WHY IS JUJUTSU SPELLED SO MANY DIFFERENT WAYS?
By Brett Denison
Head instructor Mizukan Dojo
Arguably, Jujutsu is the most frequently misspelled word in the martial arts. The words used, vary from “Ju” to “Jiu” or “Jiuy,” and the spelling of “jutsu” is commonly spelled “jitsu.” The non-Japanese speakers use these words interchangeably regardless of the spelling; Ju meaning gentle, pliable, yielding, flexible, etc. and jutsu meaning art, techniques, or science.
Historically, one can notice that the spelling has varied over time, from the first contacts between Japan and the West, until today. When Jujutsu was first taught in the West (around the turn of the 20th century), attempts were made at translating the Japanese words, and to write them romanized. The result usually obtained in western languages, was Jiu jitsu or Jujitsu. In time, more and more contact between the West and Japan, resulted in newer spellings of these Japanese words; resulting in Jujutsu. Today, I dare to say, the official way to romanize Japanese words, gives the spelling Jujutsu. This is based on the translation provided by The Original Modern Reader's Japanese-English Character Dictionary (2nd eds), written by Andrew Nelson, which is considered the “bible” for the translation of kanji.
One can also notice that there is as much difference between different schools of Jujutsu. One cannot assume that one school named Jujitsu practices exactly the same set of techniques, or principles, as another school using the same spelling of the word.
Jutsu vs. Jitsu
Jitsu () is a Kanji that is used as honesty, truth, or reality--such as “jitsu-wa” ("actually, in fact", "in reality", or "to tell the truth"). Jutsu () is the Kanji used for technique, art, and or skill. The kanji for “ju” () means gentle, soft, pliable, and is pronounced “Juu.”
Thus Jujutsu () means the “gentle art or technique” while Jujitsu () means the “gentle truth” Technique or Method of Light.
When one considers what Do () means (way, journey); Jitsu is a very appropriate alternative to a Do when the skills taught and used are part of a Way rather than primarily for combative application. So, the use of Jitsu can be legitimate, provided that when the term is written using kanji, the correct kanji is used along with the correct interpretation--otherwise it just appears to be careless or nonsensical.
This would be comparable to someone using “principle” when referring the senior administrative position of a High School, instead of “principal.” “Principle” meaning code, standard or belief; and “Principal” meaning chief or “most important.”
Another very obvious distinction is in how you would pronounce the two different spellings. This is again because Japanese is a phonetic language. To hear the proper pronunciation of the term "jujutsu" click here (jujutsu.wav).
Doesn't this look strange to you? Someone that claims to be a talented and gifted "baseball" player, yet when they write the word, they spell it "bassball," wouldn't you question the level of knowledge and understanding this individual has when it comes to "baseball"?
This is exactly how I feel when I see "jujutsu" written as "jujitsu," or "jiujitsu."