Thursday, October 1, 2009

Batman -- Martial Artist - 02 - Jujitsu

In Detective Comics issue 38 (April 1940), the debut issue of Robin, the Boy Wonder, Bruce Wayne is depicted training the young Dick Grayson. For martial arts, he trains the boy in Boxing and Jiu Jitsu. To my knowledge, this was the first real mention (at least by name) of Batman’s martial arts training. Nowadays, we know that Batman knows many (if not all) styles of martial arts, but 1940 was a different time. There were western fighting arts like wrestling, boxing, fencing, and single-stick fighting (which was a lot like fencing, but with wood). Jujitsu and Judo were pretty much the only eastern arts known in the west at the time. At the time, Jujitsu was becoming a leisurely physical activity for those who could find and afford instruction. Also, it had the appeal of being exotic. Because Bruce Wayne is supposed to at least appear to be one of the idle rich, and Jujitsu gives Batman not only fighting skill but an exotic edge that is helpful to the popularity of a pulp character, it makes total sense that Bob Kane and Bill Finger would establish that Batman knows Jujitsu.

Jujitsu is a Japanese art, the name of which translates into English as “gentle art”, or even “science of softness”. Make no mistake, though: it may be called gentle, but it can definitely be deadly.
Jujitsu is a cultural martial art with deep roots in Japanese history, so it is a bit difficult to place its origins exactly. Many experts date the origin back to CE 8th century, with historic roots going as far back as BCE China.
One story claims that in CE 712, Tatemi Kazuchi threw Tatemi Nokami as if he were “throwing a leaf”.
Another story claims that Emperor Shuinjin holding a martial arts tournament in 23 BCE. One fight ended when a sumo wrestler died after being thrown and kicked by Nomino Sukume.
Some say that Jujitsu was developed by a Buddhist monk in CE 13th century. Some say Jujitsu comes from an art called katori-shinto ryu, developed in CE 15th century. Others say that Jujitsu was brought from China by a monk named Chen Yuanein in CE 17th century.

Every culture has some sort of fighting, whether systematized and artistic or not. Japanese Jujitsu does have origins in Chinese fighting systems, but it is also the result of much work on the part of Japanese combatants. There is likely no “true” origin of Jujitsu, but instead, like most martial arts, it developed from cultural needs. Basically, the samurai wore armor. You can’t hurt a guy very much by punching him in the chest when he’s got a chest plate on. So, Jujitsu developed as many different schools (ryu) that focused on throws, joint locks, and strikes to areas that weren’t easily protected by armor (i.e., armpits, back of the knees, elbows, etc.).

Samurai, ninja, and even non-combatants also developed defenses against assailants who might use weapons. While it ultimately comes down to who is the better fighter (not who has the better style), a Jujitsu practitioner should ideally be able to disarm someone who comes after him with a sword, bo staff, jo stick, spear, etc.

There is some confusion about the English spelling of “Jujitsu”. The phrase "Jiu-jitsu" is useable for any variation, really. Interestingly, the phrase "Jiu-jitsu" has become mostly associated with Brazilian Jiu-jitsu here in the west. This is interesting because it is a rather recent development (more so for North America and Europe than South America, of course). BJJ was mostly unknown outside of South America (particularly Brazil, of course) until the Ultimate Fighting Championship came about. Prior to that (particularly from the '30s to the '60s), Jiu-jitsu was well known as a Japanese art alongside its "child" Judo. Nowadays, though, the Japanese have to remind people that Jiu-jitsu is of Japanese origin!
As with many martial arts, and foreign phrases in general, there are variations in English spelling. Ju-jitsu, Jujutsu, Jiu-jiutsu, Jujutsu, Jujitsu, and others are (in my opinion, at least) acceptable spellings. However, I think to avoid such confusions, a general consensus has been reached that the Brazilian variety should be spelled "Jiu-jitsu" and the various ryu of the Japanese variety should be spelled "Jujitsu" or something like that. This has had a lot to do with the insane rise of popularity of BJJ over the last 15 years.

Batman would certainly study at least one ryu of Jujitsu extensively under a highly skilled sensei. Batman definitely spent some time in Japan, and even if he didn’t study Jujitsu specifically, if he studied Aikido or Judo his techniques would have roots in Jujitsu. Batman would use Jujitsu to be able to trap and manipulate the limbs of assailants. While he certainly isn’t averse to punching out a bad guy, it’s always good to have a gentler and more controlling option.
In "Batman Begins", Ducard recognizes that Bruce has studied Jujitsu.
Jujitsu is listed as one of “The Martial Arts Every Superhero Should Master” in Scott Beatty’s “The Batman Handbook”.
In Detective Comics issue 38, Bruce is shown teaching Dick “Jiu Jitsu”.In "Batman: Death Mask" (the manga by Yoshinori Natsume), a young Bruce Wayne trains in Japan in an art that "had roots in Judo and Aikido" (so we can tell that the art had roots in Jujitsu).In the animated series episodes "Night of the Ninja" and "Day of the Samurai" (both in season two), we see a young Bruce Wayne training in a style that seems to be a blend of Jujitsu, Aikido, and Karate, with some Samurai and Ninja stuff thrown in for good measure.And, of course, our most modern idea of Batman includes him having mastered as many styles as possible.

Now, here's the deal with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. When Jigoro Kano was going around learning different styles of Jujitsu, there was often a preference that each school had for either standing and throwing or rolling around and wrestling. Kano, being an early version of Bruce Lee or any mixed martial artist, combined these styles and streamlined them to his liking to form Judo. Originally Judo was fairly evenly split with a combination of ground and standing techniques. However, as often happens, even Judo started to split up. Different teachers of Judo would have different preferences and in the early '20s, the throwing techniques even started to lose much popularity to wrestling!
Kano couldn't have this (he himself preferred throwing/standing), so he started emphasizing throwing over ground fighting. One of the teachers who had preferred ground fighting, however, was Mitsuyo Maeda (a.k.a. "Count Coma"). Maeda was the victor of many tournaments, so Kano sent him on a "Judo is great" tour that ended in Brazil. He opened a school in Brazil, where he taught his personal blend of Judo, Jujitsu, and striking. In 1925, Brazilian politician Gastao Gracie hired Maeda to teach his sons Carlos and Helio. While Carlos was big and strong already, Helio was tiny but tenacious. He was the more devoted and driven of the two brothers, so he wound being the better fighter. Gradually, the Gracie brothers adapted what they learned to fit their own tastes (and Helio's diminutive stature). They challenged many people, typically won, and ...blah blah blah... Royce Gracie, UFC, Dana White, and so on.

While there has been no mention yet (at least to my knowledge) of Batman having learned Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, our modern story of him should include the idea that a young Bruce would have traveled to Rio de Janeiro with a Portuguese phrasebook and learned Gracie-style Jiu-Jitsu. While Batman’s goal is to never get taken to the ground, he would also be prepared for just such an occurrence.

-Much of the historical information on Jujitsu was adapted from Fay Goodman’s “A Handbook of Martial Arts”.
-A good portion of this was taken from comments I previously made on Building Batman. See
Also check out
-The information about BJJ's origins in Judo comes from a great article by Kelly Crigger, "Maximum Efficiency Minimum Effort", in the June 2009 issue of Fight Magazine.


Bruce said...

Great post! It's succinct on each point but with enough depth to keep me interested.

Your doing a very good job of these.

M.C. Elroy said...

Thank you muchly. I'm just glad someone's enjoying them. I want to do the next one soon, but I'm having a hard time deciding which one to do.