JU-JUTSU or JIU-JITSU (a Chino- Japanese term, meaning muscle-science), the Japanese method of offence and defence without weapons in personal encounter, upon which is founded the system of physical culture universal in Japan. Some historians assert that it was founded by a Japanese physician who learned its rudiments while studying in China, but most writers maintain that ju-jutsu was in common use in Japan centuries earlier, and that it was known in the 7th century B.C. Originally it was an art practised solely by the nobility, and particularly by the samurai who, possessing the right, denied to commoners, of carrying swords, were thus enabled to show their superiority over common people even when without weapons. It was a secret art, jealously guarded from those not privileged to use it, until the feudal system was abandoned in Japan, and now ju-jutsu is taught in the schools, as well as in public and private gymnasia. In the army, navy and police it receives particular attention. About the beginning of the 20th century, masters of the art began to attract attention in Europe and America, and schools were established in Great Britain and the United States, as well as on the continent of Europe.
Ju-jutsu may be briefly denned as " an application of anatomical knowledge to the purpose of offence and defence. It differs from wrestling in that it does not depend upon muscular strength. It differs from the other forms of attack in that it uses no weapon. Its feat consists in clutching or striking such part of an enemy's body as will make him numb and incapable of resistance. Its object is not to kill, but to incapacitate one for action for the time being " (Inazo Nitobe, Bushido: the Soul of Japan).
Many writers translate the term ju-jutsu " to conquer by yielding " (Jap. ju, pliant), and this phrase well expresses a salient characteristic of the art, since the weight and strength of the opponent are employed to his own undoing. When, for example, a big man rushes at a smaller opponent, the smaller man, instead of seeking to oppose strength to strength, falls backwards or sidewise, pulling his heavy adversary after him and taking advantage of his loss of balance to gain some lock or hold known to the science. This element of yielding in order to conquer is thus referred to in Lafcadio Hearn's Out of the East: " In jiu-jitsu there is a sort of counter for every twist, wrench, pull, push or bend: only the jiu-jitsu expert does not oppose such movements. No; he yields to them. But he does much more than that. He aids them with a wicked sleight that causes the assailant to put out his own shoulder, to fracture his own arm, or, in a desperate case, even to break his own neck or back."
The knowledge of anatomy mentioned by Nitobe is acquired in order that the combatant may know the weak parts of his adversary's body and attack them. Several of these sensitive places, for instance the partially exposed nerve in the elbow popularly known as the " funny-bone " and the complex of nerves over the stomach called the solar plexus, are familiar to the European, but the ju-jutsu expert is acquainted with many others which, when compressed, struck, or pinched, cause temporary paralysis of a more or less complete nature. Such places are the arm-pit, the ankle and wrist bones, the tendon running downward from the ear, the " Adam's apple," and the nerves of the upper arm. In serious fighting almost any hold or attack is resorted to, and a broken or badly sprained limb is the least that can befall the victim; but in the practice of the art as a means of physical culture the knowledge of the different grips is assumed on both sides, as well as the danger of resisting too long. For this reason the combatant, when he feels himself on the point of being disabled, is instructed to signal his acknowledgment of defeat by striking the floor with hand or foot. The bout then ends and both combatants rise and begin afresh. It will be seen that a victory in ju-jutsu does not mean that the opponent shall be placed in some particular position, as in wrestling, but in any position in which his judgment or knowledge tells him that, unless he yields, he will suffer a disabling injury. This difference existed between the wrestling and the pancratium of the Olympic games. In the pancratium the fight went on until one combatant acknowledged defeat, but, although many a man allowed himself to be beaten into insensibility rather than suffer this humiliation, it was nevertheless held to be a disgrace to kill an opponent.
A modern bout at ju-jutsu usually begins by the combatants taking hold with both hands upon the collars of each other's jackets or kimonos, after which, upon the word to start being given, the manoeuvring for an advantageous grip begins by pushes, pulls, jerks, falls, grips or other movements. Once the wrist, ankle, neck, arm or leg of an assailant is firmly grasped so that added force will dislocate it, there is nothing for the seized man to do, in case he is still on his feet, but go to the floor, often being thrown clean over his opponent's head. A fall of this kind does not necessarily mean defeat, for the struggle proceeds upon the floor, where indeed most of the combat takes place, and the ju-jutsu expert receives a long training in the art of falling without injury. Blows are delivered, not with the fist, but with the open hand, the exterior edge of which is hardened by exercises.
The physical training necessary to produce expertness is the most valuable feature of ju-jutsu. The system includes a light and nourishing diet, plenty of sleep, deep-breathing exercises, an abundance of fresh air and general moderation in habits, in addition to the actual gymnastic exercises for the purpose of muscle-building and the cultivation of agility of eye and mind as well as of body. It is practised by both sexes in Japan.
Many attempts have been made in England and America to match ju-jutsu experts against wrestlers, mostly of the " catchas-catch can " school, but these trials have, almost without exception, proved unsatisfactory, since many of the most efficacious tricks of ju-jutsu, such as the strangle holds and twists of wrists and ankles, are accounted foul in wrestling. Nevertheless the Japanese athletes, even when obliged to forgo these, have usually proved more than a match for European wrestlers of their own weight.
See H. Irving Hancock's Japanese Physical Training (1904); Physical Training for Women by Japanese Methods (1904); The Complete Kano Jiu-jitsu (Jiudo) (1905); M. Ohashi, Japanese Physical Culture (1904) ; K. Saito, Jiu-jitsu Tricks (1905).
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)