Classical Jiu Jitsu in a Modern Context by Ari Bolden

Thursday, September 15th, 2011 at 9:22 am. Articles

Classical Jiu Jitsu in a Modern Context by Ari Bolden

The martial art known as Jujutsu (or jiu jitsu or jujitsu) has been around for a very long time. However, there is a problem (misunderstanding) which comes up all the time in regards to classical Japanese Jujutsu systems. With the popularity of mixed martial arts (MMA) and the grappling art of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ), the old art forms from Japan are being misunderstood more than ever today.

Let me first state that BJJ, 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu, Catch, Sambo and Judo are all wonderful and practical fighting forms. But these forms have to be taken into context. This means: there is a time and place for such moves. The problem with the majority of the public is that they don’t understand the principles behind Japanese JuJutsu (JJJ) because all they see are BJJ schools or grappling in a MMA setting.

I am a practitioner of Nogi 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu, Brazilian jiu Jitsu and Japanese Jujutsu (JJJ). I wouldn’t give any of these up but I am writing this article to put some of these misunderstandings to rest. Here we go:

Why the hell would anyone grab a wrist and then let them have you do a move on them?

I get comments like this all the time on my You Tube videos-especially my JJJ ones. Why not just punch him in the face? The wrist grab (and the techniques which come from that) are done to teach proper movement and body mechanics. And as much as people have trouble believing this, the wrist grab happens A LOT in real fights.

Really? When do wrist grabs happen in real fights? I’d love to hear this!

I am going to give you three scenarios which I have personally witnessed, more than once, over 16 years of doing my job as a bouncer.
Scenario 1: Passive aggressive behaviour especially in regards to men grabbing women and trying to control them. I’ve seen more men grab women’s wrists and pull them (or hold them) more times I than I can recall. I’ve also seen as fights begin to escalate, that one person might hold onto the wrist (or hand shake) before they strike.

Scenario 2: The actual fight. When the fists fly and two guys are going at it, what usually occurs is a “tie up” where one party grabs onto the other because they want to close the distance and/or prevent further strikes from hitting their head. The tie up falls into the INFIGHTING RANGE (Strike range, Infighting (standing), and grappling (ground)). In an effort to stop the punches, wrists are commonly grabbed onto in this range category.

Scenario 3: WEAPON RETENTION. This may not be applicable to everyone reading this but it should! Weapon retention for police officers is very important. In order to deploy their weapon or keep it holstered, they must learn the infighting weapon retention stage. This is where an aggressor is trying to pull the weapon from the officer’s belt (gun, tazer, ASP). Grabbing onto the wrist and hand is what occurs when trying to prevent this from happening. Also, for civilians, if you are attacked with a weapon at infighting range, you need to control and kill the delivery device (that means the ARM). A person wielding a knife posses a very real threat and ignoring the hand which is holding the weapon is suicide. Opting to punch a guy in the face as he is stabbing you is ass backwards. Stop the delivery (motion) of the arm, Tie it up some way (grab it), and then either attack with strikes, head butts or break it to stop the attack. And for the record I have survived 2 stabbings because of this theory. Yes I was scared shitless but I understood and applied the concept.

Ok-so wrist grabs CAN happen, but I’d just spin out of that JJJ stuff?

Anything is possible in a fight and a martial artist has to be honest with oneself when understanding their style. If you are arrogant enough to believe that your style has no flaws or openings, you’re in for a rude awakening. That is why I study Gracie Jiu Jitsu and Nogi Grappling. It has an unparalleled understanding of ground fighting which JJJ does not go into.

There are so many subtleties in JJJ that it is hard to get an understanding of why things hurt just by viewing them. Also, the art of the ATEMI (or STRIKE) to set up throws or joint locks is often neglected. Punch to the face (thumb in the eye), joint lock, throw, strike again...is usually the pattern jujutsuka take. Story time:

Just yesterday I was demonstrating a move to my JJJ class. My uke (partner) was one of my newer students. He has a brown belt in karate but is new to JJJ. New students are AWESOME because they truly give you a gauge on what happens when someone resists or moves in a weird way. New students ALWAYS move in weird ways to avoid the pain of technique. This is a blessing really because it keeps your practice HONEST (remember what I said about that above?!). You don’t always want your partners to ‘fall down’. You need to understand the body mechanics and what happens when someone ACTIVELY tries to resists. There is no other way around this ALIVENESS TRIANING.
So, my student decided to spin out of a technique that I was demonstrating. While I could have immediately moved to another technique to counter (that is, in my opinion, the difference between a white belt and a black belt-the ability to transition between moves when one fails and to successfully pull something else off), I let him go.

When demonstrating the technique, I don’t apply at full force in order to save the uke’s wrist and arm from real damage. It is for teaching purposes and the other students need to understand how the move works. But when they see that they can simply just spin out, they don’t understand how this JJJ move works anymore. In order to give a better understanding of the technique and the true power behind it, I demonstrate it again.

Having taught for many years now, I knew that my student would attempt the same ‘escape path’ as before( worked once...it will work again right?). I demonstrate the move again and he decides to try to spin. This time, the technique is locked in at 80% (as opposed to 30% on the first try). The student stops in mid tracks, yelps and nearly voids his bowels because of the pain. My instructor use to say “Talk cheap Ari -san...Pain say so much more!”

The lesson I was trying to impart was that in order for SELF DEFENSE moves to work, you need to have INTENT. The intent to harm must be there or you are just going through the motions. This demonstration clearly teaches the students (and me) the true essence of the moves. Over the years, I’ve been bashed and locked up so bad that I thought I was going to die. It REALLY gives you an understanding of what the art is about. Again, it is this aliveness training that you need to give you an appreciation.

(For the record-the student is fine and there was no ill effect from the application of the wrist lock...just soreness...nothing damaged. It wasn’t trying to be a prick-it was a teaching tool. If you want dancing-do dancing...this is a MARTIAL art after all).

I’d just take them to the ground and put them in a triangle choke!

Again-I love BJJ!! But there is a time and place for these things. The last place I want to be is rolling around on the ground with someone who wants to hurt me. You’ve read about this stuff lots I am sure. The hard concrete, possible friends that might jump in, weapons...these are all REAL world factors that need to be taken into account. JJJ was designed as system to help the samurai survive on the battle field. They would strike, throw, joint lock or choke someone from a STANDING or kneeling position. In all my years of bouncing, I’ve used JJJ 90% of the time. The concept and combat philosophy is DIFFERENT that the pure grappling arts. It also addresses weapon use and disarms that I find useful in today’s hostile environment.

So what do you suggest???!!!

Make sure you know what you are taking and WHY you are taking it! If you think that all you need is spinning back kicks in a real fight you’ll be toast pretty quick when a real fight comes your way. If you want to study GI BJJ and want to compete-GREAT! If you want to study PURE self defence-AWESOME. But remember-doing well in one medium (the ring/mat) doesn’t mean it will translate well into another arena (the street). The same goes for JJJ stylists who think they can roll around with BJJ BB and come out on top playing the BJJ player’s game.

If you can-do both! If you can’t, know your limitations and have honest practice!

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