Japanese samurai swords are best known for their legendary beauty, efficiency, and craftsmanship. The famed swordsman greatly influenced the rich Japanese culture made in instrument of their contributions.

Miyamoto Musashi is one of the famous Japanese swordsmen to ever unsheathe a blade. His fine works were popular for their size, strength, and artistic elegance.

Let’s explore the four areas where the legend of Miyamoto Musashi’s samurai swords can be seen and felt:

Beauty and craftsmanship

Musashi’s sword look finely crafted but can deliver deadly strikes as well. The swords have slick curvature and a modest grip. The crafter took great time and care with his techniques thus the weaponry created should be respected. All Japanese samurai swords remain to be equally famous but what sets Musashi’s sword apart is the legend their creator carved with his 60 plus successful duels.

Warfare

Miyamoto Musashi was said to have fought his first duel at a young age of 13 years old. It is believed that he struck down a brash, arrogant opponent that day before continuing a life of warfare and bloodshed. His life of warfare was tempered only by his great respect for knowledge, technique, strategy, and culture. His long sword technique is one of his most famous, for it teaches through the use of the Daito (or long sword) and Wakizashi (known for shorter blade length), how to defend oneself through fluid motion and calm control.

Religion

The knowledge about Musashi’s religious beliefs originates from his “Book of Five Rings,” a treatise on his travels, experience, and philosophies. He doesn’t appear to disrespect any religion, but has mentioned that man should not depend on gods for deliverance in times of war. In a sense, man is to forge his own path and not rely on the providence of supreme beings to find favor in the eyes of nature and the world at large. “…these things [religious teachings] are not to be found in the Way of the Warrior,” he writes.

Literature

His famous “Book of Five Rings” remains one of the greatest texts ever written on the craft of swordsmanship. Musashi’s influence on literature and popular culture does not end there. Since his birth and death, he has been the subject of many different films, TV shows, books, and traditions. It indirectly shows that his mark is felt even further in the different works pertaining to the Samurai, which have come and gone over the years.

A man’s life cannot be separated from the legend of his Samurai Swords. The swords greatly define Musashi that also defined the entire world of Japanese Samurai Swords, which continues to capture our attentions and imaginations even today, through people in every culture.

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Did you know that samurai swords can help you lose weight? Swing that sword and burn excess calories.

Find out how to make Samurai sword part of your workout by watching the video below:

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Tue
23
Feb

A nodachi is one of the large Japanese swords to have existed. The two-handed sword when translated means “field sword“. Some scholars suggested that the definition of nodachi is an equivalent of odachi which means “large or great sword“. Confusion between the two terms has nearly synonymies “nodachi” with the very large “odachi”. Hence, the original use of the term may have been referred to any other type of long battlefield sword (daitō), including tachi. It is frequently misapplied to nay type of oversized Japanese sword.

History and functions of Nodachi

Nodachi has a similar appearance and design of a tachi. The only difference is that nodachi is significantly longer. The nodachi was carried by foot soldiers and was designed as a warfare weapon rather than cavalry and open field engagements. Nodachi in general was used in open battlefield given its inappropriateness for use indoors or close quarter encounters. They can be utilized as an effective weapon against cavalry but then they were not commonly used for this purpose. Foot soldiers would carry the sword with the flat edge against the shoulder and the fuchi, or butt of the tsuka, in the palms of the hands with the blade facing out but toward the opponent. The sword would often be thrown down or at the enemy.

Nodachi was infrequently used for several reasons:

1. Nodachi needs greater strength to be properly wielded.
2. The blade was more difficult to forge compared to a normal-sized sword.
3. The naginata or nagamaki were quite more effective for the same role on the battlefield.

When no war raged in old Japan, the sword was worn slung across the back as a symbol of status of peace. This is perhaps the most distinctive use of Nodachi because most Japanese swords namely katana, wakizashi, and tachi were worn at the waist or belt; then again it was not drawn from the back. The limitation of nodachi was more on how its size and weight made it more difficult to wield.

The length of the nodachi’s hilt differed between twelve to thirteen inches or 30 to 33 centimeters. The blade was usually around four feet long. It surpassed katana in terms of cutting capability and range largely due to its weight and size.

Over-sized weapons based on martial history have been used for training purposes. In some Chinese martial arts, Bagua Zhang conditions the martial artist how to handle a normal-sized weapon more efficiently. Japanese uses suburito or a heavy wooden sword for the same training purpose. The Kage-ryū remains to be one of the very rare schools of Japanese martial arts that train in the use of the Japanese long-sword called choken. This sword was also used by Sasaki Kojiro, a very skilled warrior and deadly with the nodachi. He is famous for dueling with Musashi Miyamoto, a skilled swordsman of the time.

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Meet one of the most impressive replica samurai swords out in the market, the trademark handmade forged steel samurai sword.  There are quite a number of various models of replica samurai swords available but only a few are excellent. Only a few come close to exactly matching the look of a particular genuine sword.

The forged steel handmade samurai sword is visually impressive. This kind of sword will surely last for many years since the steel employed to produce is of high quality. When the sword is placed over a mantel, it almost captures a silver-like glow that illuminate a room magnificently.

Those who wish to display the sword in martial arts forms competition will greatly benefit from the choice of the forged steel samurai sword. Judges are inclined to be impressed to the visual allure of this particular item.

A clear image of a classical dragon in the wooden scabbard of the sword adds a nice touch to the forged Steel Handmade Samurai sword. The dragon has mythical image in different martial arts cultures. The appeal of the wood dragon scabbard increases the value of the sword. It represents one of the five founding systems of kung fu back in the ancient days of the shaolin temple.

This premium sword features a black steel blade with a length of 27.5 inches, zinc aluminum tsuba and fittings. Its handle is composed of imitation fish skin and wrapped in red and black fabric. The high gloss polished red and black sheath is decorated with red and black ribbon to complete the gorgeous styling of this sword.



BUY ME! Trademark Handmade Forged Steel Samurai Sword with Wood Dragon Scabbard

This is a premium Handmade Forged Steel Sword befitting a Samurai priced at $ 51.48. It features a carbon steel blade with blood carving line, a zinc aluminum tsuba and fittings as well as a cord wrapped imitation fish skin handle. Also included is a beautifully decorated presentation box and black sword bag. This sword has it all and is a fine addition to any collection! Its weight of 1 pound to be considered in shipping and fees is not so bad if you happen to live outside the U.S.

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The first prototype of the Japanese samurai armor is in the presence of Yoroi. The armor for Japanese samurai was found during the Gempei War of 1181-1185. The upper body armor of the samurai was called “Do”. It comprised of the “Sode”, a suspended shoulder and upper-arm protection plates. The Sode was tied to silk cords attached on the hoops. It is fixed to the back of the armor in an “agemaki” or a decorative knotted tassel. Guards were also placed over the shoulder cords, and a leather plate placed across the bow cords to avoid them from being cut off or being ensnared during a combat. The weight of Yoroi was around 60 pounds.

Samurai armor is not complete without a protective helmet known as Kabuto. It consisted of eight to twelve plates locked together with cone-shaped bolts. Just like in military practices of other culture, a samurai’s helmet displays the rank of the samurai and his clan. The helmets often look very decorative and highly elaborate. Samurai, in general, have long hair to which their ponytails would protrude through the tehen or a gap in the center of the helmets crown.

A thick five-plated protector called “shikoro” is found at the back of the head, neck and the cheekbone. It is fastened to the bowl of the helmet. The top four plates of the Shikoro would be upturned to create the fukigaeshi. The concept of fukigaeshi was to prevent the vertical slicing of the Shikoro’s horizontal fastening chords. A visor is also prominently seen on the front of the helmet, known as the mabisashi. The visor offers protection based on where it is placed. It keeps the sunlight out of the samurai’s eyes and shields the face from an extended and downward strike of the enemy’s sword.

Another part of the samurai attire solely intended for those having a higher importance is the eboshi or a silk cap-like headgear would be worn under the helmet. During the early time of the Gempei War, samurai fought much on horseback. They utilized bows and arrows. The standard samurai soldier often leaves the right arm free of restricting protection to allow drawing back the bow. His left arm, however, had a light protective sleeve.

The fighters during the Gempei War were not all of the samurai class. Therefore, they were equipped differently and wore a different style of lighter armor called the “Do Maru”. A body wrap style of armor resting on the shoulders and fastening under the right armpit was far less restricting than the yoroi. It was based on this freer design of armor that development would be made for the samurai’s armor of the future.



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Kendo is a modern Japanese martial art of sword fighting. The traditional Japanese swordsmanship or Kenjutsu serves as a platform of Kendo.

Its meaning “Way of the Sword” is best shown in the physically and mentally challenging activity of Kendo combining strong martial arts values having sports-like physical elements.

Concepts of Kendo

The All Japan Kendo Federation (AJKF) developed and published “The Concept and Purpose of Kendo” shown below:

Concept

Kendo is a way to discipline the human character through the application of the principles of the Katana.

Purpose

To mold the mind and body.
To cultivate a vigorous spirit,
And through correct and rigid training,
To strive for improvement in the art of Kendo.
To hold in esteem human courtesy and honor.
To associate with others with sincerity.
And to forever pursue the cultivation of oneself.
Thus will one be able:
To love ones country and society;
To contribute to the development of culture;
And to promote peace and prosperity among all peoples.

The History of Kendo

During the Kamakura period (1185-1333), sword fencing along with horse riding and archery were the primary martial pursuits of the military clan. The strong influence of Zen Buddhism contributed to the development of Kendo. An individual combat can easily pressure a samurai to disregard his own life in the midst of a battle. The samurai were taught to practice discipline based on the Buddhist concept of the illusory nature of the distinction between life and death.

Those swordsmen instituted schools of kenjutsu (the ancestor of Kendo), which continued for centuries up to the present practice of kendo today. The names of the schools show the essence of the originator’s enlightenment.

The Ittō-ryū, or the Single sword school, reflects the founder’s illumination that all possible cuts with the sword emanate from and are contained in one original essential cut. The Mutō-ryu, or the swordless school expresses the comprehension of the originator Yamaoka Tesshu, that “There is no sword outside the mind”. The Munen Musō-ryū, which means “No intent, no preconception”, conveys the understanding that the essence of kenjutsu goes as far as the reflective thought process. The formal kendo exercises known as kata were developed several centuries ago as kenjutsu practice for warriors until the present time, although in a modified form.

The Shotoku Era (1711-1715) introduced bamboo practice swords (shinai) and armour (bōgu) to “ken” training, attributed to Naganuma Sirōzaemon Kunisato. Naganuma developed the protective equipment called kendo-gu or bogu. He also established a training method using the shinai.

In addition, the inscription on the gravestone of Yamada Heizaemon Mitsunori’s (Ippūsai) (山田平左衛門光徳(一風斎), 1638 - 1718) third son Naganuma Sirōzaemon Kunisato (長沼 四郎左衛門 国郷, 1688-1767), the 8th headmaster of the Kashima Shinden Jikishinkage-ryū Kenjutsu, states that his exploits included improving the bokuto and shinai; and refining the armor by adding a metal grill to the head piece and thick cotton protective coverings to the gauntlets (kote). Kunisato inherited the tradition from his father Heizaemon in 1708, and the two of them worked hard together to improve the bogu until Heizaemon’s death.

The modern kendo would not have been as refined if not for the contribution of Kunisato and Heizaemon. Kendo started to make its modern appearance during the late 18th century. The use of the shinai and armour made it possible to deliver strikes and thrusts with full force without injuring one’s enemy. These advances, along with the development of set practice formats, set the foundations of modern kendo.

The concepts mushin (無心 むしん), or “empty mind”, are adapted from Zen Buddhism and are considered imperative for the achievement of high-level kendo. Fudoshin (不動心 ふどうしん?), meaning “unmoving mind”, is a conceptual attribute of the deity Fudo Myo-O, one of the five “Kings of Light” of Shingon Buddhism. Fudōshin, entailed that the kendoka should not be confused by delusions of anger, doubt, fear, or surprise arising from the opponent’s actions. It is possible to embark on a similar quest, in the modern time, for spiritual enlightenment as followed by the samurai of old.

The year 1895 saw all martial disciplines and systems in Japan to be solidified, promoted, and standardized made possible by the Dai Nippon Butoku Kai (DNBK). The DNBK changed the name of Gekiken (Kyūjitai: 擊劍; Shinjitai: 撃剣, “hitting sword”) to kendo in 1920. The occupying powers in Japan in 1946 banned Kendo along with other martial arts. This was part of “the removal and exclusion from public life of militaristic and ultra nationalistic persons” in response to the wartime militarization of martial arts instruction in Japan. Kendo was allowed to return to the curriculum in 1950. Its comeback was initially called Shinai Kyougi “Shinai Competition” and then as Kendo from 1952.

The All Japan Kendo Federation (AJKF or ZNKR) was founded in 1952, immediately following the restoration of Japanese independence and the succeeding removal of the ban on martial arts in Japan

The International Kendo Federation (FIK) an international federation of national and regional kendo associations and the world governing body for kendo was founded in 1970. The FIK is a non-governmental organization that aims to promote and popularize kendo, iaido and jodo.

The World Kendo Championships are an FIK event and have been held every three years since 1970.

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Did you know that homosexuality or pederasty has long been celebrated in samurai society?

Japan has records that show the prevalence of homosexuality dating as far as ancient times. Its history accepts love between me as the purest form of love.

Homosexuality had never been taken as a sin in Japanese society and religion. It was not restricted by any specific legal prohibition. The exposure to Western religious thought has influenced the way homosexuality is viewed by the Japanese government and by the population since the end of the nineteenth century.

Meaning

Wakashudo also known as shudo means the “the way of the young” or more exactly, “the way of young (waka) men (shu). The “do” is related to a Chinese word “tao”, considered to be a structured discipline and body of knowledge, also as a path to awakening.

The older samurai in the shudo relationship was called the nenja while the younger one is the wakashu.

Origin of Wakashudo

The term first appeared during the 17th century. It is then followed in the Japanese homosexual tradition by the love relationships between bonzes and their acolytes known as chigo. The supposed founder of homosexual love in Japan is Kuka, also known as Kobo Daishi. Kuka us the founder of the Shingon school of thought who is said to have brought over from the mainland, along with the teachings of the Shingon or the teachings of male love. Mount Koya is the location of Kobo Daishi’s monastery serves as a byword for male love up to the end of the premodern period.

Cultural aspects

The practice was upheld in high esteem thus encouraged especially within the samurai class. It was taken as beneficial for the youth, to teach him virtue, honesty, and the appreciation of beauty. Its value was different with the love of women, which was condemned for feminizing men.

Substantial historical and fictional literature of the period commended the beauty and courage of boys faithful to Wakashudo. The modern historian Jun’ichi Iwata drew up a list of 457 titles from the 17th and 18th centuries. It was then considered as a “corpus of erotic pedagogy.”

The rise in power and influence of the merchant class also saw the adaptation of the practice of shudo by the middle classes. The homoerotic expression in Japan started to be more closely linked with traveling kabuki actors known as tobiko, “fly boys,” who were taken as prostitutes.

In the Edo period (1600-1868), kabuki actors, known as onnagata when playing female roles, often worked as prostitutes off-stage. Kagema were male prostitutes who worked at specialist brothels called “kagemajaya”. Both kagema and kabuki actors were much in demand by the sophisticates of the day, who often practiced danshoku/nanshoku, or male love.

The rapid decline of sanctioned homoerotic practiced during the late 1800s happened at the start of the Mejii restoration and the growth of the Western influence.

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Tue
19
Jan

Yabusame is a kind of Japanese archery as a ceremonial art of shooting whistling arrows at a stationary target from the back of a galloping horse. The archer shoots a special “turnip-headed ” arrow at a wooden target.

Yabusame as an archery dates its origins at the start of the Kamakura period. It was a time when Minamoto no Yoritomo was alarmed when samurai displayed the lack of archery skills. Minamoto then organized a form of archery practice called Yabusame.

The history of bow and mounted archery in Japan

Japanese began using bows that dates back to prehistoric times specifically in the Jomon period. The long, unique asymmetrical bow style with the grip below the center emerged under the Yayoi culture (300 BC - 300 AD). Bows then became the symbol of authority and power. The legendary first emperor of Japan, Emperor Jimmu, is always depicted carrying a bow.

The use of the bow had been on foot until around the 4th century when elite soldiers took to fighting on horseback with bows and swords. In the 10th century, samurai would have archery duels on horseback. They would ride at each other and try to shoot at least three arrows. These duels did not necessarily have to end in death, as long as honor was satisfied. One of the most famous and celebrated incidents of Japanese mounted archery occurred during the Genpei War (1180-1185), an epic struggle for power between the Heike and Genji clans that was to have a major impact on Japanese culture, society, and politics.

At the Battle of Yashima, the Heike, having been defeated in battle, fled to Yashima and took to their boats. The Genji fiercely pursued them on horseback, but the sea halted the Genji.

As the Heike waited for the winds to be right, they presented a fan hung from a mast as a target for any Genji archer to shoot at in a gesture of chivalrous rivalry between enemies.

One of the Genji samurai, Nasu Yoichi, accepted the challenge. He rode his horse into the sea and shot the fan cleanly through. Nasu won much fame and his feat is still celebrated to this day.

During the Kamakura Period (1192-1334), mounted archery was used as a military training exercise to keep samurai prepared for war. Those archers who did poorly might find themselves commanded to commit seppuku, or ritualistic suicide.

One style of mounted archery was inuoumono - shooting at dogs. Buddhist priests were able to prevail upon the samurai to have the arrows padded so that the dogs were only annoyed and bruised rather than killed. This sport is no longer practiced.

Yabusame - the ritual mounted archery

In the Kamakura period (1192-1333) came to be practice as a divine rite offered by warriors to temples and shrines in hopes of victory of battles. The Japanese archery was designed to please and entertain the myriad of gods that watch over Japan. The people of Japan believes in it to encourage blessings for prosperity of the land, the people, and the harvest.

A yabusame archer gallops on a horse on a 255-meter long track at high speed. The archer primarily controls his horse with his knees during the time when he needs both hands to draw and shoot his bow.

Upon approaching the target, he brings up his bow up and draws the arrow past his ear before letting the arrow fly with a deep yell of In-Yo-In-Yo (or darkness and light). The arrow is blunt and round-shaped to yield a louder sound when it strikes the board.

The choice of a V-shaped prong is given to experienced archers. When the board is struck, it will splinter with a confetti-like material and fall to the ground. It is considered to be a highly admirable accomplishment to hit all three targets. Yabusame targets and their placement are designed to ritually copy the optimum target for a fatal blow on an opponent wearing O-Yoroi or a traditional samurai armor that has a bare space beneath the helmet visor.

Yabusame is more seen as a ritual than a sport because of its solemn style and religious aspects. It is often performed for special ceremonies or official events including entertaining foreign dignitaries and heads of state. In fact, the formal visits of American presidents Ronal Reagan and George W. Bush consist of Yabusame demonstrations. A yabusame demonstration was also bestowed to Prince Charles of United Kingdom who was reportedly fascinated and pleased with the performance.

At the present time, yabusame can be seen at the Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gū in Kamakura and Shimogamo Shrine in Kyoto. It is also performed in Samukawa and on the beach at Zushi, as well as other locations.

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Get in depth with horseback riding and Japanese archery all in one video.

Yabusame drivers have decades of experience to learn the art of archery. Witness how Tim Ferriss attempts to learn Yabusame (a Japanese archery) in a matter of days. Would he live up to the challenge? See it below.

Yabusame - Tim Ferriss from Kevin Rose on Vimeo.

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Learn how to fix a wobbly sword before you hurt yourself.

See it here.

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