Thursday, April 03, 2008

On Sunday I went to the 28th martial arts festival held by the Kokusai Budoin(International Martial Arts Federation) at Ota-kumin Plaza. I had a very enjoyable time and it was very interesting to see demonstrations of various martial arts including karate, judo, kendo and aikido.

In fact when I was young I used to do judo which I enjoyed greatly, so this brought a lot memories flooding back. I've also always had a love of martial arts films too with 'Enter the Dragon' starring
Bruce Lee being one of my all time favourites.

A Brief History of Martial Arts in Japan

Karate as we know it developed on the Japanese island of Okinawa. 500 years ago, the Japanese government made weapons on Okinawa illegal. This resulted in the people refining hand fighting skills and using farming implements in order to protect themselves from bandits or samurai. Examples of weapons include nunchukas which were originally used as a flail to beat rice and the bo, a staff used which was originally used to herd cattle.

The first public demonstration of karate in Japan was in 1917, by Gichin Funakoshi, at the Butoku-den in Kyoto. This led to the growth of karate clubs throughout Japan. In 1948, the Japan Karate Association (JKA) was established which lead the way to the spread of karate throughout the world. Today there are four main styles of karate-do in Japan which are Goju-ryu, Shito-ryu, Shotokan and Wado-ryu.

The beginning of jujitsu is believed to be in 1532 when the takenouchi-ryu martial art system was founded. Over the next few hundred years the art of self defence without weapons was refined by the samurai. In total there were over seven hundred forms of jujitsu.

The restoration of imperial rule(the Meiji Restoration) during 1868 led to the decline of the samurai class and martial arts in general. The state was considered more important than the individual and martial arts were therefore not encouraged.

A man called Dr. Jigoro Kano is credited with the survival of jujitsu. In 1882 he took various techniques used in jujitsu, leaving the more dangerous ones and created a new discipline which he called judo or 'the gentle way'. Judo focussed on improving the individual so that they were of benefit to society through sportsmanship, respect and moral development.

The principal techniques of judo are throwing and grappling. Points are awarded for good technique and if an opponent is held for thirty seconds or submits the fight also ends.

Kendo means 'the way of the sword'. In kendo, two people fight against each other using a shinai, which is a pliable bamboo sword. In practice a wooden sword called a bokken is used.

During the 14th century the sword replaced the bow as the primary weapon of the samurai. This led to the formation of many schools practicing the art of swordsmanship. The shinai was developed in the 18th century along with armour, which meant injury during practice was far less likely and this allowed the swordsman to concentrate on technique.

In 1871 kendo was made compulsory in Japanese schools because of its mental, moral and physical values and it is still part of the curriculum today. Points are scored by calling out and striking a target area which includes the head, the side of the body, the throat or the wrists.

Aikido was founded by Morihei Ueshiba(1883-1969), who is now referred to as called O-Sensei (Great Teacher). He developed aikido as an alternative to other martial arts which he had spent many years studying. O-Sensei was a deeply spiritual man and aikido allowed him to combine his religious beliefs with martial arts.

Aikido translates as 'the way of harmonising body and mind'. The foundation of aikido which sets it apart from other martial art styles is its philosophy of non-violence and conflict resolution, combined with jujutsu techniques. In total there are over 150 basic techniques and over 2000 combinations of tosses, blocks and punches. It is a method that focuses not on punching or kicking opponents, but on using their energy to neutralize them.