jujitsuJujitsu the gentle art… a traditional martial art that employs kicks, strikes, throws, locks, strangles, chokes and ground work. Modern ju-jitsu also utilises, well just about anything: including biting, scratching, pulling hair, head butting, heel stomping and grabbing any other sensitive parts of an attackers anatomy that may come to hand!

Jujitsu (also spelt variously asJujutsu, Ju-jitsu, Jiu-jitsu, Jutsu etc.) was originally a generic term for all the ancient Japanese fighting arts.

How they originated and where from isn’t exactly known, though it is generally accepted that the core principles travelled from India and China, slowly evolving on the battlefields of feudal Japan.

jujitsuThese battlefield techniques were practiced in secret, each clan honing techniques unique to them. Samurai warrior’s caught trading techniques with rival clans risked severe punishment, even death. In the 15th century, a fighting system known as Yawara-ge (“peacemaker”), involving armed and unarmed grappling combat came into existence, followed by similar systems associated with other combat schools. These schools, (Ryu) are generally accepted as being responsible for Jujitsu’s creation as a collection of fighting combat and defensive techniques.

During the 19th century, when the samurai declined in importance, Jujitsu became a study in physical and mental discipline rather than a battlefield tool. It was one of the first martial arts to be adopted by western practitioners (see Barton-Wright) and is used in many forms by police forces and the military across the world.

It has been successfully employed by competitors in no-holds barred competitions since the early eighties, when the famous Gracie family bought their unique Brazilian Ju-jitsu to the world combat stage. They made such an impact that many non jujitsu fighters began to supplement their regular training with jujitsu or judo like techniques. Jujitsu is a also referred to as ‘parent art’, the founding base from which other martial arts have developed, notably the arts of Judo and Aikido.

Jigoro Kano, judo’s founding father, disregarded some of ju-jitsu’s more dangerous, combat orientated elements and concentrated on the throwing aspects in the creation of his art. While Ueshiba Morihei, the founder of Aikido utilised and developed his own style of throws and locks reliant on the opponent’s momentum. Apart from Judo’s more senior grades and some Aikido variations, neither system uses strikes or kicks to disable an attacker – a key tactical element in modern ju-jitsu.

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In praise of discomfort …

Mats pounded soft from the limbs of ages,
you seek solace in the hope that this time, it will not hurt.
You watch, you listen.
Hands blur in motion while feet dance their rhythm,
and yet, as the twirling white mass flies, with graceful ease through air,
you miss something, small, but significant, simple but pure.
Your concentration shattered by the sound of palm crashing,
then drumming it’s relentless beat of submission.

Once, in ages past, straw became the comforter of pain, the soaker of blood,
as warriors, not yet hewn in battle sought knowledge and the way from those that
were sculpted, that were shaped, that were Samurai.

Now the battlefields are gone, but the battle lingers – in oneself!
All is still, silent, save for the amused bleatings of the young or the groans of older aching limbs too long bruised or bashed.
And yet the player endures, smiles, wipes the sweat from brow and flies again.

Blood rushes, punches stretch forth, legs kick out. Hair is grabbed, joints are locked, organs shake and points of pain are pressed home.

Why? You ask.
Why let this ritual of discomfort, pain and endurance persist?
Why battle when there is no war?
Why strike out when there is no threat?
Why land when there is no need to fall?

Words hard pressed against the tongue fail in their praise of the majesty of the art.
It is not about discomfort, sweat, tears, it is about the joy of the art itself, the flow from one poise to another, from grace to gracefull, from ploy to counter.

It is about watching young limbs trying trying to master the necessity of technique,
against the deception of failure.
It is about the timid stepping forth against the ragging voice of doubt.
To do or not do, that is the question.

But above all else it is knowing that while the body crashes and nerve ends mash, we live.
We breathe, and thus we honour the majesty of creation itself.

I pick myself up, dust myself down, wince, smile, ache and rejoice while tugging at dishevelled clothing and wonder,
…are there funny white pyjamas and crash mats in heaven?

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