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Extrait de :

Highways and homes of Japan (1910)

by Lady Lawson, member of the Japan society and of the red cross society of japan

with a frontispiece and fiftynine illustrations from photographs taken by the author

T. Fisher unwin, London: Adelphi terrace, Leipsic: Inselstrasse 20

 

 

JUJUTSU : THE ART OF SELF-DEFENCE

 

In these latter days we hear a great deal about the Japanese art of self-defence, jujutsu, or judô, as Professor Kanô, one of the most modern of Tokyo exponents, prefers to call it. Now that the Japanese have gained a foremost place in the family of nations, and shown the world that they are destined for great things, people are inclined to over-estimate the lessons that may be drawn from their daily habits, and travellers who return to England after a lengthened sojourn with our Far Eastern allies find that Japan and jiujutsu seem to be synonymous terme in the minds of athletic friends, whose first question invariably is : ” Did you learn jiujutsu I “

 

I, like everyone else, followed the fashion in taking lessons in Tokyo, and can speak feelingly on the subject, having being maladroit enough to sprain a finger when being ” thrown ” before having mastered the science of how to fall properly. Professor Kano explained to me during my lessons that the old word jûjutsu is in vogue only among foreigners and others whose knowledge of the art is derived from hearsay, whereas Japanese students and those who practise it invariably use the newer word, judo.

 

In olden times, the term jujutsu was applied to any form of fighting without weapons, and sometimes we find it called taijutsu or yawara, and more rarely Jujutsu (jutsu=art) means literally the art of pliancy, or of conquering an opponent by using pliant means, instead of opposing strength to strength ; judo (do= doctrine) is the principle or doctrine behind jujutsu, by the application of which jujutsu is practised. This ancient system of bodily training, which has existed for over two thousand years, was in the old feudal days practised only among the samurai under an oath of secrecy, and was passed down in that aristocratic fighting clans from century to century. To-day it is taught to all Japanese boys and girls from the moment they enter a school ; ail soldiers, sailors, and policemen go through a compulsory course by Government order, and there are millions of graduates throughout the Empire.

 

I can quite understand that one who has been obliged to practise it at school continues it in after life of his own free will, for in this case virtue is its own reward, and nothing can equal the exhilaration and feeling of renewed life in one’s veins after twenty minutes’ exercise and a bath and rub down. It must of necessity be a good form of physical training, for it is the only one the Japanese soldier receives, and ail the world has known his powers of endurance during a long day’s march through the most bitter weather, since the campaign of 1904-1905.

 Jigoro kano

 

It is difficult to explain to anyone who has not visited Japan, the peculiar training, mental and moral as well as physical, which the term judô conveys to the Japanese mind. In good old-fashioned English, it is enough to say that there is mental as well as physical drill and discipline of the mind in the practice of jujutsu, for there must be good temper, coolness, patience, agility, and also quick­ness of intelligence as a mental attribute. In the language of Japan, however, as taught to me in line, this is worded differently. In my notes I read some­thing like this, taken down in the class-room verbatim from the Japanese professor of jujutsu : jujutsu, or judô, includes all the attributes of Bushidô — valour, chivalry, self-control, loyalty, and politeness—and by it Young men are taught the lofty and punctilious code of honour followed by the samurai, the warrior nobles of Japan. In the class-room they learn to be prudent, wise, for­bearing, and self-respecting, and by pursuing the same process of reasoning throughout their life they attain success as politicians, diplomatists, and leaders of society.

 

For instance, one of the first points of importance in the study of jujutsu is to attack in such a way that your opponent is led to under-estimate your powers, and loses the victory by not putting forth his full strength ; or vice versa’, all his self-confidence is destroyed, and he credits you with greater skill than you possess, and allows you to beat him, although he is really your superior. It can readily be understood how the application of these rifles may be helpful in the political arena, and doubtless the principles of jujutsu were brought into play in inter­national politics during the historic conference at Portsmouth.

 

In ordinary wrestling, the man with the greatest muscular strength is almost certain to win, although skill and agility may count for much ; but in jujutsu, although strength is of some consideration, very great stress is laid on the study of scientific principles by which one’s opponent may be rendered powerless to resist attack, and one’s own muscular strength may be utilised to the uttermost. The first point is to disturb the opponent’s equilibrium, and by skilful management—by pushing or pulling—to cause his body to stand on a very insecure basis. The best judo or jujutsu man is the one who can bring his adversary to this basis and not allow him to fall down, keeping him in several insecure posi­tions, one after the other, at will, the opponent being powerless, able neither to recover his equilibrium nor to fall down. In this, skill is more important than strength, for in such a case the touch of a finger on his chest, either pushing or pulling, will cause him to lose his balance.

 

In jujutsu the muscles are strengthened and developed by constant use, and in this way jujutsuka (people who practise jujutsu) become better men physically ; but the final aim of its teaching is a knowledge of the principles of pliancy and an ability to apply them physically and mentally. Before being taught the ordinary forms of attack, the novice is initiated into the proper way of falling down, which is a science in itself.

 

In falling, the pupil is instructed to touch the mat with the fingers pointing inwards, for in this position the wrist-joint stretches naturally, and the elbow-joint bends instead of stretching ; whereas, if the mat is touched with the fingers pointing outwards, the wrist-joint may curve unnaturally, and the elbow-joint also turn in a dangerous manner. When one falls heavily, the muscles of the arm may be unequal to the task of keeping the body from injury, and the pupil is taught to roll over like 

a wheel, making the outer edge of the hand, the arm, elbow, shoulder, and back, act as points in the circum­ference of the wheel. After this complete turnover, he alights on his feet, receiving on the soles of the feet the residuum of the force of his fall, which has been greatly decreased by the turnover. Or if he is upset in a con­trary direction, he receives the residuum of the force of his fall on the palms of his bands.

 

In jujutsu the clenched fist is not used as in boxing. The Japanese tried boxing many hundreds of years ago, and, with originality—not the imitativeness for which the world credits them—they discovered, and it was clever of them—” real ‘cute ” as our American cousins would say—that a blow from the little finger edge of the palm was much more deadly, because a blow from the fist distributes itself over too great a surface. One of their most deadly and most scientific thrusts consists in nothing more than two fingers struck with precision against the abdomen. I have heard much about the clever­ness of the Japanese since my return from the Land of the Rising Sun, but privately I have always thought that one of their cleverest achievements was their discovery, long before they were a civilised power, that the clenched hand has less deadly power than the edge of the palm.

 

That being the case, of course the first thing is to harden that particular part, and during my initial enthusiasm for the art, English friends might have laughed to see me on the veranda outside my room, reading a book held in one hand, and striking the other violently meanwhile against any hard substance. It seemed ridiculous, but one day I was consoled by watch­ing an athletic-looking newly-arrived Englishman at the hotel doing exactly the same thing. I felt then that what a strong man did publicly and without any evident feeling of abasement, one of the weaker sex might also venture to do. But the term ” weaker sex ” reminds me that this same jujutsu precludes that term altogether. There is no ” weaker sex ” in jujutsu, for a woman who is skilled in the art is the equal of any man her own size and weight.

 

Women of the samurai class long ago practised jujutsu,, and I have often thought that these ancestresses of the heroes of Mukden have had much to do with the success of the Japanese army in the field. The Japanese women of to-day are as strong as any in the world, and can hold their own with any men of their own size. They exercise in the same way as men, although professors take them Along more slowly, until certain that there is no constitu­tional weakness.

 

One afternoon exhibition of jujutsu stands out vividly in my memory, when I went by invitation to one of the hundreds of schools in T(51ce where the professor was persona,’ friend of mine.

 

The building was crowded, and after taking off my shoes outside in the usual fashion, I was conducted by two of the chief assistants into the large hall, and seated on a low daïs of polished wood, raised about 2 feet from the matted flooring, or the arena, as one might well call it. Here cups of Japanese tea were served, and in addition I received a large photo­graph (evidently faked), showing hundreds of jujutsuka in all the best positions, with an Imperial prince in the foreground. It is still in my sitting-room, and I look at it with awe and wonder, and wish I could manipulate such a photograph. Each couple must have been done separately, enlarged, reduced again, and then put in position, like the inimitable puppets at a story-tellers’ hall. On this particular afternoon, the most advanced students were put forward, and did their best tricks. An ordinary turn seemed to take four or five seconds, and a match consisted of five turnes.

 

Presently, among the crowd, I saw a great, tall German attaché, whom I knew well—I must not particularise further—and a little time after he reappeared in the loose dress of a jujutsuka, ready for the fray. After a short ta1k with the professor, the action of the play, for one particular couple at least, proceeded with remarkable rapidity. I saw his antagonist, a tiny Japanese woman in Turkish trousers and a short loose coat, brought forward by the professor, and with the customary bows, she advanced and retreated, inviting in this way trial of skill by combat. Before one could say Dai Nippon Banzai the stalwart warrior was laid on the matted flooring. This occurred six times running, and each time Madame Dai Nippon stood over him triumphant, while he patted the tatami, according to custom, to show that he was the vanquished. The truth is that jujutsu is entirely a matter of skill, not strength, and one may call it the art of the weaker skilled antagonist against the strong unversed bully. This is definitely proved by the undoubted fact that the well-trained jujutsuka is able to defeat the boxer at all points. I have seen a small Japanese touch an opponent of great strength in the gentlest manner, as if he were brushing aside a troublesome fly, and down that opponent went, without bruise or disfiguration (that, too, is one superiority of jujutsu over boxing), not knowing why he fell.

 

 

 

The leading exponents of the art do not unfold all they know even to their best assistants, for secrets such as are involved in apparent death by choking and subsequent recall to life are dangerous in the hands of ail except the select few who are past masters of the art. The best known among ordinary modes of attack are the somer­sault throw (tomoenage) where the man on the ground throws his opponent by placing the ball of one foot in the louver part of the other man’s abdomen ; the loin throw (koshinage) a side throw produced by the pressure of loin against loin ; the thigh throw (ô sotogari) of which the literal translation is ” cutting down with a wide sweep ” ; the knee-wheel (hizaguruma), in which the knee acts as the medium of dispatch ; fracture of the elbow joint (udehishigi), a result attained when a wrestler is either standing or reclining; garrotting from behind (ushiro shime) ; ordinary choking (mae shime); holding an opponent down diagonally (kesagatame); and holding an opponent down lengthwise (tategatame).

 

 

 

Photos de l’auteur prises au Kodokan

 

An important point is the development of wrist power, and the novice practises daily to achieve it ; for many of the most useful tricks in this mysterious art of self-defense depend on strength in the wrist. For example, if a policeman wishes to urge a reluctant prisoner forward, or if Madame Dai Nippon would like to get rid of an unwelcome visitor, the modus operandi is the same, and consists in forcing the arm to bend the wrong way. Madame shakes hands with her visitor, throws his arm up, with her own under it close to his side, in such a position that she can cause exquisite pain by forcing it higher and higher, and in this way she easily gets him outside the door.

 

Contests are frequently arranged in Europe and America between jujutsuka and boxers, and as the rules and principles of these two exercises differ greatly, dis­putes nearly always arise unless preliminary regulations are drawn up in detail beforehand.

 

The Japanese method of applying maxims received in physical training to mental and moral teaching is pecu­liarly characteristic of a country where, in many other arts beside jujutsu, we find happily blended the prosaic and symbolical, the practical and the poetical, the conven­tional and artistic ; and it partly explains the unique position which Japan holds among the nations of the world.

 

In former days, jujutsu was undoubtedly a fight to the death, for after- throwing an opponent, his adversary leapt upon him and tried to strangle him. Even at the last moment, if the fallen were the stronger, he might succeed in strangling his conqueror, the strangula­tion of professed jujutsuka being most difficult to accom­plish; for by muscular contraction he can make his throat like a rod of iron, an adamantine mass of muscle upon which the grip of the fingers makes not the slightest impression, and this peculiarity has given rise to the saying that a professor of jujutsu could never by any possibility be hanged.

 

Strange, indeed, it is in Professor Kanô’s class-room to see small boys wrestling with strong men and throwing them almost automatically with a touch of their fingers, by a balance of muscles so perfect that the enemy, whatever he may do, must topple over. It seems miracu­lous to see a strong man thrown through the air by the merest touch, absolutely at the mercy of his small oppo­nent, and we realise how easily fatal results might ensue if a pupil were vindictive or hot-tempered ; but the pro­fessor, knowing this, is careful to withhold certain deadly secrets until a pupil has been tried and thoroughly tested.

 

In Japan, the fight always takes place upon a floor laid with a double thickness of soft matting—and even with this precaution it is wonderful that accidents do not more often occur—in a class-room crowded with several hundreds of jujutsuka, each couple practising con amore the aristocratic art handed down in the noble families of Old Japan from time immemorial.

 

 

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