Karate and Nihon Jujutsu

Bushinkai head Simon in 2002 studying the Japanese koryu of Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu

Bushinkai head Simon in 2002 studying the Japanese koryu of Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu

Hakuda Kempo Toshu Jutsu is not only a system of Karate, it is also a system of Jujutsu. But what is Jujutsu and how does it differ or compare with Karate?

An excellent definition of Jujutsu is given by Serge Mol (Classical Fighting Arts of Japan) which is:

A method of close combat, either unarmed or employing minor weapons, that can be used in  defensive or offensive ways, to subdue one or more unarmed or armed opponents. 

You will note from the above description, the author has carefully avoided calling Jujutsu an “unarmed martial art” or a “self defence” martial art.

Jujutsu is defined as unarmed (or lightly armed) combat methods of Japan, the name of which suggests using suppleness and pliancy to subdue rather than brute force.

Judo developed from Jujutsu, Kendo from Kenjutsu, Aikido from Aikijutsu… right? Well only sort of.

Although nowadays we often think of any Japanese grappling system prior to 1860 as being Jujutsu, that term itself is often retrospectively applied.
It’s a bit like living in the Dark Ages or living in Medieval times. People didn’t actually say: “So how do you like medieval times?” or “These dark ages are rough aren’t they?” The terms were applied afterwards.
And so with Jujutsu. Hardly any of the schools that we now think of as Jujutsu actually used that term.
  • Some used the term “Yoroi Kumiuchi” meaning “fighting in armour”.
  •  Others used “Torite” meaning “attacking hands”
  •  Some schools used “Kogusoku” meaning “lightly armed.”
  •  Others used “Taijutsu” meaning “body techniques”
These terms were all common across Japan prior to the 1600s.
Then Japan began to observe Chinese influences in its styles. The Chinese concept of the soft overcoming the hard was expressed in the word “Yawara” in Japanese or “Ju” in Chinese, meaning softness. This is the root of the phrase Jujutsu.
Other Chinese concepts were Koppo (destroying the bones) and Kosshi (tearing the flesh).
One Japanese master named Akiyama from Nagasaki learned a style called “White Hand” (Baida) in China. In Japanese this becomes Haku Da (white hand) or Shu Baku (Hand white). It has been suggested the origin of this phrase is “to strike without impurity.
Another is Kempo, a direct translation of the Chinese “Chuan Fa” meaning Fist Law.
So we have seen the following phrases used to express Japanese hand-to-hand combat:
  • Kumiuchi
  • Kogusoku
  • Torite
  • Tai Jutsu
  • Yawara
  • Jujutsu
  • Koppo
  • Kosshi
  • Hakuda
  • Shubaku
  • Kempo
So why did the phrase “Jujutsu” become a catch-all for Japanese grappling?
One reason is that wrestling resonates with the Japanese psyche better than pugilism. Japanese gods wrestled, the national sport is Sumo, the Japanese teach Judo in schools, Puroresu (pro wrestling) is popular in Japan.
Now name a famous Japanese boxer…
Kempo, Koppo Jutsu and Hakuda were percussive methods of fighting and may be considered the sister of Okinawan Karate. They were viewed in most of Japan as rather undignified.
Whereas “Jujutsu” expressed the par excellance of wrestling. Subduing another wrestler using gentleness. What skill could be greater?
While Kagoshima prefecture (uncoincidently the bit of Japan nearest to Okinawa and China) enjoyed Hakuda, northern Japan especially around Tokyo wanted to learn Yawara or Jujutsu.
The Kito Ryu school took this concept one further and called its art “Ju-Do” – softness as The Way. That’s right – the phrase Judo was used before Jigoro Kano created Kodokan Judo.
Kano’s writings talked about how Judo was developed of Jujutsu.
In 1887 Kano told the Asiatic Society of Japan: “In feudal times in Japan, there were various military arts and exercises which the samurai classes were trained and fitted for their special form of warfare. Amongst these was the art of jujutsu, from which the present judo has sprung up. The word jujutsu may be translated freely as “the art of gaining victory by yielding or pliancy.” Originally, the name seems to have been applied to what may best be described as the art of fighting without weapons, although in some cases short weapons were used against opponents fighting with long weapons. Although it seems to resemble wrestling, yet it differs materially from wrestling as practiced in England, its main principle being not to match strength with strength, but to gain victory by yielding to strength.”
Of Hakuda he stated: “There once lived in Nagasaki a physician named Akiyama, who went to China to study medicine. There he learned an art called hakuda which consisted of kicking and striking, differing, we may note, from jujutsu, which is mainly seizing and throwing.”
Ten differences between traditional Karate and traditional Jujutsu:

1) Karate is Okinawan; Jujutsu is Japanese 

2) Karate uses prescribed stances (ie Zenkutsu Dachi), Jujutsu uses prescribed hand positions (Jodan, Chudan, Gedan)
3) Karate uses solo forms, Jujutsu uses paired kata 
4) Karateka were primarily empty-handed; Samurai were primarily armed
5) Karate kata hides its applications within the form; Jujutsu applications are seen and are self evident 
6) Karate uses many hand shapes (knife hand, single knuckle punch etc); Jujutsu does not (because Samurai wore restrictive gauntlets)
7) Karate was practiced by bodyguards, officials and civilians; Jujutsu was practiced by professional warriors/knights 
8) Karate was developed by a handful (maybe a dozen) pioneers across a few hundred years; Jujutsu was developed by thousands of warriors over a thousand years. Karate was taught by individuals on an informal basis; Jujutsu was taught by professional instructors within each warrior clan and taught in a formal arranged fashion
9) Jujutsu was developed almost solely in Japan. Perhaps around 99% of Jujutsu schools were developed purely by Japanese teachers in an isolated fashion within their Ryu; whereas Karate was developed with direct influences from Okinawa, Japan, China, Thailand, Vietnam and Taiwan. Japan was a nationalistic cultural art; Karate was a mixing pot of influences 
10) Jujutsu was designed to be practiced in restrictive clothing from full armour to sandles, riding hakama, kimono, while wearing weapons; Karate may be freely executed in a minimal attire, not much different from today’s gi.
Jujutsu syllabus overview:

Jujutsu (unarmed and lightly armed skills): 

  • Atemi Waza and Koppo Jutsu (striking and bone techniques)
  • Yawara and Kosshi Jutsu (soft and flesh techniques)
  • Kansetsu Waza (Locking techniques)
  • Shime Waza (Choking techniques)
  • Nage Waza (Throwing techniques)
  • Kyusho Waza (Pressure point techniques)
  • Aikijujutsu (Harmonious techniques)
  • Ne Waza (Groundwork)
  • Kumiuchi (Grappling techniques)
  • Seiza Waza (Kneeling techniques)

Kobujutsu (classical weapons):

  • Kenjutsu and Kumitachi (Two man sword practice)
  • Batto Jutsu (Sword drawing and cutting)
  • Tanto and Aikuchi (knife techniques)
  • Jojutsu (short staff/walking stick techniques)
  • Tanjojutsu (two foot stick/Escrima stick)

Gendai Waza (Modern techniques):

  • Padwork, bagwork, fitness
  • MMA style sparring and techniques
  • Modern self defence and improvised weapons

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