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Jujutsu: The Evolving Art

Part 2- Adjunct To Classical Weapon Systems

By Tom Ross & Christopher Caile

Understanding the historical development of jujutsu helps explain the wide diversity of jujutsu systems. In Japan the warrior (military) class of samurai (bushi) were usually highly skilled in the use of several weapons, and it was through these weapons that the outcome of battle was decided, the most common being the sword.

It is here, as an adjunct to swordsmanship, that techniques such as striking with the butt handle of the weapon, using the elbows and even strategically bumping an engaged opponent with the shoulder and torso entered into the syllabus of many weapons systems as techniques onto themselves. Also included were close quarter unarmed techniques and grappling methods, useful on the battlefield against an armed opponent, or equally unarmed foe.

Combat arts utilizing grappling had existed in Japan for centuries, as it had in many cultures throughout the world. One system of Japanese unarmed techniques was Sumai, that developed out of what we now know as Sumo. It was more than merely a system of unarmed wrestling techniques, and probably was similar to many mixed martial arts and no holds barred fighting systems so popular today, as this account from the Nihon Shoki ("Chronicles of Japan," an historical record commissioned by the imperial family in 720 A.D.) demonstrates:

"It is recorded during the reign of the emperor Suinin in the year 23 B.C. Taema no Kuehaya (who was described as a noble of great strength and stature) fought Nomi no Sukune of Izumo province. During the course of this ferocious battle Nomi delivered a monstrous kick to the ribs of Taema (breaking them) and knocking him down. Nomi then finished him with a bone crushing stomp on Taema's hip. An injury Taema would die from a day later." (1)

In the interm sumo played no small part played no small part in the martial development of Japan, and eventually received imperial patronage (during the Nara period 710 to 794 A.D.). Although many of its techniques were be known by imperial officials and military men, Sumai was not the type of combat method which directly lent itself to deal with the rapidly evolving and improving methods of combat, such as the armored sword wielding adversary. It did, however, likely provide a suitable platform for modification, and no doubt inspired the art of Yoroi Kumi Uchi (grappling in armor).

Heavily armored Samurai were somewhat restricted in mobility and speed of foot movement. Also they were virtually impervious to weaponless strikes since armor covered virtually their whole body. Empty hand jujutsu techniques were restricted to grappling, pushing, tripping and throwing, although some systems did practice empty hand strikes to specific areas that were not well protected by armor, such as under the arms. Samurais were also sometimes trained in intercepting weapon strikes and in the use of small weapons. The later could often pierce armor or be aimed between small gaps in armor.

Yoroi Kumi Uchi is a general term that applies to the various arts used by the Samurai whenever he found himself unable to use his primary weapon. This is not to say that without his primary weapon the samurai was unarmed, for many techniques existed within the repertoire for restraining or immobilizing an individual in preparation for a "Coup de Grace" to an appropriate weak point, and usually delivered by a secondary weapon such as the Yoroi Doshi (armor piercing dagger).

(1) The reign of Suinen was from 29 B.C. to 70 A.D.


Part 1

Introduction and Overview

Part 2

Adjunct To Classical Weapon Systems

Part 3

Unarmed Jujutsu Systems, Daito Ryu & Aikido

Part 4

Other Jujutsu Derivatives: Judo & Gracie Jujutsu


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To find more articles of interest, search on one of these keywords:

jujutsu, jujitsu, ju, sumo, sumai, Yorori Kumi Uchi, self-defense, aikido, daito ryu, Brazilian Jujutsu


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