Martial arts
Update: 22 March 2016

Martial arts

We would like to introduce you to the history of martial arts and martial arts today.

Tactical martial arts

Descriptions of Japanese martial arts such as the double edged sword, the katana (traditional Japanese sword used by samurai), the spear, the bow and arrow and sumo appear in the oldest Japanese history book "Kojiki" (lit: Records of Ancient Matters). Around the 7th century a public training system existed where martial arts such as horse riding for soldiers were practiced. Until the middle of the Kamakura era (1192-1333) most of the combat was done through one to one battles, but when Japanese conventions had no effect against the attacks by the Mongol Empire that started around 1274, operating as a group or "military tactics" became an essential martial art during battles. As the overseas trade flourished, firearms were taken into battle and "hojutsu" (lit: the art of gunnery) became a new member of the martial arts. This was how martial arts spread over time and changing circumstances.

The diversification for what martial arts stands for

Entering Edo period, martial arts became required not only for its practicality for actual battles, but also to serve the purpose to "master the way, and train the mind". Various schools were established and it was considered "etiquette" and became compulsory even for samurai who did not go into battle to enter a martial arts dojo (institute where martial arts are being practiced).

Kobujutsu: the basics of martial arts

Martial arts and combatives that existed prior to 1868, from which Japan proceeded its modernisation, is called kobujustu (ancient martial arts). The basics of martial arts come from kobujutsu. It varies from fencing, archery and jujutsu (lit: the art of softness or flexibility), to suijutsu (lit: the art of water) for swimming and shinobijutsu (lit: art of stealth), shurikenjutsu (lit: the art of concealed throwing knives) etc. for ninja. In the process of development of martial arts, kenjutsu has become kendo (lit: the way of the sword), archery to kyudo (lit: the way of the bow) and jujutsu to judo (lit: the way of softness of flexibility). Upon entering the modern period, it started to spread not only inside Japan but also globally and aside from being combatives, the Japanese martial arts came to be largely known as sports.

Martial arts with religious implications

Other than being combatives and mental training, martial arts serve as so called "Shinto rituals". In the Japanese religion Shinto (lit: the way of the gods), offerings are made to the gods through martial arts. One of the martial arts based on shinto, is sumo (lit: to strike). There is a depiction of gods grabbing each others other's arms and throwing each other in Japanese mythology, which is said to be the origin of sumo. Yabusame (lit: horseback archery), were an archer shoots arrows while horseback riding, also takes place at a Shinto shrine where they make offerings to the gods.

The world-renowned "ninjutsu"

Ninjutsu (lit: the art of stealth) is an intelligence assessment technique which has been practiced since around the Muromachi period (1338-1573). Ninja is globally recognised due to the influence of Japanese culture such as movies, anime and manga, yet there are some features which are said to be made up afterwards, like the all-black costumes and that they don't show themselves. Even now, there are ninjutsu schools and dojos like Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto-ryu, Igaryu and Koga-ryu, yet so-called "ninja schools" are not common in Japan.

Martial arts in present-day Japan

At elementary and middle schools of Japan, either sumo, judo, or kendo is designated as a compulsory subject taught during physical education class. Several organizations exist which serve the purpose to protect and preserve traditional kobujutsu such as the "Nippon Budokan" and the "Nihon Kobudo Association", and also the "Japanese Academy of Budo" where research on kobujutsu and modern martial arts is being done.

*This information is from the time of this article's publication.

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