students in all of the grades, but today are mainly practiced on a formal level in the version of complete set-routines for the kata competitions, performance and grading, opposed to the individual based self-techniques in a class room setting.

Judo still maintains a full-set of strangling and choking techniques for the sporting form along with all the manners associated to joint locks.

Even the pinning techniques in Judo include pain-generating, smothering, spine-and-rib-squeezing aspects. Submissions which have been induced by pins that are legal are regarded as a type of legitimate win.

Kano regarded the safe "contest" aspects of Judo as a vital portion of learning to control the opponent's body when it came to real fights. Kano has always considered Judo a development and form of jujutsu.

Judo techniques begin with gripping an opponent which is then involves off-balancing them as well as using the opponents momentum against themselves, followed by the application of the technique.

Kuzushi which is the art used to break balance is also a technique used within jiu jitsu martial arts, whereby an opponents' attack will be deflected by using their momentum against them self to arrest their movement which is followed by pinning or throwing them with a specific technique. In both these systems Kuzushi is important in the way of using minimal energy.

Jujutsu is different from Judo in various ways. For example in certain instances, Judoka generates Kuzushi in the way of striking an opponent along their weak line.

Other techniques to generate Kuzushi will include:

  • twisting, poking or grabbing areas along the opponent's body called the pressure or atemi points, which are areas that the nerves happen to be closer to the person's skin.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu And Mitsuyo Maeda


Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu also known as BJJ was developed when Mitsuyo Maeda in the year 1914 bought Judo to Brazil. Maeda agreed on teaching the art to Carlos Gracie and Luiz Franca a son to his friend, politician and businessman Gastão Gracie.

Luiz Franca was the one who progressed onto teaching it to Oswaldo Fadda. Once Carlos had learned this art from Maeda, he went onto pass this knowledge onto his two brothers Oswaldo, Gastão Jr., and George.

In these times Judo was still commonly named Kano jiu-jitsu, from the founder Kanō Jigorō, which is the reason this Judo derivative was named Brazilian jiu-jitsu opposed to Brazilian Judo.

The emphasis turned to ground-grappling as the Gracie family believed it was more practical and more efficient.

Helio and Carlos assisted in the development in the way of promoting fights and competitions as well as experimentations of decades that involved intense training.

BJJ dominated the very first of the large "modern" mixed competitions for martial arts which resulted in emerging fields that adopted a number of their practices.

The less-practiced types of stand-up techniques in the Gracie Jiu Jitsu still remain from the jiu jitsu martial arts and judo heritage such as gun defense, striking, throws, knife defense etc.

Sambo derived from Judo

Sambo is a type of Russian martial sport and art from the traditional Central Asian styles of the folk wrestling and Japanese Judo.

Vasili Oschepkov, one of the Sambo founders happened to be one of very few first foreigners that learned Judo in Japan where he went onto earn a 2nd degree in black belt which was awarded by no other than Kano Jigoro himself.

The modern sports Sambo is very similar to sport Brazilian jiu-jitsu or sports Judo, with the differences that include shorts and a jacket opposed to the full keikogi along with an increase in leg locks.

Modern Schools

After transplantation of the traditional Japanese Jiu jitsu martial arts to the West, a large portion of traditional styles were adapted by the Western practitioners, which molded the Art of Jujutsu to match up with western cultures along with its extensive varieties.

Today there are a host of westernized distinct styles in regards to the jiu jitsu martial arts that have stuck to the Japanese roots to a varying degree.

A few of the biggest post-reformation (post-1905) Jiu jitsu martial arts schools include but are definitely not limited-to include some of the following:

  • German ju-jutsu
  • Danzan-ryū
  • Atemi Ju-Jitsu
  • Shorinji Kan Ju Jitsu
  • Jigo Tensin Ryu
  • Small Circle JuJitsu
  • Hakkō-ryū

Sports Jiu Jitsu Martial Arts

There are a variety of different Sports Jujutsu types. One of these versions is called  the "JJIF Rules Sports Ju Jitsu", which is organized by an entity known as the JJIF  which is short for Ju-Jitsu International Federation and is classified as one of the official sports for the World Games.

Sports Jujutsu involves 3 main variants which include: Duo which is a self-defense demonstration whereby both the defender (uke) and attacker (tori) are from one team to demonstrate their self-defense techniques.

This variant involves the system known as Random Attacks which is aimed at instilling a quick-reaction time from any attack by countering and defending.

The uke and tori will also come from one team but in this demonstration they are not aware of what types of attacks will follow, which will be provided to a uke from the judges and the tori is not told.

The 2nd variant is known as the Fighting System or Free fighting involves competitors that combine submissions, grappling and striking under the rules that are emphasized on safety.

Most of the dangerous techniques like digital locking and choking, neck locks and scissor takedowns are not allowed in Sport Jujutsu. 

The 3rd variant is known as the Japanese/Ne Waza which is a grappling system whereby competitors start off standing-up and work towards a submission. Striking in this variant is prohibited.

Sambo is a type of Russian martial sport and art from the traditional Central Asian styles of the folk wrestling and Japanese Judo.

Vasili Oschepkov, one of the Sambo founders happened to be one of very few first foreigners that learned Judo in Japan where he went onto earn a 2nd degree in black belt which was awarded by no other than Kano Jigoro himself.

The modern sports Sambo is very similar to sport Brazilian jiu-jitsu or sports Judo, with the differences that include shorts and a jacket opposed to the full keikogi along with an increase in leg locks.

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License and uses material from "jiu jitsu martial arts wiki article"

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