On 柔術 Jūjutsu

柔術 jūjutsu

How does one translate 柔術 to English?

I liked the explanation in Choque Vol 1 by Roberto Pedreira:

"[jūjutsu] “Juu-Jutsu (in Japanese), 柔術 can be literally translated in a number of ways. 柔 and 術 are bound morphemes, meaning that they occur only in combinations (when they are pronounced as “juu” and “jutsu” respectively). Separately, 柔 is pronounced “yawa” as in “yawarakaii” (柔らかい) and means “flexible, not firm, not stiff”. 術 means technique, method, skill. Together they are pronounced juu-jutsu (vowel length is phonemic in Japanese; “uu” indicates that the “u” sound is held twice as long.”

I also like the paper by Martial History Team member Matthew Krueger: Jujutsu, Judo and Jiu-jitsu: A Historical Comparison of Terms.

Today I read in the Facebook group Vintage Martial Arts Books, Magazines, and Clips Share a fascinating exchange that offered some excellent explanations.

A user named ERozmin-Sensei Lakan Dalawa citing another user named Matt Sheridann offered the following, which I lightly edited for readability:

"柔術 is written じゅうじゅつ in Japanese phonetic characters. In the early 1900s people were still unsure on how to Romanize Japanese. So this is what they did:

じ This is Ji
ゅ we don’t know?
う This is U
じ This is Ji
ゅ why again!
つ This is Tsu

And got JiuJitsu.

However realistically:

じゅ This is Ju
う  This extends the u sound
じゅ This is Ju
つ  This is Tsu

Which gets us Jujutsu, Jūjutsu, and Juujutsu, depending on which Romanization method you use.

But wait, there’s more!

Often when the vowel i or u is followed by non-voiced consonants, or at the end of a word/phrase in Japanese, that i or u is devoiced.

So Jūjutsu becomes more like Jūj’ts’.

[MHT note: I noticed this while listening to Japanese speakers on YouTube. I think the video by professor Naoki Murata demonstrated this sound.]

Because of this back when people didn’t know how to Romanize Japanese properly they would do so by sound, thus Jūjutsu became “Jujitsu,” because this spelling was closer to the sound.

術 has a vowel blend of じゅ this is not pronounced “jee.” The blend takes “Ji + a small yu” creating a new sound, Jyu or Ju. This is the same as the Japanese number 10, 十 or じゅ.
If you are treating じゅ as a Ji then you are 100% doing this incorrectly."

Thank you to everyone who contributed to the thread -- I learned a lot!

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