To Conquer By Yielding
Jiujutsu is the old samurai art of fighting without weapons. To the uninitiated it looks like wrestling. Should you happen to enter the Zuihokwan while jiujutsu is being practiced, you would see a crowd of students watching ten or twelve lithe young comrades, barefooted and barelimbed, throwing each other about on the matting. The dead silence might seem to you very strange. No word is spoken, so sign of approbation or of amusement is given, no face even smiles. Absolute impassiveness is rigidly exacted by the rules of the school of jiujutsu. But probably only this impassibility of all, this hush of numbers, would impress you as remarkable.
A professional wrestler would observe more. He would see that those young men are very cautious about putting forth their strength, and that the grips, holds, and flings are both peculiar and risky. In spite of the care exercised, he would judge the whole performance to be dangerous play, and would be tempted, perhaps, to advise the adoption of Western “scientific” rules.
The real thing, however—not the play—is much more dangerous than a Western wrestler could guess at sight. The teacher there, slender and light as he seems, could probably disable an ordinary wrestler in two minutes. Jiujutsu is not an art of display at all. It is not a training for that sort of skill exhibited to public audiences: it is an art of self-defense in the most exact sense of the term; it is an art of war. The master of that art is able, in one moment, to put an untrained antagonist completely hors de combat. By some terrible legerdemain he suddenly dislocates a shoulder, unhinges a joint, bursts a tendon, or snaps a bone—without any apparent effort. He is much more than an athlete: he is an anatomist. And he knows also touches that kill—as by lightning. But this fatal knowledge he is under oath never to communicate except under such conditions as would render its abuse almost impossible. Tradition exacts that it be given only to men of perfect self-command and of unimpeachable moral character.
The feet, however, to which I want to call attention is that the master of jiujutsu never relies upon his own strength. He scarcely uses his own strength in the greatest emergency. Then what does he use? Simply the strength of his antagonist. The force of the enemy is the only means by which that enemy is overcome. The art of jiujutsu teaches you to rely for victory solely upon the strength of your opponent; and the greater his strength, the worse for him and the better for you. I remember that I was not a little astonished when one of the greatest teachers of jiujutsu told me that he found it extremely difficult to teach a certain very strong pupil, whom I had innocently imagined to be the best in the class. On asking why, I was answered: “Because he relies upon his enormous muscular strength, and uses it.” The very name “jiujutsu” means to conquer by yielding.
— The Overlook Martial Arts Reader, pp. 56-57
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