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By Dr. Evan S. Baltazzi, Originator of A.S.P.

There are two prevalent misconceptions about jujitsu, misconceptions that are not unique to it (t'ai chi is another example). The first is that it is a unified body of knowledge, that is to say there is only one jujitsu.  As we shall see this is far from the truth.  The second misconception relates to "Black Belt" ranks and their equivalency between the different "styles" or schools. Simply put there is none.  In fact,  there is no such thing as a single meaning for the "Black Belt" rank, as in Judo, either in requirements or in level of knowledge and proficiency. The rankings promoted in the Western World are to be viewed mainly as a marketing tool.

In an authoritative book published in French and authored by Fujita Saiko, Henry Plee, and Jacques Devevre, under the title "The Vital Points of the Human Body.  Secrets of the Atemi," they claim that  they had access to the most secret documents of many major Japanese dojos.  Fujita Saiko is the Head of the Japanese National Research Center on Ancestral Martial Arts Studies and claims to be a tenth dan, and 14th Patriarch of the Koga-ryu School of Nin-Jutsu and Sato-Ryu of Kempo.  It is worth listing the names of the schools referred to in this abundantly illustrated book.

1. Seishin - Pure Heart

2. Komoku - Rough Wood

3. Takeuchi - Inside of the  Bamboo

4. Ika - Unique Felicity

5. Bihara and Butsutai - Pagoda-like representation of the Human Body

6. Seigo - Tested Courage

7. Muso - Without Compare

8. Shinjin - True Heart

9. Shinjin-do - Way of the True Spirit

10. Shinjin-do - Dissident Sect

11. Kajima Shimpo - Spirit of the Island

12. Shindo-Rokugo - Six Unions of the Mystical Way

13. Kodokan.  Jigoro Kano's School

14. Toda and Kiraku - Feelings of Joy

15. Sekiguchi - Spirit of the Closed Mouth

16. Shishin - That Which Reaches the Spirit

17. Yoshin - Brilliant Heart

18. Ryusei-Shingan -  The Eye of the Spirit of the Willow  

19. Ryushin - Spirit of the Willow

20. Iga - Build by Yourself

21. Yamato- of Japan

22. Sekiguchi - Closed Mouth

23. Shindo - Way of the Spirits

24. Tenshin-Shin'yo - Willow of the True Celestial Spirit

25. Shorinji - Temple of the Little Forest

26. Buyo - atemis from a secret military manual of the XIII century

27. Thirteen Forbidden Points from the Sumo tradition.

As one can see from thus sampling, there are many jujitsu (or jujutsu) schools each one with its secret techniques and specific requirements for its students. The words jujitsu or jujutsu are just generic terms for various schools or styles of unarmed combat, without any direct relationship between them. Kano also set the trend for jitsu (art) to become do (way) meaning a way of life and thought.  The rationale going as far as to imply even love is at least tenuous if not outright hypocritical. The very fact that each school had secret techniques jealously kept precludes any equivalency in ranks and requirements.  And by the same token it precludes also rank and technical equivalency in knowledge as well as in proficiency.

Jigoro Kano being an educator and as such versed in the methodology of teaching, and intellectually superior to his competitors, stylized his version of jujitsu into the sport of Judo and due to his position achieved national recognition.  His method of ranking (particularly since Judo became later admitted as an Olympic Sport) was imitated and expanded upon by many. It has the psychological advantage  of setting for the student short term goals and rewarding him when he reaches them.  Kano's efficient educational approach found many imitators and generated a lot of prestige and international recognition for the "Black Belt" term.

To the point that people  were compelled to relate to such ranking so as to establish a degree of credibility, since the term "Black Belt" has acquired a universally accepted meaning of expertise.   After WWII we have witnessed a profusion of tenth degree Black Belts. Kano's achievement is remarkable.  It is very informative and interesting to compare the "Judo" techniques as described in the first "Judo" books, translated into English and French under the title "Kano Method of Jujitsu," with the techniques of contemporary Judo.  In fact, when I was training in Judo in 1946 with the Kawaishi method, part and parcel of the first degree Black Belt (shodan) was a selection of self-defensive "jujitsu" techniques.

At that time reaching the shodan rank was considered an end in itself and quite an achievement in view of the great number of techniques one had to master,  For higher ranks it was more of the same with more katas added.  We had no idea that in Japan a shodan was just a successful beginner and we were amazed later on at the lack of knowledge of people who had received their shodan from the Kodokan, the Mecca of Judo!  Requirements for knowledge of a great number of techniques, many being variations on the same theme, proved a good sales tool for Kawaishi.  Later his students found out that high school kids in Japan had third and fourth dan rankings.

Only after many years was the hype discovered.  But it helped me to realize that this approach, while commercially successful, was responsible for inefficient learning and poor retention.  Also it was not at all helpful to older people who wished to continue practicing at an advanced age. The great advantage of the A.S.P. approach becomes apparent to anyone who gives it a fair trial, He soon experiences that it overcomes the above serious shortcomings.   It does not take long for Black Belts from other arts who come to A.S.P. with an open mind to realize it. Trial yields proof!

Evan S. Baltazzi

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