Japanese martial arts

An overview of Japanese martial arts

Investigating significant facets of Japanese culture is the best approach to learn the language. Japanese history and culture both heavily rely on the martial arts.

Here is your guide to the most common Japanese fighting techniques, whether you’re learning Japanese or are interested in practicing martial arts.


The samurai warrior culture and the caste system, which forbade other members of society from owning weapons, are the historical roots of Japanese martial arts styles

In the past, samurai were required to master all available combat techniques and be skilled with a variety of weapons and unarmed conflict.

Typically, the creation of combative methods is tied to the implements that are employed to carry them out. 

These technologies change frequently in a world that is evolving quickly, necessitating constant innovation in the methods used to employ them. 

Japan’s history is exceptional in that it was relatively isolated at the time. Japanese military technology developed slowly in comparison to the rest of the globe.

Many people think that this gave the warrior class the chance to learn more about their weapons than other cultures and allowed them to study them in-depth. 

Nevertheless, these martial arts’ instruction and practice did develop over time. 

For instance, the bow and spear were prioritized in the early mediaeval era, whereas the sword rose to prominence during the Tokugawa period (16031867 CE), when fewer major wars were fought. 

As Japanese society became more stratified throughout time, another trend that emerged was an increase in martial specialization.


Japan’s national sport is sumo. The guidelines are straightforward: each wrestler attempts to force his opponent out of the elevated clay dohyo (ring).

When a wrestler leaves the ring or makes any other contact with the ground than the soles of his feet, the sumo match is over. Matches typically last a few seconds, but they might go on for a minute or more.

In contrast to American wrestling, sumo has no weight divisions, therefore a smaller wrestler could come up against a much bigger opponent.

In Japan, there are six 15-day sumo tournaments held each year. During the competition, higher-ranked wrestlers will engage in one match per day. 

The wrestlers receive an updated ranking depending on their performance at the conclusion of each tournament. 

Six classifications make up the ranking system: Makuuchi is at the top, Juryo is second, Makushita is third, Sandanme is fourth, Jonidan is fifth, and Jonokuchi is last (6th division). 

A sumo wrestler can only reach the level of Yokozuna (grand champion).

Some of the old practices of sumo, such as salting the ring to purify it, still exist today. 

Sumo wrestlers must follow rigorous guidelines that specify when they sleep, what they eat, and how they should dress when they reside and practice in a heya (sumo training stable).


Jigoro Kano founded judo, a contemporary martial art, as an Olympic sport in 1882. The name “judo” means “the gentle method,” and the activity combines wrestling and jujitsu.

No punching, kicking, or striking is done in judo. Instead, competitors utilize throws to knock down opponents.

Judo and many other Japanese martial arts list can be use kata, or pre-planned movements. In kata, hitting, kicking, and using weapons are acceptable because the opponent is aware of the motions; nevertheless, these actions are forbidden in competition and unrestricted practice.


Karate’s literal translation is “open or empty hand,” which is appropriate given that it was created at a time when weapons were outlawed. Thrusts, kicks, and arm strikes are the three fundamental karate moves.

Numerous ideas exist regarding the origins of karate, however many of them are impossible to corroborate. 

Although karate was initially created as a self-defense technique, practitioners also study and put Zen and Bushido teachings into practice in their quest for enlightenment.

Karate is a synthesis of Chinese martial arts like kenpo and indigenous martial arts from the Ryukyu Islands (now Okinawa). 

There are numerous forms of karate that are practiced in both Japan and other countries, and they all have different kata and combat strategies.


In kendo, also known as “the way of the sword,” participants utilize bamboo swords called shinai and protective gear called bogu that covers their faces, chests, and arms. To hit an opponent and score a point, competitors must master certain timing and skill requirements.

Kendo is much more than just physical combat, like other Japanese martial arts. Participants in kendo strive for both physical and mental fortitude as well as spiritual enlightenment.

“The objective of kendo is to discipline the human character through the application of the principles of the Katana (sword),” the Southern California Kendo Organization claims.


Iaido is a different style of Japanese sword fighting that involves drawing and attacking with the weapon. Iaido is primarily performed alone utilizing a set of moves called waza, unlike kendo. 

A participant performs motions and tactics against a fictitious foe, with a stronger emphasis on striking from the draw.

Iaido practitioners improve their mental as well as their technical skills and physical stamina. Iaido does not allow for direct sparring, however partner practice with a bokuto is allowed (wooden sword).

Iaido is credited to Hayashizaki Jinsuke Minamoto Shigenobu, who lived in Japan from 1546 to 1621. Iizasa Ienao, however, created iaijutsu, the forerunner to iaido, almost a century earlier.


Morihei Ueshiba founded Aikido, another type of Japanese martial arts, in the first decade of the 20th century. Aikido training specifically emphasizes mental growth and self-defense tactics over physical aggressive actions.

Traditional Aikido techniques are built on separate circular movements that let you repel an attacker’s force without exerting any of your own. 

As a result, it doesn’t need for very significant physical prowess and may be enjoyed by anyone, regardless of gender or age. Aikido training aids in the development of self-confidence in addition to defensive skills.


Kyudo, which literally translates to “the method of the bow,” is a traditional style of Japanese archery. The origins of Kyudo can be found in prehistoric times when people hunted animals with bows and arrows.

A turning point occurred in the development of more advanced and intricate shooting tactics and talents by Samurai warriors as a form of self-discipline throughout the 12th century. 

These strategies were frequently used in combat as well. Today, Kyudo is taught as a club activity in some schools in Japan and is becoming more and more well-liked as a competitive sport worldwide.

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