The 2 Assumptions of Jujitsu (Jujutsu / Jiu-Jitsu)

The 2 Assumptions of Our Jujitsu

Jukido is a unique system of jujitsu in today’s modern world. Strangely enough, it is unique because it continues to hold on stubbornly to the historic telos (purpose for existing). Many highly skilled martial artists globally practice the art of jujitsu today. However, most of these practitioners practice forms of the art that are now divorced from its telos or original & intended purpose. Many jujitsuka of the modern era say that this is due to the art’s natural evolution. Afterall, things change and evolve overtime. In some majors, we, as Jukidoka, agree. However, the distinction that we, as Jukidoka make, is that although things do evolve and we don’t want to stay stuck in the past — our perspective is that evolution shouldn’t move us AWAY from the purpose of the art’s actual existence. We can evolve in the direction of further refinement. We can evolve in the direction of developing strategies and tactics that address the needs of the realities of today’s world. But the point is, we continue to evolve in the SAME DIRECTION as opposed to taking a different direction all together

A lifelong marriage evolves over time. It, of course, evolves and matures as time passes. Experience and lessons learned build the tradition, the fabric, of the marriage. Hopefully, despite natural ups and downs, it strengthens over time.  The individuals in the marriage remain committed to the “telos” established at the beginning of the union. The central purpose for the union’s existence remains unchanged. In fact, it is timeless. The purpose of marriage is so timeless that it isn’t restricted to any particular marital relationship. The concept of marriage is almost as old as man himself. The concept of marriage outlasts the lifespan of any individual marital union. There is something in the essence of the concept of marriage itself…that makes it, well, marriage. The individuals in a particular marriage — are rightly bound by the timeless requirements of ultimate fidelity to this grander purpose we call “marriage”. When the purpose is no longer clear or the marriage is no longer unified in that purpose, when fidelity to the concept of marriage and each other breaks down – it continues to move forward in time – but as it “evolves” forward in time…..but it is moving forward in a completely different direction altogether. It is doing so in a way that will see the marriage be a marriage only in name. There is a breakdown in the fidelity to the telos of marriage.  Eventually, if enough of this so-called evolution takes place the parties will no longer be unified in purpose. They seperate. They divorce. Their effort at marriage ends – but the timeless concept of marriage remains. 

Shihan Arel’s vision for his jujitsu system – JUKIDO — was that it would be a gendai budo or modern martial art — a system of jujitsu that would evolve – but that evolved in the same direction that the art was founded for. It would remain “wed” to its telos. He, and a few of his generation, were among the first to recognize that the art they loved was evolving but it was evolving but doing so in a different direction. Away from it’s telos.

Jukido retains the TWO BROAD ASSUMPTIONS of the classical Japanese art of jujutsu. If we, as modern day Jukidoka, NEVER abandon these two assumptions – we will never lose our way. These two assumptions undergird our jujitsu. If we keep them as the most pressing priorities in our practice and teaching of the art – we will ensure that the art of jujitsu is both preserved at its core and be developed further forward for future generations without divorcing ourselves from the arts purpose for existing. The obsession with these two assumptions will ensure that no divorce takes place between the purpose and the practice of our jujitsu. 

The two assumptions are simple. First, we assume that the art is designed for contemporary real world combative encounters. We train on a mat but we don’t train “for the mat.” We train in a dojo but not “for the dojo.” That is to say, real combat happens in real places with real consequences. Whether it is a battlefield in feudal Japan, the tricky situations a modern police officer faces, or the civilian self-defense needs of young and old, men and women alike — the first assumption is that we are training for a truly real combative encounter. 

The second assumption is that when we find ourselves in this real world combative encounter – we are the party in that circumstance with the physical attribute disadvantage. The attacker might be bigger, stronger, younger, fitter. Perhaps they are armed. Perhaps their advantage lays in numbers or the element of surprise. Whatever the case might be — we are going to start with the premise or assumption that we will not be the one with the physical attributes on our side. We assume it won’t be a fair fight. If we are wrong, we’ll take it. But we will engage all of our training with the baseline assumption that we are the smaller, weaker, or otherwise disadvantaged party.

These assumptions have two MASSIVE implications to training. They, again, undergird the marriage in jujitsu between purpose and practice. The first implication is the concept of Kanzen or completeness. Because we aren’t preparing for an environment, ruleset, opponent, or set of circumstances that we can guarantee in advance – we must be prepared in a holistic manner. The jujitsuka needs to be incredibly diverse! Combative skills must include striking, throwing, grappling. These comprehensive fighting skills must be applied in a variety of environments, ranges, and circumstances. The jujitsuka must be versatile enough to control an unruly individual without any damage being done or to take someone’s life from them if the situation was severe enough. The jujitsuka must be complete in their physical conditioning and training but also in their mental perspective. Ensuring that they are situationally aware, resolute under pressure, and infused with the courage to act if and when appropriate. Because we don’t know what situation we might ultimately face – we can’t put all of our eggs in a particular combative basket. We don’t have the luxury of hyperspecialization in a subset of combative skills because we know in advance that only those skills will be required. We must aim for both width and depth of combative capabilities. We must be complete. We must have Kanzen.

The second of these two implications is adherence to the principle of JU (柔). Ju is often physically manifest in concepts such as kuzushi or the breaking of balance. Because we won’t be the bigger, stronger, fitter purpose in the encounter — we need a guiding principle that centers around using the physical advantages of our adversary against them. To adapt, flex, and give way in order be immediately overtaken by an attacker rich in physical attributes. We must remain 100% loyal, faithful, and committed to this concept. If not, we lose the very “ju” in the art of “ju”-jitsu. The art is named after this very concept. Our style of the art – Jukido – also contains the principle of Ju. It is at the heart of what we do. 

As we both preserve and evolve – we can ensure that we move forward in the right direction – by never straying from the telos of jujitsu.  By maintaining complete and unwavering allegiance to the two assumptions embedded at the core of the art and the two resultant guiding principles… we ensure that our jujitsu, Jukido system of jujitsu, is safe from the state of divorce found in many of our “cousins” in the modern jujitsu scene.

Any keen observer of martial arts history can see that separation from these two guiding principles takes the art in a totally different direction. It doesn’t happen in a day of course. But in as little as a decade or two, the entire character of the art changes when one or both of these assumptions is lost. Although there are so many examples, including modern sport based Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, let us focus on one example. Let’s focus on the so-called evolution of modern Olympic style Judo.

Judo at its origin was another system of jujitsu. Overtime, this modernized form of jujitsu – the brainchild of the legendary Jigoro Kano — became the mecca of Japanese jujitsu. In its original form until approximately World War 2 – Judo was strict in it’s complete adherence to the two assumptions. Yes, it did emphasize physical and moral education. Yes, it had a contest component that was emphasized as another form of training. But contest was not the point of training itself. As any reading of early judo history will recount, judo was proved its efficacy by the fire of very real conflicts. 

After World War 2, major segments of Judo drifted away from the first of the two assumptions — again, the assumption that the art was going to be used in real life environments and real life combative encounters. Over a relatively short period of time, the SPORT side almost entirely swallowed up the rest of judo. Now, contest wasn’t a form of training…it became what you were training for altogether. With this reality, Judoka moved away from any form of training that didn’t directly translate to success in contests on the judo mat. Training on the mat for the realities of matted contests. Slowly, the emphasis on self-defense went away and striking elements of judo along with it. As the rules became more and more restrictive, so did the skillset of the competitive Judoka. The hyper specialization in particular aspects of the Japanese art, led to the slow decline of any area not relevant for sportive contests. The lack of preservation of the first assumption as a central focus – real world combat or self-defense — created moden sport Judo.
What is interesting however, is that for a very long time – judo, as a whole — including sport, did NOT lose the second assumption. They were completely obsessed with the second assumption. This is evidenced  by the fact that from its founding in 1882 to approximately 1956, even in contests, there were absolutely no weight classes. The smallest and weakest contestant in a tournament could well face the strongest, largest, and heaviest. As such, the judoka always trained with the second assumption in mind. He trained assuming that his opponent — albeit one in a sportive context — would have the physical attributes on his side. As such, he must devote himself fully to developing his skills in accordance to the principles of Ju! Many of Judo’s greatest legends were some of these small men who defeated skilled giants using an uncanny understanding and mastery of kuzushi. 

Sadly, most of modern sport Judo, eventually lost the second assumption as well. Slowly, over a period of years, weight classes were introduced. At first two large weight categories. Then four. Today, seven major weight classes. The introduction of weight classes marked the beginning of the end of the second assumption. Long past are the days that modern Olympic Judoka assumes he’ll be facing someone physically larger and stronger. He, rightfully, assumes that he’ll face competitors around his same weight. In fact, he’ll “cut weight” like boxers, wrestlers, and MMA fighters in an attempt to be the biggest-strongest-athlete in his weight category. He now strongly emphasizes weight training in hopes that he’ll match his opponent muscle fiber for muscle fiber. If he is lucky and trains hard enough, he could well be the biggest and strongest in his weight class. Under these conditions, that is the approach that is incentivized by the sport. As a result, most modern Judoka have lost both of the two assumptions. A few hang on to one of the two assumptions still…., and almost no modern judoka hang on tightly and with complete fidelity to both of the original assumptions of jujitsu. 

Judo is one prime example from history. But is far from being the only one.

So, as the sands of time pass us by… as the present slowly but surely becomes the past – as we train today and pass on the art to the future masters that today perhaps wear a humble white belt – we must never divorce ourselves from the two assumptions of our beloved martial art. If we maintain these assumptions and train with two resultant principles of kanzen and ju – Jukido Jujitsu will evolve forward, forever strong, in the right direction.