Jujutsu (The traditional Japanese martial arts) (柔術)

Jujutsu is the name for traditional Japanese martial arts, which are centered on offense and defense techniques with no (or a small) weapon. Compared with other countries' martial arts, it is quite characteristic of jujutsu to have many ryugi (schools) which emphasize both capturing the opponent without killing (or injuring) him or her and defense (the art of self-defense). Such techniques were widely sought, and there existed many schools.

There exist many other names of jujutsu and many other martial arts similar to jujutsu, such as "yawara" (the literal meaning is softness, or harmony) or "yawara-jutsu" (literally, the art of harmony), "judo" (the traditional Japanese martial art mainly used for self-defense), "tai-jutsu" (unarmed combat techniques), "hakuda" (a jujutsu-like system that was either of Chinese origin or influenced by Chinese martial arts), "kassatsu-jutsu" (the art of life and death), "hishigi" (joint locking techniques), "gyakute-jutsu" (wrist locking techniques), "koshi no mawari" (sword grappling), "kogusoku-jutsu" (techniques of short sword grappling), "kumiuchi" (grappling) or "kumiuchi-jutsu" (grappling techniques), "yoroi kumiuchi-jutsu" (grappling techniques in armor), "mushadori" (arm constriction), "shusha-jutsu" (techniques of joint-lock throw), "torite-jutsu" (catching hand techniques) or "torite" (catching hand), "hobaku" (binding techniques), "shubaku" (the name of modern martial arts in China), "ken" (fist) or "kenpo" (the bare-hands martial art of Chinese origin, mainly occupied by body-striking techniques).


Having various schools and techniques, jujutsu is difficult to be defined uniformly, but, for example, Jigoro KANO, who was the founder of "Kodokan judo" (the judo form of Kodokan Judo Institute), defined it as the offense and defense techniques using no (or a small) weapon against an armed or unarmed opponent.

Judo (the traditional Japanese martial art mainly used for self-defense) and aikido (the traditional Japanese martial art exclusively used for self-defense) both originated from jujutsu, but as times went by and these arts became famous, people's recognition of the origin began to fade away partly because they do not have 'jujutsu' in their names, and they developed as the independent martial art. Therefore, 'jujutsu' has come to mean, in many cases, "koryu jujutsu" (the old-style jujutsu) handed down from before the Edo period. And nowadays, when we simply say 'jujutsu,' it often indicates not the Japanese one, but Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, partly because Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu often appears on the media. So many people equate jujutsu with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and regard its main technique as "newaza" (ground grappling techniques) for the nature of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Besides, Ju-Jitsu in foreign countries often indicates that of Ju-Jitsu International Federation (JJIF), or that of International Jujitsu Federation (IJJF), and both of them are also called European Ju-Jitsu.

Before the Edo period

There already existed some martial arts, such as "kumiuchi" (grappling) used for a battle, and "torite" (catching hand) used for capturing a person.

The name jujutsu began to be used from the Edo period.

The techniques of kumiuchi at a battleground: While making some space, fighters fought against the opponents with an arrow, a harquebus, a spear, or a sword, and then they used these techniques in a physical combat; by that means, they also cut off the head of the opponents' leader.

The self-defense techniques of the samurai with a dagger, a knife, or a short sword: Kogusoku-jutsu (The techniques of short sword grappling) and others

Sumo: The samurai used sumo as the training method for kumiuchi.

The arresting techniques for the maintenance of the public order: "Torite-jutsu" (Catching hand techniques), "hobaku-jutsu" (binding techniques) and others

These were the origin of jujutsu.

In the early Edo period

After the Sengoku period (the Warring States period), the above-mentioned techniques developed, and they began to be influenced by the philosophy of "Zen" (a sect of Buddhism, which emphasizes focusing one's mind), and by the Chinese philosophy and medical science. From the Edo period, some ryuha (schools) of the martial arts began to call their own techniques jujutsu, judo, or yawara, partly because they wanted to say their techniques were not just forcible ones; the schools were, for example, Sekiguchi Shin Shin-ryu, Yoshin-ryu, and Kito-ryu (also called Ryoishinto-ryu). And other schools, influenced by Chinese martial arts, began to call their own techniques kenpo, hakuda, or shubaku. But these names read as "yawara" in many cases.

Around the last days of the Tokugawa shogunate, Edo period

As the knight-errantry became popular, exchanges and matches between schools became active, and techniques for "randori" (freestyle practice) done with bare hands began to be devised. At present, what kind of rules the techniques had in those days is unclear, but "atemi-waza" (body-striking techniques) seems to have been used only in a game played in earnest. And randori was regarded as a substitute and a training for kumiuchi.

These techniques of randori are the origin of today's judo's randori and matches.

In the Meiji period

After many jujutsu teachers lost their positions of an instructor at a clan in the early Meiji period, jujutsu is said to have got rare to be taught, but in fact, jujutsu became popular in local villages and other places nationwide, and it was loved like a kind of entertainment. In local areas where jujutsu was especially popular, several practice halls existed in a single village and most young people there became the pupils, various historical records say. Dedication tablets (written about jujutsu exhibition matches) are left in many temples and shrines that held the matches in those days.

Appearance of "Kodokan judo"

Kodokan judo, which originated from Tenjin Shinyo-ryu (Tenjin Shinyo school of jujutsu) and Kito-ryu (Kito school of jujutsu) was established. It is generally said that judo, which was freshly born in the Meiji period, confronted, defeated and drove off the old jujutsu, but this is a little inaccurate. Kodokan judo spread nationwide firstly because it was formally adopted by the Tokyo Police Department for the victory in the match to decide the school to be adopted, and secondly because it made inroads into the school education. In the early days of Kodokan judo, there were many people who came from jujutsu, including those of Tenjin Shinyo-ryu, and people in jujutsu simply regarded Kodokan judo as a new branch of jujutsu; many people in jujutsu were invited on the opening date of Kodokan Judo Institute.

In the later Meiji period, as Kodokan judo spread nationwide, jujutsu practice halls which held their matches in the rules of Kodokan judo also increased. It would be appropriate to say jujutsu evolved into judo rather than to say jujutsu disappeared after being defeated by judo. Actually, some aged judoists who experienced jujutsu in the past are still alive today, and there also exist some practice halls of judo whose origin was those of jujutsu. And occasionally, people on the side of Kodokan judo learned newaza (ground grappling techniques), because Kodokan judo was defeated by Fusen-ryu jujutsu (Fusen school of jujutsu) and others several times with newaza.

Appearance of "Daito-ryu Aiki jujutsu" (Daito school of the self-defense martial art)

Daito-ryu Aiki jujutsu, which was a jujutsu school established by Sokaku TAKEDA, appeared and became famous in the later Meiji period. Sokaku TAKEDA did not have a practice hall of his own, and went around conducting a workshop of his school at local police stations and others. This school had a group of techniques that Kodokan judo did not, and Sokaku's outstanding skills were favored by many martial artists, so this school produced some branch schools afterward. Daito-ryu Aiki jujutsu is one of the origins of aikido.

Decline of schools of "koryu jujutsu"

Generally, koryu jujutsu is thought to have gone into decline immediately after judo became popular in the Meiji period, but as mentioned above, the decline of koryu jujutsu was not so drastic. Actually, jujutsu was actively practiced in local areas until the time of World War Ⅱ, and around the Taisho period, many schools were still prosperous having their own pupils. In those days, judo meant a local school of jujutsu in many cases. For example, Kiraku-ryu jujutsu (Kiraku school of jujutsu) in Saitama Prefecture, Okuyama Nen-ryu jujutsu (Okuyama Nen school of jujutsu), and Shin Shinto-ryu jujutsu (Shin Shinto school of jujutsu) were called judo.

Koryu jujutsu went further into decline firstly because the practice was halted owing to World War Ⅱ and Japan's defeat in the war, and secondly because many jujutsu successors were killed in the war.

Even today, plural schools' traditional techniques still exist. Few people take notice of koryu jujutsu, because various other sports' competitions become popular, including the modern martial arts, such as judo and karate (the traditional Japanese martial art mainly used for self-defense, whose basic techniques are "uchi" [arm strikes], "tsuki" [thrusts] and "keri" [kicks]). And some successors stop teaching the koryu jujutsu, saying the world does not need its dangerous techniques any more. In this way, koryu jujutsu becomes dinosaurs on the whole, but some schools gradually come back.

Jujutsu's spread abroad

Since the Meiji period, jujutsu has spread to foreign countries. Before Kodokan judo became popular in foreign countries, many jujutsu artists went there. So many schools of jujutsu were introduced there, such as Shinto Rokugo-ryu, Fusen-ryu, Sekiguchi-ryu, Tsutsumi Hozan-ryu, and Shinto Yoshin-ryu. At present, those foreign countries have many jujutsu schools of their own, such as Danzan-ryu and Kajukenbo in Hawaii, based on the original one. And there also exist many jujutsu schools that are handed down in foreign countries with their original names unchanged, such as Ryoi Shinto-ryu, Sekiguchi Shin Shin-ryu, Tsutsumi Hozan-ryu, Takeuchi-ryu, Takeuchi Oie-ryu, Takeuchi Hangan-ryu, Shinto Yoshin-ryu and Sosuishi-ryu. Moreover, many jujutsu schools nowadays have their branch practice halls abroad. And even the schools that seem to end their lives in Japan today are found alive in foreign countries.

And, as Kodokan judo was transformed into Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in Brazil, so Kodokan judo, Aikido and the like are occasionally transformed into a new jujutsu school in foreign countries.

Jujutsu as the basis of modern martial arts

Some martial arts, such as judo and aikido, derived from jujutsu.


Based on some schools of jujutsu, such as Kito-ryu and Tenjin Shinyo-ryu, judo was established by Jigoro KANO. Originally, judo aimed to be the martial art covering the techniques from throwing, grappling, body-striking, to weapon-handling; some call this the pre-modern judo to distinguish it from the modern judo. However, the style of randori (freestyle practice) was incorporated into the competition of judo, and judo became specialized in randori of throwing and ground grappling techniques (in a physical contact), while body-striking and counter-weapon techniques were used only in kata geiko (practice of "kata" [pre-arranged forms of offense and defense]). In time, kata geiko itself became rare to be done. In addition, "Kosen judo" (a sub-style of Kodokan judo) became specialized in ground grappling techniques.

"Kata" of jujutsu established by Greater Japan Martial Virtue Society

In July 1906, at the headquarters of Greater Japan Martial Virtue Society in Kyoto, kata of jujutsu was established in a week by 'the committee of Greater Japan Virtue Society for establishing kata of jujutsu' which consisted of 20 masters from 10 jujutsu schools, that is, the chairman Jigoro KANO from Kodokan judo, the committee member Hideyoshi TOTSUKA from Yoshin Ko-ryu (Yoshin Ko school of jujutsu), the committee member Kumon HOSHINO from Shiten-ryu (Shiten school of jujutsu), and other 17 assistant committee members, including Kihei AOYAGI (the 14th head of Sosuishi-ryu kumiuchi koshi no mawari [Sosuishi school of grappling with swords]) and Mataemon TANABE (the fourth head of Fusen-ryu jujutsu). In 1908, the kata was publicized by Benrido Bookstore in the book titled "The Jujutsu Kata Established by Greater Japan Martial Virtue Society."
All jujutsu-related schools' kata, including Kodokan judo's, was integrated; the integration process was carried on the July 2006 issue of the monthly magazine 'The Martial Arts.'
This kata is the origin of a part of today's Kodokan judo's kata, called "Kime no Kata" (Forms of Decision).


Aikido was established by Morihei UESHIBA, who mastered Daito-ryu Aiki jujutsu (Daito school of the self-defense martial art), and other jujutsu schools such as Kito-ryu, Yagyu Shingan-ryu, Shinkage-ryu. His martial art called 'Takemusu Aiki (Ueshiba school),' whose core techniques originated from Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu, spread to the public - though Ueshiba himself is said to have been unwilling to spread it - and evolved into the modern martial art called aikido. Different from judo, aikido is the martial art that centers on the techniques of counter-weapon, arm joint locking, and throwing. In addition, Kenji TOMIKI added a factor of Kito-ryu jujutsu to aikido, and devised the unique aikido in which randori was introduced; he was the founder of the Japan Aikido Association.

Schools of karate and kenpo

Some schools of karate and kenpo were established under the influence of jujutsu.

"Wado-ryu karate" (Wado school of karate) and "Wado-ryu jujutsu kenpo" (Wado school of kenpo mixed with jujutsu)

Hironori OTSUKA, the founder of Wado-ryu karate, also founded Wado-ryu jujutsu kenpo, based on Shinto Yoshin-ryu (Shinto Yoshin school of jujutsu) and Iga-ryu (Iga school of jujutsu) which he studied; however, Wado-ryu jujutsu kenpo joined Japanese Classical Martial Arts Association as a school of jujutsu, so it is classified not as the modern martial art, but as the classical one.

"Shinto Jinen-ryu karate" (Shinto Jinen school of karate)

Yasuhiro KONISHI, who learned the swordplay and various martial arts (such as karate, some schools of jujutsu, and aikido), established Shinto Jinen-ryu as his own karate school.

"Nippon Kempo" (A combat sport based on traditional Japanese martial arts)

Though not directly related to jujutsu, Nippon Kempo was established for the training of body-striking techniques, which went out of use in judo. Referring to judo, karate and boxing, Muneumi SAWAYAMA devised his Nippon Kempo as the martial art that specialized in body-striking techniques and shifting techniques from body-striking to throwing.

Military combat sport

In some countries where close quarters combat (CQC) has been stressed on recently, the techniques of jujutsu are introduced into their own military combat sports, such as Sambo. However, jujutsu has its drawbacks that much time is needed to master and that many techniques impractical today are included, which are shared with other traditional Japanese martial arts. Therefore, those countries adopt not the traditional school as a whole, but some of its techniques partially, and they modernize the jujutsu techniques by themselves.


Roughly speaking, jujutsu means the unarmed martial arts established before the Edo period. Jujutsu as the martial art does not include the modern judo, aikido, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and the like, so it is sometimes called 'koryu jujutsu' (the old-style jujutsu, mentioned below) to make a clear distinction between itself and these martial arts. But in a broad sense, jujutsu includes the above-mentioned martial arts, because they also descended from jujutsu.

How the meaning of 'jujutsu' has changed

Originally, 'jujutsu' is used as the general term for the Japanese unarmed martial arts, but occasionally, 'jujutsu' includes not only its Japanese descendants (the modern judo and aikido) but also its descendants abroad (Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu developed in Brazil, JJIF Ju-jitsu and IJJF Jujitsu [the latter two were developed in Europe]). From when judo (especially, the modern judo) and aikido emerged and became popular nationwide, the jujutsu handed down from its origin began to be called 'koryu jujutsu' to make a distinction between itself and the two. Some people have used "koryu jujutsu" as if it were the formal name, and many others have used it for decades as a common one, if not a formal one. It is also used among the jujutsu practitioners and other people in the community.

Jujutsu' inaccurately used to mean kumi-waza (techniques of hand-to-hand fighting) or kumiuchi-waza (techniques of grappling)

In the Japanese martial arts' community, the term 'jujutsu' is sometimes inaccurately used to mean kumi-waza or kumiuchi-waza. For example, "Shintaido" (martial arts uniquely combined with some body movement) regards jujutsu as such. Many people also think jujutsu is the martial arts (a combat sport) whose main techniques are kumi-waza, or kumiuchi-waza. Even koryu jujutsu is regarded as the same. Perhaps this misunderstanding might have "Jujutsu Shobu-kan" (The jujutsu hall respecting the martial spirit) in Gunma Prefecture, which centered the practices on "atemi-waza" (body-striking techniques), change its name into "Karate Shobu-kan." Why jujutsu has become to have such a tendency to exclude atemi-waza is examined below.

Firstly, the jujutsu descendant judo has no atemi-waza in its match, and jujutsu itself often forbade atemi-waza in "taryu jiai" (a contest between representatives of different schools) and in randori, which both began to be held in many places from around the last days of the Tokugawa shogunate; in today's judo's atemi-waza, many "kata" tend to become an art for a show or for a ceremonial performance.

Secondly, many schools in the Edo period seem to have centered on hobaku-jutsu, and this characteristic applies to the whole koryu jujutsu.

How about the influence of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu ?
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu players use atemi-waza in the match of Mixed Martial Arts. On the other hand, atemi-waza is forbidden in the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu competition itself. Therefore, it is unclear whether the tendency was deterred or encouraged by Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

However, jujutsu is a martial art with no (or a small) weapon, as Jigoro KANO defined, and this definition describes the minimum common factor of all jujutsu-related martial arts. Therefore, atemi-waza is not excluded from jujutsu. Atcually, most schools of jujutsu have handed down various techniques, such as the atemi-waza which uses a very short sword, an iron fan, or a short truncheon with hook, and the techniques handling secret or disguised weapons. Some schools of jujutsu have a system in which their members also train intensively bare hands' atemi-waza.