Culture & Food
sports in japan
japanese martial arts
posted by John Spacey, August 24, 2015
Japan has a number of unique martial arts that are mostly modern variations of traditions that extend back for hundreds, or in some cases thousands of years.Historically, Japanese martial arts were used as a means of defense and attack in warfare. However, in modern times they are practiced for their educational value — encompassing cultural, physical, moral, aesthetic and spiritual dimensions. Most are viewed much like a sport with an emphasis on disciplining the mind.The following are a few common modern Japanese marital arts.
Kendo is based on Japanese swordsmanship techniques and uses a bamboo sword with protective armor. Kendo uniforms are almost always black and its techniques involve yelling to show your martial spirit. It is amongst the most common marital arts offered at public schools in Japan. An estimated 1.66 million people in Japan have some level of Kendo training. It’s considered to have much cultural value as it’s heavily based on Samurai traditions.
Judo in its competitive form resembles wrestling with throws, takedowns, chokes, pins and locks. It also includes strikes with the hands and feet but these aren’t permitted in competition. Judo is a modern adaptation of an older martial art called Jujutsu.
Kyudo is the Japanese art of archery that uses extremely long bows with an asymmetrical shape. This design is more than 2000 years old and results in an extremely powerful bow that is somewhat difficult to handle. As a result, it’s considered a sport that requires power and maturity and isn’t taught until the age of 15 in Japan.
Yabusame is mounted Japanese archery. It’s similar to kyudo archery but is far more difficult to learn. There are only a few academies that teach it. Acceptance as a student is considered a honor. If you’d like to learn Yabusame, the best route is to master kyudo first. Getting comfortable on the back of a horse will also help. Yabusame involves riding a horse at a gallop with no hands.
Aikido is a defensive marital art focused on grappling including holds and throws that harmlessly redirect the force of an attack. Its techniques are concerned with defending yourself without hurting the attacker.
Karate is a martial art from the Okinawan Islands that is focused on strikes with the hands and feet. It became a pop culture phenomenon beginning in the 1950s after Japanese karate movies were followed by American karate movies in large numbers. This lead to demand for classes on a global basis. It’s equally popular in Japan. Today estimates of the number of Karate practitioners is as high as 50 million people globally.
Sumo is a full contact wrestling sport that is also considered a modern martial art. It originated with rituals and dances at Shinto Shrines and many of its traditions still show these origins. Wrestlers perform a variety of ceremonies when entering the ring such as purifying the ring with salt that are directly related to Shinto. Professional sumo wrestlers are required to live a traditional lifestyle and train together at facilities known as a Sumo stables.
Koryu is a broad category of Japanese martial arts from the Edo-era and earlier that mostly fell out of practice after Japan opened to the west. Martial arts went into a serious decline in Japan after the Samurai were disbanded. At the time, martial arts were seen as relics of the past that were useless against western military techniques. Indeed, many of Japan’s old martial arts were focused on feudal warfare and were very different from the sport-like martial arts found in Japan today.
If you enjoyed this article, please share it
Aikido is a Japanese martial art that is known for its defensive techniques that protect the attacker from injury.
A modern Japanese martial art and Olympic sport that resembles wrestling in its competitive form.
Karate is a Japanese martial art that originated in the Okinawan Islands that is focused on striking techniques with the hands and feet.
A martial art that is based on Japanese swordsmanship techniques.
A broad category of old Japanese martial arts that mostly aren’t practiced anymore.
Japanese Culture Guide
50 Japanese Manners And Customs
The Japanese have an extensive collection of manners and customs that are interesting to learn. They say much about Japan’s world view and its culture.
People Who Viewed This Also Viewed
A list of monsters, ghosts and other supernatural beings of Japanese myth.
104 Things To Do In Kyoto
Kyoto is a magical city. It sounds sugarcoated but it’s true. With 400 shrines and 1,600 Buddhist temples it’s difficult to choose your activities. This list will help you make the most of your trip.
© 2002-2020 Japan Talk. All Rights Reserved.
View credits & copyrights for this page.
We are always working to improve Japan Talk. If you find an error, please report it.
Distances and walking times are approximate. Prices and schedules reflect our best information at the time of publishing and are prone to change. If you have an update, please let us know.