Japanese Jiu Jitsu

Japanese Ju-Jitsu explained easily

Traditional Jujitsu or as it has become known to some Japanese Jujitsu is martial art that has been around for centuries. It can trace its recent history back to the Samurai in Japan, but it has evolved over the subsequent years into the art that is practiced today. There are many different schools of Jujitsu and not everything here will apply in all circumstances, but I hope this will provide you with a great overview of Jujitsu.

A brief History

The term Jujitsu also known as Ju-Jitsu or Jiu-Jitsu is commonly translated into English as Ju meaning gentle and Jitsu meaning art. The use of Japanese Jujitsu or traditional Jujitsu have come about in recent years to help distinguish it from Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu however all of thee terms are commonly used today.

Jujitsu is generally accepted to have originated from the combat systems developed many centuries ago in south Asia before making its way to China and Japan where it was adopted by the Samurai. The rationale behind Jujitsu is quite simple, it was founded to help defeat an armed and armoured opponent in close quarters hand to hand combat using either no weapon or a small weapon. The art was practiced by the Samurai but continued to be passed down through the generations with the traditions being maintained during times of peace as well as war. Unlike most other martial arts that developed in Asia Jujitsu predominantly focuses on utilising throws rather than striking as the heavy armour worn by the Samurai made striking ineffective.

How it works

The principle of Jujitsu is in essence very simple, it relies on redirecting an attacker’s momentum to the benefit of the defender allowing the defender to utilise his skills by throwing, striking or restraining the attacker. A competent practitioner would be expected to display a range of defensive techniques from striking, grappling and weapon attacks. By redirecting or countering the energy of an attack a smaller person can overcome a more powerful attacker, providing they have good technique.

The Mother Art

For many people Jujitsu is the mother art from which several other popular martial arts have been derived.

Judo founded by Kanō Jigorō Judo took many of the techniques taught by Jujitsu and created a sport which removes the more dangerous techniques for safety reasons and focuses on the throws and elements of the ground work whilst completely removing striking. Judo is now a popular Olympic sport and is practiced all over the globe.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu developed by Carlos and Hélio Gracie has gained a lot of attention in recent years for its effectiveness in mixed martial arts competition. The basis is BJJ is the ground work element of Judo which was taken to Brazil by Mitsuyo Maeda amongst others. Some the techniques used in BJJ closely reflect those used in Jujitsu, but over recent decades have been drilled and perfected by practitioners of BJJ who have also developed a vast number of their own techniques.

Aikido which focuses on joint locks and some throws is also considered to be a derivative of Jujitsu. It relies on similar principles to Jujitsu by redirecting an attacker’s momentum to the benefit of the defender.

The fragmentation  

One of the major features of Jujitsu is the variety of schools that operate under the banner of Jujitsu. Over the last 500 years many different schools of Jujitsu have been created with most of them remaining committed to the core training of striking, grappling and restraining techniques but some have moved along way from where they began. As a result, there are a vast number of schools that fall under the umbrella term of Jujitsu which focus on a diverse range of techniques and ideas.

Training methods   

As a consequence of the different schools training styles can differ, but most will incorporate at least some of the below training styles.

  1. Individual training – this typically involves an instructor calling out techniques and the students performing the technique
  2. Partnered training – In pairs or small groups students drill a technique or sequence of techniques that have been demonstrated by an instructor or senior grades.
  3. Low resistance partnered training – This is like point two except the attacker will provide some resistance in an attempt to prevent the techniques from being applied.
  4. Defending from multiple attackers – In this type of training a single student will stand in the centre of a circle and defend as other students attack with a variety of techniques.
  5. Live training – This type of training is similar to sparing as practitioners will face off against each other and fight for a predetermined length of time or until a submission is achieved. Most instructors will place rules around this type of training to prevent injury including excluding some dangerous techniques.
  6. Fitness training – As is the case with many other martial arts there will generally be a fitness element to the training.

Depending on the school and the instructor the amount of time dedicated to each of the types of practice may vary.


Most Jujitsu schools will operate a grading system based different belt colours. As a student learns more techniques and becomes more competent they can expect to move up through the grades.

White – Entry level anyone who starts Jujitsu will begin at this level

Red – Not all schools have a red belt but for those that do it’s first step and can usually be achieved in short period of time.

Yellow – A student will understand a limited number of basic techniques and will be expected to know some Japanese terminology.

Orange – This considered to be the end of the beginner stage and can take anywhere from a few months to a few years to reach. A student will be able to demonstrate a small range of strikes, throws, pins and submissions.

Green – Students of this grade are considered to have left the beginner phase and moved to an intermediate ability. Having developed a good range of strikes, throws, pins and submissions.

Blue – Although this is the 6th belt a student will have worn blue generally is the middle stage in the journey to acquiring a black belt. In some Dojos this grade will allow a student to learn techniques considered to be riskier such as leg locks and neck cranks.

Purple – A student of this grade should be competent in most techniques and have a good understanding of the physics of Jujitsu. They may be asked to supervise the training of juniors or white belts.

Brown – An advanced student who will be honing their skills to achieve a black belt. Some students will spend several years at this grade before progressing to the Dan grades.

Black – The point when a student rises to the Dan grades and usually is considered skill full and knowledgeable to enough to begin teaching. A black belt is often considered to be the point in the journey where a practitioner becomes responsible for their own development.

Jujitsu as a sport

Jujitsu competition is less common than other similar martial arts. When competition does take place, it is generally in three formats.

  1. Demonstration – two practitioners will perform demonstrations where the attacker is informed of an attack and the defender must perform a defence relying on there reflexes.
  2. Free style competition – where competitors can utilise a range of striking, grappling and submissions. This form of competition is similar to mixed martial arts but competitors often wear headguards and some techniques are banned from use.
  3. Free style grappling – This form is like point to 2 but with the additional exclusion of striking.

Here is some footage from a Japanese Jujitsu match, notice how similar the rules are to an MMA fight.


In recent times the effectiveness of Jujitsu has been called into question as critics argue its training methods and techniques are outdated, the number of Samurai one might expect to encounter has certainly declined. The rise of BBJ has left many believing traditional Jujitsu is an inferior relative due to its reliance on training with lower levels of resistance. When comparing to Judo you would also anticipate a Jujitsu practitioner to come off far worse.

So where does all this leave Jujitsu, well if your looking for a martial art that can provide you with a well-rounded set of skills across the three disciplines of striking, grappling and ground fighting this is the martial art for you. You won’t be developing striking skills comparable with a Muay Thai fighter or throws as strong as a Judoka and a similar grade in BJJ will certainly beat you on the ground.

But you do get great variety in your training and the reason these other arts would beat you is because they specialise in that one area. Jujitsu offers you an opportunity to be a jack of all trades and still become the master of one.

If in the future you were to decide on cross training in another martial art Jujitsu will have given you a great base to build from, so you would already have a big advantage over some one cross training from a specialised striking art to a grappling art and vice versa.

Benefits of Jujitsu

If your training at a really good school, there should be self-defence benefits as many of the techniques can be adapted for use in self-defence situations. No one wants to find themselves in a position where they are forced to defend themselves but knowing that you can manage confrontation will boost confidence in those situations. A good teacher will be able to show students how to avoid a confrontation from escalating and keep themselves out of danger. In addition to this they will equipe their students with the tools to remove themselves form a violet situation with force if necessary.

There’s a ton of other benefits that come with Jujtsu just as there are with lots of other martial arts. Just a few months of training will result in students improving fitness levels particularly if you start from no physical exercise at all. Being challenged an overcoming adversity helps to build mental strength which can be transferred to personal life and work life.  And helps to build self-confidence as nothing makes you feel better than learning new skills and succeeding.

Is Jujitsu suitable for children

Jujitsu is great for children as it will provide them with all the benefits listed above but also teaches them respect. It provides a great opportunity for them to meet new people and build new friendships through attending classes. Jujitsu can also give children the confidence to confront bullies and to stick up for themselves if they are being picked on at school.

What do I need to get started in Jujitsu

Getting started in Jujitsu is as simple as beginning any other martial art all you need to do is find a local club and arrange to attend a session. If you are just looking to give it a go and see if it could be for you most clubs will allow you to attend a few sessions in some old clothes.

If you find Jujitsu is for you then you will need to get yourself a Gi and its always worth buying a rash guard as no one wants your sweaty/hairy chest being driven into there face. If you thinking about getting a Gi you can check out the Gi tips section which has all the information you need in one place.