Japanese martial arts have become an important part of many people's lives, both adults and children. Parents enroll their children in schools to improve their concentration and discipline. In addition, many people have adopted martial arts as a way of life. Certainly, learning a martial art is more than just a method of self-defense and kicking. There are many psychological, spiritual and physical benefits to being involved in the practice of these sports.

Japanese Martial Arts

There are many martial arts from different cultures that you can join. Among the most famous and most practiced, Japanese martial arts occupy an important place. Indeed, in addition to its culture, its traditions and its gastronomy, Japan has a wide range of arts as impressive as the others. Are you passionate about Japanese culture? Are you a fan of Japanese products? Or are you simply looking for the right martial art for you? You've come to the right place. Find out everything you need to know about Japanese martial arts. 🐱👤


Before we begin discussing Japanese martial arts, it is important to note some of the unique aspects of Japanese culture, as this is directly reflected in the training. Overall, the Japanese are extremely polite and as part of their culture, they tend to maintain a high level of honor and respect. Learn more about the characteristics of Japanese culture.


An important aspect of Japanese culture in regards to martial arts training is ambiguity. Things are rarely explained explicitly and there is always an element of uncertainty in everything. This can be seen in the language itself. Indeed, a person who is polite to himself can be considered rude, hence the complexity of Japanese culture.

Japanese martial art

A martial art, an art of living

In other words, this means that for Japanese martial arts training, there is a greater degree of responsibility for the student to pay attention during class. Things will rarely be stated for the student to learn a technique. This is less prevalent in Western martial arts schools. But assuming that the teacher has been formally trained in Japan, you can expect that some things may not be explained directly to the student; rather, they are to be interpreted by the student.


The other, somewhat contradictory, aspect of Japanese culture is the quest for efficiency and precision. Because Japan is an island with limited resources, the Japanese have become very efficient in their use of resources. Due to the lack of space, many rooms are built with special details to use the limited space in the most efficient way possible. This is also evident in food, as many dishes use large amounts of rice to create a satisfying meal.

This precision and efficiency is also reflected in their martial arts. However, they use little energy to make a technique work. The most obvious example is their mastery of the sword, where precision is the key between life and death. When one thinks of this, one immediately imagines the samurai wearing full armor on a battlefield. The importance of efficient movement and limiting energy waste becomes even more important.


The last element we will mention of Japanese culture is hierarchy. Much of the culture revolves around the status of an individual. The history of Japan involved a caste system, or a class system in which individuals are arranged from birth. In other words, it is the feudal system. Again, we can see this in their language, as words are conjugated differently depending on the status of the speaker and the listener.

Understanding these elements of Japanese culture will help you understand Japanese martial arts, as they are both related.


Knowledge is the cornerstone of power. Knowing the history can help you better understand Japanese martial arts in its entirety. Discover the origin of these spectacular and legendary fighting arts.


Chinese samurai hat

Many of the martial arts that became popular in medieval Japan were introduced from China. According to tradition, they began as a way for Buddhist monks to ensure their physical abilities. The purpose is to prove their form to sit in meditation for hours and as a method to help their concentration. Over time, these exercises began to incorporate skills with weapons. Then they spread to Japan. Kendo, for example, which emphasized skill with a sword, was probably introduced in the 7th century AD.

Nevertheless, the Japanese added their own weapons, skills and psychological emphasis to the martial arts to suit both their own military needs and their philosophical approach. Beginning in the 10th century CE, warriors practiced their weapons skills. In horsemanship, to prepare for the challenges of the all-too-frequent wars that ravaged the land, rival warlords fought for dominance.


It was not until the Edo period between 1603 and 1868 that these practices became officially known as martial arts, a name with which we are more familiar today. In times of peace, these arts were seen as activities designed to promote not only martial skills, but also discipline. That is, a philosophical and spiritual approach to life in general. In Japan, the warrior and god of thunder, Takemikazuchi-no-kami, is considered the patron saint of martial arts and many training halls. Even today, a small shrine is dedicated to him.


Historically, Japanese martial arts have evolved differently than in the rest of the world. This is reflected in the partial isolation of the Japanese islands and the different way their weapons evolved. The years 646 to 702 AD had an influence on the development of Japanese martial arts. It was during these years that the imperial government attempted to form an organized army based on the Chinese system.


Masamune, the greatest blacksmith in Japan

During these years, the samurai warrior class was defined. From that moment on, the development of Japanese martial arts revolved around these mythical warriors. The first samurai warriors were trained in horseback combat and archery. They only started to use the sword as their main weapon in the medieval period. It was not until the 14th century that a blacksmith named Masamune developed the structure of the legendary Katana. The fact that Japanese fighting systems evolved around the samurai had two major impacts.


Samurai were the warriors of pre-modern Japan, which later evolved into the ruling military class of the Edo period between the years 1603 and 1867. Their origins can be traced back to the early Heian period campaigns of the late 8th and early 9th centuries to subdue the native Emishi people in the Tohoku region. During this period, Emperor Kanmu assumed the title of Shogun. Since then, he relied on the warriors of powerful regional clans to conquer the Emishi.

shogun japan


çPrint of Shogun Ieyasu Tokugawa

Eventually, these powerful clans would surpass the traditional aristocracy, and the samurai would continue to rise under the Shogun's rule and become the symbols of the ideal warrior and citizen, ruling Japan for the next 700 years. It was not until the relative peace of the Edo period that the importance of martial skills diminished, and many samurai turned to careers as teachers, artists or bureaucrats. Japan's feudal era ended in 1868. Subsequently, the samurai class was abolished a few years later.


As a pioneer and fervent practitioner of Japanese martial arts, the samurai had a general impact on the practice of these fighting systems. Therefore, this influence had 2 major impacts.


If you are a fan of Japanese culture, you probably know what it is. Bushido or "the way of the warrior" was a code of honor and behavior respected by the samurai. In particular, it dictated a state of mind during battle. Large and small traces of this behavior and mental code can be found in all Japanese martial arts.

bushido code

The 7 virtues of Bushido


The fact that the samurai was covered and protected by armor led to a kind of armed combat style. However, they also influenced the development of empty-handed combat. Japanese martial arts are known for their common locks and submission holds. You can see traces of this and great emphasis in most of them.


Ju-jitsu is considered the mother of all empty hand fighting disciplines, it tries to give a solution to a situation where a samurai is left without any weapon to face an opponent who is. The potential opponent, at the very least, will be protected by armor, which makes striking almost completely ineffective and joint locking and manipulation the best solution.

Another factor in the development of martial arts in Japan is the religion and philosophy of Zen Buddhism, which is widespread in Japan. The Zen Buddhist way defines and intends martial arts to be perfected as part of the "way of life. This way and standard of thinking has been maintained by practitioners regardless of the evolution of the art whether it is combat oriented or personal growth oriented.

monk meditation

Buddhist monks in Zen meditation


Although there are many lineages and schools of Japanese martial arts, all Japanese martial arts can be classified as "Koryu Bujutsu" and "Gendai Budo". They mean respectively the ancient martial arts and the modern martial way.


Technically, a Koryu Bujutsu is any Japanese martial art that can trace its lineage back to before the Meiji Restoration of 1868. But "Koryu" is a term used to define traditional schools of martial arts that were established before the years 1866. It can also be used to identify this type of martial art orientation. Another difference is expressed by the ending "jutsu" which means skill or ability.

Japanese Koryu martial arts focus on combat efficiency, as the lineage was taught during the most turbulent times in Japan. The emphasis was on use on the battlefield. However, some schools have updated part of the program for use in modern times. This can create controversy, however.

Indeed, some would say that the training differs at all from what was taught before, so it can no longer technically be considered Koryu. The most important factor is always whether or not the school existed during this period and whether or not the training reflects its use on the battlefield.


Gendai budo is a term used to refer to modern schools. It refers to those that were established after the years 1866. On the other hand, Gendai Budo is also used to define and make reference to martial arts focused on personal development. Another difference is expressed by the ending "to do", i.e. the path.

Gendai Budo describes the Japanese martial arts that were founded after the Meiji Restoration Edict. It generally focuses more on self-improvement such as spirituality, physical fitness, etc. However, this does not mean that Gendai Budo is not effective or does not include any fighting techniques. Rather, it implies that the art is both modern in its development and takes into account aspects of training beyond mere combat.


While we tend to use the term "Martial Art" alone, the Japanese use three specific phrases to describe martial arts

Ninjutsu lessons showing Kobudo and Gendai Budo

Bugei: This is the most literal translation of "martial art" in Japanese, and is used to describe martial arts in general.

Bujutsu: "Bujutsu" has no direct French translation, but it can be interpreted as "the science of war" or "the technique of war". Bujutsu describes Japanese martial arts training as it relates to the battlefield. These are more focused on the practical "science" of fighting.

Budo: "Budo" literally means "way of the warrior". It is a modern term that encompasses more of the philosophical and spiritual elements of Japanese martial arts. Budo generally describes the incorporation of Japanese martial arts as a way of life, rather than as a specific set of fighting skills.


Japanese martial arts are just one of the many types of martial arts available. Teaching a Japanese martial art also involves exposing students to Japanese culture, as this strongly influences the training method. The land of the rising sun is home to some of the most recognized martial arts. In our list, you will discover some of the arts that are more convenient and others that are unusual. Notice to all Japanese culture lovers, here are the top 15 best Japanese martial arts.



Kendo Duel

Kendo is a modern Japanese martial art that originated from classical swordplay and uses bamboo swords (shinai) and protective armor (bōgu). Kendo is an activity that offers both respect for valor and honor. It is accompanied by intense physical activity of a sporting nature. This martial art is a means of disciplining the human character through the application of the principles of the katana. Kendo uniforms are almost always black. It is one of the most common martial arts offered by Japanese public schools. In addition, Kendo offers immense cultural value because of its close connection to Samurai traditions.


Judo is a Japanese martial art and Olympic sport that involves using holds and leverage to subdue an opponent. Participants in a judo match are called judokas. Judokas wear a uniform known as a gi, which is a loose jacket with pants. A belt is also worn. The judo match takes place on a mat called the tatami. A judo match, or fight, has three basic types of scores that can be achieved. From the most important to the least important, these are ippon, waza-ari and yuko. The practice of judo is widespread throughout the world, which means that this martial art is a sport that most people enjoy.


kyodo practitioner

Kyodo practitioner

Kyodo is a Japanese martial art that involves the use of bows. However, it is not a classical bow, but an extremely long bow with an asymmetrical shape. The design of this weapon dates back more than 2000 years. The handling of the bow is often difficult, but the power of the weapon is still impressive. For these reasons, the practice of Kyodo requires power, concentration, but especially maturity. In the land of the rising sun, this sport is only taught from the age of 15. The practice of this sport will intensify your shooting accuracy, but will greatly influence your concentration.


Who doesn't know Karate? 🥋 For all that, karate is one of the most popular martial arts in the world. Modern karate was developed in Okinawa, a small island off the coast of Japan. Karate is a very effective system of self-defense, and also an excellent form of exercise that promotes a number of life skills and values. As a system of self-defense, karate does not so much teach a set of standard responses to a limited set of scenarios, but rather a set of principles that can be applied to any situation. While karate teaches a person combat skills, karate does not promote aggression. Instead, it promotes awareness to avoid conflict. Fighting should only be used as a last resort.



Man practicing Yabusame

Yabusame is a type of mounted archery in Japan. An archer on a galloping horse shoots three arrows at three wooden targets in succession. Yabusame requires skill, strength and a lot of practice to reach a certain level. But how does it work? A yabusame archer gallops along a 255 meter long track, controlling the horse with his knees. When he approaches a target, he raises the bow, drawing the arrow before letting it fly with a deep cry of In-Yo-In-Yo. Hitting the targets is considered a real feat. The Yabusame archer was chosen among the best warriors.



Aikido fight between two practitioners

The Japanese martial art of Aikido is a complete system of throwing, joint-locking, striking and pinning techniques combined with training in traditional Japanese weapons such as the sword, staff and knife. There are many benefits associated with Aikido training. In addition to being a very effective martial art of self-defense, it has great physical benefits and is also considered a path to personal development and mental strength. It helps lead us to the integration of mind, body and spirit, helping us to be a more complete human being.


Probably the oldest martial art in Japan, sumo is considered the country's national sport. At first glance, sumo is nothing strange: overweight men in huge thongs pushing each other inside a small ring where the pre-ceremony is usually longer than the actual fight. However, delve a little deeper and you will find a unique and technical sport with a rich history and wrestlers whose rigorous training regimen and dedication cannot fail to impress. Sumo wrestlers are known as rikishi in Japanese; these two kanji characters mean "strength" and "warrior.


boys doing koryu kenjutsu

Boys doing koryu kenjutsu

Koryu is a broad category of Japanese martial arts from the Edo period. It is a fairly old practice that has declined over the years due in part to Japan's opening to the West. However, its decline is generally caused by the dissolution of the samurai order. Although it was a martial art of the old school, Koryu is still a Japanese art that had its moment of glory. Indeed, this martial art is focused on feudal warfare and is no longer used in times of peace. Today, Koryu is considered as a relic of the past which was useless in front of western military techniques.


School of Ju-jitsu

School of Ju-Jitsu

Old style Japanese ju-jitsu, or Nihon koryu ju-jitsu, dates back to the Muromachi period in Japan between 1333 and 1573. This martial arts training style is based on the precept of the unarmed warrior. Ju-jitsu is characterized by using an attacker's momentum against him or her by guiding him or her in a way that the practitioner would prefer. Ju-jitsu methods include striking, throwing, restraint (pinning and choking), joint locks, weapons and grappling. It is best known for its effectiveness against armed individuals, the use of throws and its locks. The purpose of ju-jitsu is simple. Ju-Jitsu practitioners aim to disable, disarm or if necessary kill opponents. But this depends on the situation.


There are few people who do not know the ninja or the art they used, ninjutsu. However, this does not mean that the impression they have is the right one. There does not seem to be a single source for the origin of ninjutsu. Although the legends of ninja traditions sometimes speak of Chinese sources, there is little reason to believe that this is anything more than a myth that has arisen. The fighting art of the ninja differed from the typical samurai arts in that it was designed to escape and not kill the other person. If a ninja was discovered by a guard, he or she had to escape before other guards rushed in with the commotion. 🐱👤



Ninjutsu at the Dokan Association


Developed in the mid 1940s, Taihojutsu is the martial art used by the Japanese police. Indeed, it is a synthesis of modern martial arts designed specifically for Japanese law enforcement. In Taihojutsu, you will find techniques from karate, judo, aikido, kendo, jukenjutsu, etc. Among others, Taihojutsu is the preferred method of intervention of the Japanese police. This discipline was created by the close collaboration of the police administration and the great martial arts masters of the time. Very effective, taihojutsu has already proved its worth in society by controlling a suspect without having to hurt him.


Shorinji Kempo

Shorinji Kempo at the Shorinji Kempo Seigido Ryu Club

Founded by So Doshin in 1947, Shorinji Kempo developed a system based on the techniques and philosophy he learned in China. So Doshin wanted to recreate the idea that Boddhidharma had when he taught martial arts and Zen philosophy at the Shaolin Temple. Shorinji Kempo is not just a martial art or self-defense. The basis of Shorinji Kempo is not to raise tough fighters, but to develop people who can act, help others and create a better society. The practice also has two basic concepts of how the practice is done, these are jikokakuritsu which means "building oneself" and jitakyōraku "mutual happiness for self and others. "


Simply put, Naginatajutsu is the art of wielding the Naginata. As such, the naginata is an ancient Japanese polearm that is essentially a Japanese sword blade mounted on a long handle. The length of the blade varies from as little as 15 cm to more than 60 cm, with the average blade being about 40 cm long. They also vary in curvature and width of the blade. Early users of naginata were foot guards of samurai and warrior monks. In Japan today, naginata is taught as a means of physical fitness and spiritual enhancement for girls in junior high school and above.


The different techniques of Hojōjutsu

The different techniques of Hojōjutsu

Hojojutsu is the term used to describe the Japanese martial art of combat bondage. Among other things, it is a system characterized by restraining or immobilizing an opponent with a length of rope or cord. The two most commonly used names for this art are Hojojutsu and the alternative reading of the same kanji; Torinawa-jutsu. Although the methods of tying, the materials used and the names of the techniques vary considerably from school to school, we can roughly divide them into the following two categories: Hayanawa and Honnawa. Their differences are in their ties and the length of the rope used.


Kenjutsu is another of the popular martial arts originating in Japan. Apparently, it first appeared in the 15th century as a means of military training for the samurai class. Sometime after that, it was incorporated into Japanese ninja culture. Kenjutsu literally means sword technique. It basically means fighting with swords, and the weapon of choice used is the Katana, wooden bokkens can also be used to reduce the risk of injury. Practicing Kenjutsu alone can become a means of self-improvement and overall physical development, as swinging a heavy sword can increase the strength and flexibility of the body. An expert in Kenjutsu is a "Kenjutsuka" and it takes years to reach this level of status. Kenjutsu can be applied to everyday life, including coordination and balance, discipline and self-confidence.


Minoru Mochizuki

Minoru Mochizuki

Yoseikan Budo is a Japanese martial arts style that combines a number of different martial arts, including Aikido, Jujutsu, Judo, Karate, Kobudo and Boxing. It encompasses elements of most of the more easily recognized martial arts. The strongest and most direct relationship of Yoseikan is with aikido. Yoseikan is often considered an outgrowth of aikido because the founder of Yoseikan, Master Minoru Mochizuki, was a principal descendant of Morehei Uyeshiba, the founder of Aikikai Aikido. However, Yoseikan Budo also borrows heavily from advanced Judo techniques, particularly sutemi or sacrifice techniqmues.