Here at the frontier, the leaves fall like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians, and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are still two cups at my table.

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 ~

Sunday, May 31, 2020

The History of Kempo

It's been a few years since we've had a guest post from Graham Barlow. Graham is the author of The Tai Chi Notebook and teaches taijiquan and xingyiquan at the Yongquan Martial Arts Assocation. He is also a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

His previous post on his introduction to BJJ, having come from an Internal Chinese Martial Arts background may be found here. 

Today we have an article written on the history of Kempo. Enjoy.

The real history of Kempo and Jiujitsu

By Graham Barlow

“You can tell if a history is made up because it’s always really simple.” - Heretics podcast.

If you ask about the history of Jujitsu (Japanese) or Jiujitsu (Brazilian spelling) you usually get a story of Samurai warriors, battlefield fighting arts and codes of honour. Jiujitsu, we are told, was the art of unarmed grappling, which the Samurai practiced in case they lost their sword on the battlefield. However the truth is a little bit more messy than that.

In this long podcast series we delve back in time to the beginnings of the Ashikaga Shogunate in Japan in the 1300s, and look at how the power structures of Japan changed as the Shoguns gained more and more influence over the imperial family. We then move on to the formation of the Koryu under the famous Tokugawa Shogunate (who seized control in 1600), and the establishment of the Samurai. We even take in the history of Ninjas!

The Tokugawa had a period of unbroken rule for more than 250 years during which Japan became increasingly locked down. Of particular note is what happened after 1852 when Japan was opened up (forcibly) to Western influence, particularly by the British and American troops. We look at the impact this had and the role of Kano Jigoro and others at the end of the Nineteenth Century.

But we don’t stop there, we go on to discuss the time period between 1960 and 1980 when martial arts marketing in Japan really took off. And finally we follow the developments in Japan through to modern times, with particular attention paid to the history of the Yakuza.

I initially asked my teacher, Damon Smith to do a history of Jiujitsu and he said he could only do it if it included Kempo as the two arts are so entwined, so here we have the history of Kempo and Jiujitsu.

Kempo, a very wide-ranging martial art style, is less well known martial art than Jiujitsu in popular culture, but some of its well known exponents, or people who came out of gyms that were influenced by it include the likes of UFC champion Chuck Liddell, the famous wrestler Rikidozan and the “Gracie Hunter” Kazushi Sakuraba.

The first episode of the series was also our first Heretics podcast, so if you want to skip our investigation into the origins of Heresy and just get straight to the martial arts chat then skip to 13.15 and dive in.

You’ll find all 5 episodes here:

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