Japanese Martial Arts

Japanese martial arts – Understand the history, culture and building blocks which these arts were built upon and the differences between them.

The Japanese martial arts divide into two main categories according to their leading goal:

Two main categories

1. Main goal self improvement secondary victory in combat (Is found more in the modern martial arts).Gendai budo is a term used for modern schools – ones that were established after the years of 1866-1876, but is also used to define and refer to martial arts which are self improvement oriented. Another difference is expressed through the ending “do” – meaning the way.

2. Main goal victory in combat secondary self improvement. Koryu is a term used to define traditional schools of the martial arts ones that were established before the years of 1866-1876, but can also be used to identify this kind of orientation of the martial art. Another difference is expressed through the ending “jutsu”- meaning skill or ability.

In light of this we can introduce some important terminologies:

“Bujutsu” – art of war, and “Bugei” – martial art. Both are terms used for the arts designed especially for combat victory.

Bujutsu is the actual theory behind the martial art (To learn more about the theory of a martial art). Bugei being the system or training methods and aspects of it ( To learn about the system in a martial art)

“Budo” – Martial way – used for describing martial arts which are self development oriented - everything in a martial art that encompasses personal growth

Japanese martial arts history culture and philosophy

Historically Japanese martial arts evolved differently than in the rest of the world this is do the partial isolation of the Japanese islands, and the different way in which their weapons evolved.

The years 646-702 A.D. were influential upon the development of Japanese martial arts. It was in those years that the imperial government tried to form an organized army modeled after the Chinese system.

During these years the warrior class – samurais were defined. The development of Japanese martial arts revolves around these warriors.

Meaning that Japans martial arts history (martial arts which are still practiced today) began as well (aside from sumo which was developed as a sport and not a combat system).

The first samurai warriors were trained in mounted combat and archery. The samurai warriors started using the sword as their main weapon only during the medieval times. It was only in the 14th century where a blacksmith named Masamune developed the structure of the Katana – Japanese sword, which we know today.

The fact that Japans fighting systems evolved around the samurai had two major impacts.

Two main Samurai influences on Japanese martial arts:

1. Bushido – “way of the warrior” – This was a code of behavior which the samurai lived by. In particular it dictated a state of mind during battle.

Traces large and small of this behavior and mental code can be found in all of the Japans Martial arts. To learn more about bushido

2. Full armed combat – The fact that the samurai was covered and protected by armor.

Influenced the development of empty hand combat. Japans martial arts are renowned for their joint locks and submission holds, we can see traces and large emphasizes of it in most of them.(substantialy more, for instance, than China’s chi-na - Chinese joint locking techniques)

* Jiu-jitsu is considered to be the mother of all empty hand combat discipline, it tries to gives a solution to a situation where a samurai is left without any weapon to face an opponent that is. The potential opponent, at the very least, will be protected by armor, making striking almost completely inefficient and joint locking and manipulation the best solution.

Zen Buddhism religion and philosophy which is wide spread in Japan, is another factor in Japans martial arts development. The way of Zen Buddhism defines and destines the martial arts to be perfected as part of – “way of life”.

This way and standard of thinking was kept by the practitioners regardless of the evolution which the art took - be it combat oriented or personal growth oriented.

Styles of Japans martial arts

Modern martial arts – Gendau Budo –

• Karate

• Aikido

• Kendo

• Judo

• Kyudo

Traditional martial arts – Koryu –

• Sojutsu

• Ninjutsu

• Naginatajutsu

• Ju jitso

• Kenjutsu

• Iaijutsu

• Iaido

• Battojutsu

• Sumo – was never intended for the battle field

* If we have forgotten any Japanese martial arts, please let us know at - warriorsproject@martial-art-potential.com

Main Japanese fighting weapons:

• Sword – Katana

• Naginata

• Spear –Yari

• Ninja stars, Ninja Daggers

• Bamboo swords – shinai

• Bow and arrow

Karate weapons which evolved from farming tools – Quarterstaff (bo), sickle(kama)


Japanese martial arts have a very strong tradition, code of honor and behavior.One is rarely taught the fighting aspects of the art without traditions and codes which come along with it.

There is something very beautiful, special and for some people right in learning a martial art with such kind of strict ruled behavior. It trains them in having a correct state of - mind, discipline and humbleness.

Learn about Karate one of Japans most famous Martial Arts

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