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Updated on January 1, 2010

Jujitsu is a term used for a variety of different styles of Asian hand-to-hand fighting. The origins, in time and place, of the many jujitsu forms are disputed. But it is generally thought that they developed in India and spread to China and then to other Asian countries. Japan may have been the last Asian country to learn the jujitsus, but it was in Japan that they were developed, expanded, and widely practiced. In the popular view, the term jujitsu is associated with Japanese styles of hand-to-hand combat and Japanese self-defense methods.

Because there are so many variations of jujitsu, it is not accurate to refer to any one as "authentic". There are dozens of authentic jujitsu styles. If minor stylistic variations are included, there are hundreds of different forms of jujitsu. All jujitsu styles utilize weaponless fighting skills, in various combinations, and some employ stick, staff, and cutting weapons. The element common to all of the jujitsus is the combination of techniques, rather than the use of specialized techniques. The combinations, made in different ways by different teachers, are constantly undergoing modification.

Photo by Ivan Soares Ferrer
Photo by Ivan Soares Ferrer

One system of jujitsu might utilize throws, holds, and locks, and would resemble a combination of judo, wrestling, and aikido. Another system might include hand blows, kicks, and stick fighting and would resemble boxing and karate combined with stick techniques. Yet another form might include trips and throws taught in conjunction with hand and foot blows and would resemble a combination of judo and karate. Still other methods of jujitsu are combinations of more than two specialties - some styles utilizing hand blows, kicking, throwing, grappling, and choking along with stick and cutting weapons and small projectiles with cutting edges.

Jujitsu, of whatever style, is ordinarily taught as a series of "tricks", specific responses of defense to specific actions of assault. For this reason, one must devote a lot of time to learning jujitsu. Constant, continuing practice is required to maintain skills and to remember the exact order of movements of the hundreds of tricks that make up a jujitsu system. There is no standard uniform for jujitsu practice.

The jujitsus have not been associated with quasi-religious and mystical interpretations to tiie same degree that other Asian fighting skills have been, but some jujitsu teachers claim that spiritual benefits arise from the practice of jujitsu. Legends of superhuman accomplishments by jujitsu masters are widely believed but such achievements are not supported by reliable evidence.

Professor Jigoro Kano

In the 1880's, Professor Jigoro Kano of the Higher Normal School in Tokyo, desiring to popularize this exclusive and almost dying art, made a study of the various methods and devised a standard version which he called judo (the "way" of suppleness or yielding). The emphasis was shifted from combat to sport and character building; knowledge of the injurious tricks was restricted to the more advanced masters. In judo, the students are taught successively the various breakfalls, throws, and holds, and advance through five grades, each with a different color belt for the loose-fitting judo coat, until they reach the coveted black belt, or master class; this in turn is divided into grades according to proficiency.

Professor Kano's sport proved highly popular, both in Japan and abroad, so that at present there are judo clubs in the major countries of the world. In addition, under the name of "self-defense," special aspects of judo have been taught to police, probation and parole officers, and civilian men and women who want to defend themselves against possible attack by thugs or robbers, armed or unarmed. Variations of the methods of paralyzing, maiming, or killing an opponent have likewise been taught, as "combat judo", to the fighting troops of many countries.

Today, judo has come to mean the sport aspect of Kano's activity, but the self-defense aspect is identified as jujitsu.


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    • Bits-n-Pieces profile image

      Bits-n-Pieces 6 years ago

      Dear Master Wesner, please stop spamming my page with your link.