Political Jiu Jitsu
“A special process that may operate during a nonviolent struggle to change power relations. In political jiu-jitsu, negative reactions to the opponents’ violent repression against nonviolent resisters is turned to operate politically against the opponents, weakening their power position and strengthening that of the nonviolent resisters.”
Robert Helvey, On Strategic Nonviolent Conflict (2004: 39).
“Violence by the authorities rebounds against them like the force of an opponent in the sport of jiu-jitsu”
Majken Jul Sørensen and Brian Martin, “The Dilemma Action: Analysis of an Activist Technique” (2014: 75), Peace and Change Journal
In the Glossary-section of the CANVAS Core Curriculum, the term “Political jiu-jitsu” is described as: “A process that may operate during a nonviolent struggle whereby an opponent’s repression (particularly violent repression) against nonviolent resisters backfires against the opponent. Frequently the repression de-legitimizes the opponent and draws supporters and empathy to the nonviolent resisters. Political jiu-jitsu can operate only when violent repression is met with continued nonviolent defiance, not violence or surrender. The opponent’s repression is then seen in the worst possible light.
Resulting shifts in opinion are likely to occur among third parties, the general grievance group and even the opponent’s usual supporters. Those shifts may produce withdrawal of support for the opponent and increased support for the nonviolent resisters. The result may be widespread condemnation of the opponents, internal opposition among the opponents, and increased resistance. These changes can at times produce majors shifts in power relationships in favor of the nonviolent struggle group.
Political jiu-jitsu does not operate in all cases of nonviolent struggle. When it is absent, the shift of power relationships depends highly on the extent of noncooperation of the nonviolent resisters and their supporters