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Japanese Martial Arts Styles
Japanese Martial Arts Styles
The Lone Ranger
Published by The Lone Ranger
01-07-2007
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Japanese Martial Arts Styles: The Old and the New


There are a seemingly-bewildering number of different martial arts styles. If you're looking at the various Japanese styles though, you may notice a peculiar thing: the names of almost all of them end either in "do" or "jutsu." This is because there are two basic categories of Japanese martial arts.

To understand why the Japanese martial arts are divided into two basic categories -- "koryu budo" and "gendai budo" -- you must go back to the time of the Meiji Restoration. It's all but impossible to overestimate the effect that the Meiji Restoration of 1868 had upon Japanese society. In a single generation, Japan went from a feudalistic society to a modern, industrialized state. In an attempt to emulate the obvious successes of the industrialized Western powers, Emperor Meiji ordered the abolition of the samurai class and initiated a more or less deliberate campaign to eradicate "traditional" Japanese culture (seen as "inefficient" and "outdated" compared to Western European/American culture), so that it could be replaced by more "modern" Western notions.

To say the least, not all Japanese were pleased by these changes, but it was widely recognized that there wasn't much practical use for hand-to-hand fighting techniques in an age when battles were fought with guns and artillery, rather than swords. Still, many Japanese resented the devaluation of their own cultural and philosophical traditions, and revolted against the attempts to eradicate those traditions in the name of "modernization." So, many of the traditional martial arts styles were re-worked and taught to students not as practical fighting techniques, but as a means of preserving traditional Japanese culture and values. Students were encouraged to study these new martial arts styles in order to keep alive the philosophical beliefs that had shaped Japan's samurai warriors, and as means of self-improvement.

The older martial arts styles that predated the Meiji Restoration are generally known as koryu budo, which roughly translates as "old school martial arts." These styles were/are taught as actual combat techniques. Martial arts styles that postdate the Meiji Restoration are generally known as gendai budo ("modern martial arts").

As a rule, you can easily tell the orientation of a given martial arts style by its name. The names of koryu bodu almost always end in "jutsu" or "jitsu," which roughly translates as "art." The names of gendai budo almost always end in "do," which means "way." So, kenjutsu ("sword art"), for instance, is about learning how to fight with a sword, while kendo ("way of the sword") is about learning self-discipline through mastery of the "sword." Similarly, jujutsu ("gentle art" -- an ironic name if there ever was one) is a style of unarmed combat in which one learns to employ techniques that will dislocate joints and break bones. Judo ("the gentle way"), by contrast, is taught as a sport, not a combat style, even though it's derived from jujutsu.

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  #1  
By TheBeast on 01-11-2007, 10:33 PM
Default Re: Japanese Martial Arts Styles

This isn't so much Japanese martial arts as an article on karate, with some overview on a couple of other arts and a basic introduction to general Japanese martial artistry.
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  #2  
By Doctor X on 02-25-2007, 01:08 PM
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Karate is not a Japanese martial art.

--J.D.
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  #3  
By The Lone Ranger on 02-25-2007, 11:02 PM
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Perhaps you haven't read the article?
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  #4  
By Ari on 02-26-2007, 12:25 AM
Default Re: Japanese Martial Arts Styles

Good article.
To add to the section on suffixes another common suffix is 'to' which means 'sword'. Interestingly this means that the tanto (a knife sized weapon) is considered a sword, not a knife and is treated with the same respect.
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  #5  
By Doctor X on 02-26-2007, 12:55 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The Lone Ranger View Post
Perhaps you haven't read the article?
Perhaps you do not know geography or culture?

--J.D.
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  #6  
By Doctor X on 02-26-2007, 01:08 AM
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To wit:



--J.D.
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  #7  
By Dingfod on 02-26-2007, 01:25 AM
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"Whoosh!"
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  #8  
By livius drusus on 02-26-2007, 01:33 AM
Default Re: Japanese Martial Arts Styles

As TLR said, in the article you'll find an explanation of why Karate is considered a Japanese martial art despite its putative Chinese origins:
Quote:
Originally Posted by From the article
Whether or not Bodhidharma actually existed, karate appears to have originated in China, from the same traditions that gave rise to kung-fu and other Chinese martial arts. Little is known about karate's early history until it appeared in Okinawa, however.
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  #9  
By Doctor X on 02-26-2007, 04:15 AM
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Okinawa is not Japan, nor is the culture Japanese.

Nor is the practice Japanese, particularly given the mainland versus Okinawan approach. It is not some accident that the main branches on Okinawa refer to themselves and their organizations as "Okinawan" rather than Japanese and are not generally connected to the JKA. These styles came over separate from what would become Shotokan.

As for the Chinese origins, such requires a far more involved analysis than is possible in a short essay. This is, at best, an uncritical history of a particular off-shoot of Shotokan, rather than a history of "Japanese Martial Arts Styles."

--J.D.
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  #10  
By livius drusus on 02-26-2007, 04:27 AM
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That's a far more substantive objection that your suggestion TLR doesn't know the difference between China and Japan, so fair enough. I'll leave you to discuss it with the author.
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  #11  
By Dingfod on 02-26-2007, 04:40 AM
Default Re: Japanese Martial Arts Styles

How about writing an article about it, Doctor X?
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  #12  
By The Lone Ranger on 02-26-2007, 04:52 AM
Default Re: Japanese Martial Arts Styles

For what it's worth, the article makes mention of the fact that Okinawa is *not* part of Japan, and that karate was refined into its modern form (more or less) while Okinawa was occupied by Japan, since the Japanese forbade the Okinawans to own or use weapons.

The article *also* mentions that this is one of the big reasons why the Japanese were originally reluctant to accept karate, because of its "lowly" Okinawan origins.
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  #13  
By Doctor X on 02-26-2007, 05:31 AM
Default Re: Japanese Martial Arts Styles

Quote:
Originally Posted by The Lone Ranger View Post
For what it's worth, the article makes mention of the fact that Okinawa is *not* part of Japan, and that karate was refined into its modern form (more or less) while Okinawa was occupied by Japan, since the Japanese forbade the Okinawans to own or use weapons.
Not really true since traditional Okinawan weapon systems survived as separate disciplines. They remain as such. The "could not use weapons" story is a myth, frankly, right up there with the Bodhiharma stories, or the popular beliefs that each style somehow comes from a Shaolin Temple.

Each major branch of what we call "karate"--which was originally understood as "Chinese hand" and pronounced as such--has its own origin, from Grand Pooh Bahs who either traveled to China--many to avoid the Japanese military draft or to just get work. These men tended to put together what they learned. They also were happy to compare and contrast what they did with other stylists. such an approach is antithetical to actual traditional Japanese styles--koryu--which are practiced very differently than Okinawan karate systems.

The distinction between "Japanese" and "Okinawan" is as severe as that between "Okinawan" and "Chinese." While many Okinawan systems--at least the main three--claim origins in China, their practice and, frankly their base forms, are not Chinese either. One might sit back and see, for example, how elements of White Crane are in some Okinawan systems, but the Okinwans systems are not White Crane. Similarly, one might see a connection between modern Shotokan and its original base system, but major changes--particularly in practice--were instituted once it became a "Japanese karate." That does not mean one is "better" or "worse," but in discussing such, one has to recognize the history.

Much of the Japanese approach that colors the practice of Shotokan--very militaristic with levels of students--the kohei and sempai stystem--came from university practice in which students were expected to serve in the military. Karate on Okinawa was not, and generally is not, practiced in that fashion. Hence the need to recognize the distinction.

Again, you have written an essay on a particular off-shoot of Shotokan--a very fine off-shoot. To which I would recommend both the works of Harry Cook, Jr. and Jon Bluming. Methinks you should simply identify it as such.

Moreover, practitioners of some of the systems you briefly describe--like Judo--would take some exception to remarks such as it is practiced as a sport. That is the equivalent to claiming that Okinawan karate only practices for WKA jiyu kumite--自由組手--"point sparring" rules. It is not the same thing. Sure, some Judo practitioners concentrate on competition--competition is an integral part of its practice. But there are large portions of the curriculum that are not in competition.

So, I suggest you concentrate on what you seem familiar with--KK--and title the essay as a description of that rather than of "Japanese Martial Arts Styles." That is far too broad of a topic for this essay.

--J.D.

References:

Bluming J. The History of Jon Bluming: From Street Punk to Tenth Dan. Amsterdam: 2000

Cook H. Shotokan Karate - A Precise History. 2001.

Cook H. Karate Chronicles - The History of Karate In Okinawa & Japan. 2007.

[Edited to provide links to the references.--Ed.]
Last edited by Doctor X; 02-26-2007 at 06:03 AM..
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  #14  
By Sock Puppet on 02-26-2007, 07:57 PM
Default Re: Japanese Martial Arts Styles

I guess "your title is too broad" wasn't as sexy or interesting as "Perhaps you do not know geography or culture." Still, it would've been a bit better to lead with the former rather than the latter.
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  #15  
By Doctor X on 02-26-2007, 10:32 PM
Default Re: Japanese Martial Arts Styles

"Too broad" is not the same as failing to understand cultural and geographic history.

--J.D.
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  #16  
By Sock Puppet on 02-26-2007, 11:34 PM
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New to this whole human-interaction thing, eh? Good luck.
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  #17  
By Doctor X on 02-26-2007, 11:43 PM
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Not at all.

I recognize a waste of my time very readily.

Nevertheless, those who create critical essays must expect criticism.

It is this "free thought" thing you may have heard of. I can send you some literature on it.

--J.D.
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  #18  
By Sock Puppet on 02-26-2007, 11:54 PM
Default Re: Japanese Martial Arts Styles

I was criticizing the form of the criticism. It's this "getting people to give a shit what you have to say" thing you may have heard of. I'd send you some literature on that, but I doubt you would understand it.
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  #19  
By Doctor X on 02-27-2007, 12:16 AM
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"Can't help fools!"

--Sanjuro Kawabatake
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  #20  
By Sock Puppet on 02-27-2007, 01:39 AM
Default Re: Japanese Martial Arts Styles

I would certainly agree with that.
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  #21  
By Doctor X on 02-27-2007, 02:50 AM
Default Re: Japanese Martial Arts Styles

I am certain should anything of substance rather than whining be added, I shall be informed of this.

In, literally, the rain.

--J.D.
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