Goshin-jutsu: One Persons View

All too often we hear of incidents of random attacks without reason: rape, robbery, purposeless bullying and many types of life-threatening situations. What shall you do if you were in these situations? It is true that the probability of finding yourself in one of those threatening situations is rather slim, and you could always calm yourself by thinking that it will never happen to you. But the fact is that many people do find themselves under attack everyday. It does happen, and you should be ready to defend yourself, your family, or any innocent people who cannot defend them selves. These are the types of situations that fostered the development of many Goshin-jutsu systems.

Goshin-jutsu is defined as a modern martial art system based on Japanese jujutsu. Frequently it is a gendai sogo budo/bujutsu system or modern composite martial art. These systems have a primary focus on modern day defensive tactics, and less focus on traditional or classical techniques. Example systems would be many of the modern systems that go by the name "jujutsu," but which do not have links to the traditional jujutsu systems (such as Miyama-ryu Jujutsu, Danzan-ryu Jujutsu, Budoshin jujutsu, and Ketsugo-ryu Jujutsu).

I feel there is a very distinct difference between a true Goshin-jutsu system and the modern self-defense or rape defense program offered at many YMCA's or community centers (i.e. Model Muggings, etc). These types of crash courses are very limited in their ability to address wide breadth of situations, and because of their limited time frame (most of these courses are approximately 4 to 8 weeks in length) they are usually only able to present the most basic and fundamental techniques, and even then are not long enough to allow the student to internalize the movements.

A Goshin-jutsu system tends to be more well rounded, and provides a complete system. By complete system I mean that the student is taught a continuous and on-going system that building on itself. It presents situations that address different distances (close, short-range, medium-range, long-range), different levels of aggression (nuisance, violent assault), and different levels of response (control, immobilize, incapacitate, etc). Kihon or basics are taught, such a tai-sabaki (body movement), ukemi (proper method of falling safely), kuzushi (off-balancing), maai (combative distance), etc. 

Continued training presents progressively more advanced principles and techniques, throws, joint-locks, immobilizations, pressure points, atemi, etc. The primary surface difference between a Nihon Jujutsu Ryu and a Goshin-jutsu system is the focus on modern attack situations. Examples would be defensive techniques will seated in a chair, hand gun defenses, defenses against mugs, etc. Situational awareness is an element that is addressed in both Nihon Jujutsu and Goshin-jutsu, but it is addressed differently.

In a Nihon Jujutsu Ryu training utilizes Japanese terminology, the primary method of instruction through the use of kata. Students are instructed in the history, culture, and traditions of the ryu. The environment is one of respect and discipline (self-discipline, and not militaristic). Training frequently presents situations with historical significance (i.e. wrist grabs, sword attacks, defenses from seiza to name just a few). "All Nihon Jujutsu Ryu will also have a verifiable history and ryu lineage" (Fabien, 1995). [See Fabien Sensei's article for more detailed information on the distinguishing characteristics of traditional Nihon Jujutsu.]

A Goshin-jutsu system will not have a lineage of the same caliber or characteristic of a Nihon Jujutsu Ryu (at least not a direct line going back several hundred years), nor is it necessary. Though a Goshin-jutsu system may utilize Japanese terminology, and present instruction in the form of kata, these are not hard fast rules. I also believe that it would not uncommon to see many of the same "Technical Characteristics" (Fabien) of a Nihon Jujutsu Ryu within a Goshin-jutsu system, but the most differentiating characteristics would be:

In most Goshin-jutsu systems, techniques can usually be placed into one of the 
following six categories: 

There are other systems taught is the U.S. and abroad that are focused on teaching practical and effective self-defense techniques, but are based on non-Japanese systems. In fact many of these systems provide similar benefits to a potential student, but cannot accurately be called Goshin-jutsu. This has no bearing on the value or effectiveness of the respective system. To paraphrase Fabien Sensei, It simply suggests that such a system may be more accurately labeled with some other term."

It would be much nicer if we did not have to learn how to defend ourselves. If there was no evil and there were no bad people. Reality, however, is different. A true Goshin-jutsu system provides an alternative to the traditional Nihon Jujutsu Ryu (which are very rare outside of Japan) for people that are interested in gaining access to practical and effective defensive tactics that have their roots in the traditions of the Japanese bugei.


        Fabien, S. M., (1995). Some Identifying Characteristics of Nihon Jujutsu. Richmond, CA: SMAA Newsletter.


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