The Textbook Of Ju-Jutsu – As Practiced In Japan

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from “The Textbook Of Ju-Jutsu – As Practiced In Japan” by  S.K. Uyenishi (Raku)

Sada Kazu Uyenishi –like Yukio Tani– taught at the Bartitsu Club


It is said that Ju-jutsu was first practised some 2,000 years ago. If this is correct then it must be far and away the oldest exercise in the world, and one which has been continuously practised. But without going into the question of its origin, I may mention that it was practised by the Samurai, or fighting men of Old Japan, for many centuries, and that until the last fifty years no one outside the warrior caste was ever initiated into its mysteries. But with the passing away of the old order of things together with the Shogun, and the dawning of the new era of Meiji (or enlightened government), the Samurai ceased to be a caste apart and gave to their country not only their own priceless services, but also all their store of knowledge in the science of physical well-being and self-defence.

The value of Ju-jutsu was immediately recognised by the Government and people, who adopted it with such enthusiasm that it has now become almost an integral part of the life of the majority of the nation. It forms an extensive department of the naval, military, and police training, proficiency in the science being almost an essential preliminary to promotion.

Ju-jutsu, therefore, had the imprimatur of the Japanese Government, and I do not think that I can be accused of ultra-patriotism, when I claim that this evidence of its worth should be adequate testimonial to all who may desire one. The Mikado’s Government was not in the habit of wasting either their own or their people’s time!

The word Ju-jutsu itself has been variously translated into English, and perhaps I should add American, as meaning “muscle-breaking,” “the excellent secret art,” “the art of softness,” or “the gentle art,” but it is quite impossible to convey in one or two descriptive words of this sort what Ju-jutsu really is.

Perhaps it may not be without interest if I make here a slight digression and refer to a few somewhat analogous styles of self-defence, which are either now, or were formerly in vogue in Japan, most of which styles are more or less related to Ju-jutsu, being either branchings off from that science, or originally distinct systems from which the modern Judo, or Ju-jutsu, has been compounded. Judo may be roughly translated as “the soft way,” as Ju-jutsu is anglicised into “the soft art,” in opposition to Kendo or Kenjutsu, “the hard way” and “the hard art” respectively. This last mentioned style of self-defence is the elaboration of the old two-sword play of the samurai or “two-sworded men.” And here the reader will probably grasp the inner truth of Ju-jutsu, the victor establishing the superiority of leverage and balance, two soft, delicate qualities, over the harder, tougher ones of strength and force.

One of the styles alluded to, known as the Kempo, which, may be roughly described as a method of killing people, possessed many points of resemblance to Ju-jutsu but was totally different in practice, being a system of self-defence against sudden attack with intent to kill and replying thereto in kind. It was certainly more closely related to Ju-jutsu than are Boxing (even under the old Prize Ring rules) or le savate to Wrestling. It might perhaps be best compared to that very strenuous old Greek Physical Contest, which was known as the Pancration. By-the-way, I may here remark on the possible derivation of the old English phrase “Kempery man” and the Anglo-Saxon cempa, signifying “a warrior,” from the Japanese Kempo. This is a point which should not be without interest to etymologists, and particularly to those who follow the late Professor Max Muller in his theory of the Indo-Germanic origin of the Anglo-Saxon Race.

Kempo, of course, was a system of attack and defence which branched off from Ju-jutsu into the paths of strenuous endeavour, but, apart from the fact that it was less scientific than Ju-jutsu, it was declared an illegal practice when the sanctity of human life was recognised under the new regime.

Another analogous system, known as tori in some parts of Japan and as shime in others, was an extension of Ju-jutsu in the department of ground work, and it is more than possible that many of the locks and holds of Ju-jutsu were originated by exponents of tori. The last named system cannot, however, be compared with the “soft art” as a method of self-defence, as but slight importance was devoted to “throws,” the modus operandi being mainly confined to falling to the ground yourself and then pulling your opponent down, there to struggle for the victorious lock.

I do not wisb to imply that the power to dislocate a joint, break a limb, or even to kill an opponent, which were the cause of the prohibition of Kempo, do not exist in Ju-jutsu (since all experts are well acquainted with them), but it will be as well to point out that these powers are rarely, if ever, exercised. The locks are so complete in themselves that the mere threat of damage which their application implies, is sufficient to induce even the most obstinate opponent to cry for quarter.

It may perhaps be urged against Ju-jutsu that, among exponents who were lacking in the spirit of true sportsmanship, limbs might frequently be broken or dislocated, but I always remind such critics that even in rough mining and other districts, where everyone carries “a gun,” people are generally particularly careful to play “the game” (what-ever it may be) strictly according to the rules. I will venture to claim for Ju-jutsu that it is not only the finest system of self-defence extant, but that it is also second to none as a system of Physical Culture, being unrivalled as a means of developing rapidity of movement, and perfect balance, and furthermore is certainly not to be despised as a means of developing strength and muscle of the right quality. Then again, it is a magnificent sport, game, of exercise, call it what you will, second. to none in the mental, moral and physical qualities which it calls into play, and certainly superior to every other with which I am acquainted in that it is never monotonous or uninteresting either to the performer or spectator.

“Of the making of books there is no end, and much study may be a weariness to the flesh,” perhaps, but I do not believe that this treatise well altogether deserve the latter stricture, if it serves to correct some of the misconceptions in the public mind that have been instilled therein by several books which have recently appeared, professing to give instruction in the whole art of Ju-jutsu. Consider, for instance, the various exercises which have been alleged to be essential preliminaries to Ju-jutsu training. Well, I have never seen any Ju-jutsuan who ever practised them. In the old style of Ju-jutsu before my time, there was I believe an exercise called the tai atari or “toughing” exercise, in which the practitioners rushed at each other, chest to chest, somewhat in the style of the exercise called dzu-dzu-ki, practised by the Sumo wrestlers, who develop their strength and hardiness by butting each other. In fact, all these “resistance” movements, concerning which certain pseudo authorities on Ju-jutsu have been so fluent, would, if of any practical value at all, be more suitable as training for the Sumo style of wrestling than for Ju-jutsu, For Sumo is contested by big heavy men, often standing about six feet in height and weighing from eighteen to twenty stone, who rely almost entirely on their strength and avoirdupois to give them the victory, not that they are without various tricks, holds and moves of their own.

Such training as the Ju-jutsu novice does indulge in is taught in the schools in Japan, and is styled the taiso-no-kata, or physical culture exercise for boys and girls, comprising go-no-kata, which means “muscle development for strength,” and ju-no-kata, or “soft exercise,” — preparation in suppleness and agility.

These form the whole groundwork training for the various branches which may be described as Ji-jutsu, or balance and throws; tai-jutsu, literally “strong style,” implying the use of strength; and the Judo style (as Ju-jutsu proper is often styled) which does not imply so much ground work as was practised in earlier times.

Then, again, it is quite erroneous to suppose that any special diet is essential to Ju-jutsu training. I have been i greatly amused at some extraordinary statements on this topic contained in the books referred to above. For instance, water-drinking is mentioned as though it were a panacea for all evils and a practice to which all Ju-jutsuans were excessively addicted. Of course, water is a more suitable beverage than sake, or beer, for a Ju-jutsuan, as it is for all athletes, but I certainly do not recommend anyone to drink even water frequently or copiously immediately before or after a contest. At least twenty minutes to half-an-hour should elapse after a bout, before water should be taken.

With regard to bathing, you should of course bathe at least once a day, and may even, if you are so minded, have as many as three each day during training, but that number should not be exceeded.

In the matter of eating, it is unnecessary to retail the diet adhered to in Japan, as I cannot see that it has any influence one way or the other on Ju-jutsu training. As in all athletic training, plain food eaten in moderation and according to taste, will be found best. The same may be said on the subject of smoking. Excessive use of tobacco in any form is, of course, injurious to health, but one a contestant to indulge in a cigarette immediately before a contest, it would not occasion any remark. I can assure you that there are no cranks among us.

I am afraid that this Introductory chapter seems to be spreading itself out to a length which I scarcely contemplated, but I have felt that, before proceeding to tell you what Ju-jutsu really is, I must at least mention a few of the things which it is not. And these, I regret to have to say, include the majority of those marvellous powers, etc., which are and have been so mysteriously referred to in most recent publications in Ju-jutsu. I propose to put simply before the reader, clear definitions and descriptions of the various falls, throws, and, locks which are used in actual Ju-jutsu contests. The “pinches” to which reference is so often made, are not only no longer used, but are not even permitted in any Ju-jutsu contests at any of the important meetings held in Japan. I am afraid that any man who depended on one of these “pinches” in order to secure a victory in a serious contest would find himself sadly disappointed. These “pinches” are absolutely barred, together with hitting, finger gripping, and twisting or using the hand on an opponent’s face, or similar movements and tricks whereby damage might be caused before the signal of defeat could be given.

In fact so much care has been devoted to the preservation of the purely sporting element of Ju-jutsu, that I venture to claim among its other-virtues that of being the least dangerous to life and limb of any sport or contesting existence.

For self-defence against sudden and ruffianly attack, however, the more dangerous movements might be utilised in case of necessity, and I think one could scarcely be blamed for doing pretty serious damage to any hooligan who might attack one.

Now that modem conditions have so widened the Field of female occupation, and have, in consequence, necessitated their frequently going to and from their work unescorted, it would be of great advantage were Ju-jutsu made a special feature of a young lady’s education.

We should not then hear of those cases of assault and robbery to which many young ladies are so frequently subject. I have taught many young English ladies a dozen or so tricks of defence, which have rendered them secure against any danger resulting from ruffianly attack, and am personally acquainted with many instances in which several of my pupils have thus enabled easily to defeat attacks from ruffians who would have proved formidable handfuls even to the burliest policeman. It would, be impossible, within the limits of this work to explain fully the whole science of Ju-jutsu, so I have sought rather in this volume to confine myself to as descriptive an account as possible of the principal breakfalls, throws, and locks, which will enable the student to ground himself thoroughly for the game. I have endeavered so to express myself that most of you will be able to teach yourselves, and be fitted to combat on fairly equal terms any but the most skilled and experienced opponents. The Kata and ground work need such full and careful explanation that I propose to leave this to a future volume in which they can be fully dealt with, and in which I shall have space also to go into advanced tricks of combat and display.

The eleven throws and eight locks with which I have dealt are those most in use, and I trust that my explanations and the cinematographic illustrations will enable you to master them fully.

Before proceeding to special descriptions I will, with your leave, indulge in a few more or less necessary preliminary instructions and words of caution.

For the necessary costume all that is really needed is a rough stout jacket and a pair of bathing drawers. The jacket can be of any stout material, but if you propose going in for extensive practice, you will find the real Ju-jutsu jackets, made in Japan, which will cost you about a guinea each, the cheapest in the long run, as they will stand an almost incalculable amount of wear. But for a beginner any old stout jacket, fastened by a sash, will serve.

The Ju-jutsu mats as made in Japan, also form the most suitable floor covering, but any matting, provided it be thick enough and not too rough, will serve, while an ordinary grass plot of course will form an ideal scene either for practice or encounter.

When engaging an opponent take hold of him in a light grip with both hands. It is also advisable to take hold of him at points slightly below the level of his shoulders, as this will enable you to give him a stronger pull. Choose also points as far apart as possible in order to obtain the fullest amount of leverage. Then, in order that you may be able to swing your opponent bodily if necessary, it is best to hold him by the collar with one hand and by the sleeve with the other.

In the special instructions to each throw or lock, I have, for the sake of clearness, written “hold your opponent by the collar with your left hand, and by his left sleeve with your right; step back with your left foot,” etc., etc.: but I do not thereby wish you to take these instructions as being arbitrary ones. The holds may be reversed or adapted to suit the students’ own physical peculiarities. I will not even suggest that my way is the best way. Nearly every man is suppler or more active in some one direction than others, and he will therefore find that he can work more effectively in certain directions opposite to those which I have suggested as being those best adapted to a right-handed man. But he will not do well always to confine himself to his own strong points in this particular; he must remember that his opponent may also have strong points as well as weak ones, and that a study of these last will well repay him. Then again, since great success at Ju-jutsu can only fall to those possessed of all-round suppleness, agility, and activity it is not advisable to develop only your strong points and neglect your weak ones. Rather cultivate the weak points and practise every pull, lock, or movement with both feet, both hands, and in every possible direction, so as to be prepared to meet every class of opponent.



Before proceeding to the description of the various throws, locks, etc., I feel it very necessary to draw particular attention to the fact that, if the student be unable to procure the assistance of a competent instructor, he should exercise the utmost caution when trying any of the falls, throws, or locks, as many of them are sufficiently severe to cause serious damage if attempted in a rough or careless manner.

It must always be borne in mind that the whole fabric of Ju-jutsu is based on the utilisation of strategy, agility and rapidity of movement, rather than on strength pure and simple. Success is achieved rather by the conservation of energy than by the use of it.

There is a proverb to the effect that “Knowledge is power,” and knowledge at Ju-jutsu is the beginning and end of power. Any man fully equipped with a practical knowledge of it need have but little fear of any opponent not similarly equipped however formidable the other may be in weight, height, and strength. You can really never know too much, or even enough, about Ju-jutsu. For almost every time you engage with an opponent who is at all your equal you will find that he has something to teach you, or even supposing that you can learn nothing from him, you will probably discover something for yourself; most probably some quicker method of carrying out a movement. It must always be borne in mind that lightning rapidity of action is the keynote of success in Ju-jutsu.

S. K. U.

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