The history of the island nation of Japan 日文 paints a clear picture of a proud and powerful people forging a national identity, a strong culture and a unique way of life, forged from the crucible of war and uncertain peace. At the heart of this culture was the concept of military courage, the ability to fight both aggressively and defensively, both for the very practical purposes of war, and for the solid concepts of duty, honor and personal development. It is on this militaristic and spiritual basis that japanese martial arts styles have been developed, of which there are many and which we will discuss in this article.


In general terms, the history of Japanese martial arts can be divided into two categories: Koryu Budjutsu (Bujutsu means the practical application of combat tactics and techniques in real combat) and Gendai Budo (budo means a way of life combining a physical, spiritual and moral way of life). measurements focused on self-improvement, self-realization or personal growth).

Koryu Budjutsu includes the oldest traditional Japanese fighting styles, while Gendai Budo is more modern. The division between them occurred after the Meiji Restoration (1868), when the emperor was restored to practical political power, and Japan hastily began the process of modernization. Prior to the Restoration, Koryu’s styles were mostly, if not exclusively, focused on practical warfare. It was expected that the samurai or warriors would be masters of all forms of combat, armed or not. Their martial arts evolved like weapons and technology, but the goal was always the same: to win a real battle, for their own honor and for the cause of their leader.

However, with the restoration of Meiji and the modernization of Japan, including the widespread introduction of firearms, the traditional fighting styles of Japanese samurai are outdated and are no longer used for practical military combat purposes. Following them, the styles of Japanese martial arts turned into the so-called Genday Budo, which paid much less attention to large-scale military applications, and much more – self-improvement and self-improvement, personal growth. They became not only an instrument of military victory, but also an integral part of a full,life-long, meaningful and spiritually connected way of life.

Interestingly, this distinction can be noted in another terminology: traditional techniques were called budjutsu, which refers specifically to war, while modern styles are collectively known as budo, which has much more to do with personal perfection.


Traditional Japanese Martial Arts (Koryu Budjutsu)

Sumo: The oldest style of Japanese martial arts is sumo, named after the emperor who popularized it (Shumo Tenno) in 728 AD. However, the origins of the fighting style can be traced long before, until 23 AD, when the first sumo struggle was carried out, by a vigilant emperor and continued until one of the fighters was too wounded. After Emperor Shumo reintroduced the sport, it became a staple of the annual harvest festival, spread throughout Japan and even became part of military training. Since the 17th century, it has become a professional sport in every way, open to all classes, both samurai and farmers. The rules of this sport are simple: the first man who touches the ground with any part of the body except the soles, or hits the ground outside the ring, any part of the body loses. It is still an incredibly popular sport in Japan to this day, followed by legions of ardent fans.

Jujutsu: This Japanese martial arts style literally translates as ‘soft skills’ and uses indirect force such as joint blows and throws to defeat the enemy rather than direct force such as punching and kicking to counter the attacker’s strength. against them. And counterattack where they are weakest. It was originally designed to fight samurai, which often terrorized the city’s inhabitants, as more direct forms of combat proved ineffective against well-armored enemies. Small arms such as daggers, weighted chains and helmets (tanto, rufundo kusari and jutte, respectively) were also used in jujutsu. Many elements of jutsu have been incorporated into a wide variety of contemporary Japanese martial arts, including judo, aikido and non-Japanese martial arts such as karate.

Ninjutsu: Ninjutsu, or ninja art, has become one of the most famous styles of Japanese martial arts in modern times. However, during its development, ninjas were used as assassins in turbulent times of warring states. Although in many martial arts films ninjas were portrayed as experienced fighters, their real goal was to avoid a fight or even detection. An experienced ninja will kill his target and leave before anyone suspects his presence. Ninjas are trained in the art of camouflage, escape, camouflage, archery, medicine, explosives and poisons – a skill perfect for their specific work.

Although there are a number of other styles of Japanese martial arts, Koryu Budjutsu, they are mainly related to weapons and will be discussed in the “Weapons of Japanese Martial Arts” section.

Modern Japanese Martial Arts (Gendai Budo)

Judo: Judo, literally translated as a “soft path” or “path of softness,” is an extremely popular style of Japanese martial art, developed in the late 19th century on the basis of wrestling and used for sport, personal development and spiritual development. Although it has many elements of jujutsu, it mainly includes freestyle practice and is used for competitions, eliminating many of the most harmful aspects of jutsu. Judo became an Olympic sport in 1964 and is now practiced all over the world.

Aikido: Aikido is one of the most complex and subtle styles of Japanese martial arts, and this is reflected in its name, which translates as “the way of harmony with ki”, “ki” means vitality. Aikido was developed by Morihei Ueshiba in the early mid-20th century and focuses mainly on methods of running, throwing and locking joints. Aikido is known for its smooth movements as a defining element of his style. Its principle is that the attacker uses his power against them with minimal effort on the part of the carrier. The aikido was greatly influenced by Kenjutsu, the traditional Japanese battle art of sword fighting, and in many ways the practitioner acts and moves like a blank-handed swordsman. Aikido also pays great attention to spiritual development, reflecting the importance of spirituality to the founder and, as a result, the influence on the style of martial arts.

Japanese karate: Karate, the “empty-handed path,” was not originally a Japanese martial art developed in Okinawa and then experienced the influence of the Chinese. However, in the early 20th century, karate found recognition in Japan and went so far as to become part of Japan’s public school system. Japanese karate involves punches and kicks, performed from a fixed position. In this sense, it is very different from other Japanese martial arts, such as aikido and judo, which are smoother in their movements.

Campo: Campo is a system of self-defense and self-improvement developed after World War II based on a modified version of Shaolin kung fu. It combines punches, kicks and blocks, as well as pins, joint locks and evasion, making it the middle between “tough” styles such as Japanese karate and karate, and softer styles such as judo and aikido. It was introduced to Japan after the war to restore the morale and spirit of the Japanese, was first accepted by large companies for its employees, and then spread to Japanese culture and the world of martial arts. Today, more than 1.5 million people in more than 33 countries practice camp.

Japanese martial arts weapons

Weapons played a key role in Japanese martial arts, especially during the Koryu Budjutsu phase, when it was practically used in combat. Here we are going to consider several weapons for Japanese martial arts as well as related martial arts styles.

Sword (Katana): Katana, or traditional curved sword, is not in doubt in the hierarchy of weapons of Japanese martial arts. The first katana with its famous fitting folding process was forged by the legendary blacksmith Amakuuni Yasutsun in 700 AD, and further development – between 987 and 1597. In peacetime, the emphasis was on art, and in wartime, such as the 12th century civil war and the 13th century Mongol invasion, sustainability, efficiency and mass production were more important. The evolution of fencing was cyclical: peace times were used to invent new techniques, and wars – to test them. What worked is preserved and what has not.

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