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Global Training Report



Japan's Ultimate Martial Art

Jujitsu Before 1882

By Darrell Max Craig

Reviewed by Roberto Pedreira


Is jiu-jitsu really just judo, as  George Mehdi claims? Or is judo really jujitsu? Or is neither one the other? Or are they really the same, but something other than either judo or  jiu-jitsu? Darrell Max Craig answers these questions and more. 

Japan's Ultimate Martial Art opens with a brief historical overview. Apparently, some time after the so-called Meiji "Restoration" (in 1868), a certain jujutsu man named Dr. Jigaro Kano formed his own organization, modifying, codifying, and streamlining the traditional jujutsu curriculum in the process. On June 10, 1886, a contest was held between a representative of judo and a representative of traditional jujitsu. The judo representative (who was also an expert of aiki-jutsu) annihilated the jujutsu representative, proving that judo reigned supreme. Judo went on to take the world by storm. 

Kano didn't have a billion brothers and cousins with funny sounding names, but otherwise the story has a familiar ring to it. Kano wanted his jujutsu to be a way of life, rather than a collection of techniques, which is what he hoped the "do" (), as opposed to "jutsu" () would convey. Until 1930, judo was actually known as Kano Ju-Jutsu. After that the term "jujutsu" fell into disuse and disfavor, with its connotations of bar brawling and street scrapping. The actual techniques of jujutsu were preserved in taiho jutsu.(逮捕術). If you want to explain to a Japanese person today what ju-jutsu is (or was) you have to describe it as taiho-jutsu, which they know as the methods Japanese police officers are taught for detaining, arresting, and taking offenders, culprits, and suspects into custody--although they don't know what those techniques are. However they  know what Gracie Jiu-Jitsu is, and Rickson Gracie is as well known in Japan as any man on the planet, better known for sure, and with good reason, than the president of the United States. (If George W. Bush would fight and defeat Takada and Funaki, then he would be better known in Japan too.)  To the Japanese, Gracie Jiu-jitsu and traditional Japanese jujutsu are totally unrelated things, as different from each other as electric guitars are from banjos, and they are a little perplexed to be told that Gracie Jiu-jitsu originated in Japan. 

Kano eliminated most of the traditional techniques of jiu-jutsu, those that were especially effective for hand to hand combat, from his curriculum, retained and refined those that seemed to lend themselves to safe sport applications, and incorporated others from Western grappling arts (kata guruma is actually firemans' carry, and morote gari is a double leg takedown, for example).

What then was it that Mitsuyo Maeda supposedly taught Carlos Gracie in the city of Para, Brasil shortly after his arrival in 1913 or 1914? Was it jujitsu, or was it judo?  

Where ever it came from, Jiu-Jitsu today is much more like Judo than it is to traditional jujitsu, which is more faithfully preserved in Korean hapkido (minus the kicking techniques). Jiu-jitsu has retained a few self defense techniques, although they could just as easily have been recently reintroduced via hapkido. Jujitsu before 1882 consisted of many different styles (or ryuu ), each emphasizing different techniques. (Jutsu (術), incidentally, simply means technique the Brazilians spell it jitsu, but it is the same morpheme. The remainder of Japan's Ultimate Martial Art describes a few of these, arranged into more or less cohesive sets.

Basic Self defense Techniques describes and depicts (with line drawings) 17 techniques against grabs, bear hugs, kicks, and punches. All of them look serviceable. The first two involve Dumog-like head manipulations and the third is a kali push thigh technique, and the others I have seen in hapkido and sambo, which is to say that they all derived from the same source. However, none of them are familiar to me from BJJ, after @ six years of training in three countries (USA, Brazil, Japan). If Carlos learned these techniques from Maeda, either they have been lost somewhere between then and now or for some reason no one is teaching them.

Te Waza (hand techniques) are also self defense techniques and include wrist locks. Wrist locks are not taught in jiu-Jitsu or as far as I have seen, in judo. The rationale is that they don't work because a determined attacker can withstand the pain of a broken wrist and keep attacking. That is a flimsy excuse. Why not throw everything out and only learn rear naked chokes? By the way, wrist locks do work and some BJJ guys know them. I rolled with Mario Sperry and he tapped me with a wrist lock. There are in fact a lot of techniques that wouldn't work on a skilled prepared opponent that would work very well on an unskilled unprepared opponent, which is what you are more likely to encounter outside of the competition arena.

Nage Waza are the throwing techniques, which include a few that are no longer taught in judo, such as kote maki and kani basami, and a couple that would probably be hard to pull off. Basic hip and shoulder throws are shown. This chapter contains a section on first aid and resuscitation.

Atemi Waza are the striking and pressure point techniques. Some of these can be deadly, such as the # 3 koko hand to the throat (Darrell says that "you will most likely fracture the thyroid bone [he means hyoid bone--there is no thyroid bone] or cricoid bone", which in turn will rupture the jugular vein, the carotid artery, the vagus nerve, and the phrenic nerve. None of this is good. Neither Darrell Max Craig nor Charles E. Tuttle, Co., Inc. will be responsible if you kill someone. 

Kansetsu Waza are the joint locking techniques (some wrist locks are taught separately as self defense moves, and some as atemi waza, since nerve compression is also applied.) These are all done from standing. Darrell shows four techniques, come-along type holds.  

Resisting a Handgun is about how to disarm someone with a handgun pressed against your belly, neck, or head. Darrell shows three methods. He recommends not practicing with real loaded weapons. He also says that there is no guarantee that they'll work. Instead, concentrate on not getting into the situation in the first place.

Hostage Situations and Kubudo (weapons and defenses against them) concerns escaping when you are the one being held with a knife to your throat. The hostage is you. The fact that you are a hostage implies that the attacker doesn't intend to kill you, but rather use you as a bargaining chip. I'm sure what Darrell says about gun disarms would apply equally here. Prevention is better than cure. Knife disarms are probably not as problematic as some people claim, assuming the blade enters at a predictable angle and you can stay calm. The first might happen if the attacker were unskilled, and the second might happen if, as Dan Inosanto once said, you are "either crazy or insane". (Try this experiment: practice all your disarms on your girlfriend using a wooden or rubber knife. Then have her wield a butcher knife as though to attack you in the same ways that you had just so expertly disarmed her.  Not even to execute a fake attack, but merely hold the knife in an attacking position (and tell her to look as if she had just found out you were two-timing her). Now observe your emotional condition. If you are as cool and calm and collected as you were the first time, then you may be either crazy or insane, but in any event, stay away from people with knives.)

Hojo-Jutsu are techniques for wrapping an opponent up with a rope or belt.  

Yawari describes four techniques for striking with a yawari (which is a short (about 6") stick with with pointed ends). Technique # 2 will be familiar to students of kali. 

Jo Jutsu (4' stick techniques) is the longest in the book, out of respect for Darrell's teacher Chiba Harutane. Interestingly, GTR's Roberto Pedreira met Sensei Chiba in San Francisco. In 1980, Roberto was working as an English tutor to a certain Japanese gentleman, who turned out to be Chiba Harutane. Mr. Chiba said he was in the United States to establish a kendo association. Roberto had no special interest in kendo (its self defense value being dubious in view of the fact that at that time the SFPD would stop you for carrying anything that even remotely looked like it could be used as a weapon, such as a cane (the favorite of hapkido guys) or stick of any length or kind, much less a 6 foot long razor blade,  and would confiscate without a word of apology your chucks if they found a set on you.) However, Roberto wanted to go to Japan, because his next door neighbor Joe Henderson (the three time Grammy winning tenor sax player) told him that the Japanese shower American musicians with money (Roberto was a locally successful performing and recording artist, but what Joe didn't mention was that before the Japanese will shower you with money, you need to already be world famous and have 25 LPs out. They don't shower guys they never heard of with money in Japan, even back during the bubble economy). Nonetheless, Roberto wanted to find out more about Japan, and Chiba didn't mind telling him.  Roberto sipped hot sake, and  Chiba scotch, as they talked about this and that. Mr. Chiba also taught Roberto some Japanese. The only thing that remains in memory is the phrase "`私はあなたに惚れるwatashi wa anata ni horeta"  (I am enchanted by you). Chiba recommended saying this to bar hostesses.

The book includes a glossary of Japanese used in jujutsu. There are only a couple of typos: aita should be aite; hoppo should be happo

Videos have rendered how-to-do technique books redundant. Japan's Ultimate Martial Art contains techniques, but much else as well. It is one of the few books on any martial art that deserves to be a called a book, rather than a collection of illustrations with extended captions.

A final note: Darrell isn't trying to cash in on the UFC boom. Publishers reserve the right to decide on the titles of books, as part of their sales strategy. Experience teaches them that catchy titles and grabby pictures on the cover enhance sales.

Buy Japan's Ultimate Martial Art below:


For more on the history of Jiu-Jitsu (in Brasil and the USA), see:






(c) 2001, Roberto Pedreira. All rights reserved.

Revised November 20, 2009.

Revised February 1, 2015.