Culture Health

Budo: Japanese Traditional Martial Arts

The martial arts, called "Budo" (武道) in Japanese, are surely the cultural elements that have been exported with the most success of Japan. Until the Meiji Restoration (1866),  use of combat techniques and wearing swords were reserved to samurai. Although this warrior class vanished the practices spread to the people. During the Second World War, the Japanese imperialist regime based itself on these techniques, which will be banned by the American occupier with the defeat of Japan. Modern Japanese martial arts are based on spiritual and moral values in addition to attack and defense techniques.

What is Budo ? 

Budo, literally "Way of the Warrior", is both a practical Way and a philosophical orientation. Budo refers in part to the basic philosophy of the samurai. It links the old martial arts as well as the new ones. Each Budo (in the first sense of the Practical Way) is different. However they all come from the same culture and they all have in common the search for martial efficiency, the same causes causing the same effects, even if the forms vary. In their original form, Budo are characterized by Zen Buddhism, Taoism and Shintoism (traditional animist religion).

Sumo -相撲-

Sumo, literally "mutually strike", often regarded as Japan's national sport, is probably one of the oldest Japanese martial arts. This martial art would have taken place at the request of the Emperor, and would have ceased only when the wounds are too hard to handle anymore for one of the combatant. The tradition of fighting in the presence of the Emperor lasted, but also extended to their organization on the occasion of Shinto festivals, and training in sumo was finally incorporated into military training. At the beginning of the 21st century, sumo retained much of its traditional setting, with the arbiter dressed as a Shinto priest, and a ritual of purification of the arena. Victory in combat is achieved through codified combat techniques, the aim being to force the opponent to touch the ground with another part of the body than his feet, or to touch the ground outside the limits of the arena. Six major tournaments are held annually in Japan, where sumotori still enjoy considerable prestige. 

More information for practice here.

Aikido -合気道-

Aikido, literally "path of concordance of energies", consists of techniques with arms and hands using the strength of the opponent, or rather his aggressiveness and his will to counter him. These techniques do not aim to beat the opponent, but to use his aggressiveness against him. Aikido can be seen as the embodiment of the concept of self-defense. For its founder Morihei Ueshiba, aikido is incompatible with the idea of competition, is not a sport but a method with a goal of peace between men.

More information for practice here.

Judo -柔道-

Final 66kg. Abe H.🇯🇵 vs Puliaev M. 🇷🇺

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Judo, literally "flexible path", is a martial art and Japanese-style combat sport, founded by Jigoro Kano in 1882. It consists mainly of projection techniques, ground control and chokes. Practitioners called judoka wear a reinforced cotton outfit called judogi, often mistakenly called kimono, which is the generic name of the traditional Japanese outfit. Judogi is generally white, but to facilitate the distinction between the fighters in the competitions, a judoka can have a blue judogi at all levels of competitions. For competitions from the national level, one of the two judokas must wear a blue judogi. Judo is practiced barefoot on a tatami. Judo is also an Olympic sport. It is the most famous Japanese martial arts in the world.

More informations for practice here.

Karate -空手道-

Karate, literally "empty hand path", is said to be a Japanese martial art. However, the origin of this martial art comes from the island of Okinawa. In Japanese, the kanji (ideogram) "Kara" means emptiness, and more precisely emptiness in the Buddhist sense of the term, "te" is the technique and, by extension, the hand with which it is realized. However, originally, karate was written with the kanjis 唐手, meaning "Chinese boxing". In 1935, because of the rise of Japanese nationalism, and especially because of the Sino-Japanese antagonism, to facilitate the recognition and the diffusion of karate, but also because he was a fervent adept of Zen Buddhism, Gichin Funakoshi replaced these kanjis by orthographe, to "erase" the Chinese origin.

More informations for practice here.

Kendo -剣道-

Kendo, literally "sword path", is the modern version of the kenjutsu, the sword fencing practiced in Japan by the samurai. By modern version it means that the kendo is not only a martial art but also a sport of competition, today widely practiced in the world. Kendo, however, is not limited to a simple set of techniques and tactics of the sword fight. It also includes a spiritual component. Kendo allows practitioners to develop their strength of character and determination. The contestants wear a Kendo-gu which is the armor that protects the targeted body parts, thereby limiting the risk of injuries during training or combat. For the offensive part a bamboo sword ,called "shinai" in Japanese, is used as the main weapon.

More informations for Kendo here.

Kyudo -弓道-

Kyudo, literally the "bow path", is a Japanese martial art derived from the warrior archery. This discipline is distinguished from its Western counterpart by the mixed influences peculiar to Japanese culture: Zen, Confucianism and also Taoism and Shintoism. Kyudo is one of the Japanese martial tracks, seeking the development of the discipline of the body and the group, by the control of the gestures. The practitioner is looking for a perfect movement to be able to transcend both the desire for the ego and the very down to earth objective of piercing a sheet of paper as a target with a minimum of muscular tension, spiritual energy, ki. Aesthetic gestures result from a codified choreography. The precise attainment of the target is the result of the right balance between a disciplined and harmonized body and spirit.

More informations for practice here.

Iaido -居合道-

Iaido, literally the "cutting path", is martial art of Japanese origin focusing on the act of drawing the sword and cutting in one movement. As with other budo, this martial art focuses more on the harmony of movements and the spiritual approach because of Zen influence than on technical efficiency. For a few years, the Japanese Sensei have been advocating a more offensive approach, directed towards a "fighting" Iaido.  

More informations for practice here.

Feeling the energy already ?

Tens of millions of people around the world practice Japanese martial arts. Unfortunately currently only a few martial arts are practiced outside the Japanese borders. Even if we presented only some martial arts in this article you can find hundred of other Budo which would fit your goals and ambitions. Unlike fighting sports, martial arts are more than just a contact sport and have the ultimate goal of perfect harmony between a body and a healthy mind.

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Fabien Mizart

Author & Translator

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