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Universality and Struggle

August 6, 2010

Since the Meiji era, there has been a movement to find new forms of martial arts in Japan. Traditional forms of martial arts from different countries were combined in various ways to achieve a universal synthesis. One of the new martial arts created was nihon kempô. Its creator, Sawayama Muneomi, used to practice jûdo and jû jitsu but wasn’t satisfied with their techniques. Sawayama was looking for the “law of the fist”, so he started to practice karate as well, but still didn’t find the universal law he was searching. He invented a kind of armour that enabled him to practice martial arts freely. With this armour Sawayama could free himself from the use of kata, the forms which are used in traditional martial arts to practice techniques and simulate fights without getting hurt. Thus, he became a pioneer in the “martial arts of revolt” as Sawayama himself called it.

Like “revolt” already indicates, nihon kempô involves struggle. It’s a struggle to flee all forms and move on freely. Interestingly, or maybe paradoxically, this is posssible only by wearing armour and one might think that armour is rather restricting ones freedom. But without armour fighting is dangerous and one might risk one’s life during practice before discovering one’s fists’ law. Therefore nihon kempô is also a struggle against itself. Practitioners have to restrict themselves to overcome their boundaries.

In fact, this is the essence of freedom and the basis of becoming a full-fledged human being with a free mind and modesty. In the description of the video below a connection between Japan’s youth and martial arts is drawn, too. It is “both an introduction to Ryukoku University Nihon Kempo Club and a short documentary on “japans Youth and Martial arts”.” This artistic video conveys beautifully the philosophy behind nihon kempô.

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