Jutsu Vs Jitsu

Jutsu Vs Jitsu

A question I keep getting asked is whats the difference between the Japanese terms Jutsu and Jitsu?

The explanation is fairly simple, Jitsu is an English term for a martial arts system its not Japanese and when used in the Japanese language Jitsu means something entirely different translating as “Real/Fact/Truth” 事実.

This is most likely to down to a translation error when it was first transcribed as Jutsu is the correct way to romanise it, but when pronounced it could sound like Jitsu. It could also be down to a lack of solidarity in romanisation of Japanese in the past which has since been rectified by the Japanese Language Council who established one system of romanisation. The direct translation of Jutsu is “Art” 術 but it can also be “technique” or possibly “way – Do 術” in some instances.

Another common western practice not seen in Japan is the use of a hyphen to seperate the the name of the art “Ju-Jitsu” instead of “Jujutsu”. This one is a bit of a mystery as theirs no legitimate basis for doing this! It’s most likely being done by whoever has translated it to show some awareness of Kanji but it makes absolutely no sense other than how many kanji are used! To demonstrate i have included the Kanji below:

Kanji   Actual Trans.   Mystery Trans.   Wrong Trans.
柔術     Jūjutsu                Ju-Jutsu                  Ju-Jitsu
忍術     Ninjutsu             Nin-Jutsu                  Nin-Jitsu
空手     Karate.               Kara-Te                    Ka-Rate
柔道     Judō                    Ju-Dō                      Jiudo/Jyudo
合気道 Aikidō                 Ai-Ki-Dō                    Aikijutsu/Aikijujutsu

So you see the Kanji for Jūjutsu is comprised of two Kanji so when translated for some reason people are placing a hyphen in between the words to make Jū-jutsu but this is totally unneccessary, its simply Jūjutsu.

Jiu-Jitsu is another mistranslation and is simply wrong when translated from Japanese into English but theirs a possibility it could have links to the way the Kanji are translated in the Brazillian language which is why its mostly associated to BJJ (Brazillian Jiu-Jitsu). Japanese Jūjutsu is not Jiu-Jitsu, although for some reason instructors claiming to have connections to Japan use Jiu-Jitsu all the time when they apparently run a Jūjutsu Dojo.

Upon further research i have discovered that what actually happened was Rorion Gracie copyrighted Gracie Jiu-Jitsu to seperate it from Japanese Martial Arts as its not Japanese.

With this in mind doesn’t it make sense that your either an instructor of Japanese Jūjutsu or an instructor of Brazillian Jiu-Jitsu?! Their is no Jiu-Jutsu, Jū-jitsu or Jūjitsu!

The reason this is important is if the instructor doesn’t know how to spell the name of the art being taught correctly or it origins, Then how effective is whats being taught?! Using the term Jujitsu suggests a school of enligtenment somewhat like a monastery so effectively those schools are offering enlightenment, which is kind of funny really when you think about it.

I tell my students regularly to “check the source” because if you follow the art up the chain and find it has no connection to a legitimate martial arts linage or Ryuha then 9 times out of 10 your learning off Sensei Bob who has never actually met anyone Japanese let alone trained with them.

Its the same with Ninjutsu! If a school is claiming to teach Ninjitsu its fake! No legitimate Ninjutsu practitioner will call our art Ninjitsu but Ninpo, Ninjutsu or Budo Taijutsu. We don’t use the names of dead lineages either like Koga Ryu Ninjitsu or Fuma Ryu Ninjitsu as they died out centuries ago and Ninjitsu isn’t a word! Theirs some arguement for Fujita Seiko being the last real Koga Ninja but even then he died decades ago before training any students to continue the lineage. Koga Ryu Ninjitsu translates as “Lieing Wannabe Ninja” to any legitimate practitioner because we learn Japanese from day 1 in the dojo, It’s integral to the art!

As i mentioned previously much of the confusion can be traced back to the 1950’s-1960’s when westerners were translating the Kanji for martial arts and misunderstood the romanisation of the Kanji. Judo became Jyudo, Jiudo, Jujutsu, Jujitsu, Juiido and numerous other varitations that all are apparently more accurate translations of the original Kanji 柔道 Judō. These instructors then refused to accept their individual translations could possibly be wrong so branched out into splinter organisations which all use different spelling for the name of original Japanese art of Judō 柔道.

I’m not saying that just because a name of a martial art is mispelt from the translation of the Kanji that it invalidates the art itself but more that you can determine alot about a dojo and its standards by the name it uses. If they are advertising traditional Japanese Jiu-Jitsu, Then thats fairly impressive considering the art itself doesn’t actually exist in either Japan or Brazil! It’s the equivalent to saying we teach traditional Japanese Brazillian Jiu-Jitsu.

As martial artists and especially martial arts instructors we have a responsibility to understand the intricate details behind everything we do and teach. If your simply practicing mechanical techniques in the dojo and not asking “Why am i doing this? What am i doing to the Uke when performing this technique?” Then you are completely missing the point of training in the first place!

Training should be performed in a realistic manner with intention, to simulate actual combat and when you perform a technique you should understand the ‘Kuden’ or concept behind it otherwise obtaining any sort of proficiency in the art you practice will be extremely difficult. Their are loads of factors to consider when performing a technique, I often use the legal term that your causing a chain of causation, You attack or lock one part of the body whilst watching for the reaction that will occur somewhere else in the Ukes anatomy to break them down when they are structurally at their weakest. Its all part of the process of Shu Ha Ri which i will explain in a later post.

My point being attention to detail is extremely important in martial arts, so if you can’t get the name of your style right then what else has been overlooked?

In conclusion figure out what you are! Either your a Japanese Jūjutsu Dojo or a Brazillian Jiu-Jitsu School! If you practice Judō its Judō not Juido, Jyudo or whatever else you may call it. Japanese is a language so its a fairly simple process to clarify how the Kanji should be romanised with modern technology leaving very little room for open interpretation. You can’t argue with the Kanji!

As a student you should never be affraid to question what you are being taught and check the source. It will make you a better student overall and it helps your instructors stay on their toes and dig deep into what they represent and how they teach you. After all they learn as much from you as you do from them whilst training in the dojo!

Finally, Attention to detail is key! Understand the “why?” Behind every technique you perform and what the end game is. This is really important as its what helps you become a better martial artist with effective technique. Its not all about brute force and rigid mechanical movements but technical proficiency and scientific application of the art you practice. I say to my students “If its not natural, It’s not Ninjutsu” by which i mean when a technique is performed correctly it should feel effortless because all the little details click into place to break the opponent down. Thats Ninjutsu in action, Not Ninjitsu!