The Gentle Art
Language attempts to assign meaning to words, but there is almost always room for multiple meanings, and more than one interpretation of those meanings. Jiu-Jitsu is often translated to mean ‘The Gentle Art’, even though Jiu-Jitsu is now, as in the past, one of the most effective forms of close-combat ever practiced, and not what one would typically call ‘gentle’.
The principle of gentleness comes more from the specific use and redirection of force, not from it’s effects. From Jiu-Jitsu came many other forms of the martial arts common still today, from some forms of Karate, Judo, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Aikido and many other derivatives.
Morihei Ueshiba (1883-1969), the founder of Aikido, sought a ‘peaceful path’ in developing aikido from Jiu-Jitsu, using the opponent’s aggression against them rather than being aggressive in response.
Jigaro Kano (1860-1938), founder of Judo, “the gentle way”. Judo taught yielding when it was advantageous to yield, and using the opponent’s balance and momentum against them.
Beyond this, ‘JIU’ or ‘JU’ also means ‘flexible’. ‘JITSU’ or ‘JUTSU’ means technique or art.
Certainly ‘flexible techniques’ hits the nail squarely on the head, in that Jiu-Jitsu techniques are adaptable and flexible in responding to a wide variety of attack situations.