Japanese martial arts 格闘技
Martial arts are practised in many Asian countries: Taekwondo in Korea, Tai-Chi-Chuan in China, Muay Thai in Thailand... But Japanese martial arts are some of the most well-known and most practised and around the world.
Here's a brief rundown of the most well-known Japanese martial arts:
Judo : the most famous
When we talk about martial arts, judo is probably the one that comes to mind first. Meaning "the way of flexibility", judo was invented by a Japanese monk impressed by the resistance of thin flexible branches that never yielded under the weight of snow, unlike other more robust ones.
Karate : the most exotic
Karate (or karate-do, the way of the empty hand) was invented in the tropical archipelago of Okinawa, today a prefecture of Japan but formerly the independent Kingdom of Ryukyu, with strong Chinese influence (karate has its origins in the Shaolin temple). Karate is a clever mix of offensive and defensive techniques that requires the use of multiple body parts (hands, feet, etc.).
Sumo : the oldest
Although there are few practitioners of this sport in the West, sumo is well-known to many people. In sumo the aim is to push your opponent out of the circle or to touch the ground with a part of your body other than your legs. If you go to Japan, don't hesitate to attend a tournament of this impressive and iconic sport!
Read more : Sumo
Aikido : the most peaceful
In aikido, the aim is to use the strength of an opponent to disarm them, so neither person is harmed. It is based on the principle of non-violence, so it's actually a kind of self-defense.
Kendo : the most heroic
Kendo, the way of the sword, is the oldest discipline of budo, Japanese martial arts. This Japanese version of fencing is practiced with armor and a wooden sword, the bokken, and bamboo, the shinai. Its ancestor, kenjutsu, is one of the eighteen martial arts that all samurai had to practice.
Kyudo : the most patient
Kyudo, the way of the bow, is a form of Japanese archery influenced by Zen and Confucianism, but also Taoism and Shintoism. The practitioner seeks the perfect movement: hitting the target is proof of balance between a disciplined and harmonized body and mind.
Related : Yabusame archery
Naginata : the most feminine
The naginata is a Japanese bladed weapon, similar to the European glaive. Up to two meters in length, it was popular with monks and often used on battlefields. During the Edo period it became a symbol of social status for women, and was considered a good weapon for them because it kept (male) opponents at arm's length - not letting superior height or weight be used to any advantage. It became obsolete with the arrival of firearms, but naginata-jutsu (the art of wielding the naginata) is still practiced today as a sport, with an emphasis on etiquette and discipline, rather than combat.