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Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture
1912 JuJutsu Footage

An interesting watch!

“This fascinating piece of newsreel film was probably shot in Paris during 1912. The first section shows Takisaburo Tobari demonstrating a formal series of jiujitsu waza (techniques), partnered by Taro Miyake. There follows a spectacular display of jiujitsu as gentlemanly self defence against Parisian street gangsters.”

Mr P
Mr P's picture

Interesting video. Second half made me laugh though, it reminded me of the keystone cops! Lol

My understanding is that jujitsu comes from samurai battlefield tactics if disarmed. I wonder if their is any footage out their of samurai in armour doing jujitsu or modern day practitioners wearing samurai armour. Would this equipment alter ability to perform?


brianp's picture

I've got just the thing for you!  Scroll down for the video. Enjoy! http://www.bloodyelbow.com/2011/10/13/2481689/jiu-jitsu-history-birth-on-the-battlefield  

Gavin J Poffley
Gavin J Poffley's picture

A lot of people assume that all jujutsu came from battlefield tactics (e.g. emergency unarmed tactics for when your primary weapon is not available) but the reality is that it was a lot broader and more holistic than that.

First of all, I have to point out that the term "jujutsu" is much more commonly used in the modern era and is generally employed as a blanket term to cover all of the classical unarmed/ lightly armed Japanese fighting arts as well as modern derivations and evolutions of them. A lot of the systems referred to as jujutsu today originally used other names such as yawara, koshi no mawari, kogusoku, kumiuchi, hakuda, shubaku, kempo, torite etc and a lot of these older names shed more light on the various specialisations of the different systems. For example "kogusoku" is an archaic term for battle armour and systems using this name would mostly be focussed on the gross grappling and unbalancing movements needed when fighting unarmed but in armour, whereas "torite", literally meaning "hand taking" and "shubaku, which translates as "immobilisation and binding", would be used for systems more focussed on everyday peacekeeping and police work.

Overall I would speculate that the non-battlefield jujutsu (sometimes classified as suhada jujutsu, literally "bare skin jujutsu", meaning unarmoured) was more prevalent and widely practiced. This would make sense, as unarmed tactics would be a last resort in war and the amount of time spent practicing them would eat into more useful training with primary weapons and time drilling battlecraft in general. For non-battlefield roles such as peacekeeping, apprehending fugitives, bodyguarding one's master while he is at home, or for personal self protection, the skills of jujutsu take on a much greater significance though, and especially during the extended period of peace after 1604 would have been the major focus of unarmed combat schools. I think it is also prudent to mention though that even in peacetime a samura'is first line of self defence would still have been his sword. If you were obliged to carry a deadly weapon around at all times and freely able to use it under the law (with some limits) then it would be crazy to protect yourself in any other way most of the time!

Of course, as we come into the 20th century when these videos were made you see "jujutsu" practitioners emphasising the self protection aspects of their arts even further to keep with the demands of the times and it is quite rare nowadays to find experts in old style battlefield jujutsu.

This variety of different specialisations also helps to explain the apparent paradox where many styles of jujutsu have a strong groundwork element, despite the fact that groundwork is perhaps the last thing you would expect to see in a true battlefield art (putting aside the fact that this aspect has really taken off from the 1930s to the present day). Ground based immobilizations would have been the primary tool if you have to restrain someone indoors and within your own territory. For example a guest who makes a suspicious movement while in an audience with your lord would need to be restrained (but clearly not just killed on the spot) until their intentions could be verified. Most of the classical schools have plenty of this kind of technique in them.

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Great post Gavin! Thanks for posting that.

Tau's picture

As someone teaching Jujitsu, this is a problem that I frequently find. One of the reasons that some potential students choose to not train with me is their preconceved notions of "Jujitsu," often Brazillian Jujitsu.

My personal way of thinking is that if you go to a Taekwondo club practicing the ITF tuls you pretty much know what you're getting. Sure, the instructor's teaching manner with vary as will the emphasis but Taekwondo is Taekwondo and I would say that this is true for many Martial Arts.

But what's "Jujitsu?" Many modern Jujitsu styles would appear to be Judo with their interpretation of pragmatism applied. Personally I've studied two styles of Jujitsu because they were at opposing ends of the spectrum. My own Aiki-Jujitsu is openly the collected teachings of my Martial path including both styles of Jujitsu that I've studied along with Karate Bunkai, Kyushu, FMA, BJJ-based grappling and other things. I'm half tempted to call it "Tau-Jujitsu" or something like that. I'm not.

So Gavin's point is entirely valid. Just what is "Jujitsu" in the 21st century? Once upon a time I thought that Jujitsu and Karate were opposites - Jujitsu was mostly throws and locks with some set-up strikes. Karate was ALL striking. And yet here we all are on this forum practicing a "Karate" seperated from many people's concepts of "Jujitsu" only by formalised kata.

ky0han's picture

Hi everyone,

I was alway under the impression, that Ju Jutsu or unarmed methods always were part of the old japanese Koryu. Those Koryu emphasised their training on methods with the sword, naginata, yari, riding horses but also had the unarmed methods in the case you loose your weapon or it gets destroyed in battle.

I find that Ju Jutsu is like Karate but without Kata and Karate is like Ju Jutsu but with Kata :o).

As an aside. Here in Germany we have German Ju Jutsu which was invented in the 1960s for the public authorities (police, federal police, customs and justice) as a self defense system uniting methods from Aikido, Judo and Karate. Because most of those methods were softer methods e.g. to restrain someone it was called Ju Jutsu.

The koryu styles (like Gavon wrote also named Yawara, Tai Jutsu, Hakuda and the likes) are called Jiu Jitsu (which is a terrible way of reading the same Kanji used for Ju Jutsu) here.

Regards Holger

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Jigoro Kano (founder of Judo) wrote about the name “Jujutsu” and the differing systems that shared that collective banner in a piece called, “A Brief History of Jujutsu”. As we can see, much of what has been discussed in this thread is echoed in the introduction:

“Many people know the term jujutsu, but I suspect they would be at a loss if asked to explain its meaning. There are various schools that do quite different things but share the name ‘jujutsu,’ whereas others do the same thing using a different name. Furthermore, a wide variety of techniques, such as choking, twisting the arms, kicking, thrusting, and throwing, all fall under the collective banner of jujutsu. There are also various names such as taijutsu, yawara, judo, kogusoku, torite, kenpo, kakuda, and shubaku but they are all kinds of jujutsu. Kogusoku and torite, however, generally refer to practising methods of capture; taijutsu and judo mainly refer to the practice of grappling in armour and focus on throwing – this is the only real distinction between them.  Because there are so many different names and methods of training in martial arts, it is impossible to give a concise explanation that makes clear the difference between them all.

However, taking all of these martial arts together, we can say that they are all techniques of attack or defence against an enemy in which one uses no weapon, or only a short weapon. Because the term ‘jujutsu’ is most widely known, for the purposes of this discussion I will from now on use that as the general term to encompass all the various martial arts mentioned above.”

I hope that adds a little something and shows that the ambiguity around the term is nothing new.

All the best,


Gavin J Poffley
Gavin J Poffley's picture

That is a good point that the unarmed techniques commonly referred to as "jujutsu" were often part of much more comprehensive syllabi.

It is very much a modern idea that you have "style X of art Y" and each "art" covers one specific technical area. The classical Japanese arts were pretty much the opposite of this, with a broad style/ school designation and then a number of different specialist areas under that. The only single specialisation styles you really saw were those focussed on the sword, mainly for the practicality reason I mentioned previously but also because of the great cultural status of the sword. Even these systems often had subsections devoted to backup weapons or empty handed techniques though, the most famous example being the Yagyu Shinkage ryu with its "muto" or "no sword" methods that are placed as the most advanced level of learning.

I remember a converstion with a teacher of the Fusen ryu that I often train with when I visit my in-laws in Japan, in which he complained that most people who have heard of the Fusen ryu have an image that it is mainly ground fighting. I suppose that this is somewhat unavoidable in that two of the most notable things about the style are that it beat the Kodokan in competition using advanced groundwork and that it was the core style practiced by Maeda Mitsuyo who introduced jujutsu to Brazil and first taught the Gracies. However, the style as it is codified has a good balance of standing and ground techniques and a full weapons syllabus including sword work. Due to being perhaps the youngest of all the koryu and being created by a priest rather than a military man, the unarmed element is comparatively more emphasised than other koryu but it is still very much only one part of the whole. Apparently two of the school's more recent headmasters liked ground fighting a lot and developed it for personal enjoyment but were still very careful not to let their hobby alter the core system.

Ultimately I feel that you can treat the word "jujutsu" (and all the incorrectly romanized alterntives we see) as being akin to "wrestling". You would not find someone looking at Cornish wrestling, traditional Turkish wrestling, Greco Roman wrestling and American show wrestling and assuming that they are all the same or come from the same source just because they all use the same label!

Tau's picture

ky0han wrote:
I find that Ju Jutsu is like Karate but without Kata and Karate is like Ju Jutsu but with Kata :o).

For us on here that practice Karate with the mindset that we have and for me practicing Jujitsu that I do I 100% agree with you. However there are styles that are worlds apart from this.

I think there's general agreement on this thread that "Jujitsu" is just a name that can mean different things to different people. We reached a semilar conclusion on the Goshin / Jissen thread that I started. And then you consider Jeet Kune Do, for example. Formula One racing machines, Range Rovers and streched limosines are all "cars," right?

miket's picture

Thanks for the illuminating post, Gavin.  I have often wondered:  is it 'correct' to think of the various old school terms as 'complete' disciplines (e.g. , loosely 'styles') unto themselves?  Or is it more that these were 'areas of study', like we might conceptualize either a modern day fighter as studying say, 'boxing' as compared to 'ground fighting' as compared to say 'joint locking?'  Or, still further, since my understanding is that a lot of tehse 'systems' were tied up in the 'classical' eductaion of a samurai, could we consider them aagain as disciplines in the sense of 'areas of study' the same way a samurai would be expected to know about 'armour' (best kinds, how to wear it, how to attack, it strengths and weaknesses), bow, sword, politics, poetry, philosophy, etc. etc.

It's an academic question, but I have often wondered about how many of these were 'true' independnet systems, and how many of what later became familial branches of feudal 'jujutsu' were merely compositions of various 'familial mixtures' of such categoric discpliplines, and in that sense, no different than us today (as instructors) saying, OK, I teach "Self defense",  and you teach "self defense".  But under that umbrella term, I teach a fusion of karate+boxing+ Western ethics+ statutory law whereas you teach (hypothetically) some different personal fusion of karate+wrestling+aikido+zen+japanese language /culture.

i.e. the point that I am trying to clarify is:  how many of these systems were truly independent 'arts'.  Sometimes I think we tend to place these 'systems' on pedestals, when in fact, the system was merely (depending on how much 'art' you want to lend to your assumptions, either a loosely organzed topical bag of technical tricks; or, more formally, an organized sub-pedagogy built around a PARTICULAR method of fighting (whether from horeseback etc.).

'Fighting' being what it is, I tend to see it more as the former conception, but I would be interested to know your thoughts especially as you have lingustic knowledge (and therefore presumably, access to better historical information) than I.

Thanks again for the interesting post.