Jujutsu Etymology

The Jujutsu | What is Jujitsu | Jujutsu History | Jujutsu Development | Jujutsu Description | Jujutsu Beginning | Jujutsu Origins | Movement Strategy | Derivatives and Schools | Brazilian Jiujitsu | Judo verses Jujitsu | Jujutsu and Taijutsu | Jujutsu Etymology | Philosophical Dimensions | Principles And Concepts

Jujutsu, the current standard spelling, is derived using the Hepburn romanization system. Before the first half of the 20th century, however, jiu-jitsu and then jujitsu were preferred, even though the romanization of the second kanji as jitsu is unfaithful to the standard Japanese pronunciation.

Since Japanese martial arts first became widely known of in the West in that time period, these earlier spellings are still common in many places. Ju-Jitsu is still the standard spelling in France, Canada and the United States. The martial art is known as Jiu-Jitsu in Germany and Brazil.

Some define jujutsu and similar arts rather narrowly as “unarmed” close combat systems used to defeat or control an enemy who is similarly unarmed. Basic methods of attack include hitting or striking, thrusting or punching, kicking, throwing, pinning or immobilizing, strangling, and joint-locking.

Great pains were also taken by the bushi (classic warriors) to develop effective methods of defense, including parrying or blocking strikes, thrusts and kicks, receiving throws or joint-locking techniques (i.e., falling safely and knowing how to “blend” to neutralize a technique’s effect),

Releasing oneself from an enemy’s grasp, and changing or shifting one’s position to evade or neutralize an attack. As jujutsu is a collective term, some schools or ryu adopted the principle of ju more than others.

From a broader point of view, based on the curricula of many of the classical Japanese arts themselves, however, these arts may perhaps be more accurately defined as unarmed methods of dealing with an enemy who was armed, together with methods of using minor weapons such as the jutte (truncheon; also called jitte), tanto (knife), or kakushi buki (hidden weapons), such as the ryofundo kusari (weighted chain) or the bankokuchoki (a type of knuckle-duster), to defeat both armed or unarmed opponents.

Furthermore, the term jujutsu was also sometimes used to refer to tactics for infighting used with the warrior’s major weapons: katana or tachi (sword), yari (spear), naginata (glaive), and jo (short staff), bo (quaterstaff). These close combat methods were an important part of the different martial systems that were developed for use on the battlefield. They can be generally 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 hakama).

The Chinese character 柔 (Mandarin: róu; Japanese: jū; Korean: yū) is the same as the first one in 柔道 (Mandarin: róudào; Japanese: judo; Korean: Yudo). The Chinese character 術 (Mandarin: shù; Japanese: jutsu; Korean: sul) is the same as the second one in 武術 (Mandarin: wǔshù; Japanese: bujutsu; Korean: musul).

Heritage and philosophy: All Japanese jujutsu have cultural indicators which help give a sense of the traditional character of a school. The more traditionally Japanese and the less westernized the school, the more you will see:

  • An atmosphere of courtesy and respect, a context intended to help cultivate the appropriate spirit.
  • The type of keikogi or training suit worn, which is usually plain white, often with a dark hakama (the most colorful uniform might be plain black or the traditional blue of quilted keikogi; you are not likely to see stars and stripes or camouflage uniforms).
  • Lack of ostentatious display, with an attempt to achieve or express the sense of rustic simplicity (expressed in such concepts as wabi-sabi in Japanese) common in many of Japan’s traditional arts.
  • The use of the traditional (e.g., Shoden, Chuden, Okuden, Kirigami and menkyo kaiden levels) ranking system, perhaps as a parallel track to the more contemporary and increasingly common dan-i (kyu/dan) ranking.
  • The lack of tournament trophies, long-term contracts, tags and emblems, rows of badges or any other superficial distractions.

Japanese culture and religion have become intertwined into the martial arts. Buddhism, Shintoism, Taoism and Confucianism philosophy co-exist in Japan, and people generally mix and match to suit. This reflects the variety of outlook one finds in the different schools.

Jujutsu expresses the philosophy of yielding to an opponent’s force rather than trying to oppose force with force. To manipulate an opponent’s attack using his force and direction, allows jujutsuka to control the balance of their opponent and hence prevent the opponent from resisting the counter attack.

The Japanese have characterised states of mind that a warrior should be able to adopt in combat to facilitate victory. These include: an all-encompassing awareness, zanshin (literally “remaining spirit”), in which the practitioner is ready for anything, at any time; the spontaneity of mushin (literally “no mind”) which allows immediate action without conscious thought; and a state of equanimity or imperturbability known as fudoshin (literally “immovable mind”).