Go Beyond…

Screen Shot 2018-09-16 at 4.43.16 PMJohn Danaher, and his Instagram post on Jiujitsu as Warfare on an Individual Scale:

  • danaherjohn  Jiu jitsu as warfare on an individual scale: I am a proponent of what we might term the doctrine of scale – the idea that individual combat shares the same themes, concerns and lessons as massed combat, all the way up to wars between nations. As such, when people ask me what kind of people I study to improve my jiu jitsu, my response is often to go beyond the sources that most people go to, contemporary champions of the sport; and make forays into military theory and history. It is my belief that there is much to be learned from the many outstanding thinkers in this area that can provide insight into your development in jiu jitsu. There are a vast number of brilliant military theorists and practitioners starting long before Sun Tzu and going all the way through to the modern age figures such as John Boyd. Two military theorists who had a big effect on my approach to jiu jitsu were the Englishmen, J. F.C Fuller and BH Liddell Hart. From Fuller I learned to emphasize the great value of technical innovation in combat. From Liddell Hart I learned to emphasize indirect methods of attack above all others along with concentration of force being more important than overall force. Interestingly, Liddell Hart appears to have been familiar with the jiu jitsu/Judo notion of kuzushi (breaking an opponent’s balance prior to attack) – he makes several references to it in his writing and considered it essential to successful attack. Whilst both men were brilliant in their domain, both had their flaws. Fuller appears to have leaned overtly towards Fascism in his political beliefs and got worse in this regard as he aged. In addition he seemed to have flirted with strange occultist beliefs throughout his life. Liddell Hart seems to have been involved in some degree of personal aggrandizement after WW2. Still, there is no denying their brilliance within their field and its potential value to a jiu jitsu student. In their military writings there are many gems- here is one from Liddell Hart. “Helplessness induces hopelessness, and history attests that loss of hope and not loss of lives is what decides the issue of war.”


Lauded as one of the most thoughtful and progressive competitive grappling and MMA coaches ever, Danaher has before described his interest in ” going beyond,” inquiring into military theory as it informs the practice of modern grappling.

BH Liddell Hart was no doubt aware of concepts such as kuzushi, and of the East Asian military tradition, as he provided the foreword to the Samuel Griffith translation of Sun Zi’s Art of War.  There he wrote that when informed that his own, and incidentally the aforementioned JFC Fuller’s works were “principal textbooks of Chinese military academies,” he asked whether the work of Sun Zi was also read. When he found out it was not, he said it should “since in that one short book was was embodied almost as much about the fundamentals of strategy and tactics as I had covered in more than twenty books.” (p. vii)  Some of the strangeness that Danaher notes regarding Fuller is no doubt his connection Aleister Crowley (fascinating stuff to read, BTW), though Fuller later distanced himself from the renowned, controversial, and highly erratic occultist.

The field of inquiry isn’t confined to thinkers like Fuller and Liddell Hart, or Sun Zi and John Boyd (himself highly influenced by Sun), but is rich even within the martial tradition that gave birth to jujutsu.

Musashi, of course, specially addresses the relationship of individual to massed combat, and drew from a deep well of knowledge of the Chinese Military Classics which inform all classical Japanese martial disciplines. Check out this Ralph Sawyer interview on the Tao of War on the John Batchelor show, too.

A long list of Japanese thinkers have written of the theory and practice of swordsmanship and jujutsu, stuff that I sometimes highlight here at IHW. There is a good deal of  quality stuff translated into English from reputable sources and scholars, including the works of Karl Friday, (especially Legacies of the Sword), and William Scott Wilson for accessible reading on the theory and rationale that created jujutsu.  The translations of eric shahan now offer fascinating glimpses into popular Japanese works on related subjects. Diane Skoss’s Koryu Bujutsu series, and Ellis Amdur’s Old School are early forays into this material, and additional fertile fields of research.

There are others out there as well.

If only we could all be as insightful as Mr. Danaher. But certainly we can all listen, and we can “go beyond” the sources that most people go to to improve our thinking and understanding of jujutsu. Personally, I have found that this is not just in the realm of competitive grappling. In fact, such research probably offers more for our understanding when adapted and applied to defensive or combative considerations – areas where many teachers of modern jiujitsu feel the art is in decline.

So go beyond, and further. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater just because some tradition or other seems silly, when you haven’t the first inkling about its history or application, or that it “wouldn’t work in the Cage.”  It’s really about the potential that Danaher talks about, isn’t it? It’s not about what other people are doing with that potential, it’s what you do with it.






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