Nothing is so strong as gentleness. Nothing is so gentle as real strength. – St. Francis de Sales
Jiu Jitsu is a Japanese phrase that is commonly translated as “the gentle art.”
At first glance this might seem misleading. After all, the goal of Jiu Jitsu is to control and submit a resisting person. Limb attacks are designed to damage soft tissue and dislocate or break bones. Chokes can render an opponent unconscious, and have the potential to kill.
It can seem there is nothing “gentle” about Jiu Jitsu.
At the same time, the Japanese were known for coming up with very descriptive names. So lets take a look at 5 reasons why Jiu Jitsu is the Gentle Art.
Jiu Jitsu is based on using skill over strength. Jiu Jitsu is the gentle art because it does not meet force with force. When engaged in a close struggle, Jiu Jitsu maximizes the role of skill and science over strength and aggression. The best practitioners operate with a relaxed ease, and are adept at using their opponents force against them.
“Jiu means gentle or to give way, Jitsu, an art or practice, and Do, way or principle, so that Jiu-jitsu means an art or practice of gentleness or of giving way in order to ultimately gain the victory; while Judo means the way or principle of the same.” – Jigoro Kano
Jiu Jitsu is less violent than the striking arts. Another reason why Jiu Jitsu is the gentle art is because it is substantially less violent and injurious than other forms of combat or martial arts.
Effective martial arts for real world self-defense require a component of “live” sparring. Sparring in Jiu Jitsu requires less violence and results in less serious injury than sparring with strikes. With Jiu Jitsu there is an agreement to stop a technique short of permanent injury – which cannot be done with a punch or a kick. This “gentler” approach to live training means sparring can be done on a daily basis – with much less risk of permanently damaging yourself or your training partner.
Jiu Jitsu promotes longevity. The third reason why Jiu Jitsu is the “gentle art” is because it is more forgiving than many other athletic activities. When done intelligently and at an appropriate intensity, it builds the body up without breaking it down. So despite its capacity to inflict harm, Jiu Jitsu does not chew up the body like many western sports or other martial arts. Grandmasters Helio and Carlos Gracie embodied this principle, continuing their training into their 90’s.
Gentleman rules. The fourth reason why Jiu Jitsu is the gentle art is because it abides by “gentleman rules.” These rules are universally adopted in other forms of grappling as well. They include no punching, slapping, kicking, biting, eye gouging, fishhooking, pinching, hair grabbing or individual finger locks.
Jiu Jitsu decreases stress and anger. The fifth reason is that Jiu Jitsu generally promotes an easy-going, laidback attitude. That is because Jiu Jitsu is known to reduce stress, anger and insecurities.
“A coward is much more exposed to quarrels than a man of spirit.” -Thomas Jefferson
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu emphasizes the use of science over strength and aggression. This results in greater control, and allows the intensity to be varied to a level appropriate to the situation. But this is not the only reason why Jiu Jitsu is the “gentle art.”
Although reality-based martial arts that include sparring will never be completely “gentle,” much of the appeal of Jiu Jitsu is centered around it being substantially less violent and injurious than other forms of combat or martial arts.
The techniques of Jiu Jitsu are geared towards incapacitating another person in the most effective and efficient way possible, yet Jiu Jitsu can still be a very pleasurable activity, and “gentle” enough to train on a regular basis for the rest of one’s life.
The softest things in the world overcome the hardest things in the world. – Lao Tzu