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(Magazine «Karate-Bushido», Paris - Interview by Pierre-Yves Bénoliel, editor)

Ju-Jitsu: the return to the origins

In the 1930s, the father of Stefano Surace learned from 2 Japanese experts an old method of Ju-Jitsu. Today his son teaches in Paris.

55 years old, Stefano Surace is Italian. Correspondent in Paris of a Roman news service, he has lived in France for 7 years. But if we present him to you today, it is not for its talents as a journalist. Indeed, Stefano Surace teaches an old method of ju-jitsu of remarkable effectiveness.

Convinced after having attended a course, Sylvain Salvini made him known to us. Now it’s your turn to discover this enthralling Sicilian grandmaster.

Karaté-Bushido: Mr Surace, your case is rather exceptional. Could you briefly explain it to us.

Stefano Surace: I am Italian, and I started to practise the ju-jitsu with my father, in 1943, at 10 years age. My father was one of the leaders of the youth movements set up by Mussolini. He had been charged to spread ju-jitsu to young people in the 1930s.

For this purpose, he taught at the Physical Education Academy of Rome and worked with 2 Japanese experts, Grandmasters Ishiguro, 7th dan, and Matakatzu, 3rd dan. These experts came from the Butokukai in Kyoto.

Unfortunately, the war stopped this program. At the end of the war, the experts of the Butokukai were persecuted. My father helped them, and to thank him they taught him techniques hitherto secret, with an obligation not to reveal them.

My father taught me these techniques (I was his eldest son), but he never taught them to anyone elses. It was the method of ju-jitsu developed by the experts of Butokukai.

If he taught it to me, it was so that I could defend myself. I was born in Sicily in 1933. With the war, my family had to leave for the north of Italy. Because of my accent, at school, I had constantly to fight against boys older than me. Seeing that, my father, during a period of leave, decided to teach me ju-jitsu. For a fortnight, I trained 4 hours the morning and 4 hours the afternoon. It was not by chance: in the Butokukai, training was for 8 hours per day (against 3 hours for Kodokan, the dojo of judo of Grandmaster Jigoro Kano).

Thus, in two weeks, my father taught me the essence of his method. When I returned to school, I wrought havoc! At that time, with the war, children were somewhat left to their own devices. We formed gangs, and brawls were frequent. During this period, I could observe the absolute effectiveness of this method of ju-jitsu.

Later, I had the opportunity to train with Grandmaster Otani Master, in Naples. When he saw my technique, he asked me where I had learned it. I told him my history, and he simply answered: “That concerns the Emperor!”. The Butokukai in Kyoto depended directly on the Emperor.

In my trade of journalist, thanks to ju-jitsu I was able many times to save myself from tricky situations.

K.B.: In your opinion, what is the difference between this old ju-jitsu old and what is normally taught in general?

S.S.: The Japanese taught the least advanced techniques. There are resemblances, of course, but certain details make all the difference.

K.B.: For example?

S.S.: One always says: ju-jitsu is based on the principle which consists in using the opponent’s force against himself. This is false. One uses the inertia of the adversary, and also one’s own inertia. Inertia is the tendency to continue a movement once started. For a moment, one is a prisoner of this force.

Moreover, in our method, my inertia is added to that of the attacker, a little like two billiard balls: the first striking, stops, and transmits its inertia to the second. In our case, one draws the attacker instead of pushing him, but the principle is the same. In this way, a girl can project a strapping man.

There is use of gravity, i.e. the sum of the weight of the attacked and the attacker. It is the very principle of the sutémi (‘sacrifice move’).

It is a little what Grandmaster Ueshiba said: in aikido, we use the same forces as those which move the stars. The Moon, by inertia, tends to go to the right. The gravity of the Earth attracts it and makes it turn. However, our method differs from aikido. In aikido, one uses inertia of the other and one’s own inertia, but not by adding it: one seeks to go against the inertia of the adversary. All is based on the entry (irimi). However, for us, to enter, is to expose ourselves. We use these techniques only against an armed adversary (sword, stick…), because there, one cannot retreat.

In fact, aikido derives from a part of old ju-jitsu, which relates to fights between the unarmed and those carrying swords. The unarmed cannot dodge, he must enter.

K.B.: In your method, there are many sutemis or «sacrifice movements»?

S.S.: Yes. For example, you allow yourself to go to ground in order to kick the opponent. Or you take him to the ground while pressing on his knee. It is a combined form of dislocation (kansetsu) and sutemi. If the adversary resists, the knee yields.

K.B.: Does another principle consist in applying the same defence to several attacks?

S.S.: lt does not consist exactly of the same defence. What is important, is what precedes the technique, the tai sabaki. This dodge is chosen by the one who is attacked without his even knowing what the attack will be.

There are a certain number of tai sabaki polyvalents which allow for defence against any kind of attack. I show one on the photos illustrating this report, the reverse tai sabaki. There are 6 forms to my knowledge.

K.B.: Another characteristic of your method is to have the least possible contact with the adversary?

S.S.: Initially, one should never enter, so as not to expose itself in a real combat. The only case where one can do it, is when the adversary is blocked by his own inertia. And still, one does not enter with all the body, only with the foot or the arm.

One always supposes that the adversary is 4 times stronger than oneself, therefore one avoids wrestling.

K.B.: Speak to us a little about the strikes (atemis) that you use.

S.S.: We avoid attacking pressure points where a blow can be deadly. This method remains essentially non-violent. But there are a certain number of highly senstive points on the body where the adversary cannot resist pressure: he is obliged to follow the movement. For example, under the chin. In addition, kicks are not higher than the belt, and always on pressure points.

K.B.: You use also locks?

S.S.: Yes, of course, arm-locks, and even ankle-locks. Our method includes strikes, locks and throws, and certain movements that combine these three techniques.

With us the technique is always done in only one stage which coincides with the attack of the adversary. The majority of self-defence techniques seen almost everywhere unrealistic. Moreover, our method gives a real and non-violent effectiveness: this eradicates fear, at the same time the fear of being wounded and of wounding someone else. Hence serenity is achieved.

In my opinion, this is what makes all the difference between Western martial arts and those of the East, influenced by Buddhism. The Eastern ones were obliged to work out effective techniques which do not damage the physical integrity of their adversaries. Considering their great effectiveness, these techniques were then adopted by the military castes.

Pierre-Yves Bénoliel, Editor

Discourse on method

The techniques are important, but more important are certain movements which are carried out before the techniques (tai sabaki «polyvalents»).

Characteristics of a good technique:

1) It must be applicable against adversaries five times stronger than oneself, without injuring them seriously.

2) It must not expose, even for an instant, a pressure point of its performer.

3) It must be difficult to counter.

4) If it should fail, one must be able instantly to follow through with another good technique.

5) One must be able to use it in one moment, that of the adversary’s attack or in two stages at most).

6) It can be practised without warm-up.

7) It can be carried out at almost any age.


1) the method is founded on the addition of your own momentum and that of the adversary.

2) you should never go against your own momentum or that of your adversary.

3) if you go against your own momentum, you a prisoner of your own movement (even if only for a moment) and become vulnerable

4) you benefit from the fact no-one can escape their own momentum.

5) you must almost never ‘enter’, which amounts to making yourself vulnerable to attack. You need to provoke the adversary to «enter».

6) You can «entrer» only if certain precise conditions are checked: for example if the adversary is caught by his own momentum.

Training: This method eradicates fear (to be wounded and to wound) and modifies the personality positively (more serene, etc). This derives from the fact that you acquire a real and non-violent effectiveness.

Web www.surace-jujitsu.fr