Japanese Martial Arts: Koryū style is old style! – Part 2

|This post is written by Saladine|


Last time, I have deliberated the concept of 2 schools and understanding Here, right? Now, I want to focus an explanation on all Koryū martial arts with a little picture as an extra. If you ever wonder why most Koryū martial arts developed are weapon oriented, it’s because Koryū was known for a martial arts that develop to be used in times of war. Well, it’s easier to understand if you take a look below


The Koryū Style of Martial Arts

Don’t you wonder what kind of Japanese Martial Arts that considered as Koryū? In a distinction fashion, there are weapon and non-weapon martial arts. Look sharp, cuz here comes some explanation!

Non-Weapon Martial Arts



Sumo (相撲 sumō?) is a competitive full-contact wrestling sport where a wrestler (rikishi) attempts to force another wrestler out of a circular ring (dohyō) or to touch the ground with anything other than the soles of the feet.


“The trends of conducting the match is transcend even today. Its nice to see a change of culture, from time to time”

Sumo retains much of its traditional trappings, including a referee dressed as a Shinto priest, and a ritual where the competitors clap hands, stomp their feet, and throw salt in the ring prior to each match. Six grand tournaments are held annually in Japan, and each professional fighter’s name and relative ranking is published after each tournament in an official list, called the banzuke, which is followed religiously by sumo fans.

Jujutsu / Jujitsu

Jujutsu (柔術:じゅうじゅつ) literally translates to “art of pliance”. More accurately, however, it means the art of using indirect force, such as joint locks or throwing techniques, to defeat an opponent, as opposed to direct force such as a punch or a kick. This is not to imply that jujutsu does not teach or employ strikes, but rather that the art’s aim is the ability to use an attacker’s force against him or her, and counter-attack where they are weakest or least defended.


“Jujutsu armlock! You know, it doesn’t look very fun getting pinned”

tai otoshi 3

“Aside from pinning technique, they also have throwing skills!”

Methods of combat included striking (kicking, punching), throwing (body throws, joint-lock throws, unbalance throws), restraining (pinning, strangulating, grappling, wrestling) and weaponry. Defensive tactics included blocking, evading, off balancing, blending and escaping. Minor weapons such as the tantō (dagger), ryufundo kusari (weighted chain), jutte (helmet smasher), and kakushi buki (secret or disguised weapons) were almost always included in koryū jujutsu.

Weapon-Oriented Martial Arts

Iaido - Iaijutsu

Swordsmanship Way – Kenjutsu, Battōjutsu, Iaijutsu

Various use of swords have already been created, and each teaching have their own specialty of using the swords


Kenjutsu (剣術) which originated with the samurai class of feudal Japan, means “the method, or technique, of the sword.” This is opposed to kendo, which means “the way of the sword”. In modern times, kenjutsu refers more to the specific aspect of swordsmanship dealing with partnered sword training.


“When I imagine that Bokken hit someone’s head… Ouch! No protective armor!”

It is the oldest form of training and, at its simplest level, consists of two partners with swords drawn, practicing combat drills. Historically practiced with wooden katana (bokken), this most often consists of pre-determined forms, called kata, or sometimes called kumitachi, and similar to the partner drills practiced in kendo. Among advanced students, kenjutsu training may also include increasing degrees of freestyle practice.


Battōjutsu (抜刀術)literally means “the art of drawing a sword”, and developed in the mid-15th century, is the aspect of swordsmanship focused upon the efficient draw of the sword, cutting down one’s enemy, and returning the sword to its scabbard (saya). Closely related to, but predating iaijutsu, battōjutsu training emphasizes defensive counter-attacking.


“Draw and slash! That frog-like jumping ability is very convenient, maybe they’re in par with master skills”

Battōjutsu training technically incorporates kata, but generally consist of only a few moves, focusing on stepping up to an enemy, drawing, performing one or more cuts, and sheathing the weapon. Battōjutsu exercises tend to lack the elaborateness, as well as the aesthetic considerations of iaijutsu or iaidō kata.

Note: Seems there always a confusion in determining Battōjutsu and Iaijutsu between schools, because of the similarities. Note that use of the name alone is not dispositive; what is battōjutsu to one school may be iaijutsu to another.


Iaijutsu (居合術,) approximately “the art/science of mental presence and immediate reaction”, is also the Japanese art of drawing the sword.


“Slash, clean blood, sheath sword. With a lightning-fast draw, I think it would be a nice surprise attack. “

However, unlike battōjutsu, iaijutsu tends to be technically more complex, and there is a much stronger focus upon perfecting form. The primary technical aspects are smooth, controlled movements of drawing the sword from its scabbard, striking or cutting an opponent, removing blood from the blade, and then replacing the sword in the scabbard.

Spear/Polearm Fighting Style – Sōjutsu, Naginatajutsu

Middle-range weapon wielding is fairly popular because of its range, and can be effectively used defensively. Unlike swords, middle range weapon have many type and form. And each weapon have their own way to be used.


Sōjutsu (槍術) is the Japanese art of fighting with the spear (yari). For most of Japan’s history, sōjutsu was practiced extensively by traditional schools. In times of war, it was a primary skill of many soldiers. Today it is a minor art taught in very few schools.

bojutsu doug oliver

“Notice the tip of the spear is sharpening. Its different with staff, it is made for piercing”

Interesting Trivia: in Japanese Mythology, it was said that the island of Japan was created by salt water dripping from the tip of a spear. And, the first spear prototype comes from mainland Asia.


Naginatajutsu (長刀術 or 薙刀術) is, well, the martial arts of wielding Naginata, a weapon resembling the medieval European glaive or guisarme.

Naginata point

“Assimilation with spear and blade, Naginata is made for slashing. Though, they also can pierce with no problem”


“The practice of Naginata is to aim target weakness from afar, with cutting and piercing movement”

During the late Edo period, naginata were used to train women and ladies in waiting. Thus, most naginatajutsu styles are headed by women and most naginata practitioners in Japan are women. This has led to the impression overseas that naginatajutsu is a martial art that was not used by male warriors. In fact, naginatajutsu was developed by the warrior monks of early medieval Japan and was widely used by samurai.

Stick and Staff Style of Fighting – Jōjutsu, Bōjutsu

With a range shorter than that of a spear, Stick and Staff is also one of the favorite middle-range weapon in many schools. Without neglecting the ability to reach and defend, it was also believed that Stick and Staff are more versatile than a spear. But they also lack of power, and they don’t have sharp-like point.


jōjutsu (杖術:じょうじゅつ) is a Japanese martial art using a short stick called . The art is similar to bōjutsu, and is strongly focused upon defense against the bokken. The is a short stick, usually about 3 to 5 feet (0.9 to 1.5 m) long.


“Lightweight and versatile weapon, ideal for counterattack, defense, and attacking.”

Amongst all of Japanese weapon, is the most humble, if not plebeian. It does not have grandeur mythological background like a spear, and it’s not as archaic as . But surprisingly, possesses many of the attributes of all three of these revered arms: the slashing stroke of the katana, the thrusting reach of the spear, and the reversible striking power and indestructibility of the . This is actually one of my favorite weapon, after Bokken. I mean, just look at the video!


Bōjutsu (棒術), translated from Japanese as “staff technique”, is the martial art of using a staff weapon called bō which simply means “staff”.Staves have been in use for thousands of years in East Asia. Some techniques involve slashing, swinging, and stabbing with the staff. Others involve using the staff as a pole vault or prop for hand to hand strikes.


“Look at that sunset! No wait, look at that staff!”Bojutsu_demo01

“Strong and have superb reach. The movement doesn’t end from attacking with the staff, the wielder can fly with it too.”

Japanese bōjutsu is one of the core elements of classical martial training. Thrusting, swinging, and striking techniques often resemble empty-hand movements, following the philosophy that the is merely an “extension of one’s limbs”. Consequently, bōjutsu is often incorporated into other styles of empty hand fighting, or karate.

Multi-Dimensional Martial Arts


Ninjutsu (忍術) is the martial art, strategy, and tactics of unconventional warfare and guerrilla warfare as well as the art of espionage purportedly practiced by the shinobi (commonly known outside of Japan as ninja).


“Ninjutsu use many weapon, more than the picture above tells us”


“Not only that, they also learn hand-to-hand combat. Falling from a wooden floor, seems hurt.”

Ninjutsu was developed by groups of people mainly from the Iga Province and Kōka, Shiga of Japan who became noted for their skills as assassins, scouts and spies. The training of these shinobi can involve disguise, escape, concealment, archery, medicine, explosives, and poisons. Mostly developed in the 14th century during the warring states period of feudal Japan.

That’s the list of Koryū style of martial arts in Japanese that I can find. Whew, another article exceeding the expected quota (Damn!). I tried to make it as simple yet resourceful article as possible, but did I write too much? if you ever think that this kind of article is just too long and plain boring, feel free to contact me through mail or comment below.

Final note, most soldier in the army (or mercenaries) study both weapon and non-weapon martial arts. Some source said that its compulsory, though the argument is in need of questioning. Well, it’s time to take my leave. I see you in the next article :).


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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