You’ve been an active judoka and now you want to learn jujitsu. It’s easy, right? After all, judo
came from jujitsu, so how hard can it be? It turns out that in certain ways it is an easy transition,
but in other ways, your sport judo orientation works against you and you need to learn to do
things differently.

Jujitsu is a method of defending yourself from an attacker using techniques that developed over
centuries and proved effective in combat. When Japan made a conscious decision to become
part of the modern world, duels and other forms of personal combat became obsolete.
However, the Japanese did not want to lose the martial spirit that was an essential part of jujitsu
and other combative arts. Jigoro Kano developed modern judo as a safe practice of jujitsu to
retain that martial spirit. Sport judo was then developed. Sport judo remains an excellent
method of exhibiting that martial spirit. You know firsthand from your judo matches how
essential that martial spirit is to success.

Interestingly, while the martial spirit remains the same, techniques that proved effective in
traditional combat required modification to maximize their effectiveness under sport judo
conditions where rules determined how points were scored and to keep participants safe. These
modifications, while essential for winning in judo, make the techniques less effective in combat.

You want to learn jujitsu, the combative art, not what I call “judo-jitsu,” sport judo techniques
which were already modified from their original jujitsu techniques being modified yet again in an
attempt to be effective for self-defense.

Remember the three parts to every judo technique: kuzushi (off-balancing), tsukuri (entry), and
kake (execution). First, we get our grip and pull (or push) our opponent (or use our grip to
extend our opponent’s pull or push). That’s our kuzushi. Then we move ourselves into an
advantageous position and hold our opponent tightly. That’s tsukuri, and our opponent now is
ready to be thrown. Last, we use all of energy together with our advantageous position to throw
our opponent, or at least maneuver the opponent onto the ground. That’s our kake. Usually, to
win the match we need to extend our advantage in subsequent groundwork.

While these three parts of judo techniques — kuzushi, tsukuri and kake — derived from jujitsu, in
jujitsu their expression is quite different. If you don’t understand these differences and
rigorously practice them so that they become an essential part of your art, you are practicing
judo-jitsu, not jujitsu, and not taking advantage of the centuries of development that went into
the original jujitsu techniques.

Let’s see how each of these three parts of the technique were applied in the original jujitsu. Let’s
start with kuzushi, or off-balancing. When we are attacked, the attacker’s momentum provides
the kuzushi. (While there are ways to preempt an attack and use that preemption to cause our
opponent to provide all the kuzushi necessary, those are advanced techniques that will not be
discussed in this article, although the principles are the same.) It is essential to the jujitsu
technique that we maintain kuzushi throughout the entire technique. If we seek to grip or
otherwise hold our opponent tightly, we disrupt all of that nice kuzushi that our attacker so
politely gave us. To paraphrase Princess Leia in “Star Wars: A New Hope” when she was a
prisoner on an Imperial Star Destroyer and talking with Darth Vader (who had a black heart but
lacked a black belt), the tighter we grip our opponent, the more he will slip through our fingers.
The major reasons that attempting to get a tight grip on an opponent in a combat situation
decreases our effectiveness are as follows:

    1. When we grip a moving opponent, we stop the opponent, even if it’s just for an instant
      and we have to restart the kuzushi with our own effort, which gives the opponent an
      opportunity to resist or respond.
    2. When we grip the opponent, the opponent feels and instinctively reacts to the grip, which
      makes our technique more difficult. If the opponent has had any martial arts training,
      that instinctive reaction may become a trained response, which we definitely don’t want!
    3. Getting a firm grip on a moving opponent (especially one without a gi or someone in
      short sleeves or, even worse, shirtless) can be difficult.

To get an idea of how difficult this can be, have a bare-armed friend punch the air at full speed
while you stand to the side and in front of your friend (i.e. right next to where the full speed
punch is directed) and try to grab your friend’s rapidly moving arm at the wrist. You not only will
see how difficult it is to grab a full force attack, but if by some chance you are able to grab it,
notice how it stops your friend or at least gives your friend’s body a big jerk. Your friend
definitely will be aware of your grab. After the grab, you will have to use a lot of muscle to get
your friend moving again in the direction of the punch, and your friend will have an opportunity
to resist. Your friend may choose to do so, though often attackers in the dojo don’t resist and
just hang in the position that the defender left them in, so that the defender will have a chance
to practice. While often helpful during training, this is not representative of an actual combat
situation. If, instead of grabbing, you smoothly block at the wrist with minimal deflection while
continuing the forward motion of the attacking arm, your opponent’s reaction will be much less

Instead of grabbing, we blend with our opponent’s kuzushi throughout the entire technique to
keep that person moving as we enter and execute our throw. This blending provides a virtual
grip that is stronger than a physical grip since our opponent cannot resist when we give him
nothing to resist. Put more succinctly, our attacker gives and we accept, not force.

Next is the tsukuri, or entry into the technique. Instead of gripping our opponent tightly to allow
us to enter into the technique, in jujitsu we maintain the opponent’s kuzushi and use that
kuzushi to drive us into our entry. In other words, as the opponent attacks, we maintain and
assist the opponent in traveling in the direction of the attack and mesh with the speed of that
attack to enter into the technique. Just as properly aligned gears mesh perfectly without
grabbing, we maintain the opponent’s kuzushi so that we may mesh with that force.

Last is kake, or execution of the technique. Instead of using all our muscle and energy, combined
with the advantageous position we have entered into during tsukuri to force the person to the
ground, we use kuzushi that we have striven our utmost to maintain to drive our entry and
smoothly transition from entry to execution. Kake is the natural extension of kuzushi and tsukuri
to drive the person to the ground. When properly performed, we do not feel the person’s attack.
Rather, we are accepting the attack and continuing it to allow that movement (with our help, of
course!) to drive the attacker into the ground. Because it is the opponent’s kuzushi we are using
meshed with our own tsukuri and kake, it takes no muscle or effort on our part, making our
opponent’s size and strength irrelevant. This make sense, since actual combat has no weight
classes and referees. If we need those, the technique is not an effective self-defense technique.
In fact, in jujitsu it is a misnomer to call our attacker an opponent, since we are not opposing
anything. Instead, we are assisting the attacker in going in the direction of the attack with all of
the energy brought to the attack until the attacker, quite naturally, meets the ground in what is
often a quite violent collision of the attacker’s own making!

Obviously, there is much more to this, and in future articles I will seek to further explain how to
properly use kuzushi, tsukuri and kake in performing jujitsu techniques.

Remember that judo has developed into a well organized martial art of its own that is separate
and distinct from jujitsu, the martial art from whence it came. While many judo and jujitsu
techniques share the same name, because the arts are different, the techniques often are quite
different as well. Consequently, our judo reactions that are effective on the mat in a match may
lead us to dangerous defeat in self-defense situations. Jujitsu most definitely is not judo with
some concepts to be added to our judo, Rather, jujitsu is a separate martial art with distinct
concepts that have evolved over centuries, and these critical differences hamper judo’s
effectiveness in a combat situation. For self-defense, then, do not fall into the trap of using judojitsu;
instead use jujitsu, which has proven practical in actual combat situations.

by Hal Zeidman