What Is Jujitsu?

Jujitsu is a martial art designed to neutralize an attacker quickly.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 16 April 2014
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Jujitsu is a martial art which reflects the movements of the attacker back upon him or her. It has been practiced in Japan since the 16th century, although it has its origins in Chinese martial arts. Jujitsu uses a series of joint locks, small weaponry, and defensive tactics in combination with conserved energy to neutralize an attacker. Many other martial arts such as Judo and Aikido have their roots in this form.

The word means the practice of gentleness, and in addition to learning the moves associated with Jujitsu, students also make changes in their characters. This marital art is supposed to focus and calm the students, with the aim of making them better martial artists and more refined individuals as well. The movements are efficient, flowing, and circular, and it is a distinctly beautiful martial art to watch. Jujitsu is also usually practiced within a very small circle, and many moves have been refined for close quarters fighting.

Jujitsu reached its heyday during the Tokugawa Shogunate, when weapons were forbidden to most Japanese citizens. It incorporates joint locking and arresting movements which are extremely useful in hand to hand combat where neither warrior has a weapon. When used correctly, it is also possible to disarm with a joint lock. Grappling, take downs, throws, and strangulation also play a role.


Most schools of Jujitsu also teach techniques with canes, short swords, and use of ropes. Defensive techniques against modern weapons such as guns are taught as well, with a strong focus on neutralizing an opponent without harming him or her. Some students also learn healing techniques including massage, while other schools also place a heavy value on the study of spiritual and philosophical concepts.

Jujitsu is differentiated from other aggressive martial arts like Karate because it is not an offensive martial art, but a defensive one. Students learn the arts of surrender, patience, yielding, and efficiency. Jujitsu is also highly effective, integrating fighting techniques for a variety of situations, with or without weapons. The techniques are often taught in self defense classes for women, because it is possible to neutralize an attacker quickly and escape.

In the 20th century, Jujitsu was brought to the West by a variety of masters, and became a very popular martial art. In 1977, the Ju-Jitsu International Federation was formed, with the idea of organizing and regulating international competitions. In competition, the Federation recognizes two types of entries. The fighting system opposes single members from different teams who spar for points. In the duo system, two athletes from the same team demonstrate defensive techniques on the mat.


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