Japanese Martial Arts
The development of martial arts in Japan was marked by some distinctive traits, namely, the influence of the samurai warrior tradition and the geography of Japan itself.
Both the samurai warrior structure and the caste system restricted the use of weapons by members of non-warrior castes. Originally, samurai were expected to be proficient in many weapons, as well as unarmed combat, and attain the highest possible mastery of combat skills. Over time, this purpose gave way to a philosophy of achieving spiritual goals by striving to perfect their martial skills.
This philosophical shift was possible because of Japan’s relative isolation. Compared with the rest of the world, Japanese tools of war evolved slowly. This afforded the warrior class the opportunity to study these tools, such as swords, and train in depth. This depth of training led to the development of many different styles and techniques.
Of these Japanese martial arts, the sword fighting martial art of Kendo is the oldest.
There is a distinction today between the traditional arts, which are a continuation of the ancient martial arts, and the modern arts, which focus primarily upon self-improvement of the practitioner (mental, physical and spiritual), as well as sport and self defense.
The enduring sport of sumo wrestling, which traces its origins to 23 BC, still employs ancient traditions and rituals – the referee is dressed as a Shinto priest, and the competitors engage in ceremonial acts such as throwing salt into the ring. Both reflect the role sumo wrestling had in the Shinto religion.
The main Japanese Martial Arts are jujitsu, aikido, judo and kendo.