30 Jun 2008

Ju-Jitsu Book Reviews

I can't help it, I love buying books about martial arts and especially Ju-Jitsu and BJJ books. I don't even read most of them, but I have to buy them.
But there are some that are worth mentioning, so here are my views on a couple, starting off with traditional jujitsu.

Ju-Jitsu, Eddie Ferrie, 1990

In the old days..I say old, I mean pre-UFC and the Gracies... jujitsu pretty much meant one thing - a syllabus-based system of self defence techniques culled from karate, judo and aikido with a few references to more ancient techniques and habits. BJJ has changed this and today, jujitsu could refer to quite a large range of styles. But let's stick with the jujitsu that we know and love and the one to which my JJ club mostly adheres to.

If you wanted to learn about this art in print form back in the oldie days, then Ferrie's book is the main guide to the background, history and modern day status of the art. It introduces all the aspects that typically the syllabus covers, from basic blocks, strikes and kicks to throws, locks, pressure points and weapons. It even has a section on gun defences! In general, the tone is light and easy without being burdoned by too much technicality. On the chapter of ground techniques, Ferrie wisely advises: "always keep the testicles protected...this is perhaps the most vulnerable part of the male anatomy"..quite.

Jiu-Jitsu, The Official WJJF TrainingManual, Robert Clark, 1991

So you've learned the history and liked what you saw in the Ferrie book. Back in the old days, you could learn all the syllabus techniques, step by step from the Robert Clark books. There was even a correspondence course one could follow with a black belt available by post to those who completed the course. Much has been muttered in JJ circles about this, and many other aspects surrounding the man Clark,but let's stick to the facts.

Robert Clark was one of the founding leaders of the style of JJ that most of us practice today and without his endeavours, arguably may not have been the success it is today. So we owe him some respect.

My own style of trad JJ closely follows the WJJF syllabus and so many of the techniques are identical (there is some argument about which came first...Sensei Parker says Jikishin came first so I'll take his word for it). Therefore I found these books to be very helpful when I was training for my kyu grades. Each technique is illustrated with four or five nicely posed and clear photos, followed by a short description. There is no discussion about the origin of the technique or the relevant possible applications, it is just a simple a-follows-b write-up. I personally would like more discussion for each technique.

The WJJF is still going, and these books can still be found on Amazon or Ebay. Worth getting if you train in trad JJ.

I wonder what Clark makes of all this cage fighting nonesense?

Ju-Jitsu, Martin Dixon, 2003

Here's a book written at a time when UFC, the Gracies and BJJ were starting to make big waves around the world of martial arts. In the ground fighting chapter, an allusion is made to this:

"ground-fighting has been very much in vogue in the last few years, but there is nothng new in the techniques."

This book basically follows the Ferrie book in terms of describing the components of the modern syllabus. But a huge chunk of the book is dedicated to non-technical aspects,including chapters on Ethics and Codes of Conduct, Philosophy, How to Find a Dojo etc.
I find all this boring and unnecessary. Speaking as a punter I want to see cool techniques and a description of how to do them.
But Sensei Dixon, who is Chairman of the governing body of Ju-Jitsu in Great Britain, obviously felt these were important to write about.
Overall however, the techniques are described fairly well and the photographs are a big improvement on the Ferrie and Clark books. It's a big ask to cover all the aspects of modern ju-jitsu in such a slim book but this book offers a useful introduction to beginners, if they skip the first half.

The Ju-Jitsu Handbook, Roy Inman, 2007

Roy Inman is an 8th dan in judo and a senior instructor at the world famous Budokwai in London. I was very curious that a judo expert was writing a ju-jitsu book so I bought it. At 250 odd pages it is the thickest ju-jitsu book here and it is in full colour.
Modern ju-jitsu shares many techniques with judo. In fact you could argue that ju-jitsu is judo with added punches and kicks. It is probably true to say, that given most ancient ju-jitsu ryu were secretive and unwritten, judo (and possibly aikido) was the only means by which modern syllabuses could be based. A sort of reverse engineering of martial arts.
Anyway, back to the book. The style offered here is very judo based obviously. The uke and tori in each photo really follow through with their throws in a very 'judo'style of throwing. That last sentance probably sounds pants but exponents of our style of ju-jitsu will probably understand what I mean. Although the photos are very clear, the accompanying descriptions are woefully brief.
Having said that. I like the book. The style difference is very minor so won't stop a student from picking up tips. The format is logical and and easy to follow. And all the basics are covered, from breakfalls to neck cranks and sacrifice throws. The ground-fighting chapter is a little better than the books above, but offers no more than a tiny selection of old-skool ground defences - as if BJJ never existed - which is strange given that it was printed in 2007. (and even stranger when you consider
Roger Gracie - unstoppable World Champion - trains in judo at the Budokwai too). Anyway, I digress.
To sum, this book is the best so far and worthy purchase for keen jitsuka everywhere.

About the Author


Author & Artist

Meerkatsu is the artist name for BJJ black belt Seymour Yang.



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