Chapter 4 The need for two “randori” practice methods in jū jutsu

Bu jutsu, regardless of the type, was a means to defend oneself against the attack of an opponent. In ken jutsu, one defends oneself with a sword; in jūte jutsu, one defends oneself with a jūte.15 One defends oneself in jū jutsu using nothing but empty hands. Furthermore, one had to defend oneself regardless of when, where or how an attack was encountered. In other words, as it used to be taught from olden times, in order to deal with uncontrolled violent attacks with empty hands, the “quintessence of jū jutsu is tai sabaki” and with fast, nimble movements (i dō ryoku) the full force of an attack can be avoided or parried.

If we analyse the force of an attack, we can make two broad classifications. (Refer to table 1, “The composition of practical skills of jū jutsu”)

The situation whereby an opponent has a grip “kumi ni tsuite” and is using his arms or legs to “taosu” take down or “osaeru” pin. The situation whereby an opponent is at distance apart “hanarete” and is using punches, strikes, kicks, or weapons to cut or thrust.

In either case, using “tai sabaki”, or in other words, “i dō ryoku”, at speed, one must take perfect defensive action. Along with the fact that “shizen hontai” (mu gamae) (natural posture) is a quintessential element of jū jutsu, from the starting point of basic tai sabaki all “waza” can evolve.

The “randori” practice methods devised by Kanō shihan apply to the first situation described above. Both players take a grip in “kumi tsuite” of the collar and the sleeve and can apply “nage waza” (throws) and “katame waza” (joint locks, strangles and chokes to the neck).

The “waza” applied whilst avoiding an attack from distance apart described in the second situation above are “atemi waza” and “kansetsu waza”. It is therefore necessary to form a “randori” practice for this second group of techniques.

It is recorded that within the history of budō there have been seven hundred and eighteen schools of ken jutsu and one hundred and seventy-nine schools of jū jutsu. “nihon taiiku shi shi ryo” (Historical Data of Japanese Physical Education), Imamura Yoshio, 1970. If we compare ken jutsu with jū jutsu, it is clear there are vastly more schools in the former, but because there is only one form of attack, namely sword-on-sword, it has been possible to create a single fighting system, which involves shiai as sport, as part of the modernisation of ken jutsu.

In jū jutsu, it has not been possible to undertake a disciplined study of “waza” that is sufficiently brought to life through a single fighting system. However, it is necessary to practice both elements as previously explained in the two situations above. In the fifteenth year of the Tai Sei Era (1926), Kanō shihan spoke about “old jūdō and future jūdō” in a radio broadcast, and in the second year of the subsequent Showa Era (1928), during a lecture he gave to his students, he stated the following:

“After pursuing various devices and giving the matter great thought, I think it is probably unlikely to achieve a “randori” practice and shiai contests that include the “atemi waza” (当技). It is not as easy as deciding superiority or inferiority by throwing or pinning someone. – “Kanō Jigorō” (Kodokan publication, p. 371)

So, we can see that Kanō shihan thought “randori” and “shiai” that included “atemi waza” was not achievable at that time. Around the same time, I had entered into training with dōshu master Ueshiba Morihei, where there were plenty of opportunities to continue one’s research into “atemi waza” and “kansetsu waza”. After that time, with reference to the ko ryū jū jutsu and the fifty years of trial and error that existed (in Kanō’s jūdō), I opened a school of aikidō at Waseda University16 in April of the thirty-fourth year of Shōwa (1960). At that time I was granted approval (to start teaching aikidō) on condition that a competitive form of aikidō be established in line with the principle goals inherent in contemporary physical education courses.

I devoted myself to the creation of an “aiki randori hō” method in collaboration with my students. However, this accomplishment was wholly reliant on the cooperation of many people over many months and years, the historical teachings of “jūdō kyōgi” and the approximately two hundred and sixty years of “kendō kyōgi”. (Refer to table 2)

The sportification of bu jutsu is fraught with challenges. That said, the most important point about the sportification of today’s budō is to gain approval from the current masters. The reason for this is that sportification, when safe in character and objectifying real power, can be reflected upon and improved within the circle of budō as “wa” (和), limitlessly expanded through the fellowship of like-minded people. Sportification is limited by its definition and cannot be used to learn more broadly the fighting systems and “waza” that cannot be placed within those limits. We can fall into this trap of the singular partiality of sport, but we can compensate for that through diligent “kata” practice. Indeed, the training of “randori” and “kata” as two separate entities is a peculiar characteristic of budō.

(In no other sport does one practise things that cannot be used in that sport. Sport plays a small, but very necessary part in budō.)


  1. Jūte (十手) literally means ‘ten hands’ and was a short, forked handheld weapon used to catch another weapon such as a katana.

  2. Waseda University is a private University in Tokyo that was renowned for producing world class jūdō players in the “Golden Age” of jūdō, which was Tomiki sensei’s time.