It’s commonly understood that Judo, Jujitsu, and Aikido are grappling systems that employ joint locks, throws, and take downs. But if you ask most martial artist’s what the difference is between the three arts you will get a simple answer like, “Judo is a sport, Aikido is soft style grappling, and Jujitsu is hard style grappling”. All that answer usually does is confuse the you more. It’s sort of like the common answer to the difference between karate and kung fu. “Karate is hard and kung fu is soft.” Again, your left with a question, what’s hard and what’s soft? Well, one could write volumes on the subject and then the debates would begin.
The Philosophical Differences
In looking at the differences between judo, jujitsu, and aikido one needs to understand the difference between a “Do” and a “Jutsu”. (Note: Jutsu is spelled jitsu at times, both are now commonly used.) These two terms are used in the Japanese language to define the philosophy behind the two types of arts. The use of these two terms is why we see style names such as Judo, Jujitsu, Aikido, Aiki-Jitsu, Karate Do, Karate Jitsu, Kendo, Kenjutsu, and so on.
“Jutsu” is a term used to link a fighting method with the martial disciplines of war, rather than with the sporting or aesthetic practices of modern Japan. The Samurai or warrior arts are referred to as “jutsu’s”.
“Do” or “Way”, describes a martial art that stresses philosophy with moral and spiritual connotations; the ultimate aim being enlightenment and personal development.
One could perhaps summarize and simplify the difference between the two by saying that “Jutsu” styles are concerned with defeating the opponent; while “Do” styles are concerned with defeating one’s self.
The Historical Differences
Both judo and aikido have their origin’s in the Japanese fighting system known as jujitsu. Although jujitsu has not had a neat, organized history like many of the more modern martial arts, it can be traced back 2500 years. Some historians claim that it has it’s origins in China, while others insist that it is a native Japanese art.
One of the earliest sources of jujitsu were the teachings of Prince Teijun (also known as Sadagami). Sadagami formed the “Daito Ryu Aiki-Jutsu” school in 880 A.D.. This school was based on the secret teachings of “Shukendo” (shu means search, ken means power, do means way). Although jujitsu means “The Gentle Art”, it was a warriors art, practiced by the Samurai of Japan.
Over the centuries hundreds of jujitsu styles evolved. Because of the devastating nature of jujitsu techniques, it was not at all suited to sport competition.
With the closing of the Tokugawa era in the 1800s, the quality of some of the jujitsu schools started to decline. In 1882, in response to this decline, Jigoro Kano developed the system now known as “judo”. His purpose was to increase the popularity of the martial arts, and to provide a safe sport using selected techniques taken from the warrior’s art of jujitsu. Kano choose to call his school judo instead of jujitsu because he wanted his style to be more of a way (do), than a war art (jutsu). He observed that many of the jujitsu schools had become undisciplined and that their students were thought of as nothing more than ruffians. He also saw that many schools were teaching techniques that were dangerous and caused their students to be unduly injured. He felt that he needed to separate his school from the numerous schools that had acquired unethical reputations. Eventually most of the existing jujitsu schools joined Kano’s Kodokan (school of judo). The remaining jujitsu schools either faded away or worked diligently to improve their teachings and strengthen their style.
Aikido was officially founded in Tokyo, Japan, in 1942 by Morihei Ueshiba. In his early years, Ueshiba had studied many martial art forms. He eventually concentrated on the Yagyu Shinkage Ryu (kenjutsu), the Hozoin Spear Style (sojutsu), and the Tenji Shinyo Ryu (jujitsu). After being discharged from the Army in 1904, he traveled to Hokkaido (Japan). It was there that he witnessed the practice of Daito Ryu Aiki-Jutsu. The classes he observed were taught by Sogaku Tekeda. Ueshiba was very impressed with the power of aiki-Jutsu and sought out Tekeda for instruction. After being accepted, he trained long and hard eventually earning a license to teach the system. After teaching aiki-jutsu, kenjutsu, and sojutsu for ten years he met the man who would change his life forever. This man was a Shinto Monk named Oni Subaro Deguichi. Deguichi headed the Omotokyo sect of Shintoism.
Having been raised in an environment of strict discipline and religious training, Ueshiba was drawn to Deguichi’s teachings. He soon became one of Deguichi’s strongest disciples.
Throughout his life Ueshiba had sought to somehow unite his spiritual beliefs with his martial training. The combination of his budo prowess, his insight, and his deep spirituality led him to the revelation that “The source of Budo is God’s Love, the spirit of loving protection for all beings. True Budo is to accept the spirit of the universe, to keep the peace of the world, and to correctly produce, protect, and cultivate all beings in nature”. Ueshiba realized that the truly critical struggle in man was not physical combat, but rather one’s internal confrontation with the forces that lead a person out of harmony with the spirit of the universe. Thus was born Aikido, the Way of Harmony.
The Physical Differences
Judo, jujitsu, and aikido share many similar techniques such as throws, joint locks and choke holds. The physical difference between the three martial arts is how the techniques are executed, and the emphasis that each art places on certain techniques.
Although many consider the Samurai to have been the greatest swordsmen of all time, they also had to be highly skilled in unarmed combat. Their jujitsu was created by warriors and tested in life and death battles. It was a complete fighting system containing strikes, kicks, throws, joint locks, and strangulation holds. The early jujitsu practitioners also trained with the sword and the naginata (long bladed spear).
In battle, if disarmed, the samurai utilized his jujitsu skills in a life and death struggle. When faced with a armed opponent, the samurai would most likely have only one opportunity to disarm and kill him. For this reason the samurai would attempt to evade the opponent’s lunge, and then seize the arm that held the weapon. He would then apply a joint lock to the limb.
These joint locking techniques were designed to destroy the limbs by disjointing them and tearing apart the connecting muscles and tendons. The joint lock would most likely be followed up by a strike or kick to a vital area designed to quickly kill or disable the opponent. If the fight went to the ground the samurai had the skills to quickly strangle his opponent with a variety of choke holds.
Although the days of the samurai are gone forever, the fighting techniques they developed on ancient battlefields are still practiced today. Shihan Miguel Ibarra teaches Yama Bushi Jujitsu in Bronx, New York. Being a New York City Probation Officer assigned to the Fugitive Detail, he has had numerous occasions to utilize his jujitsu training. As a result of his many street battles he has found that jujitsu is a very effective self defense system because it can be used to strike, kick, takedown, and control violent people. He also feels that jujitsu is a superior fighting art against weapons because it’s evasive tactics and wrist grabs were designed and perfected to be used against armed warriors.
Most modern day jujitsu schools have kept the warrior ways in their philosophies, while changing the physical techniques just enough to allow safe training.
While jujitsu was created on the battlefield by warriors, judo was created in peacetime for peaceful purposes. In it’s early years judo was considered nothing more than one of the various styles of jujitsu. Eventually judo became the accepted name for the system taught at Kano’s Kodokan.
Jigoro Kano had an extensive knowledge of jujitsu and always professed that the physical techniques of judo, with the exception of atemi waza (vital point striking), came from jujitsu. The most prevalent jujitsu styles influencing the development of judo were the kito ryu and tenjin shinyo ryu. Although judo contains all of the techniques of jujitsu, it’s emphasis is placed on throwing techniques. The key to all throwing techniques is in the ability of the defender to unbalance his opponent. Another strong point of judo is it’s strong ground fighting techniques (Newaza). Atemi Waza (vital point striking) is normally only taught to black belt students. The many strikes and kicks that make up judo’s atemi waza are the direct result of the 1921 collaboration between Kano and Gichen Funakoshi. Funakoshi in turn added various judo techniques to his shotokan karate system.
I discussed training differences between judo, jujitsu, and aikido with Gary Goltz, a judo instructor in Claremont, California. He stated that the strong point of judo training is that they do the majority of their katas and free sparring against an opponent who is resisting with all his strength. When training in jujitsu and aikido the opponent has to cooperate and go with the technique because of the danger of joint dislocations.
Unlike jujitsu and aikido, judo places a strong emphasis on tournament competition. Rank promotions in judo come from both proficiency in contest and knowledge of the art.
Judo is practiced all around the world and the first world competition was held in London, England in 1921. In 1964 judo became the first martial art to be included in the Olympics. To this day it is the only martial art in the Olympics. ( Note: Tae kwon do was introduced into the 1988 and 1992 Olympics as a demonstration sport. Subsequently it was not accepted as a permanent sport.)
Although there are early styles of aikido such as Mochizuki Minori’s Yoseikan that closely resemble aiki-jutsu, most aikido styles have less of a resemblance to the original fighting system. In countering an attack, the aikidoka go’s with the force of the attack until it dissipates. He then redirects the force of the attack by applying joint locking techniques or throws. According to David Dye, an aikido instructor in Costa Mesa, California, “aikido joint locking techniques are applied so as to takedown and restrain, rather than to disjoint or injure. Some of the more advanced joint locks cause no pain at all, but utilize a strong application of pressure against the joint to achieve the takedown. No kicks are done, and hand strikes are more for distraction than destruction”.
The development of Ki is a very important part of aikido training. In creating aikido, Ueshiba relied heavily on the religious training that he had received from Deguichi. This religious, non-violent philosophy was to become the heart of aikido.
After World War II the people of Japan lost their enthusiasm for the militaristic attitude of their pre-war government. Because of this new attitude, and the restrictions placed on them by the occupation forces, martial arts like aikido and judo flourished. Through aikido one could practice a martial art for the sole purpose of perfecting one’s mind and spirit. And judo allowed one to train in a form of jujitsu that was primarily intended for sporting competition, but was also useful for self defense.
Over time the anti-warrior attitudes lessened and the Japanese people again sought out the interesting and challenging arts from the past. Soon Japanese instructors were sent out worldwide to spread the knowledge of both the “Do” and “Jutsu” arts. Now people everywhere practice jujitsu, judo, aikido, and aiki-Jutsu.
Although there are many philosophical and physical differences between judo, jujitsu, and aikido, all three of these grappling systems can be very effective when used for self defense, and character development.
Judo, Jujitsu, and Aikido Today
Judo, jujitsu, and aikido were three of the first martial arts to be exposed to the western world. Because of it’s sporting aspects, judo became the most popular of the three. Although judo still remains very popular in Europe and Asia, it’s popularity in the United States has somewhat decreased with the rise in popularity of karate, kung fu, and tae kwon do.
Lacking formal sport competitions, jujitsu and aikido failed to match judo’s early popularity in America. But like the many American pastimes that fade in and out of popularity, so do martial arts.
There are probably many reasons why a particular style is popular one day and not the next. The media industry has a lot to do with giving exposure to and popularizing certain martial arts. Just as the movie adventures of Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris helped to popularize kung fu and karate, Steven Seagal’s recent movies have dramatically increased the popularity of aikido.
Jujitsu has also seen a increase in popularity due in part to the Gracie’s of Brazil. For over 65 years the Gracie family has had an open invitation to anyone from any fighting system to test their skills against Gracie jiu jitsu. To date no one has been successful in beating the Gracie system. A few years ago the “Gracie Brothers” (nephews of Gracie Jiu Jitsu founder Carlos Gracie) brought this challenge to the United States. As more and more challengers were defeated the effectiveness of jujitsu as a fighting system became more evident. Again Hollywood helped out. The Gracie brothers were used to choreograph Mel Gibson’s fights in the movie “Lethal Weapon”. Now jujitsu is quickly growing in popularity in the United States and elsewhere.