Okuden No Jujutsu

by William Durbin, Soke of Kiyojute Ryu

         In recent years there has been a renewed interest in Jujutsu due to some very dynamic individuals. However, even as a greater interest has been created, a lot of misunderstanding has been created as well. It might be best to illustrate this idea with a story that took place a few years ago when a young woman was researching martial arts schools in her area, looking specifically for someone to teach her either Judo or Jujutsu. She had heard that those arts were specifically designed for small people. When she visited one school and explained that she was interested in Judo, the instructor said that she was 'too small' to learn the art and could never be any good at it.

         Luckily she did not pay any attention to that instructor, but instead chose to continue a search for a person who would teach her the gentle art of the Japanese. Currently she is one of the best Jujutsu instructors in her state. But due to the current attitude towards Jujutsu and the championships that have been featuring very large, muscular men, the idea is that 'grappling' arts are only applicable for hulking males. One of the leading Jujutsu practitioners in the past few years wrote an article on how important weight training was to his art and that 'for his size', he was building up as much strength as possible.

Jujutsu the Complete Art

         Jujutsu was an art created by small people for use on the battlefield whenever their primary weapon; be it Katana, Naginata, or Yari; was broken or taken away. As time passed and the way of the sword receded into history, Jujutsu became very important for personal self defense. Starting with the Meiji Restoration, beginning in 1868, the Japanese began to have more contact with the larger American and European people. It was found that in confrontations with these larger people, the art of Jujutsu gave the Japanese people a fighting advantage.

         There are many stories that tell of conflicts that arose between Occidental people and some Japanese martial artists that allowed those involved to see the effectiveness of the art of Jujutsu. Probably the most famous such story deals with the great Jujutsu master of the Daito Ryu, Sokaku Takeda. It seems that an American, by the name of Charles Perry, did not think that Takeda, dressed in a rather disheveled manner, should have been allowed to have a first class seat on the train he was riding. He had Takeda checked out by the conductor, which lead to a confrontation where Takeda applied a Jujutsu technique and started to throw Perry off the train. Luckily he was stopped, but this profoundly influenced Perry to report to President Theodore Roosevelt how effective the art was. Perry was a normal sized American while Takeda was only four foot eleven inches. What impressed Perry the most was that a small person could hold and control a larger person so easily. His report lead to one of Takeda's students being sent to the United States to teach the president and other officials for three years, after which a student from the Kodokan taught at the White House as well. This was one of the reasons that the martial arts became introduced and developed so strongly in America.

Jigoro Kano – Master of Jujutsu

         Jigoro Kano trained in very traditional martial arts before founding his Kodokan. During his tenure with the Kito Ryu he trained under the master teacher Tsunetoshi Iikubo. Eventually, though Iikubo could easily defeat him when they first started training together, Kano began to understand the secrets that allow throws to work against a stronger opponent. Upon being able to throw Iikubo, the master teacher allowed Kano to see the manuscripts of the Kito Ryu Okuden, which verified the understanding and principles Kano had discovered through his training.

         The first and foremost principle of all styles of Jujutsu is the principle of Ju. Stated simply the principle of Ju is, pull when pushed and to push when pulled. The great Judo master, Kyuzo Mifune, use to describe the principle of Ju by saying that you should, enter when pulled and turn when pushed. Interestingly enough, this is also the way that Aikijujutsu and Aikido describe the principles of Irimi and Tenkan.

Three Styles of Jujutsu

         Jujutsu can be easily divided into three types of styles. There would be the Aikijujutsu, which could be thought of as the Jujutsu of the royalty, who wore full suits of armor, and majored on those techniques which attack the wrist, elbow, and shoulder. Heiho Jujutsu could be thought of as the Jujutsu of the foot soldiers, which wore very light armor and major on leg and hip throws. Finally, there is the Kempo Jujutsu of the monks, which majored on striking techniques, since they were used against such individuals as bandits and renegades who seldom wore armor at all.

         All three types of Jujutsu; Aiki, Heiho, Kempo; had a comprehensive curriculum of throws, joint locks, and strikes, but due to how the art was applied, each specialized in those areas mentioned above. In those styles that were founded before the Meiji Restoration, weapons were also studied along with the empty hand skills. After 1868, many of the styles that developed taught only empty hand skills or the use of small weapons such as Hambo (batons), Kobo (small sticks from three to seven inches long), and Tanto (knives).

Okuden of Throwing

         In regard to applying throws, the Okuden, discovered by Kano, and contained in the Kito Ryu Okuden; are Kuzushi, Tsukuri, and Kake. Kuzushi literally means 'demolish, destroy', and is used in reference to breaking the opponents balance. The idea has always been to never attempt a throw unless you have the opponent off balance. In the current strength oriented contests and even in contest style Judo; the idea of Kuzushi has been all but lost. However, in self defense it is important that one not get into a grappling or struggling situation. Only if Kuzushi can break an attacker's balance should any type of grappling or throwing be tried, otherwise most Jujutsu styles have emphasized that strikes should be used. Once strikes have weakened and aided in unbalancing a person, then a throw or joint lock can be applied.


         The primary form of Kuzushi was known as Tsurikomi, which can best be translated, 'lift-pull'. The idea is to cause the opponent to overextend themselves, rising up either on the balls of their feet, or rock back towards their heels. In both positions the balance of the opponent is greatly weakened and makes it very easy to throw them. While this principle of Kuzushi is in general used in most throws, it is especially emphasized is certain throws, such as; Sode Tsurikomi Goshi (sleeve lift-pull hip), Sasae Tsurikomi Ashi (propping lift-pull foot), and Harai Tsurikomi Ashi (sweeping lift-pull foot).


         Tsukuri literally means 'make, create, manufacture, prepare, build', and is used in regard to positioning your body for the throw. In regard to joint locks, this means positioning the body in such a way that your mass is directed into the weakest point of the opponent's arm or wrist. Thus in an elbow lock, your body is positioned so that the mass of your body actually applies the pressure on the elbow. In throws, the Tsukuri is the movement of positioning your body so that the person is thrown over your hips, or so that you can prop your foot against a part of your body, or so that your leg can be used to reap or sweep the person down.


         Finally, Kake literally means 'attack', and is used in reference to the actual throw. In Uchikomi (fitting in) practice, this relates to the lift of the partner, in actual throwing it means hurling the person to the ground. In self defense, the Kake is the point of throwing and incapacitating the assailant.

Principle of Ju

         Good throwing skills then are based on the use of the principle of Ju, which leads to proper Kuzushi, which is followed by Tsukuri, and then Kake. Jujutsu was developed by the small people of Japan to be of advantage when in a disadvantaged situation. The throws and other techniques, were designed to be used in combat against lightly and heavily armored warriors. When the time came that the Japanese people began to relate to other people of the world who were much larger than them, it was found that the art was just as effective in equalizing the difference in size. Throwing was the primary technique, with chokes, joint lock, and pins, to supplement them under specific situations. Strikes and kicks were used in lethal situations, or to set up throws. Except for those situations where a person had to be captured and held, throws were designed to be performed in a standing form, and the opponent hurled to the ground. In sports, most of the time the thrower falls with their competitor, and while this is fine in a competitive situation, emphasizing that to people who are wanting to learn self defense is setting them up to be hurt or killed on the street.

         All those who want to learn effective Jujutsu for self defense need to emphasize the principles of the art and not emphasize the use of strength in their training. In Kiyojute Ryu Kempo Jujutsu, both Aikiho and Juho, students are taught to seek the ability to use as little as ten percent of their strength in the application of throws, in this way, in real combat they will have ninety percent of their strength in reserve for the heavy or highly resistant opponent.

Soft Strength

         In all throws and in the use of the many other techniques of Jujutsu, it is important that the practitioner first use the principle of Ju, gentleness and yielding, to learn to use a soft form of strength, based on body movement, rather than on brute strength. Then it is important to learn the art of Kuzushi, breaking the opponent's balance, especially through the concept of Tsurikomi, lift-pull. It is also important to maintain that broken balance while they Tsukuri, position their body for the technique. Finally the Kake, or actual application of the technique to take the person to the ground, and in self defense, incapacitate them, must be developed with realistic follow-through, so that the attacker is taken down and helpless, either through control techniques or injury.

         Jujutsu is an extremely effective martial art for self defense. It was designed to allow a smaller person to use the strength of a larger person against them. Taught properly, it can accomplish just that goal, but first and foremost the emphasis must be placed on the principle of Ju and taken off the brute strength that is currently being emphasized by those who have not mastered the principles and try to make their reputation on being tough and strong. Jujutsu should not only be an effective form of self defense, but by the vary nature of the training in gentleness, it should develop a refined and genteel person who exhibits the qualities of manners and respect in public. The true Jujutsuka is a person who is well liked and received by those around them because of their gentle strength. Those individuals, both large and small, who are looking for a martial art that will give them both effective self defense skills and refined humane qualities, can look to the art of Jujutsu. Just be sure your instructor is one who emphasizes the right principles and not a power fanatic. An instructor teaches what is in their heart, look there first before you chose to train with any particular individual who claims to know the art of Jujutsu. A true master of Jujutsu will first and foremost have gentleness in their hearts.

         Those wanting to learn Jujutsu as it was meant to be taught may avail themselves of Kiyojute Ryu Kempo Bugei instructors who have learned both Jujutsu and Aikijujutsu in a classical manner. They will not only be taught the ancient techniques of the gentle martial arts, but an understanding of the principles upon which they are based.

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