Bujutsu: The Art of the Samurai

Bujutsu is the term used to cover the Japanese martial art styles that the Samurai favored.  Under this blanket term, you will find other styles such as Kenjutsu, Sojutsu, and Jojutsu.  The term Bujutsu is comprised of “war” (Bu) and “technique” (Jutsu) and is often confused for Budo.  While these two are both umbrella terms for Japanese martial arts, they are two different styles of combat so for today……let’s talk Jutsus!

1. Kenjutsu

Kenjutsu is perhaps the most well-known and popular forms of Jutsu out of the three mentioned above.  It is categorized by it’s fluid katas and tameshigiri, or target cutting.  If you’ve ever seen the anime Prince of Tennis, Sanada practices the art of kenjutsu and you see him running through his tameshigiri drills in one of the episodes.

Target areas when aiming to defeat your opponent include hands, wrists, arms, legs, and any other vulnerable area that your opponent my present you with.  As I’m sure you can guess, kenjutsu is a fairly precise art which is why it lends itself more to katas than sparring.  The eight basic cuts that form the traditions of kenjutsus are:

  1.  Shomen Uchi (Sometimes called Shomen Giri or Kiri Oshi) – Vertical downward head/face cut
  2. Hidari Kessa Giri – Left diagonal downward shoulder to hip cut
  3. Hidari ichimonji Giri – Left horizontal cut
  4. Hidari Joho Giri – Left upward diagonal hip/waist to shoulder cut
  5. Migi Joho Giri – Right upward diagonal hip/waist to shoulder cut
  6. Migi Ichimonji Giri – Right horizontal cut
  7. Migi Kessa Giri – Right downward diagonal shoulder to hip cut
  8. Tsuke – Thrust

In contrast, there are three different blocking techniques.  These are uke genashi (the block and deflect method), uke tomi (the direct block method), and uke kiri (the blocking and cutting method).

2. Jojutsu

Jojutsu is categorized by practitioners’ use of the Jo staff.  The Jo staff measures at 4 feet long whereas its counterpart the Bo staff comes in at 6 feet.

This style of martial arts was founded in the early 17th century by Muso Gonnosuke Katsuyoshi.  Gonnosuke once fought Musashi Miyamoto (one of the most famous swordsmen of the time and later author of ‘Book of Five Rings’) in a bo match and was defeated.  Angry at his defeat, Gonnosuke traveled to Mt. Homan to commune with his ancestors and contemplate the circumstances that lead to his loss.  He was struck by divine inspiration to craft a staff that was shorter and thinner and thus…..the jo staff was born.  Gonnosuke created many new techniques with his staff that comprised of a combination of thrusts, strikes and sweeps.

3. Sojutsu

Sojutsu focuses primarily on sword fighting and is also known as Yari Jutsu.  The primary weapon for this style of Jutsu is the Yari, a straight metal blade attached to a long wooden staff.

Traditionally, sojutsu was taught to low-ranking Samurai and conscripts because this particular style has a long reach and is especially good against mounted opponents.  One of the most important aspects of sojutsu is to locate the weak points and openings in your opponent’s armor in order to take advantage and go on the attack.

Of the three, kenjutsu is my favorite to watch.  I love how fluid the katas are (though sojutsu is a close second…..sword fighting is always fun to watch).  Do you have a favorite?

~ Jordan

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