There is no "official" way to spell Jujitsu, and you may find it presented as Jujutsu, Ju-jutsu, Ju-Jitsu, Jiu-Jitsu or Jiu-Jutsu. These are all varied translations of the same word and they are all acceptable. Ju in Japanese means flexible, pliable, or "to give way"; Jitsu means art or practice. Together these words mean "the art of pliability or flexibility". Jujitsu is often translated to english as "the gentle art", but this can be misleading as the techniques are not gentle on the attacker. The concept of "gentle" refers more to the fact that the techniques require little strength by the person applying them.
The Samurai were professional soldiers and were trained in the use of many weapons (sword, spear, archery, etc) and methods of combat. An unarmed system was needed in case they ever broke or lost their weapons in the course of battle. Because the samurai were usually dressed in armour, the striking and kicking techniques that are emphasized in other martial arts were of little use in battle. Instead, Jujitsu techniques emphasize joint locking and throwing techniques, often against armed opponents. However, as the use of body armour diminished in modern times, Jujitsu has evolved to incorporate some striking and kicking techniques back into its vast arsenal.
Students of Jujitsu learn escapes, evasion, holds, chokes, throws, weapon techniques, striking, kicking, rolling and falling, and ground-fighting (grappling). Jujitsu is not reliant on strength, but relies on balance, speed, and leverage. Jujitsu is a devastating art at its most advanced level and therefore must be practiced with great care and responsibility. Historically, Jujitsu was probably the first Japanese martial art to be introduced in the West, and it was taught to most of the Western world's special forces troops during World War II.
Jujitsu is an extremely effective self-defense system because of the wide variety of its techniques; a student of Jujitsu will learn joint-locking techniques, throwing techniques, striking and kicking techniques, strangling techniques, ground fighting techniques and techniques for defense against weapons. This wide variety of techniques (particularly controlling techniques - i.e. restraints and take-downs) allow for a flexible response that can be appropriately matched to the level of violence one is confronting. This is a major reason why police and military forces around the world favour Jujitsu techniques.
How is Jujitsu Different?
Most martial arts differ in the emphasis that they place on various techniques.
An over-simplified comparison with other martial arts would appear like:
A stand-up style with most emphasis on striking and kicking techniques.
Karate is in empty-hand combat system that originated in Japan. A stand-up style with most emphasis on striking and kicking techniques. Some styles have roots in Jujitsu and some styles contain a competitive or sportive element. It is largely a stand-up system that makes extensive use of striking and kicking movements similar to Taekwondo, but without as much emphasis on leaping or flying kicks. Karate is typically thought of as a "hard" system that employs powerful, linear movements and deep, strong stances. However, some styles prefer to blend some "soft" circular blocking techniques with strong, rapid counter-attacks. Strengthening the body and breaking boards with the hands and feet are also a common practice in this style.
A stand up style with most emphasis on acrobatic kicking techniques, a martial art with strong sportive or competitive elements.
An Olympic sport since 2000, Taekwondo is an empty-hand combat system that originated in Korea and makes acrobatic use of the whole body. Tae means "to Kick" or "Smash with the feet"; Kwon implies "punching" or "destroying with the hand or fist", and Do means "way" or "method". It is primarily a kicking art fought at long range, where the defender keeps opponents away through the use of actions using the hands and feet. Strengthening the body and breaking boards with the hands and feet is a common practice in this style. Modern Taekwondo is highly organized and has expanded its martial art origins to become a popular "martial sport" that employs competitive sparring and tournaments.
A grappling style with most emphasis on throwing and grappling.
Directly descended from Jujitsu; a martial art with a strong sportive or competitive element (an Olympic sport). The fundamental principle of Jujitsu is to avoid an enemy's superior strength and then make efficient use of that strength to the enemy's disadvantage. Historically a problem with jujitsu was the fact that it was strictly a combative style and a contest could only be decided by the death or crippling of one of the contestants. In 1882, Dr Jigoro Kano devised a way of moulding this deadly art into a sport. He modified or eliminated the most dangerous of the Jujitsu techniques and created Judo, which could be practiced for competition or just for good physical conditioning. Judo is often referred to as "the gentle way", because the objective is the accomplishment of a goal with maximum efficiency and minumum effort. Judo has been an Olympic sport for men since the 1964 Tokyo Olympics and for women since the 1988 Seoul, Korea Olympics.
A stand-up style with emphasis on joint locking and throwing techniques.
Directly descended from Jujitsu and primarily a non-competitive martial art. The roots of Aikido link to several styles of jujitsu, in particular Daito-ryu Aikijujitsu, in addition to various sword and spear fighting arts. Generally speaking, Aikido could be described as Jujitsu's joint locks and throws combined with the body movements of sword and spear fighting. This is an oversimplification however, as Aikido has established a reputation as an art of great technical and spiritual depth. Physically speaking, Aikido techniques are very flowing and graceful, with an emphasis on unbalancing and controlling an attacker through a combination of timing and the subtle manipulation of the body and its limbs.
A comprehensive martial art with emphasis on strikes, joint locks and throws as well as a wide variety of weapons and techniques of stealth; a martial art with no sportive or competitive element.
Modern Ninjitsu (sometimes spelled "Ninjutsu") techniques are very closely related to those of Jujitsu. The major difference being that Ninjitsu places greater emphasis on a complete concept of self-protection in the physical, mental, and spiritual sense. The way of the ninja is to endure, survive and prevail over all forms of threat or danger through the use of any and all means possible. Accordingly, Ninjitsu is famous for its use of a wide assortment of exotic weapons; from razor-edged throwing stars (shuriken) and blinding powders, to extensive training in the techniques of stealth and deception.
Traditional Ninjutsu (Shinobi no Jutsu) is primarily an art of subterfuge, infiltration, sabotage, and survival techniques. Historically speaking, the Ninja (or Shinobi) were the feudal Japanese equivalent of modern special forces, reconnaissance forces, and spies. They were commonly schooled in the traditional Jujitsu school (or Ryu) of their house or clan, and often were also Samurai, though not exclusively.
A comprehensive martial art similar to, and with roots in, Jujitsu. Combat and self-defense oriented martial art with no sportive or competitive elements.
Hapkido is a Korean martial art, whose name means "the way of coordinated power". Translated, Hap means "coordination" or "harmony", Ki means "power", and Do means "the art" or "the way". The techniques of Hapkido are very similar to Jujitsu in their style and breadth (plenty of joint locking and throwing techniques), except perhaps for a greater emphasis on kicking techniques (similar to the other famous Korean martial art of Taekwondo). The purpose of Hapkido is to act as a system of practical self-defense, so it has not evolved or incorporated a sportive aspect in the manner of Taekwondo.
Another comprehensive martial art with some roots in Jujitsu and a strong influence upon the art of Karate.
Kempo is a comprehensive and varied martial art. Accordingly, many other arts will share some similarities. For example, Kempo employs some of the jumping and spinning kicks that are commonly seen in Taekwondo. Karate is probably the most similar art to Kempo because of similar evolutionary backgrounds. Is it believed by many that Karate originated as an offshoot of Kempo and 95% of all Karate techniques can be found in the Kempo system. Jujitsu contributed many immobilization and projection techniques to Kempo. Recently, some Aikido and Aikijutsu techniques have been incorporated into the art.
A stand up style with emphasis on striking and defense against modern weapons. A combat and self-defense oriented martial art with roots in Jujitsu.
Krav Maga is the official hand-to-hand combat system of the Israeli Military. The name Krav Maga simply means contact fight or battle. Its founder, Imrich ("Imi") Sde-Or, possessed a background in boxing, Jujitsu and Judo, in addition to skills as a dancer and trapeze acrobat. This style is purely combative in nature and contains no sportive elements. It is a style designed to serve the needs of Israeli military and citizens and their constant exposure to danger and terrorism.
Accordingly, Krav Maga techniques focus on surviving attacks from a variety of weapons beginning with sticks and knives, and they have evolved to include techniques for defending against modern day weapons such as pistols, sub-machine guns and hand grenades. The style incorporates aggressive blocking, striking, kicking and joint locking techniques.
In addition to its official status as the martial art of choice for the Israeli military, Krav Maga is also taught in many public schools in Israel.
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ)
A style of Jujitsu with strong emphasis on ground fighting techniques, a martial art with both strong combative and sportive elements.
Brazilian Jiu-Jiutsu is a modern evolution of Jujitsu that was developed and made famous by Brazilian Carlos Gracie and his family. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu employs stand-up fighting techniques, but it is most famous for its devastating ground fighting techniques. A major motivation of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is the focus upon techniques that will allow a smaller person to defeat a larger person through the application of leverage. The strategy involves the attainment of superior positioning on an attacker (typically a smothering clinch or hold) and then applying a broad arsenal of throws or take-downs, progressing through a hierarchy of positional dominance on the ground, finally culminating in chokes, holds and joint locks.
Gracie received his training from Japanese Judo and Jiu-Jitsu master Mitsuo Maeda who migrated to Brazil from Japan. Carlos then taught the art to his brothers, and as a family unit they refined the style through repeated no rules contest and challenge matches against boxers and other martial artists. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu can be thought of as a refinement and expansion of the Judo Ne-waza and Ju Jitsu Katame Waza (ground fighting and grappling techniques). There are no prearranged katas or forms, but many drills and lock flow routines. Most training is done through active grappling, or "rolling".