At least three Japanese terms are often used interchangeably with the English phrase “Japanese Martial Arts”: “budō” literally meaning “martial way”, “bujutsu” which has no perfect translation but means something like science, art, or craft of war, and “bugei” literally meaning “martial art.” The term “budō” is a modern one, and is normally intended to indicate the practice of martial arts as a way of life, and encompassing physical, spiritual, and moral dimensions with a focus of self-improvement, fulfillment, or personal growth. Bujutsu refers specifically to the practical application of martial tactics and techniques in actual combat. The historical origin of Japanese martial arts can be found in the warrior traditions of the samurai and the caste system that restricted the use of weapons by members of the non-warrior classes. Originally, samurai were expected to be proficient in many weapons, as well as unarmed combat, and attain the highest possible mastery of combat skills, for the purpose of glorifying either themselves or their liege.

Koryū meaning traditional school, or old school, refers specifically to schools of martial arts, originating in Japan, either prior to the beginning of the Meiji Restoration in 1868, or the Haitōrei edict in 1876. The term is also used generally to indicate that a particular style or art is “traditional”, rather than “modern”. As a general rule of thumb, the primary purpose of a koryū martial art was for use in war. The most extreme example of a koryū school is one that preserves its traditional, and often ancient, martial practices even in the absence of continuing wars in which to test them. Other koryū schools may have made modifications to their practices that reflect the passage of time (which may or may not have resulted in the loss of “koryū” status in the eyes of its peers). This is as opposed to “modern” martial arts, whose primary focus is generally upon the self-improvement (mental, physical, or spiritual) of the individual practitioner, with varying degrees of emphasis on the practical application of the martial art for either sport or self-defense purposes.

Jujutsu literally translates to “art of softness”. 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.

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.

Most of these were battlefield-based systems to be practiced as companion arts to the more common and vital weapon systems. At the time, these fighting arts went by many different names, including kogusoku, yawara, kumiuchi, and hakuda. In reality, these grappling systems were not really unarmed systems of combat, but are more accurately described as means whereby an unarmed or lightly armed warrior could defeat a heavily armed and armored enemy on the battlefield. Ideally, the samurai would be armed and would not need to rely on such techniques.

In later times, other koryū developed into systems more familiar to the practitioners of the jujutsu commonly seen today. These systems are generally designed to deal with opponents neither wearing armor nor in a battlefield environment. For this reason, they include extensive use of atemi waza (vital-striking technique). These tactics would be of little use against an armored opponent on a battlefield. They would, however, be quite valuable to anyone confronting an enemy or opponent during peacetime dressed in normal street attire. Occasionally, inconspicuous weapons such as knives or tessen (iron fans) were included in the curriculum.

Today, jujutsu is practiced in many forms, both ancient and modern. Various methods of jujutsu have been incorporated or synthesized into judo and aikido, as well as being exported throughout the world and transformed into sport wrestling systems, adopted in whole or part by schools of karate or other unrelated martial arts, still practiced as they were centuries ago, or all of the above.

Dr. Koryu Muramatsu is the founder and director of the Kobujutsu Kenkyu-kai Myofu-An Dojo, or Ancient Martial Arts Research Society Wondrous Wind Temple. Born in Fukushima-ken, Japan, in year 26 of the Showa Era, he was raised in a traditional country setting and was surrounded by martial arts from a very young age. He learned Naginata from his mother at the tender age of three, Kyudo from his father, and continued his training in Kendo and Bujutsu throughout his teenage years under the stern hand of his uncle.

In 1998 Professor Leon Drucker became a Deshi (personal student) of Dr. Koryu Muramatsu after many years of training with him. That year he officially opened Myofu An Budo Dojo New Hampshire. At the New Hampshire Dojo located in Milford, Shihan Drucker teaches Myofu An Bujutsu along with Kosen Judo and Yang Style Tai Chi Chuan.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: