View Full Version : Serge Mol's definition of jujutsu

John Lindsey
17th January 2003, 00:15
In Serge Mol’s book “Classical Fighting Arts of Japan” he offers the following new definition of Jujutsu:

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.

I think this is a better definition, compared to the generic, homogenized idea of jujutsu being simply the predecessor of judo “using softness to overcome hardness.”


Benjamin Peters
17th January 2003, 07:31
Aside from the translation of characters into their respective English equivalents, perhaps its more beneficial to find what ‘Jujutsu’ is expressed as through practice. Suffice to say, even though any number of variants can be suggested as a (or the) definition, physical manifestation of practice and skill usually gives away what ‘it’ is.

17th January 2003, 13:24

That's about the same definition (though more eloquent and succinct) as I've used for many a year.

Jujutsu is a very generic term and has been badly misused.


Neil Hawkins
19th January 2003, 05:44
I did like the book, despite its obvious and less obvious flaws and as there is so little quality information on Jujutsu I still recommend it.

But anyway to the question at hand, I think that any description is going to be flawed because, to me anyway, Jujutsu is a generic term for a class of fighting that was more focused on close combat, that is ranges closer than those employed in kenjutsu. Much like CQC today there are very few accurate descriptions as the range of applications is so great.

I liken it to sport today, martial arts are the broad umbrella, sport. Below this there are a number of disciplines, athletics, football, raquet games and so on. These are the major arts, kenjutsu, jujutsu, karate, and so on. If we take football for example, being Australian I would probably describe it as Australian Rules or Rugby, many of you would describe it more like gridiron or American Football, others would describe it as soccer, and so on.

Like football, jujutsu has many disciplines in different parts of the world and gets described differently depending on the exposure of the descriptor. Those that are exposed to invented clubs have one way of looking at it, people lucky enough to have trained in Japan in a Koryu style have a different perspective. The rest of us fit somewhere in between.

Even within the one school or tradition there will be differing opinions depending on the level of the student. Many schools do not show weapons techniques until senior levels, so a junior student may describe it as purely empty handed, whilst one more senior would include the addition of weapons. One style may say that the weapon is a seperate, although attached school, whereas others may say that it was always part of the curriculumn.

So essentially my definition is that Jujutsu was a method of Japanese Close Combat employed when the primary weapon was impractical or impossible, it can include a number of ancilliary or auxilliary weapons or just the weapons of the body. Today it is more closely associated with grappling rather than striking but there are still many schools teaching the traditional method.

Hedging I know, but it does cover the possibilities.



25th January 2003, 01:33
How about this theory:

The traditional definition of jujutsu--the gentle art, the art of softess, etc.--is incomplete and distorted due to a misunderstanding of the kanji "ju" upon its romanization. When translated literally, "ju" does mean gentle, pliant, yielding, soft, etc. as is expressed by almost everyone in the West. However, a better definition of jujutsu would translate "soft" (i.e., "ju") as "without a (major) weapon", major weapons being the primary weapons of the samurai (sword, spear, and bow). Fighting with (major) weapons would have been called "hard". This makes sense, in that combat with major weapons involves wooden or steel objects doing all the damage and making most of the contact, whereas combat without such weapons mostly employs the hands and feet, i.e., human flesh, which is of course much softer than steel and wood. Thus, fighting without major weapons is "soft". Jujutsu is just another way of simply referring to the form of combat used by the samurai when they couldn't use their (major) weapon. The whole idea of the definition of soft being interpreted as absorbing and redirecting attacks, pushing when pulled, pulling when pushed, softness controlling hardness, etc. is simply a Western misunderstanding (and probably slight glorification) of Japanese culture and language. Of course, this Western definition is not entirely incorrect as the art of jujutsu does indeed often embody the idea of softness controling hardness. But as we all know, this is not entirely true as many forms of jujutsu use strikes frequently, which is of course hardness controlling hardness. Thus the reason that the common definition is not entirely wrong, just incomplete and displaying a true lack of understand of jujutsu's history. Many people in the West simply get hung up in this glorified definition of jujutsu being this elegant idea of softness controlling hardness (which has in term become a self-fulfilling prophecy and led to many modern forms of jujutsu disregarding their "harder" roots and becoming more esoteric and soft).

As has been pointed out, there is nothing in the definition of jujutsu that precludes minor weapons (i.e., tessen, jitte, tekken, shuriken, daggers, etc.), though major weapons are clearly precluded. However, what makes them minor is the fact that they don't really change the essence of jujutsu as these minor weapons serve mostly to amplify or replace strikes and don't usually add any new concepts to the essence of jujutsu. And strikes are mostly used in jujutsu as a means to an end, to "loosen up" the enemy so that a joint lock, throw, etc. can be used. This is because samurai fought in armor, which makes strikes (or the use of minor weapons) difficult to apply solely without some follow-up technique. Minor weapons simply made the loosening up process more effective but didn't change the essence of jujutsu (for if they did, they would be considered major weapons).

Also, it's important to realize that the word "jujutsu" wasn't even used until the 17th century. It was created centuries after the art it represents was well in place. Before the word "jujutsu" was created in the beginning of the rather peaceful Edo Period, every clan called their form of combat used without a major weapon some home-brewed name (yawara, wajutsu, torite, taijutsu, kumichi, kogusoku, etc.). Every clan had a different name for their style and there was little consciousness of a bigger picture, of there being an indigenous Japanese martial art (what we now call jujutsu). During the Edo period when peace gave everyone a chance to ponder the bigger picture as they weren't caught up in day-to-day survival and warring, there was an awareness of a bigger picture. Jujutsu was formalized. People needed a name, a label, a way to refer to all these arts practiced by all these different clans in the case when there major weapon wasn't available, and they noticed that all these various arts had much in common (since they all fought in the same environment against armored oppoents, and all had interaction with each other on the battefield and absorbed each other's techniques). So the name jujutsu was created *after* the fact.

Bottomline: the idea of jujutsu being weaponless, purely defensive, or purely "soft" are all somewhat contrived definitions created almost entirely by Westerners misunderstanding Japanese culture, history, and language. A much better definition (at least in terms of koryu jujutsu) is simply the form of combat used by the samurai when their major weapons weren't available. And since their opponents were armored, it evolved to include mostly joint locks, throws, submission, etc. with strikes and minor weapons as intermediate techniques used as a means to an end.


Charles Choi
6th February 2003, 06:13
Originally posted by mekugiIMHO many gendai martial arts handle CQC weaponry and unarmed tactics as well; should they be lumped as Jujutsu? What about other Asian Martial arts? Escrima/Arnis is one I can think of right off the top of my head. It certainly fits this description but is no means suitable to define as Jujutsu.

In all honesty, you have made a really good point. Utilising your examples, I can suggest other arts too which fit the description in terms of technique.

To be thorough, maybe a geographical point of origin needs to be included(?) in the definition. By its nature, jujutsu methods do come from, and formalise themselves in, Japan right?

Charles Choi

Neil Hawkins
9th February 2003, 04:47
Yes, Charles Japan definitely does need to be mentioned somewhere. However, there are many schools calling themselves jujutsu that have only extremely tenuous links with Japan.

We start getting back into the old "is it jujutsu?" argument, which has been done to death already.

I am happy with my definition, that it is a style of (or based on) traditional Japanese close combat techniques, and will continue to use that.



9th February 2003, 19:21
Jujutsu/Yawara/Taijutsu its all good.:D

I glad to see OFFENSIVE listed. To often MA is sited just for DEFENSIVE purposes which does not accurately reflect history.