Jujutsu (柔術:じゅうじゅつ, jūjutsu), literally translates to “Soft Skills”. However, more accurately, it means the art of using indirect force, such as joint locks or throwing techniques, to defeat an opponent, as opposed to direct force such as a punch or a kick. This is not to imply that jujutsu does not teach or employ strikes, but rather that the art’s aim is the ability to use an attacker’s force against him or her, and counter-attack where they are weakest or least defended.
Methods of combat included striking (kicking, punching), throwing (body throws, joint-lock throws, unbalance throws), restraining (pinning, strangulating, grappling, wrestling) and weaponry. Defensive tactics included blocking, evading, off balancing, blending and escaping. Minor weapons such as the tantō (dagger), ryufundo kusari (weighted chain), jutte (helmet smasher), and kakushi buki (secret or disguised weapons) were almost always included in koryū jujutsu.
Most of these were battlefield-based systems to be practiced as companion arts to the more common and vital weapon systems. At the time, these fighting arts went by many different names, including kogusoku, yawara, kumiuchi, and hakuda. In reality, these grappling systems were not really unarmed systems of combat, but are more accurately described as means whereby an unarmed or lightly armed warrior could defeat a heavily armed and armored enemy on the battlefield. Ideally, the samurai would be armed and would not need to rely on such techniques.
In later times, other koryū developed into systems more familiar to the practitioners of the jujutsu commonly seen today. These systems are generally designed to deal with opponents neither wearing armor nor in a battlefield environment. For this reason, they include extensive use of atemi waza (vital-striking technique). These tactics would be of little use against an armored opponent on a battlefield. They would, however, be quite valuable to anyone confronting an enemy or opponent during peacetime dressed in normal street attire. Occasionally, inconspicuous weapons such as knives or tessen (iron fans) were included in the curriculum.
Today, jujutsu is practiced in many forms, both ancient and modern. Various methods of jujutsu have been incorporated or synthesized into judo and aikido, as well as being exported throughout the world and transformed into sport wrestling systems, adopted in whole or part by schools of karate or other unrelated martial arts, still practiced as they were centuries ago, or all of the above.