What is a Japanese Martial Art?
Martial arts in general date back hundreds, and even thousands, of years. Martial arts can be traced from India, through China, and Africa, and then on to the rest of the world.
Japanese martial arts grew from early contact with China and Korea. Some scholars believe Martial Arts were introduced to Japan from pirates and trade ships.
Most people recognise Japanese Martial Arts in relation to Samurai warriors, and movie images of Ninja.
There are many different forms of Japanese Martial Arts. They all combine various elements of body, mind and spirit, and the philosophies around body movements, weapon use and styles (ryu, or ryu-ha) often revolve around Shinto and Buddhism; not so much in a religious sense, but the spiritual sense and as a way thinking.
Many of the Martial Arts of Japan include a variety of weapons such as swords, yari, halberd, naginata, knives, bows, blinding powders, poisons, chained weapons, hidden weapons and various other weapons. The weapons are an extension of the body so the body movement, even with a weapon, is the key training.
In the day of the Samurai, warriors devoted their entire day to the perfection of whatever they were doing. As such, one would not be able to properly perform these martial arts to their fullest without total concentration and devotion, possibly over one’s lifetime.
Some of the types of Japanese Martial Arts include:
Karate – The word Karate translates to mean open hand. This is the combination of linear poses and movements into the Kata. Karate is a very popular method of self-defense, exercise and spiritual healing throughout the world. It teaches the fundamentals of the body and the mind working together.
Koryu - Meaning old school. These are the techniques that were used in ancient Japanese times of war.
Sumo - We are all familiar with the Sumo wrestlers of today. Many people think this is truly a match of size. But it is with skill, strength and agility that the winner emerges in the match.
Jujutsu – Many consider Jujutsu is the best defence technique. This method teaches not just to strike directly, but to use an indirect way of getting to the opponent. Get to their weak spot, don't just punch them as hard as you can (as this will not work with a skilled martial artist).
Judo – Once based in Taijutsu (body movement) Judo now focuses on throwing and grappling techniques.
While there are many, many types of Japanese martial arts, and in each type of martial art, many, many schools that represent that martial art, you can already begin to see a common theme running throughout: Japanese martial arts are not just about brutal strength and hitting hard, they focus on a combination of physical strength, mental strength, spiritual strength, and the strength of character, then the joining of these forces.