Aikido, Judo, Karate and Jujitsu

Comparing Different Forms of Martial Arts


Let's take a close look at Aikido, Judo, Karate and Jujitsu; the different forms of martial arts typically associated with Japan. It is difficult to make direct comparisons between martial arts. There are just too many different forms of martial arts to list, and many have only slight variations in strategy or tactics. Even the same style may sometimes vary between schools.

To start, most experts tend to divide the Eastern "unarmed" martial arts into two categories: 'hard' arts, where the major emphasis is on striking (punching & kicking); and 'soft' arts, which place greater emphasis on grappling (throws and holds). Karate is an example of what would be considered a hard art, as are most non-Japanese arts such as tae kwon do and kung fu.

The Japanese martial arts of Aikido, Judo, and Jujitsu are usually classified as soft arts, and are unique in the fact that they are the only well-known Eastern martial arts that fit that category. However, close examination will show that among all the different forms of martial arts, there is no such thing as a purely 'hard' or 'soft' art, and most modern martial arts now borrow techniques from each other.


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Judo

Judo is without question the world’s most popular combative sport. It is practiced in almost every nation on earth. The sport we know as Judo was 'founded' approximately 1882, and was developed by Japanese educator Jigoro Kano (1860-1938).

Kano first started pursuing jujitsu, at the age of 17, when he gained a referral to study under Hachinosuke Fukuda, a master of the Tenjin-Shinyo ryu (school) of jujitsu. Little more than a year after Kano joined Fukuda's school, Fukuda took ill and died. Kano then became a student in another Tenjin-Shinyo jujitsu school, that of Masatomo Iso.

[Side Note: Ryu is the Japanese word for a school, style, or method of training in martial arts.]

Iso was impressed by Kano's dedication and Kano became assistant instructor to Iso at the age of 21. Iso, too, took ill, and Kano, feeling that he still had much to learn, took up another style, becoming a student of Tsunetoshi Iikubo of Kito ryu jujitsu. Kito ryu emphasized throwing techniques to a much greater degree than Tenjin-Shinyo ryu, which fascinated Kano, and his interest grew further.

Soon, Kano was devising new techniques by combining what he had learned from both styles. His thoughts were already on doing more than combining the canons of Kito and Tenjin-Shinyo ryu. With all the different forms of martial arts, Kano saw jujitsu as a disconnected bag of tricks, and as an educator, believed it needed a systematic approach to learning. Full of new ideas, in part as a result of his experience in education, Kano had in mind a major reformation of jujitsu, with techniques based on sound scientific principles.

Kano explains, "This led me to look for an underlying principle in jujitsu, one that applied when one hit an opponent, as well as when one threw him."

He found this principle in the notion of "maximum efficiency". His idea was to focus on development of the body, mind, and character of young men in addition to development of martial prowess. Jujitsu techniques which relied solely on superior strength were discarded or adapted in favor of those which involved redirecting the opponent's force, off balancing the opponent, or making use of superior leverage.


A Break from the Past

Judo

Kano changed the name of this methodological synthesis to Judo, the way (do) of suppleness or gentleness (ju), and founded his school called the Kodokan. Judo takes from jujitsu, the art of suppleness (or "gentle art"), the principle of using the opponent's strength and movement against him.

P>The primary training methods of Judo are (1) kata, which was a main attribute Kano took from Kito ryu, and (2) randori, the standard training method of Tenjin-Shinyo ryu.

Kata, which means "form," is a system of prearranged movements that teach the fundamentals of attack and defense. In addition to throwing and holding (also practiced in randori), it originally included hitting, kicking, stabbing, slashing and a number of other weapons techniques. These latter occur only in kata because it is only in kata that the movements are prearranged and each partner knows what the other will do, reducing the risk of injury. It is used for learning and practicing a specific move or technique.

Randori means "free practice", or "freestyle exercise". Partners pair off and vie with each other as they would in an actual match. They may throw, pin, choke and apply joint locks, but they may not hit, kick or employ other techniques appropriate only to actual combat. The main conditions in randori are that participants take care not to injure each other and that they follow judo etiquette. Randori might be considered the Judo version of sparring.


Kano’s Contributions to Japanese Martial Arts

Jujitsu training had always been seen as nothing more than a way of passing along the knowledge of unarmed combat skills. Kano saw judo is a mental and physical discipline whose lessons are readily applicable to the management of our daily affairs. The fundamental principle of judo, one that governs all the techniques of attack and defense, is that whatever the objective, it is best attained by the maximum-efficient use of mind and body for that purpose. The same principle applied to our everyday activities leads to the highest and most rational life.

Whether he succeeded in truly injecting an element of character or morality (do) into the ancient martial arts is a question that can be answered only by studying the techniques of judo as they are taught by the modern teachers of the Kodokan today, and observing the effects of their continual practice upon the personality and character of the judo student.

Master Kano's systematic approach, clear classifications of techniques, and making it a program designed for physical conditioning as well as knowledge, sparked a virtual "overnight" renewal of the interest in Japanese martial arts. By the early 1900’s, most of the old schools of jujitsu had been forced to take note of the popularity of the "Kodokan" and most began to adopt Kano's methods, if not his techniques, as well.

Unfortunately, change is inevitable. With its heavy emphasis on physical conditioning and competition, it soon began to lose connection with its combat origins, and started to focus only on the sporting aspect. Much of Kano's curriculum of techniques, especially those disallowed in randori (striking, weapons, etc.) were virtually forgotten, or in fact, kept secret, and only taught to the very highest ranks, if they are taught at all. This specialization, and single-minded focus has turned Judo into a sport that no longer holds any real viability as a Combat Art.


Aikido

Aikido was developed by Morihei Uyeshiba (Ueshiba 1883-1969), starting around 1925. Uyeshiba was interested in the martial arts even as a child. He studied and mastered several different forms of martial arts including jujitsu, as well as sword and stick-fighting. Despite his achievement in these arts he felt that something essential was lacking. Just as with Kano, the martial arts represented a way of life to Uyeshiba rather than merely a means of combat, and therefore they required a meaningful philosophy. However, Uyeshiba took his concepts in a totally different direction than Kano.

Uyeshiba believed he had discovered a spiritual potential of the martial arts. He believed that the basic principles of the universe are harmony and love and that these can be attained through the martial arts. Yes, it sounds a bit kooky, but it is firmly rooted in the Eastern philosophy based on the theory of opposites, "in" and "yo" (better known as the Chinese "yin/yang" principle). Because of his desire to further the development of the human potential, truly balanced in a perpetual condition of harmony, Uyeshiba adapted the jujitsu techniques in his effort to devise flexible tactics which would make his goals realizable.

Uyeshiba developed his system mainly from the Daito ryu concept of aikijutsu. Daito ryu is a school of jujitsu with a heavy emphasis on weapon attacks, and as a result, comparable techniques for weapon disarms. Daito ryu described its particular style of jujitsu as aikijutsu, the technique (jutsu) of harmonized (ai) spirit (ki). As did Kano, Uyeshiba also modified the concept of "jutsu", producing a new method which he called aikido, the "way (do) of harmony" or "philosophy of coordination."


Concepts of Aikido

Aikido

Aikido, as it has been developed by Uyeshiba, does not have as its primary goal the defeat and injury of one's opponent. Rather it is designed to remove the idea of aggression from the antagonist's mind by yielding to his force in such a way that he hurts only himself with his aggressiveness. In other words, step out of the way and let him fall on his head!

Aikido techniques employ circular rather than linear movements, with the defender moving out of the line of attack and then using his opponent's own momentum to overcome him. The defender does not attempt to block his opponent's blows or in any way to clash with his opponent's force. Instead, he "leads" his opponent's power and mind. Thus, it is essential for the student to learn to sense the direction of his attacker's power in order first to avoid it and then to use it. Of course, this is also the basic principle of Ju as practiced in judo and jujitsu.

Aikijutsu

There is no contest of force in Aikido, nor does Aikido employ striking or bone-breaking techniques. As with all jujitsu based systems, it is always practiced with a partner, one giving, one receiving. Some schools of aikido do no weapons training at all; others usually spend substantial time with bokken/bokuto (wooden sword), jo (staff), and tanto (knife). In some lines of aikido, all techniques can be performed with a sword as well as unarmed, just as Daito ryu jujitsu was practiced.


Theory vs. Reality

The superior type of harmony Uyeshiba envisioned is virtually impossible for the average person to even comprehend, much less attain. The aikido techniques devised for combat purposes alone, although sophisticated, were intrinsically limited because of their very specialization. Unless one's opponent is willing to ascribe to the same tenets of Love and Harmony, it is doubtful these techniques will have any practical Combat application except for the most experienced practitioner.

[Side Note: If you want to learn about traditional Japanese martial arts that continue to be practiced for realistic Combat and Self Defense applications, click on this link, or the "Black Belt" button at the top of this page. Or, click on this link to Essential Self Defense, or the "Self Defense" button. You may also want to check out Kenpo, a tradition Japanese martial art similar to jujitsu, by clicking on this link.]

Whether Uyeshiba succeeded in moralizing the ancient methods and techniques of combat inherited from jujitsu is a question whose answer depends in large measure upon how his art is taught and practiced, and thus upon the effects discernible in the character of advanced students and teachers.

Whereas Judo was meant to be a combat art, only later to evolve into a sport, Aikido was designed from the beginning to be something other than just a system of fighting. Uyeshiba's interest was in creating a 'spiritual' experience or exercise. While the concept of Love, Harmony, and "don't injure anyone", is a wonderful ideal, it simply doesn't work on the battlefield. Uyeshiba knew that, and was comfortable with it. His vision was directed more toward a system that could be used against the back-alley criminal (basic self defense) rather than for clashing armies. That is why he changed the name to Aikido, from aikijutsu.


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Karatedo

Karate

Depending on how you look at it, Karatedo (or just karate), like Judo and Aikido, is also relatively new to Japan. Gichin Funakoshi (1868-1957), is the person generally credited with having introduced and popularized what we know as Okinawan Karate on the main islands of Japan. The official date given is 1936, but Funakoshi had been teaching in Japan for at least 15 years at that time.

Okinawa is the main island in a small group of islands about 500 miles south of Japan. Although subjugated by Japan around 1600, Okinawa remained fiercely independent. As Japan controlled it in name only, the nationalistic Japanese would never have considered Okinawans as truly Japanese. Therefore, anything Okinawan would have been considered inferior in the eyes of the Japanese. However, Funakoshi was able to accomplish what many before him had tried and failed. He publicized his system of Okinawan Karate and taught it openly in Japan, thus setting the basis for the blossoming of styles and schools which is characteristic of Japanese karate today.

Funakoshi had trained in two of the popular branches of Okinawan karate of the time, Shorin ryu and Shorei ryu. He was a student of Anko Itosu and Yasutsune Azato, who had worked to introduce karate to the Okinawa Prefectural School System in 1902. Funakoshi worked specifically to introduce modernizations into karate and to spread it to Japan.


The Striking Arts

Whereas jujitsu incorporates striking techniques (atemi-waza) along with throws and joint manipulation, karatejutsu, the art (jutsu) of the empty (kara) hand (te) is considered to be a method of combat designed to achieve an opponent's subjugation through the use of techniques of percussion alone.

The style seems to have been a highly developed art centuries ago on the Asian continent. Some believe it originated as a form of boxing for sport. Others believe that the art (at the time, better known in Japan as Kenpo), might have developed as an overspecialization of ancient exercises performed in China and India as means of total integration (very much as yoga or tai chi are practiced today). These ancient exercises were intended to further the development and maintenance of a condition of good health and supple functionality which would make it possible for a man to live fully and well.

No matter what its original purpose, we cannot be other than impressed by the exceptionally large number of techniques of attack, counterattack, and defense in which the arms and legs act as extraordinarily efficient weapons of combat. Arms and hands are used to punch (tsuki) or strike (uchi) with devastating force. The use of legs and feet in kicking (keri) is also extremely diversified and powerful. Moreover, these tactics can be used effectively as instruments of pure defense; that is, to neutralize a technique of attack or counterattack launched by an opponent, who will thus be unable to even reach his target.


The Value of Marketing

The big misconception is that until Funikoshi introduced his style of Okinawan karate, nothing like it existed on the mainland of Japan. This is a false assumption!

Various systems of effectively striking an opponent in combat in order to achieve his subjugation without resorting to the use of mechanical weapons or any other techniques, were well known and practiced by Samurai warriors in Japan throughout the feudal era. The art of striking appeared in almost every major specialization of Japanese jujitsu from even the earliest records.

Those systems of percussion, as well as others such as Kenpo, were no doubt a well established part of Japanese society by the time Funakoshi introduced Okinawan karate. Even at the time Funakoshi was introducing his system, there were already many other Okinawan karate men such as Kenwa Mabuni and Motobu Choki, living and teaching in Japan!

So why is Funakoshi given all the credit for introducing something that had existed for centuries? Quite simply, Funakoshi understood the concepts of marketing! Funakoshi understood the Japanese mindset, and tailor-made his system to fit into that mindset. He did not try to push Okinawan Karate on the Japanese; instead, he made his Karate Japanese.

  1. Funakoshi changed the representational Kanji (Japanese/Chinese characters of writing) from its common reading of "Chinese hand" to "Empty hand". The name change served to distance the art from what had previously been seen as a foreign tradition, during a time of fervent Japanese nationalism.
  2. He also changed it to Karate-do (empty hand way), rather than -jutsu, in order to capitalize on the rapidly growing popularity of other do systems such as Judo and Aikido.
  3. In Japan he was influenced by kendo (fencing), incorporating some of its ideas about distancing and timing into his style. This was a brilliant way to make the concepts of karate appear more in line with established Japanese martial arts.
  4. He also modified the kata to include the dualistic tendencies in Japanese styles: the "hard" and "soft" approaches, the "linear" and the "circular," the "external" or muscular and the "internal" or mental emphasis; all of which were omnipresent, like the principles of ju, found in all Japanese specializations of jujitsu.
  5. He set up his schools to follow the same rules of etiquette as other Japanese dojo, therefore giving the karate dojo a familiar feel. He apparently consulted with Kano about his successful Judo program.

[Side Note: Dojo is the Japanese word for school. Do means "way", and jo means "place"; the "place of learning the way".]

His campaign was so successful that the general population throughout the world are at least familiar with the concept of karate, and all immediately associate it with Japan. Only those who are familiar with its history know that it is uniquely Okinawan.

Funakoshi always referred to what he taught as simply "karate"; however, in 1936 he built the Shotokan dojo in Tokyo, and the school or style he left behind is usually called Shotokan.

Although Karatedo is a formidable combative method, the fact is that it is too rigid in both practice and application to be truly effective in combat. Without a full range of tools to deal with every possible scenario, including throws, takedowns, holds and strangulations, you will never have everything you may need to effectively subdue an opponent. This is especially true in the area of law enforcement.

If you want to learn what realistic Combat is all about, click on this link, or the "Combat Jujitsu" button at the top of this page.


Comparing Different Forms of Martial Arts

The chart below shows a somewhat simplified comparison between Aikido, Judo, Karatedo, and Jujitsu; the different forms of martial arts typically associated with Japan. A blank box means little or no emphasis, a gray box means some emphasis (or in some schools), and a checked (+) box means high emphasis.

TECHNIQUES
AIKIDO
 JUDO 
KARATE
JUJITSU
 Hits with fists    
+
+
 Open hand & elbow strikes    
+
+
 Low kicks & knee strikes    
+
+
 High kicks    
+
 
 Hard blocking    
+
 
 Soft blocking (deflecting)
+
   
+
 Standing holds & locks
+
   
+
 Utilizing nerves & pressure points
+
   
+
 Takedowns using joint locks
+
   
+
 Throws  
+
 
+
 Pins & ground grappling  
+
 
+
 Chokes & strangulations  
+
 
+
 Emphasis on controlling attacker
+
   
+
 Adaptable to realistic street situations    
«
+
 Variety of responses to any attack      
+

« Dependant upon whether the style is competition oriented, or self-defense oriented. Competition styles of karate and tae-kwon-do have only limited street applications.

As you can see, Jujitsu would not easily fit into either the 'hard' or the 'soft' categories of martial arts. Jujitsu can be described as BOTH hard and soft, or as we prefer to call it, a "Complete Martial Art".


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Do you want to learn a Traditional Japanese Martial Art that has not been modified to fit only one specific set of circumstances?

If so, then you will want to learn more about the different forms of martial arts that have actually continued to improve over time. "Complete" martial arts have all of the tools necessary to be able to evolve and adapt with the times. Follow these links to learn more:

  • Budoshin Schools - Budoshin Jujitsu Schools (Dojo) are the very best martial arts schools you can find. These martial arts schools offer more than most jujitsu schools; they provide complete martial arts instruction.
  • Kenpo - Kenpo, also known as Kempo, ("fist law"), is a Japanese martial art using holds, throws and stunning blows, to subdue or disable an opponent.
  • Combat Jujitsu - Combat Jujitsu is used by US Military Special Operations Forces! It is the deadliest martial art known to man, and would certainly be classified in the category of Extreme Martial Arts.
  • Essential Self Defense - If you are interested in Self Defense Classes, you will want to learn the most powerful form of self-protection from one of the best Self Defense Programs in the World!












Mark A. Jordan
Rokudan (6th Degree Black Belt)
Budoshin Jujitsu




References:
Kano, Jigoro - Kodokan Judo; Kodansha International; 1986.
Yamada, Yoshimitsu - Aikido Complete; Citadel Press; 1969.
Funakoshi, Gichin - Karate-do Kyohan; Kodansha International Ltd, Tokyo; 1973.
Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia

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