Is it jujitsu or ju-jitsu? Come to that what about jui-juitsu, jui-jutsu, jui-jitsu, ju-jutsu, jujutsu or any of the other many variant spellings and, more importantly, does it really matter?
Personal opinion only, no it doesn’t. I prefer ‘jujitsu’ because, as an English speaker and writer, the word jujitsu looks more aesthetically pleasing than jui-juitsu, jui-jutsu, jui-jitsu, and according to some sources, jujitsu was the original spelling derived directly from the Japanese.
I’m comfortable with Ju-Jitsu which seems to be the other most popular variant, although it does have the disadvantage, with all the other hyphenated variants, of ‘splitting’ itself when appearing at the end of a typed line! Both spellings, jujitsu and ju-jitsu appear throughout this site as both seem to be the most popular terms used when searching for jujitsu sites. So now we’re clear, or just more confused on how to spell jujitsu, what exactly does jujitsu, ju-jitsu, jui-jitsu etc etc actually mean?
We know jujitsu is a Japanese martial art and therefore the word is Japanese, but exactly what does the word mean?
Here’s a couple of dictionary definitions:
A method of self-defence without weapons that was developed in China and Japan; holds and blows are supplemented by clever use of the attacker’s own weight and strength
An art of weaponless self-defence developed in Japan that uses throws, holds, and blows and derives added power from the attacker’s own weight and strength.
Both descriptions are woefully poor and partially inaccurate. Though unarmed self-defence features as the main impulse for jujitsu, weapons training does feature as part of traditional and modern ju-jitsu training.
English translation of the word Jujitsu
Ju-jitsu is a combination of two words – Ju, which can be translated as “soft” or “gentle”, and Jitsu, meaning “art”. Thus we have ‘Gentle Art.’ As apposed to Judo’s ‘Gentle Ways.’ However, Japanese is a rich language full of alternative meanings.
Ju, can also translate as, soft, yielding, pliant and flexible. If you analysis the core principle of jujitsu: “force should never be met with force. Jujitsu redirects the energy created by the attack into a counter move, rather than working against the attacking force.” Then the words, soft, yielding, pliant and flexible are just as apt as ‘gentle’ for a description of jujitsu. So the translation to ‘Gentle Art’ is a very simplistic translation, but one well suited to western language uses.
Jiu-jitsu – the alternative spelling.
There is also a rather intriguing explanation for the alternative
g of Jiu-jitsu stating that during the Nazi occupation of Europe the word jujitsu, judged to be too similar to the word ‘jew’ was changed to Jui-jitsu.
Is this explanation true? Not sure, with very few references found to substantiate this explanation, I doubt it’s authenticity. Who knows for sure? Suffice to say whatever your desired spelling the end result is the same (in most instances).