John Danaher on Techniques without Precedence

John Danaher

Are there any techniques in judo or jiu-jitsu that have no precedence, at least prior to the 20th century?

Professor John Danaher addressed this subject in two videos from December 2018. I watched them today after YouTube suggested them to me. Apparently Google knows I'm a big fan of Prof Danaher. I've watched several of his videos, I own the book he co-authored with Prof Renzo Gracie, and I even bought both of the Danaher Diaries published by another fan!

Ude Hishigi Juji Gatame (腕挫十字固) - The Armbar

John Danaher Juji Gatame
John Danaher Juji Gatame,

The first video I watched showed Prof Danaher talking about [udi hishige] juji gatame (腕挫十字固), or the armbar from the mount as shown above. In the video, Prof Danaher says:

"In the case of juji gatame we don't see any renditions of juji gatame outside of one country, Japan, until the 20th century, when Japan had opened up and began spreading it, their grappling technology, around the world...

To the best of our knowledge, there doesn't seem to be any use of juji gatame outside of Japan prior to the 20th century, at least we don't have any documented evidence of it." (emphasis added)

This piqued my interest, as Prof Danaher mentioned the grappling traditions of Greece and Egypt when he made this claim. My best source for interpretation and analysis of ancient combat techniques is The Martial Arts of Ancient Greece, which I recently reviewed for Martial Journal. Sure enough, I could not find any technique which resembled juji gatame. 

I imagine there are other sources to review, but for now, score one for Prof Danaher!

Sankaku Jime (三角絞) - The Triangle

John Danaher triangle
John Danaher Sankaku Jime,

The second video I watched showed Prof Danaher talking about sankaku jime (三角絞) - the triangle, from guard, as shown above. In the video, Prof Danaher says:

"But when you look through it, there's one thing which is missing, and you don't see it, and that's the triangle. There's no historical evidence for the existence of a triangle. 

That doesn't mean it didn't happen... 

But to the best of our knowledge, we don't have any historical record of people engaging in strangles with the legs, the triangle strangle or chokes as it's often referred to. 

That's a fascinating thing, because everything else is there, so there's this one omission... 

Most of what we know about Greek pankration is lost... but what survives... there's reference to arm locks, leg locks, strangleholds, all kinds of things, but there's no reference to anyone strangling people with the legs. 

You go to all the other [wrestling] cultures, nothing.... There's no mention of someone using their legs to strangle someone, certainly not from bottom position... 

The current evidence suggests that the triangle first emerged in Japan, probably in the Kosen judo high schools, shortly before World War I, sometime around 1910 to 1913." (emphasis added)

Is he right about this?

The Martial Arts of Ancient Egypt

Egyptian Triangle
Egyptian Triangle, The Martial Arts of Ancient Greece

To answer this question, I turned again to The Martial Arts of Ancient Greece, and found a section titled "Triangular Strangulation." It referenced an image from the wrestling art in the tomb of Baqet III, more popularly known as part of the Beni Hasan tombs in Egypt dating to the 21st century BCE.

I zoomed in to see this more clearly:

Beni Hasan Triangle
Beni Hasan Triangle, The Martial Arts of Ancient Greece

I am not an expert on techniques. However in the Beni Hasan art, it appears that the figure in the dark silhouette may well be choked, and it's happening with the light silhouette's legs. Also, the dark silhouette appears to be facing away from the light silhouette. 

It also looks like the dark silhouette is holding a short rod or stick as a weapon?

The authors "recreate" the application of the technique on the following page:

Recreated Triangle
Triangle Demonstration, The Martial Arts of Ancient Greece

This is not the same technique as shown in the Egyptian art. In the standard triangle, as shown here, the opponents are facing each other. In the Egyptian art, the top figure is facing away.

Nevertheless, the Egyptian art indeed appears to show a strangulation, from the bottom position, using the legs.


Danaher and Stevens
Prof Danaher and Travis Stevens, interviewed by BJJ Fanatics, 

Based on my limited analysis, I concur with Prof Danaher that ude hishigi juji gatame (腕挫十字固) - the armbar, appears to have no precedent in ancient art. I would have to look at other sources to investigate its appearance in Japanese sources, which could be fun.

I disagree with Prof Danaher that sankaku jime (三角絞) - the triangle, has no precedent in ancient sources. While the standard triangle is not represented in the Beni Hasan art, there is a sort of a face-away triangle by a person from the bottom using the legs. 

At the end of the day, I'm just happy to see a high-level coach like Prof Danaher taking an interest in martial arts history!

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