Martial Arts in Japan

Martial arts in Japan date back in history to medieval times when they were first born of a need to prepare for combat and protection. These specific warrior codes began with the first traditions of samurai. They were also conceived as an alternative means of combat because of the existing caste system that restricted weapons use by those not part of a warrior class. Originally, samurai were expected to be accomplished with many weapons in addition to weaponless combat, thereby attaining the highest conceivable ability of battle skills. In the later history of martial arts in Japan, samurai of the medieval period were engaged in focusing on a new philosophy—to achieve spiritual ambition by aiming to perfect martial arts abilities.

In more recent history of martial arts in Japan, the key objective is to defend or protect oneself and others from any physical threats. Some of the vast list of martial arts are directly connected to religious beliefs such as Shinto, Buddhism, Daoism, Hinduism, and Confucianism while other nonreligious practices follow a code of ethics. Many different styles of martial arts in Japan are practiced ambitiously in competitions while others take a more sensitive approach through traditional dance or theater.

There have been innumerable practicing groups spanning the history of martial arts in Japan. They are divided into two groups based on the origins of their existence—before or after the revolution of 1866 (Meiji Restoration), which are koryu and gendai-budo respectively. Sumo—dating back to 23 B.C.—is one of the most famous Japanese martial arts and is considered a national sport. Jujutsu, which means “art of pliancy,” aims to use movements that employ an attacker’s momentum against him. Swordsmanship is also a popular martial art.

The history of martial arts is one that won't ever be exactly agreed upon. Many of the arts were developed over long periods of time, even centuries, until they were organized into a specific practice. Though Sump is Japan's national sport, it isn't actually the oldest. The oldest of all martial arts in Japan is Jujitsu-from which Judo evolved-which originated more than 2,500 years ago and was honed over the coming centuries into exact techniques. Kendo, or the Way of the Sword, came to exist in the Japanese period known as the Meiji Restoration, or the Japanese Revolution in the later part of the 19th century. This period crosses both the Edo Period-which is also know as the later Tokugawa shogunate period and coincides with the instillation of the Japanese shogun-and the Meiji Era. Karate is another of the late-booming martial arts in Japan, originating in Okinawa.

Japanese martial arts tours have become a popular way for tourists to explore this often intriguing practice. With the true nature of martial arts exploited over the centuries all across the world, visitors find the authenticity and true meaning martial arts in Japan. There are many kinds of tours to choose from during vacations. With the fascination many have with Japanese culture, cultural tours are by far the most popular. Japanese martial arts tours take on many forms. There are half-day and all-day homestay-style tours where visitors can learn the basics of a chosen martial art and practice the movements. These tours generally include cooking and eating a traditional Japanese meal. They are popular throughout the country and most easily accessed in Tokyo.

The IMAF (International Martial Arts Federation) sponsors a large number of martial arts events in Japan. Attending is one of the top things to do for many Japanese. The type of martial arts that tours focus on vary, just as there are a diverse number of martial arts practiced. Each style has distinct methods, training tools, and philosophies. Since 1952, the IMAF has provided a comprehensive history of martial arts in Japan by offering access to historical archives and other sources.

A combination tour can be a great way to see the many sides of Japan. Many tours offer insight into the country’s history, dining and dining habits, traditional music and dance, and religion. Japanese martial arts tours involve observing the sport, either at an academy, or watching a tournament on tour. Whether instruction is of particular interest or just a night out watching traditional martial arts, there are a host of specific tours available in Japan.

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