An Overview of Japanese Martial Arts: Seven of the Most Common Forms
The Japanese tradition of martial arts is rich and varied. Many forms derive from the practice of Ju-jitsu, including Judo, Aikido, and Karate. This article will examine three other forms as well: Kendo, Kyudo, and Sumo, the forms of fencing, archery, and wrestling. The basis for all of these arts includes combining the refinement and practical application of systematic techniques with spiritual, mental, and whole-body training and harmony.
This form of martial arts is primarily for self-defense, with the aim of using the strength and force of an opponent’s attack against them. Meaning “gentle art,” Ju-jitsu combines power with suppleness, quickness, and fluidity. Kicks and punches combine with multiple holding and striking moves to disable a potential attacker as quickly as possible.
Branching directly from Ju-jitsu, Judo combines self-defense and attack techniques with physical conditioning and overall health. “Ju” means gentleness, to adapt and manipulate the strength of your opponent. “Do,” means the way, or the specific technique or moves used. These include various holds and grappling techniques, as well as stringent moral principles, to assist in the whole-body journey for each person.
An old and well-known form of the Japanese martial arts, Karate originated on the island of Okinawa. Meaning “empty handed,” Karate primarily teaches defense with fists, elbows, and feet rather than weapons. As a striking art, quick, powerful moves are delivered from a poised stance. Although began as a form of self-defense, many people practice Karate for its philosophical and spiritual significance.
A newer form of Ju-jitsu, Aikido is known for graceful techniques combined with a connection of life energy and spiritual harmony. Along with blocking, escaping, grabbing, and falling techniques to escape from an attacker, Aikido also focuses on using an opponent’s energy to overpower or to throw them. Mental training is an essential aspect, along with dynamic motions and body movements.
This martial art is essentially the Japanese form of fencing with two-handed swords made of bamboo or oak. Originally intended as a safer method of training for samurai warriors, Kendo has evolved into a form of confidence and mental training. Protective equipment is worn, although this sport is about discipline and agility rather than aggression. Learn more about numerous swords and techniques at our website,Swords of the East.
Rather than using swords, Kyudo is the Japanese form of archery. This requires the cultivation of peace and concentration along with spiritual discipline. The yumi, or Japanese bow, is typically over six feet tall and is typically made of bamboo, wood, and leather, though it can be comprised of synthetic materials. The purpose of Kyudo is to give oneself completely to the releasing of the arrow, called ya, creating a natural release due to an expansion in the body.
As Japan’s national sport and famous form of wrestling, Sumo originated centuries ago as an entertainment offering to Shinto gods. Slapping, sweeping, and sacrificial throws are the basic techniques used to force an opponent to the ground or out of the ring. As in other martial arts, the wrestlers try to use their opponents’ strength and force of attacks against them. Technique is key, as is disciplined training.
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