THE REAL SECRETS OF JUJUTSU
Jigoro Kano was a young man, already seriously involved in education, and he saw the trend of his nation. Things were changing. The emperor was leading a charge into the next century, trying to modernize Japan as quickly as possible. This was causing Japan to disregard it’s indigenous arts in favor of Western culture.
While some of this was good, others aspects were detrimental to Japanese culture, in that things which helped define the Japanese psyche were being pushed aside or forgotten in the race to modernize. Ernest Fenellosa, a Harvard University professor, who taught in Japan, greatly encouraged the Japanese to look to their own culture and arts for greatness, while they were learning the ways of the West.
Jigoro Kano was one of those Japanese who learned Fenellosa’s lessons well. Thus he began to seek instruction in Bujutsu, since it was obvious how important the concepts of Bujutsu were to a serious understanding of the Japanese mind. Kano realized early, at the age of eighteen, that the martial arts were central to Japanese character development and physical fitness. He began training under Hachinosuke Masayoshi Fukuda, an instructor of Tenshin Shinyo Ryu. Later, upon the death of Fukuda, Kano continued his study under the new master of the school, Masatomo Iso. He was elderly as well and died shortly thereafter.
It was then that Jigoro Kano began training under Tsunetoshi Iikubo, a master teacher of Kito Ryu Jujutsu. Under this master of Jujutsu, Kano began to comprehend the true secrets of the art. These secrets of jujutsu are no longer secrets today and yet they are no longer studied in-depth as they were during the time of the golden age of Jujutsu.
During the practice of ‘ran o toru’, a free style method of practiced used in the Kito Ryu Jujutsu system, Iikubo would repeatedly throw Kano, even though he was thirty years older than the young man. Kano began to analyze the process of throwing, to see what makes it effective. During this analyzation, Kano came upon three discoveries. Once he implemented them, he was capable of defeating nearly anyone. Upon relating these concepts to master Tsunetoshi Iikubo, he was admitted into the Okuden, inner traditions, of the Kito Ryu, allowed to view the scrolls and books of the system.
These three discoveries, which relate to the proper use of Jujutsu in self defense, as well as, in the free practice of Randori, are essential to a full understanding of the throwing art. When these three principles are applied correctly, any one of any size, can be thrown easily. It was said that Kano was such a master Jujutsu practitioner in his later years, that to Randori with him was like grappling an empty uniform.
The first principle, and in some masters opinions, the most important, is Kuzushi. Kuzushi literally means, ‘to destroy’, and is used in reference to the breaking of the assailant’s balance. When a person is in a stable position, with their weight distributed evenly over the feet, they are impossible to throw, unless one can physically pick them up to hurl them down, which is generally not the case in self defense.
There are two sets of movements practiced for developing the skills of balance breaking. These are; Roppo no kuzushi and Happo no kuzushi, which translates respectively, the six directions of breaking and the eight directions of breaking. The six are the same as six of the eight, so they overlap. The lateral movements are considered the most important of all which is why there is the set of six, with forward and back being the ones included in the set of eight.
Thus the eight directions of balance breaking are; forward, backward, left, right, back left, back right, forward left, and forward right. These eight directions are combined with either a Tsurikomi, lift pull, or Maruoshi, circular push, to create a break in the opponents stability.
It is important to not only practice the performance of balance breaking but to also practice receiving them. For it is in receiving the Happo no kuzushi, that a Jujutsuka learns how to counter a grappling attack. With the renewed interest in Jujutsu these days, it is extremely important for students to engage in this type of practice, just as in the hey days of the Kodokan.
Once a person has mastered Kuzushi, it is then necessary for them to learn how to apply the Juri, principle of yielding. It is said that the founding of Yoshin Ryu Jujutsu, began with Yoshitoki Shirobei Akiyama seeing a snow storm, in which snow gathered on the limbs of large strong trees, causing the limbs to break off the tree. Then he noticed that on small, ‘weak’ trees, the limbs bent under the weight of the snow until it fell off, then the limbs would spring back with great force. This gave Yoshitoki Shirobei Akiyama the idea of using this concept as the central principle of a system of martial arts. While Jujutsu existed before this time, the illustration of the willow branch and the founding of the Yoshin Ryu by Akiyama, serve to explain by example the common denominator of all Jujutsu styles. This is Ju, the idea of yielding.
In it’s most common interpretation Ju means ‘to push when pulled and to pull when pushed’. Yet the actual fighting application of this is misunderstood by many Jujutsu practitioners. To many this has come to mean that if someone pushes you straight back, you pull straight back, while if someone pulls you to the right, you must push to the right. This is not actually accurate.
While the admonition to push when pulled is accurate, the direction you push is determined by several factors, with the same being true in regard to pull when pushed. There are two determining factors which must be considered. First of all, notice the alignment of the feet and the weight distribution. If the person is well balanced, then picture a line drawn between them and push or pull along that line. When combined with a foot sweep, leg reap, or hip lift, a person can be easily thrown.
However, if a person’s weight is more on one leg than another, they can be ‘floated’, through the use of hand throws, specifically Sumi otoshi, Uki otoshi, and the like. Also the weighted leg can be reaped or the unweighted leg can be swept, or either one can be propped. Thus the pull or push can be towards a weighted foot and used set up a throw.
The final detail that Jigoro Kano noted about throwing skills is that they must be performed naturally. Too many people when they begin training in a form of martial arts begin to use unnatural movements or postures, because they look esoteric. This problem has been increased thanks to movies, particularly the kung fu variety, which are very entertaining, but which tend to portray highly stylized postures for the aesthetic appeal.
Even back in the late eighteen hundreds, people tended to move in what they thought was the Jujutsu way, which tended to be unnatural. Yet Kano discovered that the best Jujutsu was one in which a person moved as naturally as possible. Thus Kano had his students train in Randori moving in Shizentai, the natural body posture. This training was not only good for developing Jujutsu skills, but was more realistic in regard to self defense training.
It is said that towards the end of his life Jigoro Kano witnessed a Shiai, Judo tournament, and lamented the lack of skill shown by the competitors. He wondered where the principle of Ju was, where was the use of natural movement, and where was the skill of Kuzushi.
Jigoro Kano founded the Kodokan to preserve the best that Jujutsu had to offer. He wanted the people of his country to realize the greatness of their own form of physical culture. He used modern educational methods to create a syllabus of instruction, which would greatly improve the teaching methods of the ancient art, but he could not improve on the principles, for they had been perfected through hundreds of years of practical experience.
He originated the sport form of Judo to help create an interest in the ancient art. Kano hoped that young people would come to the Kodokan through Judo and develop an appreciation of the ancient art of Jujutsu. It is said that his main desire was for students to begin training in Judo and after passing the age of competition, continue on in traditional Japanese Bujutsu.
In 1885, Jigoro Kano came to a realization of the secrets of Jujutsu, which were then confirmed by his Kito Ryu master, Tsunetoshi Iikubo. For people of all styles of Jujutsu, these secrets are just as important today, as they were in the time of Jigoro Kano. Jujutsu is an excellent art of self defense and a wonderful means of exercise. To be effective, the art must be practiced correctly. If strength and force is emphasized, then Jujutsu doesn’t exist. It is only when the methods and principles of yielding are practiced through the skills of Kuzushi, Juri, and Shizentai, can a person be said to know the real secrets of Jujutsu.