A Brief History of the Samurai

The Samurai is a name given to members of a caste in ancient Japan with one of the greatest military powers. According to the history of the Samurai, this caste system has a greater bearing on the origin of renowned Japanese martial arts. Before the Samurai rose into military power in the 12th century, they operated as provincial warriors. Members of the caste of Samurai are required to live by the traditional code of honor and discipline called Bushido (the way of the warrior).

Earlier in the Heian Period, the Samurai mainly operated as “protectors” of noble landowners. The Samurai introduced the first military dictatorship in Japan, where they served the daimyos (lords), and empowered the shogun. In fact, they dominated the feudal government until 1868 when the system of governance was abolished. However, the practice of martial arts as conceived by the Samurai, has continued to thrive to date.

The History of Martial Arts According to the Samurai

One of the most outstanding elements of the Samurai history, which has been passed on from generation to generation is martial arts. This can even be seen from the ancient times whereby the members of this caste operated as armed servants, offering protection to the wealthy nobles.

Martial arts involves a wide range of activities including, Karate, Kendo, Judo among others. Although some aspects of the Japanese martial arts may have changed today, its roots and rise has a strong connection to the Samurai.

Owing to the many battles that had faced the people on Japan in ancient times, they developed an interest in creating weapons and combat. In order to defend themselves from the sad reality of war, many people across Japan opted to study the art of war. However, their efforts were not realized until in the 12 century, when the Samurai rose to power.

Although the Samurai had been considered elites in the battlefield, their fight with the Mongols in the 13th century made them change their styles of fighting. They began undertaking thorough training in the use of the sword, spears and fighting on foot. However, the Samurai were also fit for fighting on horsebacks.

In the following years, the study of warfare and combat gained significant recognition. During these times, various kinds of martial arts like Kyudo (the art of archery), Sojutsu, Naginatajutsu were introduced. However, the martial arts of Kenjutsu (battle using sword) remained dominant among the rest. Many considered the art of using swords in the battle field to be quite prestigious than others. In fact, even the introduction of firearms by the Portuguese did not deter the Japanese from martial arts. Instead, they came up with a kind of martial art called Hojutsu.

Reports indicate that by the 17th century, the Japanese already had more than 60 combat and fighting systems, and about 9, 000 formal institutions teaching various kinds of martial arts.

The sword and its handling are key aspects that distinguished an elite Samurai from other warriors. In fact, swordsmanship remains to be a great fascination in martial arts with regards to the Samurai. However, it should be noted that the Samurai were not only crafty with the sword but also hand-to-hand combat. They incorporated various techniques known as Jujitsu, which were mainly aimed at giving the Samurai an advantage over their opponents.

The ancient Samurai wore two swords, with varying lengths. The longer one measured about 24 inches and was known as Daito-katana. The other measured between 12 and 24 inches, and was called Shoto-wakizashi. The swords were initially straight but due to the growing desire for sharper and tougher swords, the Samurai began forging curved blades. These swords were instrumental in World War II, whereby the Japanese military used antique Samurai swords.

Popular martial arts like Judo and Aikido are self-defense tactics that are adopted from ancient forms of Jujitsu done by the Samurai. In fact, these two forms of martial arts have today become a pastime for many people across the world. Judo is a sport in the Olympic Games while Aikido and the famous Karate are practiced globally in many learning institutions.

Other forms of martial arts that have been developed throughout the years were imported from Japanese neighbors like China and India. These have also been passed on to generations and are currently practiced across the world. However, all these forms of martial arts still bear great links to the history of the Samurai. For more info on martial arts used by the Samurai visit paultommartialarts.com