The autumn leaves are falling like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are always two cups at my table.

T’ang Dynasty poem

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Anatomy of a Classical Martial Art


The excerpt below is from an article by classical Japanese martial arts practitioner and historian Meik Skoss. The whole article may be read here. 

A Bit of Background

by Meik Skoss

I started this series with a column titled “Who, What, When?” and said then that the major topics would be the classical martial arts and ways and the different family and non-collateral schools or styles comprising these various disciplines. I focused on descriptions of specific traditions in my subsequent columns, but what I’d like to do this time is discuss the origins of Japanese kobudo and give a brief overview of the field.
Although systematic training in the use of weapons, and methods for employing them in warfare existed long before, it is generally believed that the development of martial traditions, schools, or styles (ryu-ha) did not arise until after the end of the Heian period (794-1185). Central to this training was study of the bow (yumi), the sword (tachi), and the spear (yari). Initially, these weapons were not studied in separate arts. Rather, since the need was to prepare for battlefield combat, many different weapons and strategic and tactical skills were taught as part of comprehensive systems (sogo bujutsu). From the middle of the Muromachi period (ca. 1480) to the beginning of the Tokugawa period (ca. 1605) people gradually began to specialize in a particular weapon or system, particularly the bow, spear, sword, grappling and horsemanship. Warriors gathered in family-centered groups or trained with other members of their local domains. As the techniques and methods of these groups became more and more individuated, or as teachers gained particular insights into the essential nature and principles of combat, there arose discrete martial “traditions” or “styles” or “schools” (bujutsu ryu-ha). This began happening at the beginning of the Keicho era (ca. 1600), picked up impetus throughout the Tokugawa period (1600-1868), and has continued even into the twentieth century.

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