The 10 Japanese Martial Arts + List

Do you know the martial arts of Japan? In this article, we will see the most popular japanese martial arts which has a long history and spans hundreds of years across Japan.

Historically, Japanese martial arts were used as a means of defense and attack in war. However, in modern times, they are practiced for their educational, cultural, physical, moral, aesthetic and spiritual value.

Most Japanese martial arts are seen as a sport, with an emphasis on disciplining the mind. As this article is a little big, we will leave an index to facilitate your navigation below:


Most Japanese martial arts are named according to the weapon or skill applied in the fight. They are usually named ending with of [道] which means path or Jutsu [術] which means art, technique, tricks and method.

The arts that end in of [道] are categorized and called budo [武道] which literally means martial path that also has its origins in war as well as the word "martial art". Although we mention of, a romanization correct is I give [どう].

The martial arts ended in Jutsu [術] are categorized and called bujutsu [武術] which literally means science of war, craft or martial art. Both words budo and bujutsu are used to refer to martial arts.

The difference is that bujutsu focuses on the physical part of the fight, on how to defeat the enemy, while budou focuses on the mind and on how to develop it. Sometimes a simple technique for defeating an enemy can be called Jutsubut it does not literally mean a martial art full of its own techniques and rules.

Some Japanese martial arts also end with ryuu [流] which means path, style, manner, fashion and class.

Judo [柔道] - The path of softness

Its main objectives are to strengthen the physical, mind and spirit in an integrated manner, in addition to developing self-defense techniques. His technique basically uses the opponent's strength and balance against him.

This system of corporal fight constitutes a modality of the old jiu-jitsu, its meaning is way of the smoothness, because its objective is to use the strength and balance of the opponent against itself.

The 10 Japanese martial arts + judo list [柔道] - the path of smoothness

Kendo or KENJUTSU [剣道] - The way of the sword

Kendo is based on Japanese fencing techniques and uses a bamboo sword with protective armor. Kendo uniforms are almost always black and their techniques involve shouting to show your martial spirit.

It is among the most common martial arts offered in public schools in Japan. It is estimated that 1.66 million people in Japan have some level in Kendo. It is considered very much a cultural value, and is strongly based on Samurai traditions. Kenjutsu can be considered another name that means sword art.

The 10 Japanese martial arts + kendo or kenjutsu list [剣道] - the way of the sword

Iaido [居合道] - Martial art of the sword

It is the Japanese martial art of drawing the sword. It consists of sets of kata, techniques or movements that allow the practitioner to react appropriately to certain situations. It may also be known as iaijutsu (居合術) and battōjutsu (抜刀術).

The 10 Japanese martial arts + iaido list [居合道] - sword martial art

Kyudo [弓道] - The way of the arch

Kyudo is the Japanese art of archery that uses extremely long bows with an asymmetrical shape. This is one of the oldest Japanese martial arts and is over 2000 years old.

Its bow is extremely powerful and a little difficult to handle. As a result, it is considered a sport that requires strength and maturity and is not taught to anyone under 15 in Japan.

The 10 Japanese martial arts + kyudo list [弓道] - the way of the bow

Yabusame [流鏑馬] - Target shooting on the horse

Yabusame is also the art of target shooting, however, mounted on a horse. It is similar to kyudo, but it is much more difficult to learn. There are only a few gyms that teach this.

Acceptance from a student is considered an honor. If you want to learn Yabusame, it is best to learn Kyudo first. Yabusame involves riding a galloping horse without hands.

The 10 Japanese martial arts + yabusame list [流鏑馬] - target shooting on the horse

Aikido [合気道] - The path of harmony

Aikido is an art with the objective of defending itself from the opponent's attack. Aikido is exercised through the combination of attacking movements, redirecting the opposing force, instead of fighting it directly.

The 10 Japanese martial arts + aikido list [合気道] - the path of harmony

Karate (do) [空手道] - The art of empty hands

Karate is a martial art from the islands of Okinawa which is focused on hand and foot attacks. It became a pop culture phenomenon in the early 1950s with Japanese karate films, not to mention the high demand for American films. 

This led to the demand for classes on a global basis. Current estimates of the number of Karate practitioners are over 50 million people worldwide.

The 10 Japanese martial arts + karate list (do) [空手道] - the art of empty hands

Juice [相撲] - The art of pushing

Sumo is a full contact fighting sport that is also considered a modern martial art. It originated with rituals and dances in the Shinto shrines and many of its traditions still show these origins.

Fighters perform a variety of ceremonies when entering the ring as they purify the ring with salt that are directly related to Shinto.

Professional sumo wrestlers are forced to live a traditional lifestyle and train together in facilities known as sumo stables.

The 10 Japanese martial arts + sumo list [相撲] - the art of pushing

Ninjutsu [忍術] - Ninja martial art

It is a Japanese martial art that arose from the need for the use of spies (Ninja) during the Japanese medieval period (6th century). It consisted of a set of techniques that enabled agents to act in all situations on a battlefield.

The 10 Japanese martial arts + ninjutsu list [忍術] - ninja martial art

Koryu [古流] - Japanese martial arts of the Edo era

Koryu is a broad category of Japanese martial arts from the Edo era. Martial arts entered a serious decline in Japan after the Samurai have been dismantled.

At the time, martial arts were seen as relics of the past that were useless against Western military techniques. In fact, many of Japan's ancient martial arts were focused on feudal war and are very different from the martial arts found today.

The 10 Japanese martial arts + ninjutsu list [忍術] - ninja martial art

Other martial arts of Japan

There are thousands of other Japanese martial arts, let's mention a little about these unknown martial arts and then finish the article by sharing a list of Japanese martial arts. If you liked it, share it!

Bujutsu it is a martial art made by farmers and used by samurai that involves using agricultural materials to defend themselves. Sojutsu focuses on the Japanese yari spear. Already Kobudo are Japanese arts of samurai origin.

Bajutsu is an equestrian martial art involving horse fighting skills and techniques. Bojutsu, Jodo and Jojutsu are techniques focused on battling using a clothesline called jo.

The 10 Japanese martial arts + list other martial arts in Japan

There is also a Japanese art called hakkoryu which focuses on immobilizing people using a rope or cable. The famous Jiu-jitsu is known in Japanese as Jujutsu. Already Kenpo is the Japanese name used to refer to Kung Fu.

List of JAPANESE martial arts

Below a video showing the main Japanese martial arts:

  • Aikido [合気道];
  • Aikido [合気道 / 合氣道];
  • Araki-ryū [荒木流];
  • Bajutsu [馬術];
  • Battōjutsu [抜刀術];
  • Bujinkan [武神館];
  • Bōjutsu [棒術];
  • Chitō-ryū [千唐流];
  • Daito-ryu aiki-jujutsu [大東流];
  • Genbukan
  • Genseiryū [玄制流];
  • Goshin Jujitsu [護身柔術];
  • Gōjū-ryū [剛柔流];
  • Hakkō-ryū [八光流];
  • Hojōjutsu [捕縄術];
  • Hōjutsu [砲術];
  • Iaido [居合道] or Iaijutsu [居合術];
  • Isshin-ryu
  • Jinenkan
  • Jodo or Jojutsu [杖道 / 杖術];
  • Judo [柔道];
  • Jujutsu [柔術];
  • Juttejutsu [十手術];
  • Jōdō [杖道];
  • Jūkendō [銃剣道];
  • Karate [空手]; - Empty-handed art
  • Kempo [拳法];
  • Kempo or Kenpo [拳法];
  • Kendo [剣道];
  • Kenjutsu [剣術];
  • Kenpo [拳法];
  • Kenpo kai [拳法會];
  • Kobudo [古武道];
  • Kosho Shorei Ryū Kempo
  • Kusarigamajutsu [鎖鎌術];
  • Kyokushin
  • Kyudo [弓道] or Kyūjutsu [弓術];
  • Kūdō [空道];
  • Maniwa Nen-ryū [馬庭念流];
  • Naginata-do [薙刀道] or Naginatajutsu [薙刀術];
  • Nakamura Ryu
  • Nanbudo
  • Ninjutsu [忍術];
  • Ninpo [忍法];
  • Okinawan kobudō [沖縄古武道];
  • Seishinkai
  • Shidokan
  • Shindo Yoshin Ryu
  • Shindō jinen-ryū [神道自然流];
  • Shinkendo
  • Shintaido [新体道];
  • Shitō-ryū [糸東流];
  • Shooto [修斗];
  • Shorinji kempo [少林寺拳法];
  • Shorinji-Ryu
  • Shotokan
  • Shukokai
  • Shurikenjutsu
  • Shōrin-ryū [少林流];
  • Shorinji kempo [少林寺拳法];
  • Shōtōkan-ryū [松濤館流];
  • Shūdōkan
  • Shūkōkai
  • Sojutsu
  • Suijutsu [水術];
  • Juice [相撲];
  • Sōjutsu [槍術];
  • Sōsuishi-ryū [双水執流];
  • Taido [躰道];
  • Taiho-Jitsu
  • Taijutsu [体術];
  • Takeda Ryu Nakamura Ha
  • Takenouchi-ryū [竹内流];
  • Tantojutsu [短刀術];
  • Tegumi [手組];
  • Tessenjutsu [鉄扇術];
  • Togakure-ryu
  • Toyama-ryū
  • Uechi-ryū [上地流];
  • Wado-ryū [和道流];
  • Yabusame [流鏑馬];
  • Yagyu Shingan-ryu
  • Yagyū Shingan-ryū [柳生心眼流];
  • Yoseikan-ryū [養正館流];

Let’s finish by leaving a video showing some Japanese martial arts:

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