Book Review: Jujitsu

Jujitsu:  Basic Techniques Of The Gentle Art, by George Kirby

It is somewhat paradoxical, a quality that comes up often when looking at Japanese martial arts, that this discussion of a supposed “gentle art” has a cover where someone is being thrown, something that most of us would not consider particularly gentle.  While I cannot say that I would be greatly tempted to involve myself in learning jujitsu at any point soon, unless that amateur MMA career heats up (/joke), I do have to credit the author of this book in at least putting jujitsu into a context that allowed me to understand the relationship between it and various martial arts and also between various martial arts and each other, given the early familiarity of karate with American audiences and the association that jujitsu has with mixed martial arts fighting in general, which most people would agree is not necessarily gentle either.  And it should be freely admitted that the author means by gentle something different than what most people would mean, focusing on how a sound knowledge of throws and holds must be done gently to avoid inflicting massive injuries on the people that one is using said throws and holds on.  Gentleness, like so much else, is in the eye of the beholder, and in comparison to something else.

This book is a bit more than 150 pages and is divided into six chapters, with a very detailed table of contents for those who want an in-depth look at its contents before reading.  The book has two introductions, one for its original version (1983) and one for its updated version (2011) made when the author was older and slower.  After that the author looks at the history of jujitsu as well as how it has been adopted in the West (1).  There is then a discussion of ki development and the technical principles of jujitsu (2).  This leads to a look at preparations with the ready position as well as basic falls (3).  Then there is a look at basic techniques, which include throws and submissions and leg lifts and various attacks and chokes, many of which would be familiar to those who have seen MMA fighters who have adopted jujitsu as part of their fighting repertoire (4).  This takes up the majority of the book’s contents.  After that there is a chapter that looks at the scoring criteria for rank (belt) examinations (5), before the book closes with a history of Budoshin jujitsu (6) as well as closing remarks, a glossary, and information about the author.

Although this is a basic book, one of several volumes by the author in a series relating to Jujitsu, what this book does and does well is to present the martial art in a way that demonstrates clearly how people can progress through it, how much time would generally be required to do so, and what has to be learned for someone to become high ranked in jujitsu, and what is expected in terms of the knowledge about the martial art and interest in helping out the dojo and training learners as well.  All of this demonstrates that although the martial art may have had a complex history and a lot of different facets that are hard to understand that there is indeed a clear path to mastery for those who wish to do so.  And the way that jujitsu serves as a complex martial arts that combines elements of karate, judo, and aikido and that serves the practical benefit of being able to provide ways to break bones and choke out people should make this book appealing to a great many people that want to learn a “gentle” art that is simultaneously used in a great many ways in our contemporary fighting sports.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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