What is Real Jiu Jitsu?

Is it Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, judo, sambo, submission wrestling—or something entirely different?

I think the answer to this question may surprise you. Why?  Because most consider real jiu jitsu to be Brazilian Jiu Jitsu? It’s not that at all, and I’m not trying to downgrade the effectiveness of a skilled practitioner in any of the above arts. What I am trying to do is open your eyes to real jiu jitsu, which is not any of the arts mentioned above, though it has aspects of them.

So, what is real jiu jitsu? First of all, there are lots of schools—of the BJJ type, or the school may not even use the BJJ naming style and just call themselves Jiu Jitsu. In Japan where this all started, there are many different spellings for this martial art: jujitsu, jiujitsu, jiu jitsu, jutsu, and a few more that I won’t list here. From what I’ve been told, these spellings are different for a few reasons, including the area, the pronunciation, and who was translating. 

Real Jiu jitsu at Total Ryu

Real Jiu jitsu at Total Ryu

 SEE THIS ARTICLE for more info on this spelling subject. 

Today’s common spelling, Jiu Jitsu, is almost always associated with the form of martial art that originated in Brazil and was popularized by the Gracie family and other skilled martial arts competitors. The name Jiu Jitsu was given to the art that a Japanese man named Maeda was teaching in Brazil. The interesting thing about Maeda is that his actual expertise was judo. But during his demonstration matches, he found that judo as he learned it was not as effective against other types of martial arts as he would have liked. He added some basic strikes, punches, and kicks, then used his judo throwing skills to take the opponent to the ground and submit them with Ne Waza, or the ground techniques that he had learned in judo. 


Maeda had never—as far as history tells us—studied actual jiu jitsu as taught in Japan. He included things that he felt would help win in a competition. 

Now to the original question: what is real jiu jitsu?  It is not a sport as most think it is. It was not arranged or created for competition. It has no rules of engagement other than win by taking all who oppose to the state of unresponsiveness, meaning they’re no longer a threat. Real jiu jitsu is also known as traditional jujitsu or Japanese jiu jitsu. There are many different schools of thought in this area as in all studies of fighting arts. However, good schools understand that striking is just as essential as throws, sweeps, and locks.

In today’s world, real jiu jitsu is best described as a hand-to-hand combat system that uses what is necessary to win. The “what is necessary” includes the following techniques:

  • Sweeps
  • Hip Throws
  • Striking, punches, palms, knees, elbows, etc
  • Kicking
  • Choking
  • Joint locking
  • Joint breaking
  • Ground techniques that include all the above
  • Control or submission techniques

Total Ryu Martial arts, Fort Collin CO

Since it’s a combat art, self-defense or self-preservation is at its core. In self-defense or combat there are no rules, and in most instances, there is more than one person to worry about. So real jiu jitsu includes multiple attacker defenses.  In the traditional sense, it will also include weapons training: Kenjitsu or sword, yari, and naginata, archery or Kudo, among others. 

So, you see what one might think is real jiu jitsu is not real self-defense jiu jitsu, but an art derived from judo and created to win at competition. Yes, it can be used for self-defense, but you have to ask: is BJJ the best art for self-defense?

The answer is no. Why? Since it was created from a competition martial art, Judo, and is used in competition today, it has underlying rules when training and learning the art that aren’t meant for practical application. It doesn’t include compressive striking and striking defense. It mostly takes place on the ground, which is a terrible place to be in a self-defense situation.

Ask yourself these questions. What am I looking for in a martial art? Do I want to compete, or do I want a real martial art that is a self-defense system? If you’re going to compete, then BJJ or Judo may be for you. If you want to learn real self-defense, then jiu jitsu is the practical martial art that might be for you.

At Total Ryu Martial Arts, we teach real jiu jitsu, not competition BJJ or Judo. Try a class for free and see for yourself what we are all about.