Category: martial arts


THERE were 18 martial arts (bugei or bujutsu) in medieval Japan, and these included use of weapons, unarmed self-defence techniques, swimming, and equestrian skills. Initially designed to hone the skills of warriors for greater success on the battlefield, many of the arts were later practised by civilians as a method to foster discipline, agility, and mental alertness. Many of the arts remain popular today, notably judo, kendo, karate, and aikido.

Several of the martial arts which became popular in medieval Japan were introduced from China where, according to tradition, they had begun as a way for Buddhist monks to ensure they were fit enough to sit in meditation for hours on end and as a method to aid their concentration. Over time, these exercises began to incorporate skills with weapons and they spread across to Japan. Kendo, for example, which emphasised skill with a sword, was likely introduced there in the 7th century CE. Nevertheless, the Japanese added their own weapons, skills, and psychological emphasis to martial arts to both suit their own military needs and their philosophical approach. From the 10th century CE and throughout the medieval period (1185-1603 CE), warriors, especially the samurai, practised their skills at weaponry and horse riding in order to prepare themselves for the challenges of the all-too-frequent wars that plagued the country as rival warlords fought for dominance.

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