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Jujutsu and Change

by Shaun Devoy


In an effort to survive all things must adapt. Those who fail to transform and persevere through change fall the same fate of the dinosaurs. The martial arts are no exception to this universal constant. The unarmed combat techniques of the samurai are an excellent example of this. Jujutsu in a little over one hundred years has seen two of the most drastic changes in its entire history.


The first being the shift away from Kata (form) based training to more Randori (“controlled chaos?free sparring) based training pushed by Jigoro Kano’s Kodokan Judo. This adaptation took training from the theoretical to the practical; where a technique is only effective to the degree it can be applied to a resisting opponent. In essence the range of techniques also changed due to the sociopolitical climate of a modernizing Japan. Practical training was no longer focused on a combatant winning on a battlefield using weapons against multiple opponents; rather the range was redefined to one on one combat using agreed upon rules. Specialization in this new range of combat would grow rapidly and spawn many new techniques and approaches.


The second drastic change was the inception of competition between competing approaches, from both striking (percussionary) arts and grappling arts. Many pre-UFC competitions brought insight into what attributes a fighter must posses in a one to one altercation in order to be effective, but it took the larger scale of the UFC to gain mass appeal. Kano’s Judo proved to be very successful (through its eclectic modern version “Brazilian Jiu Jitsu?based on Kosen tactics) against fighters of most disciplines. This dominance was due to the relatively unknown techniques of ground fighting (newaza), even among Judo practitioners who (at that time) were training primarily in the area standing techniques (tachi waza), particularly throws (nage waza). Recent MMA (mixed martial arts) competitions have seen the rise of “ground wise?strikers and “strike wise?grapples, bringing back a well rounded approach to fighting. Those practicing the techniques of grappling used for victory in early style vs. style competitions are no longer effective, due to the change in tide of the opponents. With the abolishment of the gi (uniform) in the UFC, many techniques requiring the control of the fabric are now ineffective. Thus, the birth of new techniques and the universals of change continue. 


Modern one to one competitive MMA deals with attributes from both striking and grappling approaches. Three primary phases/ areas must be mastered: free movement phase, clinch fighting phase, and the ground fighting phase. Each phase requires different attributes. No single “style?contains all the elements, so as time passes by each martial artist will inevitably practice a myriad of techniques and styles in order keep up with the change.



References: Mastering Jujitsu by Gracie and Danaher, Kodokan Judo by Jigoro Kano.
About the author: Shaun Devoy has a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and is a martial arts instructor based in Utah. He has over 20 years of martial arts experience, training throughout the U.S.A., Japan, South Korea, and South Africa.

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