Old School Jujutsu vs Modern Submission Grappling

Discussion in 'Japanese Martial Arts Articles' started by Travess, Jan 25, 2015.

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  1. Travess

    Travess The Welsh MAPper Supporter

    Old School Jujutsu vs Modern Submission Grappling

    By Kevin O'Hagan

    Old School Origins of Grappling

    Firstly it is worth realising that the modern grappling systems owe much to the ancient ones. Without the old school methods there would be no new school methods. We should pay great respect to the traditional methods but also not live in the past. Everything evolves otherwise we would as human beings would still be swimming in the sea, riding horses and carts instead of cars, or going into war with a blunderbuss or flintlock instead of the hi-tech weaponary of today.

    But the modern submission grappler needs to appreciate the fact that the rear naked choke, straight arm bar and Achilles leg lock have been around many centuries, maybe even longer.

    4000 year sculptures of wrestlers performing throws, trips and holds can be seen on the walls of tombs in Egypt. Also in 648 BC the Greeks were training in Pankration, a vicious and deadly early form of what could be described as the origins of modern day MMA.

    In feudal Japan from 1467-1573 the Samurai Warriors were using the skills of Jujutsu on the battlefields in life or death combat. Late 1800 to early 1900 century saw the rise of ‘catch as can’ and freestyle wrestling, which used along with standard arm locks, leg locks, chokes, vicious neck cranks, spinal twists, gouges and rips.

    Modern Origins of Grappling

    A lot of modern day submission wrestling owes its techniques to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. BJJ descended from Pre-World War 2 Judo, which in turn was heavily influenced by classical Japanese Jujutsu.

    The influence of BJJ in submission wrestling and indeed MMA can be seen by the positions and submissions they will use. The most common are the fantastic use of the ‘guard’ position and the favourite finishes of arm bars and triangle leg chokes.

    Other systems have also left an impression. Free style and Greco-Roman wrestling for their takedowns and throws .Sambo has used its many leg locks to great effective. Japanese Shooto and Catch as Can wrestling have incorporated many of their punishing cranks, joint twists and stretches.

    How Modern Submission Wrestling is trained

    Submission Wrestling is usual trained by drilling techniques and then ‘rolling‘ with a partner and putting their training and knowledge into real practice. Nothing is based on theory it is pressure tested. When a submission is applied the opponent will ‘tap out’ to signal defeat.
    In training you can get back up and resume or in a real match, bout or fight that will signal
    the end of the contest.

    Some submission wrestling bouts will take on the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu rules of scoring points for position and control but the standard format is winning by tap out or verbal submission.
    The emphasis on these contests is to win with skill, superior techniques and achieving the submission. When the tap out comes the attacker will instantly (in most cases) release the hold. Bad injuries are rare and the mind-set and rules are totally geared to sport and sportsmanship.

    Submission wrestling and its like is a great way to test your skills in a tough but controlled environment. Those looking to up the ante will normally progress into MMA where there is a greater intensity because of the striking aspect which is allowed.

    How Old School Jujutsu was trained

    Unarmed combat was just part of traditional Japanese Jujutsu. The samurai where first and foremost masters of the sword. It was their life’s blood. In battle the Katana (long sword) was their weapon of choice, followed by the shorter Wakizashi and finally the Tanto (knife).They also learnt a host of other weaponry. Unarmed Jujutsu techniques were either used in tandem with weapons or as a last resort if the weapons were not available.

    Early forms of Jujutsu were then called Kumiuchi or grappling in armour. This could be a difficult thing to do and the priority for the Samurai was to trip or throw their enemy to the ground to finish them with a weapon or deliver killing bare handed strikes. Imagine our Military troops today grappling in full kit, with a Bergen on their back. This would be cumbersome and limit their choice of fighting techniques. No flying arm bars here!

    Grappling on the ground was nearly nonexistent. For one thing rolling around on the ground in real combat can get you killed and two - a full set of armour would impede any ground grappling technique. How fast would you be able to get to your feet again?

    Strikes and chokes were used to exposed parts of the body that was not covered by armour. Hence many open handed strikes to get into hard to hit areas and chokes hit the windpipe in preference to strangles to the carotid arteries.

    The job of the Samurai was to kill not get their enemy to tap out. Their mindset and approach to training was totally different to today’s modern sporting grappler.
    This is why strikes and pressure point gouges were used in conjunction with grappling locks and holds. The holds mostly became joint breaks and limb destructions.

    Jujutsu was taught with a partner in katas or pre-arranged drills, due to the dangerous nature of the techniques. If you look at the long list of techniques banned from sport grappling and MMA, those were the main techniques of traditional Jujutsu and still are.

    Differences of technique application

    As mentioned previously the aims of the old school and new school grappler are different and that can reflect in the technique application.

    In modern grappling matches the rear naked choke has proved a fight finisher over and over. In real world combat that stands true too. But remember for the Samurai being on the floor with his back exposed to a second person possibly stabbing him with a blade was not the best tactic.

    You would have found them dropping the attacker to a seated position to finish a choke or kneel on their spine to do it, hence being able to get up quickly and also view other threats. Many Jujutsu locks were executed with an attacker grounded and the other kneeling on their necks or bodies to control and finish them. The classic straight arm bar from the floor, seen often in modern grappling, was rarely used because of the fear of being stabbed whilst lying on the ground.

    These tactics lend well to real world combat and self defence today. Today’s grappler work the guard lying on their backs, again not a great position for the Samurai in armour but as anti-rape defence techniques for females then guard training is absolutely essential.

    In the competitive arena of say BJJ guard tactics are great to work and use. In MMA the guard is not quite some potent as you still can pick up a lot damage from strikes. In the pavement arena it is a risky and dangerous position to court as your ‘go to’ technique.
    In real world combat it would be suicidal. Staying on your feet in mass attack whether it be on the battlefields or the streets is essential and your first priority.

    I like to use the motto ‘Learn to fight from the floor but don’t go to the floor to fight’.
    Today’s modern grappler is fond of saying 90% of fights end up on the ground which may be true but remember nearly a 100% start standing.

    Traditional Jujustu's transition into Judo

    As feudal times ended many Jujutsu systems disappeared or went underground. Westernized Japan didn't want to teach these warfare arts any longer and Jujutsu made a transition finally into Judo although it kept its name for some whilst during the transition.
    Many early 20th century texts carried the name Jujutsu but where all but really by then Judo.

    The more combative techniques were missing. This not to say Judo cannot be an effective form of self-defense but the main emphasis was on sport and its approach is totally different.

    Authentic Japanese Jujutsu re-appeared in the UK in the late 60’s and early 70’s under notable masters such as Robert Clark and Richard Morris. They re-introduced the full combat elements of Traditional Jujutsu but now in a more modern context. They kept traditional values and etiquette but also embraced the self-defense needs of the’ Modern Warrior’, who was no longer fighting fellow Samurai on horseback.

    In time others took this concept further in the ‘Goshin’ or modern systems of Jujutsu and this is where in the early 80’s I started by Jujutsu journey.

    Strategic Differences between Traditional Jujustu and Modern Day Grappling

    For the ancient schools or Ryu of Jujutsu their techniques were ferociously guarded and secret. Remember these techniques would be used in life or death circumstances so they
    did not want to share them with others. Mixed training and exchange of techniques were unheard of back then. This 'clannish' type behaviour is which I believe the Traditional Martial Artists derived from.

    Modern day grapplers are very open minded and like to travel and train at different clubs and exchange techniques and ideas. Their attitude is very different, as is their approach to their training. Their training is about accumulating as much knowledge from as many sources as possible to improve their technique and win their bouts. Their outlook is not life and death.

    In Conclusion

    I personally over the years have been on both sides of the fence. I embrace the new but also respect where it all originated from. Without the old Masters we would not have the new Masters. It’s as simple as that. Everything was new once.

    We have to evolve. Your training methods might change but a lot of the technique is the same. You can’t re-event the wheel.

    I feel we can learn from both schools. They both have much to offer depending on what your needs are. It is great to have a sense of lineage back through history with the techniques you are learning but also it is good to be making history yourself as we take our Martial arts training forward - making it applicable to day and not some antiqued thing that no longer stands the test of time.

    Enjoy the past history but embrace the change. I know if I didn't adapt over my 40 years in the Martial arts I would not still be teaching and training today.


    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 25, 2015
  2. Pretty In Pink

    Pretty In Pink Valued Member

    I haven't read it all, I'm about a third of the way through it.

    In the "how traditional JJ was trained" you don't actually tell us HOW it was trained, only that it was "teh deadly". Also "bear handed killing strikes" is pretty much horse crap. Unless we are talking about repeatedly stomping on someone's head (which wouldn't kill them because as you previously established they are wearing armour, which would in luxe a helmet). I'd like more information on if they sparred, if they rolled, and how they practised deadly/banned techniques safely and thus using them on the battlefield with a higher chance of success.

    Everything else so far, about staying up and not going to the ground I agree with, the only exceptions being that a) nobody trains in a rwistic manner like that in JJJ and b) none of them are beating me in a fight without a weapon and a friend (both of which I might have too). I say the last part because I assume that the old samurai, when on the battlefield, had to meet other trained fighters. Nowadays the excuse is "we're not going to be fighting skilled opponents". When on the battlefield samurai surely had to fight experienced JJJ fighters too? Well now that combat sports are much more readily available, surely your chances of encountering an experienced fighter are more so now than ever, now that just about anyone with a passing interest knows what a triangle looks like.

    Anyway, I'm up for some good siscussionabkut this, and I genuinely am interested in how they trained! Cheers Travess, thanks for the article.
  3. Dean Winchester

    Dean Winchester Valued Member

    Should I comment?

  4. Dean Winchester

    Dean Winchester Valued Member

    Who the hell have you been talking to?
  5. Travess

    Travess The Welsh MAPper Supporter

    Grappling and submission are real weak points in my training, neither of which I have any real (traditional) understanding of, and having trained with the author on a couple of occasions, I thought I'd look in to some of his work...

    ...Beyond that (and the sharing of this article) I am afraid have very little to offer on the subject.


  6. Dean Winchester

    Dean Winchester Valued Member

    Oh are you not the author then?
  7. Travess

    Travess The Welsh MAPper Supporter

    Nope, just the OP that came across the article this afternoon, and figured I'd share...

  8. Dean Winchester

    Dean Winchester Valued Member

    It's got a few holes in shall we say.
  9. Pretty In Pink

    Pretty In Pink Valued Member

    That's what I thought.

    I reckon the author was Stephen Kesting :)
  10. Hannibal

    Hannibal Angriest MAP resident.... Supporter

    Kev O'Hagan is the author
  11. Travess

    Travess The Welsh MAPper Supporter

    No idea who that is!

    (Edit: other than just googling him of course)
  12. Simon

    Simon The Bulldog Admin

    I've added a link to the article.
  13. Travess

    Travess The Welsh MAPper Supporter

    Didn't know it was okay to link directly to the original site that the article is posted on - Thanks for that Simon.


  14. Dean Winchester

    Dean Winchester Valued Member


    Did you get his permission to reproduce it?

    Just atrributing the author and linking back sometimes is not enough to cover your butt.

    MAP admins might want to have a think too, not sure how much grief they would get as it's reproduced here.
  15. Hannibal

    Hannibal Angriest MAP resident.... Supporter

    It's in public domain so we should be good to go :)
  16. Travess

    Travess The Welsh MAPper Supporter

    My thoughts exactly Hannibal, just to cross my I's and dot my T's though...

    In the words of the founder of Combat Network Magazine, whose site the article is posted upon

    Kelina Cowell : Founder, Editor and Publisher of Combat Network Magazine. A no-politics, open source blog for the martial arts community.

    ...so I feel OK about sharing it here!

    Kind Regards

  17. Dean Winchester

    Dean Winchester Valued Member

    Not necessrily true.

    It might be in the PD but that doesnt mean it's up for grabs, the stuff on my site is in the public domain but it has specfic conditions attached such as it may not be reporduced without my consent.

    It's a bloody mine field.
  18. Dean Winchester

    Dean Winchester Valued Member

    Not being an **** on purpose, honest, it's just that it pays to be careful.

    From the site.

    All content copyright of Combat Network Magazine 2015.

    I'd say the open source reference is posibbly because it's done on Blogger, which I think is open source??
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2015
  19. Dean Winchester

    Dean Winchester Valued Member

    Either way the article has a number of problems as far as the old school information goes.
  20. Travess

    Travess The Welsh MAPper Supporter

    Just accidentally being **** then? :jester:

    As you say, pays to be careful, so I have contacted Kevin, and if is his wish that it be removed, I shall of course do so.

    Something you have aluded to earlier in the thread, so if you'd care to add a few extra words (sentences) to why you believe this to be true, I'm sure it too will make an interesting read.


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