Jujitsu, the gentle/yielding art, often has been misunderstood as purely a method of self-defense.  Though effective for self-defense, it is much more.  The “ju” of jujitsu has deeper meaning in Japanese than simply gentle/yielding/soft.  It is the ability to utilize an opponent’s aggression and convert his actions to advantage by yielding in the direction of the attack.   It can also bring about an attacker’s defeat mentally, as in verbal jujitsu.

Modifiers to the word “jujitsu” define a practitioner’s specific style on a continuum from soft to hard.  For instance, Combat Jujitsu or Combat Judo, a hard style, employs more power techniques and pro-active moves to disable an attacker than soft jujitsu styles similar to aikido that try to control or dismiss an attacker.

All jujitsu styles use the same basic principles to reach their goals.  These principles are based on physics, bio-mechanics, and knowledge of the human body.

Following are broad categories of principles utilized in jujitsu.  By no means do these describe all options.  Most categories have sub-categories down to individual techniques.  Though not listed in order of importance, they are interrelated.

1. Use opponent’s actions against him or her.  Redirect and utilize your opponent’s power.

When an opponent pushes, move away and redirect.  When he or she pulls, follow and redirect.  Change opponent’s direction to unbalance and defeat his or her objectives.

2.  Mental preparedness, Ki, the life force, the inner strength.

Meditate after practice and, time allowing, before a fight.  But under sudden threat, allow your training to direct your actions.  Subconscious (Mushin) action is better than conscious reaction.  Believe in your capabilities.

3.  Balance (Kuzushi)

Maintain and use your balanced position unbalance your attacker.  Then execute appropriate action.  A thrown attacker will be disoriented and psychologically disadvantaged.

4.  Throwing techniques (Nage Waza)

Disturb the attacker’s balance while maintaining your own.  Any action by an opponent provides you with an opportunity to utilize and redirect that power.

5.  Holding techniques (Ne Waza)

When grappling on the floor with a single opponent, control his or her body until authorities arrive or another course of action becomes necessary.  Never stay on the ground when other attackers are near.  If so, traumatize the one on the ground, get up, and deal with others.  The objective is to get up from the ground, not to hold an opponent for Ippon!

6.  Locks, leverage, torquing, and folding techniques (Kansetsu Waza)

After avoiding an attack, control further aggression by locking, folding, or rotating an arm, wrist, or other body part.  These are examples of mechanics combined with knowledge of muscular, bone, and nerve structure.  Specifically this is a principle group with many branches.

7.  Strangulation/Asphyxiation principles. (Shime Waza)

If your life is threatened, a strangulation (restricting an attacker’s carotid arteries) defense may be justified.  Asphyxiation (restricting an attacker’s air intake) can seriously damage or even kill someone if the choke is not released and if CPR (Katsu or Kappo) is not administered.  Both choking actions can be dangerous.

8.  Pain reaction points (Pressure on sensitive areas — nerves)

The body has many points where applied pressure causes a spontaneous reaction (e.g., release or relaxation) by the attacker.  A strike or pressure applied to such a point will divert attention or disorient your attacker.

9.  Kick and punch techniques (Atemi Waza)

A pre-emptive strike, such as a kick to the knee or an elbow to an attacker’s solar plexus, will distract or dissuade an attacker, allowing you to depart or perform your own action.  Karate has honed Atemi Waza (striking) techniques to a science.

10. Resuscitation Techniques, CPR (Katsu or Kappo)

To resuscitate an opponent or revive a partner who was strangled.

11. Repetition of techniques for subconscious action. (Uchi Komi to Mushin)

Practice the sequence of moves until you do not have to think about them.  This probably is the most critical component of self-defense.  No matter how many techniques you know, unless you can perform a technique without conscious thought, you allow your opponent time to react.

12. Combination sequences (Renraku Waza.) — Decision path for all options.

Flow smoothly from one technique into another as the situation dictates.  Your opponent will not necessarily perform a single action only.  He will adapt and modify.  So should you!  Allow your subconscious to direct your actions, and use the opponent’s force, action, or direction to advantage.  Redirect your actions accordingly.

13. Improvement of quality, not quantity, of techniques.

It is better to learn fewer actions well than multiple actions poorly.  Do not concentrate on many ways to defend against an identical attack.  Rather select and master one.  Learn the options, and then select techniques that best suit you.

14. Compassion.

Do not break the arm of the person who pushed you.  In defending, do not exceed the severity of the intended attack.  Recognize the difference between a life threatening attack, middle ground, and a simple argument.

(Ben Bergwerf       , USJA Professor of Jujitsu, is a founder of the USJA Jujitsu Program.  He holds USJA ranks of kudan in Jujitsu, rokudan in Judo, and yodan in Tae Kwondo.  Bergwerf Sensei teaches Combat Judo to cadets at The Citadel, the Military College of South Carolina, in Charleston.)