Japanese Martial Arts: 2 Schools and Understanding – Part 1

|This post is written by Saladine|


What is martial arts? A way to fight people? Perhaps in the general idea, that would be the case. In Japan, martial arts takes a whole new level of perception. Not only they intend to create balance between mind and body, they also incorporate norms and value at each steps. Most fascinating, when you see how each practitioner at Japan respect each other and have their little ritual. Now I can blabber all I want, but that’s not how prologue should be write (Ha!). Instead, let’s take a look below!

Understanding Norms and Values of Martial Arts

There are a number of Norms and Values that must be uphold on all students who studied Japanese Martial Arts. Every students are expected to show some courteous attitude toward their uke (partner) and their sensei (teacher). At the process of learning, everything begins with rei and ends with rei. The word itself, however, can be interpreted in several ways; it is the rei of reigi meaning “etiquette, courtesy, politeness” and it is also the rei of keirei, “salutation” or “bow.” The meaning of rei is sometimes explained in terms of kata or katachi (“formal exercises” and “form” or “shape” ).

GR  Andrew Ritseu Rei 2_full - Rei

“Bowing with each other means to signal the spirit of practice, and hoping for the partner cooperation”

Another important things is the attitude, or, kokoro. It literally means “heart”, but can also be interpreted as “characters” or “attitude.” They say those who wish to become master in martial arts, must master their heart. The goals of Japanese Martial Arts is to hone the character of the participant, not to try determine victory and defeat. As Gichin Funakoshi have stated:

The ultimate aim of Karate lies not in victory or defeat, but in the perfection of the character of its participants.


“Students sits in Seiza is respecting their teacher by lining up and listen wholeheartedly.”

Combining these two concept, courtesy and attitude, will result in the value of respect. To bring this value to everyday life, outside the dojo, is the ultimate goal in honing one’s characters. While humble and gentle, they should never be servile. His performance of the kata should reflect boldness and confidence. This seemingly paradoxical combination of boldness and gentleness leads ultimately to harmony. It is true, as Master Funakoshi used to say, that the spirit of karate would be lost without courtesy. Although it is said by the master of karate, the ideas is applied to all of Japanese Martial Arts.

Two Schools in Japanese Martial Arts

Japanese Martial Arts can be distinct in 2 different school; Koryū (古流) / kobudō (古武道 ) and Gendai budō (現代武道). Koryū means “old school”, which also have the same meaning as kobudō “ancient martial ways”; and Gendai budō means “modern martial ways.” These newer systems are commonly valued as sports or arts for self-improvement. But, the Koryū systems of martial arts are commonly far more revered as they are considered the teachings of the true Japanese martial arts, due to the fact that they were formed from Japan’s feudal military culture.

Brazilian Jujitsu

“Surprisingly enough, Jujitsu is one of the famous Koryū that have inspired many Gendai budō martial arts”

In terms of effectiveness, there are no significant differences between Koryū and Gendai budō. If anything, Koryū are those schools of budo that predate the Meiji Restoration of 1868. Anything created after that is Gendai budō, meaning that it was founded after the end of the Tokugawa Shogunate in 1868 and founding of Japan’s first modern government.

If you think that Koryū is more inferior than Gendai budō because Koryū is more ancient than my grandma, I can assure you that you are deadly mistaken. Not only Koryū stood the test of time, but also the teaching of Gendai budō is actually derived from Koryū.

Interesting Trivia: Koryū was widely known for its strict ritual and respect, aiming to better militarize Japanese men, and Gendai budō with the aim of body and spiritual enlightenment, a sports if you will. But..

[Another] Interesting Trivia: The Gendai styles got picked up and used by the Japanese government to inculcate a twisted version of the values of the traditional samurai class to the peasants. In reality what they did was use budo to train people to be good soldiers. After WW2, most Gendai budo teachers were men who had received all of the budo experience in the military sponsored budo classes of the pre-war and wartime education system. That’s where all the military style dojo behavior (Osu! etc) comes from (Such as Yoshinkan Dojo in Aikido). Koryū budo have always been very small groups, so they weren’t affected much by the military’s manipulation, since they weren’t big enough to be useful in national re-education campaigns. So the Koryu have maintained a consistent tradition.

Note: This does not mean all Gendai budō teaching incorporate budo way of military. The purpose of the above statement is that there are “some” dojo used an eccentric behavior, if you ever wonder why every schools have different way of conducting practice.

Paula goes after Bill

“Be careful with grandma, especially one with Tonfa. Just because their old, doesn’t mean their weak”

Well, that’s about it on 2 types of schools and understanding. Don’t you wonder what kind of martial arts that can be considered as old school now? The next part encompass all kinds of martial arts that can be considered as Koryū budo. You can look at it Here, for quick reference. Good day, hope you enjoy it.








About Saladin

Another weird college kid in search for something not boring. Have a very high confidence in everything I do, and can debate to death to prove a point. Majoring in International Relation, studying diplomacy, but love martial arts. Never allow me to see your gesture, if you don't want to be judged. Oh, and god, I love sweet!

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