Is Ju-Jutsu The “Mother Art”?

EVERY once in a while we get annoyed at popularly touted nonsense that is presented by “experts” as historical fact. Just because an individual is a martial arts instructor does not mean that he is well acquainted with the history and background of the combat disciplines ––– Eastern or Western. (In fact there is as much or more nonsense being mouthed today by black-belted ignoramuses about the popular “WWII Methods as there is about the Asian systems!).

One commonly heard bit of untruth is that “Ju-jutsu is the ‘mother art’ ––– the art from which all of the other martial arts have been derived”.

First of all this is most commonly said of the Japanese arts by speakers who overlook the plethora of arts that were developed and that are practiced throughout the Asian countries; but there are many hundreds of Okinawan, Korean, Indonesian, Vietnamese, Thai, and of course Chinese arts, and none of them “come from ju-jutsu”, virtually all having predated Japanese ju-jutsu (often by thousands of years!).

Second (and this is the corker!) Japanese ju-jutsu comes from the much older Chinese ch’i ch’i su systems. These were self-defense styles in which all of the “ju-jutsu” moves may be seen. One of these arts, “Chi-Na”, recently popularized in the West, is a good example. Ch’i ch’i su incorporates all ––– and more! ––– of the holds, locks, grappling, throws, blows, and escapes of ju-jutsu. The Japanese in point of fact, copied ch’i ch’i su, gave it the name of ju-jutsu, and claimed the art’s origin to have been in Japan’s mythological age, when the gods Kashima and Kadori used ju-jutsu to fight evil demons. (People will believe anything).

It is said that the art of karate (and remember there are perhaps 200 different schools and styles of karate throughout Asia ––– ALL predating Japanese ju-jutsu) is an expansion upon atemi; atemi being the section of ju-jutsu in which blows of the hands and feet to vital points is taught. Not so. The arts of karate derived from the external boxing systems of China (ch’uan fa or “kung fu”). The development of karate systems entailed much, much more than merely hitting the opponent in a vital spot. We dare say that any serious student of any of the various “karate systems” knows this well.

Some karate systems include an emphasize upon methods of throwing and joint-locking (the Wado-Ryu school of Japan, in fact, is a good example), but karate per se began as a percussionary art. And what is most likely to be true is that the grappling aspect of close combat grew out of the failed attempts that occasionally occurred to STRIKE. That would seem to be logical.

To observe that ju-jutsu systems almost invariably include throwing, holding, grappling, locking, striking, kicking, and miscellaneous actions and self-defense “tricks”, and to conclude therefore that arts in which one or more of those particulars is stressed came out of ju-jutsu is ––– to put it politely ––– muddled thinking. Every karate system that we have ever observed or participated in also includes throwing and so forth, but plays it down considerably as it emphasizes blows of the hands and feet, a blocking system, and breathing methods. Why? Because throughout the centuries it has always been discovered and then acknowledged in their training by actual warriors that BLOWS CONSTITUTE THE HEART, CORE, AND ESSENCE OF SERIOUS CLOSE COMBAT. Karate systems and self-defense methods of a more modern kind, as well as the best military close combat methods, also recognize and teach this. And those ju-jutsu systems that remain rooted in combat intent and methodology (like the Shin-Kage-Ryu) also lay great emphasis upon BLOWS.

That ch’i ch’i su and ch’uan fa (i.e. “ju-jutsu” and “karate”) systems have always and forever been the original “mixed martial arts” is conveniently ignored or glossed over by those commercializers who would have all and sundry believe that the current MMA (which we suggest should be correctly termed MMS, for Mixed Martial Sport) is unique. In fact we’d call it brawling, and make the observation that its many rules and restrictions make the flailing and grabbing that is done a mere hazardous game, and not a close combat or self-defense method at all. But that’s just our opinion.

The modern Art of American Combato (Jen•Do•Tao) incorporates anything and everything that is effective in serious hand-to-hand close combat and self-defense, and relegates control grips and holds to the instruction of law enforcement and security people, to whom we teach these skills AFTER these professionals have learned how to save their lives! But neither private citizens seeking self-defense ability nor combat soldiers and marines need ANY “arrest”, “control”, “submission”, “restraint”, or “comealong” methods.

Let us return to our main point.

Please do not make the mistake of carrying on the myth that “ju-jutsu is the mother art from which all of the different arts derive”. To REAL experts you will sound like a fool if you repeat this, and for your own education know that it just isn’t so. Some of the schools presently teaching their brand of ju-jutsu are excellent, and do offer students some very valuabke defensive skills training. (One outstanding teacher whose work we admired was Phillip Scrima in the Bronx, New York. He flourished in the 1960’s and 1970’s and never failed to give his pupils an excellent grounding in practical self-protective measures, using ju-jutsu). We did not produce this article to slam or to denigrate good ju-jutsu or those who teach and practice it; please note and mark that well.

Engaging in physical violence, unfortunately, is as old as man. And from the looks of things it would seem that this insanity will never end. So, mastering quality self-defense in order to protect yourself and those you love against violent types makes sense. We’d opine that it is an absolute necessity and should be a part of every decent human being’s education.

You can learn self-defense, close combat, weaponry, and personal battle tactics without scrutinizing the exact origin of every move you are taught, or in fact the origins of anything that you are taught. But for those who love the martial disciplines it is a matter of serious interest to set the record straight on certain matters pertaining to the theoretical basis and roots of the arts that one studies. Doing this in regard to the ju-jutsu myth has been our intention in this piece.