Jiu Jitsu, also known as Ju Jitsu and Jujutsu, is a Japanese martial arts system that utilizes a wide range of techniques including kicks, strikes, throws, joint locks and chocking as well as the use of weapon. Aspects of Jiu Jitsu can be found in almost all forms of martial arts.
The word is usually translated as Ju meaning gentle or yielding and Jitsu meaning technique or art. The basic principles involve using the attacker’s own energy against himself rather than attacking back with your own energy.
Jiu Jitsu does not have a clear lineage because it was developed by several different schools across many centuries. Thus, the techniques of Jiu Jitsu vary depending upon the school. There are both traditional and modern forms of Jiu Jitsu sport. Additionally, the arm lock and submission techniques have become popular with Police across the globe.
There many different Jiu Jitsu techniques and each school has their own style of execution. The below are some of the major techniques:
Kansetsu Waza - Joint Locks
Joint locks or arm locks serve many functions. Some control the opponent’s weapon while others inflict pain by bending the joint the wrong way, which usually forces submission. Other techniques set up for throwing techniques or simply to restrain the aggressor. These techniques are for controlling an opponent’s attack and can be used on any point that bends including fingers, wrists, elbows, shoulders and knees. Joint locks are often used by police forces to control criminals and in interrogation or torture. Joint lock submissions are often the final move in modern sports contests.
Shime Waza – Chokeholds
One of the most dangerous of Jiu Jitsu techniques, a chokehold can bring about unconsciousness or even death. If the windpipe is damaged by choking the neck, death can be brought about by asphyxiation. Otherwise, an opponent can be knocked unconscious for three to seven second by strangling, which cuts off the blood flow to the brain. Death by strangulation would take over a minute, which is why strangulation techniques are still allowed while choking techniques are normally banned. Strangulation techniques can be more easily applied to restrain without any fatal consequences whereas choking is much more difficult to perform without permanent damage to the opponent. Additionally, Jiu Jitsu has many techniques to counter choking or strangling techniques, which makes it a very popular form of self-defense.
Atemi (Kyusho) - Striking Arts (Vital Points)
While most schools of Jiu Jitsu don’t put an emphasis on striking an opponent, strike techniques are used as tools for disabling opponents. It usually involves striking key points on an opponent’s body that are sensitive, causing pain or injury. The body or weapons can be utilized to hit or press vital spots such as nerve centers, weak bone structures, and exposed organs. However, most Jiu Jitsu schools do not allow kicks above the shoulders. Karate was developed by students of Jiu Jitsu who favored striking techniques
Ne Waza - Ground Fighting/Grappling
Similar to Joint Locks, grappling pins and holds are used when an opponent is on the ground. Early systems of grappling were generally simple moves including some very damaging techniques such as gouging or biting. For sporting contests, more elaborate techniques were developed. Over time, grappling moves were altered so that they could be practiced by anyone for a variety of purposes including physical health, sports contests and self-defense. Thus, for modern competitions, some of the ancient techniques are banned and very few schools still teach the old moves.
Nage Waza - Throwing Arts
Throwing techniques is one of the prime examples of using an opponent’s force against himself. By creating an imbalance in the attacking person, it is easy and swift to throw them, usually forcing them to become prone on the ground. This can lead to grappling techniques, but often victory was won through the use of knives or other small weapons. Throwing techniques were used most when unarmed and fighting against an armed opponent to get them in position to disarm them.
Orosu – Takedowns
Not to be confused with throws, takedown use physical strength to drag or strike the opponent to the floor. This utilizes brute strength to overcome the opponent while throws use the opponent against himself. A takedown usually occurs once the opponent’s legs or arms are trapped, which prevent retreated. In modern sporting contests, takedowns are usually accidental or because of an over-aggressive attack.
Schools and derivatives
Many styles and derivatives exist today because there are so many different facets of Jiu Jitsu. As techniques were modified and new moves were incorporated, many instructors codified their style and created their own school, or ryu. As other learned these new schools they, in turn, would continue to develop and change the styles into their own. Some schools were so altered from the original that they are no longer considered Jiu Jitsu.
In the 1600s there were well over 2000 Japanese Jiu Jitsu ryu with characteristics that were common to most of them. However, specific technical characteristics vary from school to school. Some schools of Jiu Jitsu do not conform to the generalizations about Jiu Jitsu. Some of the old Japanese schools include:
- Araki-ryu was founded by Araki Mujinsai Minamoto no Hidenawa in the early 1570s and specializes in close combat grappling with weapons. Before beginning the study of Araki-ryu, students and practitioners must take a set of vows called the Kishmon Mae Gaki no Koto.
- Daito-ryu aiki-Jiu Jitsu was first popularized under the leadership of Takeda Sokaku in the early 20th century and it emphasizes neutralizing an attack early. Though the school claims to have roots that extend centuries into Japanese history, there are no known records before Takeda Sokaku began practicing and teaching. Interestingly, the founder of Aikido, Morihei Ueshiba, was one of Takeda’s students.
- Hontai Yoshin-ryu was founded by Takagi Shigetoshi around the 1660s and it focuses on unarmed grappling combat as well as some weapons arts. There are very few schools today because they value their traditions and do not believe in commercialism.
- Kashima Shin-ryū was found in 1450 is known as one of the Japanese koryu martial arts and primarily teaches weapon arts. Koryu means old school and usually applied to Japanese schools of martial arts that began before the Meiji Restoration.
- Kukishin-ryū was founded by Kuki Yakushimaru Ryūshin in the 14th century and teaches a variety of weapons arts. The name originally meant Nine Gods Spirit School, but due to the simplification of Japanese kanji the current versions can be translated as Nine Demon Gods School.
- Kyushin Ryu was founded by Inugami Sakon-no-shokan Nagakatsu around 1558. Originally, it focused on teaching striking techniques, but over time, various masters added techniques such as throwing, grappling and Katsu Waza, which were methods of resuscitation and first aid.
- Sekiguchi Shinshin-ryu was founded by Sekiguchi Yarokuemon Ujimune in the 1640s and is most well-known for its grappling and sword techniques. While the school spread wide across the country and was practiced for many centuries, during World War II, most of the school’s documents were lost. It took more than fifteen years to restore the school and continue its teachings.
- Sosuishitsu-ryu was founded by Futagami Hannosuke Masaaki around 1650 and teaches unarmed and armed grappling as well as sword techniques. Over the years, this school has almost been completely abandoned several times, but those who carried it on decided to incorporate other techniques, making it more fluid and relevant. This continual evolution continues to this day.
- Takenouchi-ryu was founded by Takenouchi Chūnagon Daijō Nakatsukasadaiyū Hisamori in 1532 and is one of the oldest Japanese koryu. Though it is famous for it Jiu Jitsu techniques which have influenced the founding of many other schools, Takenouchi-ryu teaches many other forms of martial arts including armed grappling (yoroi kumiuchi), staff (bōjutsu), sword (kenjutsu), sword drawing (iaijutsu), glaive (naginatajutsu), iron fan (tessenjutsu), restraining rope (hojōjutsu), and resuscitation techniques (sakkatsuhō).
- Tatsumi-ryu was founded by Tatsumi Sankyo sometime between 1504 and 1521 and covers a lot of of the classical martial and strategic skill with the main focus on the katana, the Japanese backsword. While weapon arts dominate the curriculum, a large portion of the teachings are on unarmed grappling, resuscitation and restraining techniques.
- Tenjin Shinyo-ryu was founded by Iso Mataemon Minamoto no Masatari in the 1830s and its special techniques focus on striking to disrupt balance as well as fluid and flexible movements of the body. Tenjin Shinyo-ryu is translated as Divine True Willow School and is classified as a Japanese koryu.
- Yagyu Shingan Ryu is credited to be founded by Ushū Tatewaki sometimes in the 1600s. Originally created to be a battlefield art, the techniques focus on weapons and grappling used against armored and unarmored opponents.
- Yoshin Ryu was founded by Akiyama Shirōbei Yoshitoki in 1632 and focuses completely on traditional Jiu Jitsu grappling techniques. It is is one of the most popular and well-known having spread all across Japan by the 1860s and to Europe and North America by 1912.
What you need & How to get started
To get into Jiu Jitsu, you’ll need to research a local club or dojo. Most places offer a free first lesson or sit-in so you can see whether it’s something you want to pursue. At first, you will not need to buy the uniform, which is called Gi. Typically, they want you to come dressed in a loose t-shirt and track pants or shorts. Once you’ve decided that Jiu Jitsu is for you, you can purchase a Gi, although some clubs include them in the price of the lessons.
There is some other equipment you might want to get. Sparring gloves and feet protectors are good for more advanced training. These range from simple foam protectors to fingerless sparring gloves to professional boxing gloves. Since some clubs provide weapon training, you may want to buy your own. Take care when travelling with weapons as different places have different rules on transporting dangerous weapons. For gloves, feet protectors and weapons, most clubs will provide these without any cost to you, but you can also buy your own if you want so that you can practice at home.
Today, Jiu Jitsu is done for several reasons. Some learn it to defend themselves since most of the techniques do not require strength and there are many techniques to use against grabs. Others practice it for health reasons because the moves will help build stamina and flexibility and do not require a high level off fitness to begin with. Many find self confidence through their studies and practice. There are many other reasons, but not matter what your reason is for learning, there will be a place for you to learn.
Below is some history on the sport if you are interested.