Many people wonder if Japanese Jujutsu is different from jujitsu, or jiu jitsu. You may have seen just about all of these different spellings at one time or another.
You may be wondering if there is something different about each of them, if they are different forms of the art, or if there are really that many ways to spell it. Well, they aren't different, it's really just different ways to spell the same thing. But, that doesn't mean all of these spellings are correct. I have used all of these spellings throughout this website, only to show that they are all the same thing, and to make those who use any particular spelling comfortable with the information I have been presenting.
I am no doubt about to put some people off by narrowing the focus of the discussion, but I feel it is necessary to establish the correct spelling of jujutsu so that I may be at least somewhat consistent in the other discussions that are presented. It will make my presentations on such things as the "History of Japanese Martial Arts" (click here to read it), not only easier for me, but also for the reader who may be confused by a constant switching of terms.
If you are presently studying and practicing jujutsu, I am not saying in any way that because you spell the word differently, it means you are not practicing the true art, or that you are not practicing it correctly. One has nothing to do with the other. I am simply making a statement of fact about the spelling of a word, in an effort to clear up one single item of misunderstanding among those who may not be familiar with the nuances of Japanese-English transliteration.
Problems of Translation
There is always the possibility of making mistakes when languages are translated. Common items and concepts such as fire, rain, jump, and sleep, can usually be translated, both written and spoken, without much difficulty. However, when dealing with a word such as jujutsu that has no direct translation to the other language, you inevitably end up with misunderstandings, even though the common practice was usually to keep the native word if you couldn't come up with a good English substitute. A perfect example of this translation problem is in the Japanese word most commonly known in English as "Jujitsu".
The first English speaking people to visit Japan were surely overwhelmed by culture shock. However, they made a valiant effort to bring back word of everything they encountered. As could be expected, not everything they learned could be easily expressed in English. What about this interesting activity the Japanese called "Jujitsu" (at least, that's what they thought it was called)? It was a method of fighting, to be sure. But it was a specific form of fighting they had never seen before.
It was a lot like wrestling, but then, it was different than wrestling. So, they couldn’t call it wrestling. It had elements of boxing, but it certainly wasn't boxing. Since they couldn’t come up with an English word to describe it, they simply kept the Japanese word; Jujitsu! You would think that would simplify the process, right? Not really…