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Aikido emphasizes evasion and circular/spiral redirection of an attacker's aggressive force into throws, pins, and immobilization as a primary strategy rather than punches and kicks.


Aikido was founded in 1942 by Morihei Ueshiba (1883-1969). Prior to this time, Ueshiba called his art "aikibudo" or "aikinomichi". In developing aikido, Ueshiba was heavily influenced by Daito Ryu Aikijujitsu, several styles of Japanese fencing (kenjutsu), spearfighting (yarijutsu), and by the so- called "new religion": omotokyo. Largely because of his deep interest in omotokyo, Ueshiba came to see his aikido as rooted less in techniques for achieving physical domination over others than in attempting to cultivate a "spirit of loving protection for all things."


The extent to which Ueshiba's religious and philosophical convictions influenced the direction of technical developments and changes within the corpus of aikido techniques is not known, but many aikido practitioners believe that perfect mastery of aikido would allow one to defend against an attacker without causing serious or permanent injury.


The primary strategic foundations of aikido are:


(1) moving into a position off the line of attack;


(2) seizing control of the attacker's balance by means of leverage and timing;


(3) applying a throw, pin, or other sort of immobilization (such as a wrist/arm lock).


Strikes are not altogether absent from the strategic arsenal of the aikidoist, but their use is primarily (though not, perhaps, exclusively) as a means of distraction -- a strike (called "atemi") is delivered in order to provoke a reaction from the aggressor, thereby creating a window of opportunity, facilitating the application of a throw, pin, or other immobilization.


Many aikido schools train (in varying degrees) with weapons. The most commonly used weapons in aikido are the jo (a staff between 4 or 5 feet in length), the bokken (a wooden sword), and the tanto (a knife, usually made of wood, for safety). These weapons are used not only to teach defense against armed attacks, but also to illustrate principles of aikido movement, distancing, and timing.


A competitive variant of aikido (Tomiki aikido) holds structured competitions where opponents attempt to score points by stabbing with a foam-rubber knife, or by executing aikido techniques in response to attacks with the knife.


Most variants of aikido, however, hold no competitions, matches, or sparring. Instead, techniques are practiced in cooperation with a partner who steadily increases the speed, power, and variety of attacks in accordance with the abilities of the participants. Participants take turns being attacker and defender, usually performing pre-arranged attacks and defense at the lower levels, gradually working up to full-speed freestyle attacks and defense.








Iaido is the art of drawing and attacking with a sword, although a more in depth reading of the Japanese characters for iaido results in (very roughly) "the way of harmonizing oneself in action". Iaidoka (and kendoka) wield a sword not to control their opponent, but to control themselves.


Iaido is performed solo as a series of kata, executing varied techniques against single or multiple imaginary opponents. In addition to sword technique, it requires imagination and concentration in order to maintain the feeling of a real fight and to keep the kata fresh. Iaidoka are often recommended to practice kendo to preserve that fighting feel; it is common for high ranking kendoka to hold high rank in iaido and vice versa.







Iaijutsu is the art of killing on the draw. Iaijutsu teaches how to draw quickly and in such a fashion as to negate an opponents attack with finality.


Seitei-gata iaido (that set of techniques recommended by the ZNKR) is like a moving meditation - the draw and cut are very deliberate, formalized and beautiful. It is as far removed from iaijutsu as kendo is from kenjutsu. Iaijutsu is more direct and forceful, less concerned with the state of the practitioner's mind and more with dispatching the opponent.


Having said that, iaido schools are generally affiliated with a particular ryu of iaido. In addition to the seitei-gata, students also learn their own ryu's techniques, which may be close to the seitei-gata in feeling or close to what is described here as iaijutsu. It's not completely black and white.


In the latter half of the 15th century, Ienao Izasa (also known as Choisai Izasa) founded the Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto Ryu. Together with his leading swordsman, he devised the art of attacking with the draw called iai-jutsu. In the early part of the 16th century, the Tatsumi Ryu and Takenouchi Ryu also practiced iai-jutsu.


In the late 16th century, Shigenobu Jinsuke allegedly was divinely inspired to develop a new sword-drawing art. He renamed himself Hayashizaki after the inspirational place and founded the Shimmei Muso Ryu to teach his art, called batto-jutsu. He was one of the first to teach swordsmanship as a way for spiritual development. Popularly misidentified as the originator of iai-jutsu, his influence has been great. More than 200 ryu have been founded in the wake of Jinsuke's inspiration and image, many of them named after him.


Various headmasters in the line of Jinsuke's teachings formed their own ryu. Among them were Shigemasa Tamiya (Tamiya Ryu), Kinrose Nagano (Muraku Ryu) and Eishin Hasegawa (Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu), who were the 1st, 3rd and 7th headmasters descending from Jinsuke. The ryu which branched out from the teachings of these and others are too numerous to mention here.


Hakudo Nakayama, who lived at the beginning of the 20th century, studied Omori Ryu, Muraku Ryu and Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu and was experienced in all aspects of swordsmanship. He became the 16th and last undisputed successor to the Jinsuke/Eishin line. He also studied Shindo Munen Ryu and Yamaguchi Itto Ryu. He went on to develop his own style, Muso Shinden Ryu batto-jutsu. Due to his diverse experience, the ryu boasted a bewildering array of techniques. He was asked to develop a simplified curriculum. He did so, and made the techniques available to all interested persons, largely kendoka. These forms of iai-jutsu, along with others, were gradually restyled as iaido in the late 40s.


In 1967, the Zen-Nippon Kendo Renmei formed a committee to develop a standardized curriculum of study for iaido. This curriculum was to be recommended as study to students of kendo, who were losing touch with the dynamics of combat with real swords. Members of Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu, Muso Shinden Ryu and Hoki Ryu recommended a curriculum of seven kata that became known as the seitei-gata. In 1977, another committee from the same ryu plus Tamiya Ryu added three more kata to the seitei-gata. The seitei-gata iaido has the largest popular following in Japan and abroad. The Zen-Nippon Iaido Renmei was formed in 1948, and has done a great deal of work to promote iaijutsu and iaido. It has its own autonomy and standards.


Only a handful of ryu are represented by the major organizations; thus the hundreds of traditional iai-jutsu ryu did not contribute to the foundation of iaido. Classical iai-jutsu exists today but largely goes its separate way from iaido.








Karate is a term that either means "Chinese hand" or "Empty hand" depending on which Japanese or Chinese characters you use to write it. The Okinawan Karates could be said to have started in the 1600s when Chinese practitioners of various Kung Fu styles mixed and trained with local adherents of an art called "te" (meaning "hand") which was a very rough, very simple fighting style similar to Western boxing. These arts generally developed into close- range, hard, external styles.


In the late 19th century Gichin Funikoshi trained under several of the great Okinawan Karate masters (Itosu, Azato) as well as working with Jigoro Kano (see Judo) and Japanese Kendo masters (see Kendo). Influenced by these elements, he created a new style of Karate. This he introduced into Japan in the first decade of the 20th century and thus to the world. The Japanese Karates (or what most people refer to when they say "karate") are of this branch.


Okinawan Karate styles tend to be hard and external. In defense they tend to be circular, and in offense linear. Okinawan karate styles tend to place more emphasis on rigorous physical conditioning than the Japanese styles. Japanese styles tend to have longer, more stylistic movements and to be higher commitment. They also tend to be linear in movement, offense, and defense. Both tend to be high commitment, and tend to emphasize kicks and punches, and a strong offense as a good defense.


This differs widely but most of the Karate styles emphasize a fairly equal measure of basic technique training (repetition of a particular technique), sparring, and forms. Forms, or kata, as they are called, are stylized patterns of attacks and defense done in sequence for training purposes.








Kendo is the way of the sword, Japanese fencing. About 8 million people worldwide participate, 7 million of them in Japan. It is taught as part of the school physical education curriculum. College kendo teams in Japan are high-profile; major competitions are televised complete with color commentary.


Kendoka wear amour protecting the head, throat, wrists and abdomen; these are the only legal targets. The split-bamboo practice sword, called a shinai, is wielded two-handed; the kendoka faces his opponent squarely. A small number of high-level practitioners utilize a shinai in each hand. Kendoka move using a peculiar gliding step refined for use on the smooth floors of the dojo.








*Generally* (but not always) in Japanese martial arts, the "do" forms are those used to improve the self, while the "jutsu" forms concentrate on teaching the techniques of war.


The art of winning real fights with real swords is kenjutsu. The goal of kenjutsu is victory over opponents; the goal of kendo is to improve oneself through the study of the sword. Kendo also has a strong sporting aspect with big tournaments avidly followed by the Japanese public. Thus kendo could be considered the philosophical/sporting aspect of Japanese swordsmanship.


In terms of learning to fight with a sword, kenjutsu has a more complete curriculum. Kendo of necessity limits the range of techniques and targets. Kendoka generally use shinai, which allow techniques which do not work with real swords. Kenjutsu practitioners do not usually use shinai in training, preferring to use bokken (wooden swords) or katana (steel swords) in order to preserve the cutting techniques of real sword fighting. Kenjutsu training largely consists of practising cutting technique and performing partner kata.


In some ryu, there is contact, which usually happens in a controlled manner within a partner kata. Some of the ryu use protective equipment, such as the gloves and head padding of the Maniwa Nen Ryu. Others, Shinkage Ryu in particular, use a fukuro shinai which is made of bamboo split into many pieces at the end and completely covered with leather.


The earliest swords known to exist in Japan were of Chinese style and origin and date to the 2nd century BC. These ancient swords are referred to as ken, the Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese ideogram for sword or knife. From this term comes kendo, way of the sword, and kenjutsu, art of the sword.


Japanese sword technology began to outstrip the continental blades around 700 AD, with the advent of the first curved swords. Japanese historians refer to three stages of swordsmanship in ancient times - joko-ryu, chuko-ryu and shinto-ryu (ancient, middle and new styles).


One of two people are credited with the founding of kenjutsu, the synthesis of the ancient styles. The Kojiki and the Nihon-shoki (the 2 main references for ancient Japanese history) refer to Choisai Iizasa. Other historians refer to Kumimatsu no Mahito, a famous swordsman whose style is fabled to be the Kashima no tachi or Kashima Shrine style, which continues to this day.


Reference to the use of bokken (wooden sword) for fighting and training date back to 400 AD. This was followed by tachikaki, the art of drawing the sword. From this various ryus, or styles, developed. Once a fencing master became famous, he would form a ryu to give his name to the particular technique he had developed. Tachikaki developed into tachiuchi (match with swords) by the 8th century, after which there was slow development in kenjutsu.


In the 14th century, kenjutsu became popular once more. dojos began to be established to teach kenjutsu and perpetuate ryu. Around that time, Kagehisa Ittosai Ito achieved a reputation for peerless swordsmanship and deep-thinking philosophy. He named himself Ittosai (one sword man) and founded Itto-ryu, the one sword school. It still exists today and strongly influences modern kendo.


In the mid-18th century, Chuto Nakanishi developed the shinai (bamboo sword) and the kote (gloves). The do (chestplate) and men (helmet) followed, and by the end of the century, the practice armour and weapons had been refined into more or less the form they are used today. The new equipment required a new set of rules for the dojo, and the new style of fencing became known as kendo.


In 1871 the Japanese government made kendo compulsory training in schools and emphasis was placed on the mental, moral and physical value of training in an ancient martial art. Kendo was slowly becoming a sport. When the government banned the public wearing of swords in 1878, kenjutsu was barely able to survive. The Japanese police are credited with much of the effort in keeping swordsmanship alive during this period.


In 1909, the first college kendo federation was formed, followed by the Zen-Nippon Kendo Renmei (ZNKR, All-Japan Kendo Federation) in 1928. This federation, along with the Zen-Nippon Iaido Renmei (ZNIR, All-Japan Iaido Federation), govern kendo and iaido today.








"Kobudo" literally means "ancient martial ways". In the karate world, it generally refers to those traditional Okinawan weapons whose history and practice has been linked to that of karate.


Most Okinawan styles have at least some kobudo/kobujutsu curriculum. In addition, there are at least two major Okinawan organizations whose primary focus is these weapons arts: the Ryukyu Kobudo Hozon Shinko-kai and the Okinawa Kobudo Renmei. In the US there is 'Okinawa Kobudo Association, USA'; the shihan in the US is in Citrus Heights, CA. There may be other US Kobudo organizations.


The most common kobudo weapons (and the ones most often taught by Okinawan karate systems) are:


Bo - staff, usually a rokushakubo or "six foot staff", although 4, 9, and 12 foot staffs are also used.


Sai - three-tined iron clubs, usually carried as a set of 3.


Nunchaku - two short tapered wooden clubs, connected at the narrow ends by a short rope or chain (a flail, as well as other uses).


Kama - a sickle, used singly or in pairs;


Tuifa/tonfa - a club with a hand-length perpendicular handle, the ancestor to the police PR-24; usually used in pairs.








Kyudo, the Way of the Bow, is the oldest of Japan's traditional martial arts. The bow has been used in Japan since prehistoric times. From the fourth to the ninth century, close contacts between China and Japan had a great influence on Japanese archery, especially the Confucian belief that through a person's archery their true characters could be determined. Over hundreds of years archery was influenced by the Shinto and Zen Buddhist religions along with the pressing practical requirements of warriors. Court nobles concentrated on ceremonial archery while the warrior class emphasized kyujutsu, the martial technique of using the bow in actual warfare.


With the introduction of firearms the bow as a weapon was neglected and almost died out all together until Honda Toshizane, a kyudo instructor at Tokyo Imperial University, combined elements of the warrior style and the court ceremonial style into a hybrid style which ultimately became known as the Honda Ryu (Honda martial school). This style found great favor with the general public and he is generally credited with saving Japanese Archery from oblivion.


With the American occupation banning all martial art instruction, traditional kyujutsu schools declined further and when the ban was lifted, Kyudo, as opposed to kyujutsu, became widely practiced and the Zen Nihon Kyudo Federation (All Japan Kyudo Federation) was established in 1953, publishing the standard kyudo textbook called the Kyohon, and overseeing Kyudo development both in Japan and internationally up to the present time. There now exists a European Kyudo Federation which has annual seminars and promotion tests and in 1993 the first such seminar and promotion test was held in America in San Jose, California.


Kyudo is a highly meditative martial art whose ultimate goals are Shin (Truth i.e. the ultimate reality), Zen (Goodness) and Bi (Beauty). When asked the question "What is Truth?" a master archer would pick up a bow and arrow and shoot it, without saying a word, allowing the level of mastery of the bow to serve as the gauge of the archer's progress along the "way" thereby showing the archer's knowledge of reality i.e. "Truth" itself.


By such diligent practice Confucian theory teaches that the archer will become morally good (Zen), and this sincerity of personality will excite the aesthetic sense of anyone watching at an intuitive, emotional level giving the performance a beauty derived not only from the technical skill of the archer but also from the archer's emotional maturity and spiritual sincerity.


Students typically begin by practicing visualization: performing the shooting motions with no equipment and then perhaps using the gomuyumi (rubber bow), a short stick with a length of rubber tube attached, to acquire the feel of real bow resistance. The first actual shots are fired into a straw bundle, called a makiwara, from a short distance of about three feet. The student then progresses to target shooting at a fixed regulation distance of 28 meters.


All students, no matter which instructor or school, will shoot the same design of Japanese bow which is little changed from the twelfth century. Traditionally made of hardwoods laminated front and back with bamboo the Japanese bow is one of the longest in the world, usually over seven feet in length. It is a natural double recurve bow with the arrow knocked one third of the way from the bottom and the bow actually rotating in the hand at release approx. 270 degrees. The unique design of the bow requires that the bow actually be torqued or twisted in full draw to make the arrow fly straight.







Surrounded by much controversy, today's "ninjutsu" is derived from the traditional fighting arts associated with the Iga region of Japan. These arts include both "bujutsu" ryuha (martial technique systems) and "ninjutsu" ryuha, which involve a broad base of training designed to prepare the practitioner for all possible situations.


The history of ninjutsu is clouded by the very nature of the art itself. There is little documented history, much of what is known was handed down as part of an oral tradition (much like the native American Indian) and documented by later generations. This has led to a lot of debate regarding the authenticity of the lineages claimed by the arts instructors.


Historical records state that certain individuals/families from the Iga/Koga (modern Mie/Omi) region were noted for possessing specific skills and were employed (by samurai) to apply those and other skills. These records, which were kept by people both within the region and outside of the region, refer to the individuals/ families as "Iga/Koga no Mono" (Men of Iga/Koga) and "Iga/Koga no Bushi" (Warriors of Iga/Koga).


Due to this regions terrain, it was largely unexplored and the people living within lived a relatively isolated existence. This enabled them to develop perspectives which differed from the "mainstream" society of the time, which was under the direct influence of the upper ruling classes. When necessary, they successfully used the superstitions of the masses as a tool/weapon and became feared and slightly mythologized because of this.


In the mid/late 1500's their difference in perspective led to conflict with the upper ruling classes and the eventual invasion/destruction of the villages and communities within the Iga/Koga region. The term "ninja" was not in use at this time, but was later introduced in the dramatic literature of the Tokugawa period (1605-1867). During this period, ancestral fears became contempt and the stereotypical image ("clans of assassins and mercenaries who used stealth, assassination, disguises, and other tricks to do their work") was formed which, to this day, is still very much the majority opinion.


Over 70 different "ninjutsu ryu" have been catalogued/identified, however, the majority of them have died out. Most were developed around a series of specific skills and techniques and when the skills of a particular ryu were no longer in demand, the ryu would (usually) fade from existence.


The three remaining ninjutsu ryu (Togakure ryu, Gyokushin ryu, and Kumogakure ryu) are encompassed in Dr. Masaaki Hatsumi's Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu system. These ryu, along with six other "bujutsu ryu" (Gyokko Ryu, Koto Ryu, Takagi Yoshin Ryu, Shinden Fudo Ryu, Gikan Ryu and Kukishinden Ryu), are taught as a collective body of knowledge (see Sub-Styles for other info).


During the "Ninja-boom" of the 80's, instructors of "Ninjutsu" were popping out of the woodwork - it was fashionable to wear black. Now that the boom is over there are not as many people trying cash in on the popularity of this art. However, as with all martial arts, it would be wise to be very careful about people claiming to be "masters personally taught by the Grandmaster in Japan".


How do you verify the authenticity of an instructor? In the case of a Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu instructor there a few points which one can use.


First: all recognized "instructors" of the Bujinkan Dojo will, in addition to their Dan grade (black belt), have either a Shidoshi-ho (assistant teacher - first to fourth Dan) or Shidoshi (teacher - fifth to ninth Dan) certificate/ licence from Dr Hatsumi. Only people with these certificates are considered to be qualified to teach his system (a Dan grade does not make one a teacher).


Second: in addition to these certificates/licences, all recognized "instructors" of the Bujinkan Dojo will possess a valid Bujinkan Hombu Dojo Shidoshi-kai (Bujinkan Headquarters Dojo Teachers Association) for the current year. These cards are issued each year from Dr Hatsumi to those recognized as "instructors". These points will help you if you are looking at training with someone from the Bujinkan Dojo. Beyond that, it's a case of "buyer beware".


Terms like "soft/hard", "internal/external", linear/circular" have been used to describe ninjutsu by many people. Depending upon the perspective of the person, it could appear to be any one, all or even none of the above. It is important to remember that the term "ninjutsu" does not refer to a specific style, but more to a group of arts, each with a different point of view expressed by the different ryu. The physical dynamics from one ryu to another varies - one ryu may focus on redirection and avoidance while another may charge in and overwhelm.


To provide some kind of brief description, ninjutsu includes the study of both unarmed and armed combative techniques, strategy, philosophy, and history. In many Dojos the area of study is quite comprehensive. The idea being to become adept at many things, rather than specializing in only one.


The main principles in combat are posture, distance, rhythm and flow. The practitioner responds to attacks in such a way that they place themselves in an advantageous position from which an effective response can be employed. They are taught to use the entire body for every movement/technique, to provide the most power and leverage. They will use the openings created by the opponents movement to implement techniques, often causing the opponent to "run in/on to" body weapons.


As was noted above, the areas of study in ninjutsu are diverse. However, the new student is not taught everything at once. Training progresses through skills in Taihenjutsu (Body changing skills), which include falling, rolling, leaping, posture, and avoidance; Dakentaijutsu (Striking weapons body techniques) using the entire body as a striking tool/ weapon - how to apply and how to receive; and Jutaijutsu (Supple body techniques) locks, throws, chokes, holds - how to apply and how to escape.


In the early stages, weapons training is usually limited to practising how to avoid attacks - overcoming any fear of the object and understanding the dynamics of its use from the perspective of "defending against" (while unarmed). In the mid and later stages, once a grounding in Taijutsu body dynamics is in place, practitioners begin studying from the perspective of "defending with" the various tools/weapons.


In the early stages of training, kata are provided as examples of "what can be done here" and "how to move the body to achieve this result". However, as the practitioner progresses they are encouraged to explore the openings which naturally appear in peoples movements and apply spontaneous techniques based upon the principles contained within the kata. This free flowing style is one of the most important aspects of ninjutsu training. Adaptability is one of the main lessons of all of these ryu.


Due to the combative nature of the techniques studied, there are no tournaments or competitions in Ninjutsu. As tournament fighting has set rules which compel the competitor to study the techniques allowed within that framework, this limits not only the kinds of techniques that they study, but also the way in which they will apply those techniques. The way that you train is the way that you fight. Ninjutsu requires that its practitioners be open to any situation and to be able to adapt their technique to ensure survival.