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The general perception of Jujutsu is that it is the forerunner of its more sanitized and homogenised descendant Judo; a highly specialised form of unarmed grappling utilizing principles of yielding and redirecting energy against an attacker.


Naturally I cannot help wondering what else was thrown away with the bathwater? 

Traditional Ryu-based Jujutsu has a different flavour to it, and goes beyond the mix 'n' match approach of modern Jujutsu. 
Because of the complex history of the warrior arts in Japan, traditional Jujutsu schools frequently felt it important to retain their attachment to the bladed weapons; sword, short sword or dagger (in some cases the iron fan!) They did not consider this aspect of their training as outdated, or hold on to it out of a sense of some kind of nostalgia. To the traditional Japanese Jujutsu Master many of the key principles of their art were inherited from the sophisticated development of swordsmanship. These involved qualities and characteristics forged in the crucible of hundreds of years of close range warfare. E.g. principles of movement, anticipation, strategy, as well as metaphysical and esoteric aspects found within many Ryu. 
Unarmed grappling was an essential skill in the Warriors arsenal. The politics of this skill involved such scenarios as; how to survive an encounter in which the warrior has lost his weapon and has to grapple with an armed or unarmed adversary - common in a number of sword schools. Also defences in situations where the wearing of weapons is forbidden, for example within the confines of the Imperial Palace. There were numerous strategies for preventing an opponent from drawing his weapon, as well as tactics for the reversal of the situation. 
Naturally, emphasis changed as history changed and tactics and techniques that were designed for the battlefield had to be refined and adapted to suit comparative eras of peace. During the Edo Period Jujutsu took on the more defined outwards appearance of an empty hand civilian skill (as opposed to a military skill.) However, understanding of the bladed weapons remained a crucial part of the training. It is no coincidence that in some circles modern Aikido, an art developed out of Daito Ryu Aiki Jujutsu is sometimes referred to as "fencing without the sword", as hand movements, angles of entry and footwork deliberately mimic the actions of attack and defence with the long or short bladed weapons. This is the same in many Jujutsu schools. 
Another aspect of traditional Jujutsu was Atemi Waza and other forms of attacking vital points or anatomical weak points. Although this skill only really came to the fore in the times of peace (as with the above mentioned Edo Period) when fighting in armour became less of an issue. There were two sides to this particular coin; Masters who specialized in this section of their art were usually also skilled in reversing its effects. Knowledge of resuscitation (Katsu) seemed to be the antidote to the black art of Atemi Waza and many Jujutsu teachers were healers, or practitioners of Chinese medicine and/or bone setters (as in the case of Ohtsuka Sensei.) (Several years ago I witnessed an impressive example of this method of resuscitation by a Japanese Wado Ryu Sensei on a fighter knocked unconscious by a kick to the sternum.) 
These skills are either closely guarded or lost and long forgotten, or paid lip service to. I always found it strange that Ueshiba Sensei, founder of Aikido said that Aikido was 90% Atemi, and yet today's practitioners barely give a passing nod to this aspect of their art. 
In conclusion, it would be a mistake to think that Traditional Japanese Jujutsu is simply a matter of locking and throwing. It is a multi-facetted fighting system with its roots embedded firmly within the rich soil of Japanese Martial culture. Jujutsu systems include an enormous range of skills, from the purely practical, to sophisticated understandings of matters psychological and spiritual.


Written by Conrad Howard — November 21, 2012

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