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kobudo martial arts

Koryū: The Ancient Japanese Martial Arts

Japanese martial arts have a long and colorful history intimately connected to the history of Japan and the samurai. The art of war has greatly shaped and influenced Japan’s warrior class, which in turn contributed to shaping Japanese martial arts. Japan has endured many years of conflict.

Due to this, the earliest people of the island nation had long practiced the cultivation, interest, and development of combat and weaponry. We are most familiar with the relatively new forms of Japanese martial arts such as kendo, aikido, and karate. Koryū is a much older form of Japanese martial arts that predates the Meiji restoration (1868).

Koryū (古流, old school) and kobudō (古武道, ancient martial arts) are Japanese terms both used to describe ancient Japanese martial arts and schools of martial arts originating in Japan.  Kobudō is known to mark the early stages of the Tokugawa period (1603-1868) when ruling power was consolidated in the Tokugawa clan.

jitte weapon at many angles


Kobudō follows the priorities order of 1st morals, 2nd discipline, and 3rd aesthetic. Koryū is believed to be responsible for sparking the major socio-political changes that led eventually to the modernization of Japan. The koryū system follows the priorities order of 1st combat, 2nd discipline and 3rd morals. The primary purpose of learning koryū was for using the skills in war.

Some of the skills taught in koryū include:

Bōjutsu (棒術, “staff technique”) – this martial art technique uses a staff weapon called bō. It is considered to be one of the core elements of classical martial training. It follows the philosophy that the bō is merely an “extension of one’s limbs” where one learns to master the bō and using it in striking, swinging, and thrusting methods to deflect an enemy.


Naginatajutsu (長刀術) –the martial art of wielding the ancient Japanese weapon, naginata, a wooden shaft with a curved blade at the end.

Jittejutsu (十手術)  – the martial art of using the jitte, a special weapon used by police during the Edo period.  It enabled police officers to disarm and apprehend criminals who usually carried a sword.


Kyūjutsu (弓術, art of archery) – the martial art study of wielding a bow. From the Kamakura period to the Muromachi period (1185-1568), the bow was considered the symbol for the professional warrior.

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