Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Aikido, Jujitsu, Judo, and Aiki-Jujutsu

Many students wonder what the difference is between aikido, jujitsu (jujutsu), judo, and aiki-jujutsu. The short answer is that all of them are "grappling" martial arts, i.e., they all deal with grabs, locks, and throws, but each emphasizes a slight different aspect of grappling. The long answer is much more complicated.

Jujutsu (also written jujitsu or jiu-jitsu) refers to Japanese hand to hand methods that existed hundreds of years ago. In samurai times, the techniques of jujutsu were used to grapple with an opponent (either with armor or without) after the warriors got too close together to use their weapons. There were many ancient family systems of jujutsu that included strikes, joint locks, throws, pins, and various armed techniques. Some systems have become extinct, but others are still practiced today, such as Hozoin Ryu, Kashima Shinden Jikishinkage Ryu, Kyoshin Meishi Ryu, and Ono Ha Itto Ryu. A well known modern descendant of Japanese jujutsu is Gracie Jujitsu, made famous in mixed martial arts fighting.

Aiki-Jujutsu refers to a form of jujutsu that emphasizes timing and strategic use of angles and circles to neutralize an attack, and control the attacker. Its movements are somewhat more circular than many of those found in the older jujutsu systems, but still include strikes, joint locks, throws, and pins. The man credited with establishing aiki-jujutsu was Takeda Sokaku, who lived from 1849 until 1943. He had a reputation as a fierce fighter, but continues to be one of the most important figures in early 20th Century martial arts development.

Aikido is a more modern offspring of jujutsu, created by a student of Takeda Sokaku named Ueshiba Morihei. Aikido emphasizes harmonizing with an opponent's attacking energy, using circular stepping and timing to apply the attacker's momentum in such a way as to overcome him or her. Aikido practitioners work hard to maintain a calm spirit and to cultivate a loving mindset. Current major schools of aikido include Aikikai, Hombu Aikido, and Yoshinkan Aikido.

Judo is a subset of jujutsu techniques selected and refined by Kano Jigoro. Originally developed as a form of physical education, judo has become one of the most popular sports in the world. In Judo, players grasp each other's uniforms and attempt to apply throws and takedowns. A full point throw wins a match. Judo concentrates on full body throws (in which the training partner falls on his back), and pins. It is one of the most physically demanding martial arts, and is very popular with children.

The Japanese Martial Arts Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan, offers instruction in Nihon Jujutsu (Japanese jujutsu) founded by Sato Shizuya, and Judo. Both are taught in a safe, systematic manner. Judo classes are available for children, as well.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Having studied both Aikido and Nihon Jujutsu, it is interesting to note some of the similarities and differences.

Aikido is a relatively sophisticated martial art. When compared to an art like Karate, at first glance aikido does not appear to have very many techniques. However, it has been said that karate is an art with many techniques, but in aikido each technique is an art unto itself.

However, while aikdo has seemingly few techniques, each of the various techniques can be practiced in numerous ways. The attacher (uke) can utilize any one of numerous types of attacks (single hand grab, cross hand grab, double hand grab, punches, overhead strikes, side strikes, etc) and the defender (tori) can apply any of the dozen or so available techniques in multiple ways (irimi, tenkan, etc).

So while there are only a dozen or so techniques, each technique has dozens of variations. Also, there is no definitive end to most techniques, and many of the techniques can morph into other techniques, leaving the tori with the option to finish the technique with a throw, pin, or joint lock.

Contrast this with Nihon Jujutsu. For your first promotion or two you are mainly dealing with kihon kata dai ichi (fundamental kata #1). In kihon kata the attacks are all well defined. In fact, they are exactly the same for each technique (basic open hand strike). There are 8 defenses included in the kata, and they are all scripted. There is no choice of defense, no variations, and no choice of endings (various pins, throws, etc).

Does this mean that Nihon Jujutsu is a more limited, and simplistic art than aikido? Not at all. There are many subtleties to be found in all of the techniques, including the very basic stepping and off balancing drills performed at the beginning of every class. I think the main difference is in the way that the arts were designed to be taught.

Ueshiba Morihei (the founder of Aikido) had studied and become proficient at numerous martial arts before developing aikido. When he first started teaching aikido he did not accept beginners, but only students who were somewhat accomplished in other martial arts. I think that is one of the reasons that most styles of aikido start with and focus on very sophisticated techniques, such as leading. To the novice, these techniques seem almost magical when they seem them at work, because the beginning student has almost zero chance of being able to perform them on his or her own. When you start you suck, and you know you suck. Only years of practice will eventually bring many of the concepts taught in aikido to light. And while that is true in some sense for just about any significant undertaking, aikdo seems to start with and dwell on very complicated and sophisticated subject matter right from the start.

It was because of this that a system of aikdo was developed to make the system easier to teach to beginners. The system was called Tomiki aikdo, and it is my understanding that Nihon Jujutsu and Tomiki aikdo are closely related. The techniques were broken down, and presented in a simpler form. This allowed newer students to more easily practice and remember the techniques. After enough practice with the basic version of the techniques, students begin to understand some of the underlying principles for the technique (what makes it work, and what makes it not work), and it is with that understanding that the students can be shown the numerous variations and subtleties for each technique.

In the end, all the complexities still exist for each technique. It is simply a matter of how they are presented to the student. Having studied both, my view is that aikido starts with the complexities, in the hope that the student will eventually grasp the fundamentals, while nihon jujutsu starts with the fundamentals in the hope that the student will eventually grasp the complexities.