Atemi Ju Jitsu

What is Atemi Jutsu / Atemi Jujitsu

Kyoshi Carl Withey first came across Atemi Jutsu in the early 1970’s when he was studying Aikido under the instruction of Soke Tony Smith at his club in the West Midlands and also under the founder of Budo of Great Britain, Sensei Reg Bleakman (9th Dan).

This is Sensei Reg teaching Atemi Jutsu in the early days with is students

This is Sensei Reg teaching Atemi Jutsu in the early days with is students

Atemi Jutsu (the facts By Tony Hughes)

From discussions I had with Sensei Reg, it seems he based Atemi Jutsu on Mr Hipkiss’ self defence style called “Antagonistics”, a simplified version of Jiu Jitsu aimed at business people who had little time to practise. He said he had noticed that most of the public who start Judo did so for self defence and most clubs recruited through self defence or Jiu Jitsu taught alongside Judo, Reg chose to do the same and thought, if s/defence is a good recruiter for Judo, it should work also for other subjects, hence the addition of Aikido and later karate (to Atemi Jutsu} which were quite unknown to the general public. Sensei Reg chose to use sensei Abbe’s version of these subjects instead of the mainstream.

These of course had been taught to Sensei Reg directly by sensei. In later years the assumption that Sensei Abbe was involved may have come about when he re visited the UK in 1970 and did courses in the west mids and Cheshire, among those attending were a high percentage of Atemi Jutsu dan grades, albeit they attended to learn the other subjects that make up their art, and may have practised one or more of them alongside Atemi Jutsu. To some observers, it may have appeared that Sensei Abbe was teaching Judo and Aikido and Atemi Jutsu, I don’t know if he realised it, also in the late 1950s Sensei Abbe often taught Aikido and or Karate on his Judo courses, to some this is the same as teaching Atemi Jutsu, an easy mistake to make and this is almost certainly the only contribution sensei made to Atemi Jutsu even if inadvertently.

As for Sensei Abbe suggesting the name for Sensei Reg’s system, Sensei Reg claimed this for himself, but the seed was sewn by Sensei Abbe in a statement he made during a group debate which must have been repeated at many Judo clubs in the late 1950s; at that time many Judoka were concerned that if Judo was to become a sport and in light of the Olympics, would Judo lose its image as self defence and what area of techniques will be most affected?

Sensei Abbe made the observation that only Atemi waza would be greatly affected and perhaps lost altogether, this stuck in Sensei Reg’s mind and he adopted Atemi and added Jutsu, so the art is named after the striking techniques of Judo, not karate (a common error).

The Judo Atemi waza would be used to supplement Judo and Aikido techniques, although karate was added later, it never played a big part in Sensei Reg’s style and he maintained the use of judo Atemi waza personally. This account was Sensei Reg’s directly to me and a few of my pupils, if he told another version I don’t know of it. ATEMI JUTSU.

History and origins by Tony Hughes

Sensei Bleakman, “said to advance the art you must try different variations of the different arts and styles you have learned, ie judo, karate, aikido etc, by putting all these arts and styles into one, the art becomes unbeatable as a self defence art”.

Sensei Tony Smith, one of a number of senior instructors began to carry on the mantle left by Sensei Bleakman, started to advance Atemi Jutsu by incorporating and introducing the traditional techniques (see below) and blending the new self defense needs in the modern era, it is a must know art of self defense. Other senior instructors that developed their Atemi Jutsu style; Sensei Bradley, Steadman, and Hughes.

Atemi Jujitsu: The Art of Striking the Body

Atemi Jujitsu teaches techniques of striking at key vital area of the body. Including nerve endings, arteries running close to bone, organs, vulnerable joints like elbows and knees, fingers, wrists and sensitive regions such as the eyes, ears and throat. Using all manner of strikes with the open hands, arms, elbows, feet, or knees are employed, even using every day objects such as keys, pens and news papers. It is based on our common principles. Other much older Atemi Jujitsu was developed in Asia thousands of years ago and was developed for fighting opponents in armor; the strikes had to penetrate the weak points in a suit of armor, which mirrored the musculature. Atemi jutsu teaches how to manipulate an opponent to expose the weak points in the natural armor of the body, so that strikes can be devastating.


Positioning the body through the Ten Directions


Blocking an attack

Go no Sen:

Blocking an attack and countering

Sen Sen no Sen:

Pre-empting an attack with a counter

Sen Zen no Sen:

Breaking off to counter



Other areas of importance include Aiki no Yoho (yin & yang), Taisabaki (body positioning), Maai (distance) and understanding the concept of opening up the body of your opponent thoroughly. One can only then truly apply atemi through the correct use of opening fully, thus enabling you to penetrate your opponents defence.

Atemi Jutsu is a great art in its self, and is perhaps more practical in one on one situations. Aiki Jitsu/Jutsu was designed for multiple assailants on the battle field. So fluidity was a must, so you were able to move at speed from one attacker to another, trying to retain your stamina. It must be noted that in it’s purest form ‘Atemi’ relies on attacking the smaller target areas of the body (pressure points) with precision, and depth of touch. Making it a highly refined and complex skill to learn requiring practitioners many years to perfect, which we at Budo Kan strive to achieve through our training.

We here at Budo Kan of Australia do not believe in competitions and therefore do not hold or enter tournaments to find a champion. Competition in the martial arts we teach would be of no benefit to the student. Competitions are subjected to a lot of regulations; to avoid dangerous injuries, so a lot of rules are made. In the arts we teach there are no such rules, which is why we believe we teach an efficient and effective means of self-defense. Thus, by emphasizing only the competition aspect, we feel it takes away the true effectiveness of the technique.

Generally speaking Atemi Jutsu’s use of Atemi is not as refined, as most people who train in this art mostly use strikes that are aimed at the larger and more obvious targets, thus making it easier to find one of these targets in ‘the heat of battle’ than to accurately hit or use a ‘pressure point’ – not necessarily better but, a simpler alternative. We at Budo Kan constantly refine and train to strike the smaller and more venerable areas. Today you find some Atemi in Japanese martial arts, and Some do not even mention atemi, yet you may find others name themselves as atemists. You will find that the level of atemi quality varies a lot. Some practise atemi as a simple distraction while others train atemi as a source to deadly techniques.

Atemi a brief history

As I have stated earlier, Atemi was developed in Asia thousands of years ago. In China it became known as dim mak, (death touch) while the Japanese, called it Atemi; which comprised of a series of strikes and painful joint holds aimed at one of the central nervous system’s 365 &pressure points.

The early exponents and teachers spent many hours researching the human anatomy in a bid for perfection. Immersing themselves completely in this research committing to memory this secret knowledge, refining and keeping their secret knowledge of their Atemi to immediate families or clans.

During the 15th century, the samurai warriors began to assimilate Atemi strikes into their systems of battlefield in unarmed combat now known as the martial arts. The samurai was able to us Atemi strikes that would require no elaborate movements, rather a more swift and decisive action. Delivering a fatal blow quickly or a disabling strike rendering the opponent helpless. “minimal power, little effort and maximum effect”. Bushido was a strict code that demanded loyalty, devotion, and honor to the death.

There are seven virtues associated with Bushido:

  • Gi – Rectitude
  • Yu – Courage
  • Jin – Benevolence
  • Rei – Respect
  • Makoto – Honesty
  • Meiyo – Honor
  • Chugi – Loyalty

The ‘true’ Atemi masters are few and far between. There are numerous legends and stories that have been told that in their prime a real master could give an atemi strike without even touching the body, thus channeling his Ki (or chi) at one of their victim’s vulnerable areas was enough to kill. There are some instances once struck, the victim felt nothing and then fell down dead several days later. This may have been because of internal damage inflicted upon an opponent, which may not have been immediately visible or obvious.

True or not there are many who have seen such instances or power including a ‘master’ sending a person flying across the room, or rendering them unconscious. It must also be said there are just as many people who have had these so called techniques performed on them with little or no effect. What ever your opinion is this so called ‘magic’ in the hands of a skilful martial artist, can injure, paralyse, maim and can even kill.

Atemi Jujitsu – Jujitsu or Jiu-jitsu – what’s in a name?

It jujitsu, ju-jitsu, or what about jui-juitsu, jui-jutsu, jui-jitsu, ju-jutsu, or jujutsu, does it really matter what the spelling is? Personally “NO” it doesn’t. I prefer ‘Ju Jitsu’ because, Smith sensei (10th Dan) who is the highest graded Atemi Jiu Jitsu master in the world today, (I only know of one other 10th Dan who teaches Atemi) decided to use that spelling. He insisted that those who were learning the art train hard and maintain respect and dignity at all times. English translation of the word Atemi Jujitsu. Atemi means to ‘hit or strike the body’, Ju-jitsu is a combination of two words – Ju, which can be translated as “soft” or “gentle”, and Jitsu, meaning “art”. Thus we have ‘Gentle Art.’ As opposed to Judo’s ‘Gentle Ways.’