Training is Everything

You Can Only Fight the Way You Practice – Miyamoto Musashi

The training philosophy of martial arts has been practiced throughout history and traditionally, martial arts were characterized as a form of fighting arts that have originated from Asia. The training philosophy of the arts includes moral codes that exhibit these philosophies as a way of life. Every individual who has trained in just one of the three philosophies – namely spiritual, mental, and physical ways of the art – is not considered as a complete or true martial artist and Western combative forms of martial arts such as fencing, boxing, or wrestling were not considered as martial arts. However, scholars from the West are somewhat altering the definition of what martial arts really is since any type of fighting art, regardless of whether it has a morality code or not, is recognized as a form of martial arts.

Because of the change of mentality among individuals, contemporary types of martial arts have surfaced in numerous places since practitioners continue to alter the traditional art by adding novel thoughts and ideas before giving these arts a new name to go by.

Altering the Training Philosophy

By altering the training philosophy of martial arts, a sports tweak is provided to create something new that can be practiced by many. Studying a form of martial art sport – whether this is collegiate fencing, kendo, karate, or a new favorite in western martial arts – requires one to have extra focus and seriousness unlike in other types of sports though it does not mean that sports such as tennis, football, or even rugby do not need mental discipline.

Martial arts definitely demand a unique and great sense of physical and mental control to avoid inflicting harm to oneself or to a training / sparring partner; simultaneously, this will also let one understand and determine how to adequately employ such techniques to its full advantage when necessary. This is the reason why the martial arts training philosophy (which also involves the code of chivalry) places a great amount of emphasis on things such as mental tranquility and anger control as a response to aggression, pain, or even fear; so because of this, martial arts has been viewed through philosophy as something that is not a test of skills, but a mental sparring competition with one’s inner opponent. If one is able to control their emotions and reactions by “keeping your cool” during situations where an opponent is executing an attack such as throws, punches, or stabs, the practitioner will then be able to easily face any form of adversity or challenges that are thrown at him or her. Studying the skills of lethal martial arts is one of the best ways to develop a practitioner’s character, as well as to develop their proficiency when it comes to self-defense.

The Martial Excellence

The martial excellence – traditionally referred to as prowess – brings a sense of responsibility that allows one to learn how to make use of their strength without any form of judgment. Training philosophy is all about how certain martial arts are utilized as well as teaching that these are educational and fun; however, engaging in these arts is not all about fun and enjoyment since it also teaches a practitioner true dedication that exhibits the greatness of ethical, physical, and mental development. Western martial arts offer great advantages for an individual of European descent since the art is basically derived from the same culture that has been based on the same elements that have established the excellence of the Western culture. In this case, the arts may fully provide a unique road to personal growth and development that aids in the creation of an individual’s sense of education and judgment.

Kendo Martial Art and Sport

Kendo is known as a contemporary type of Japanese martial art that has descended from Kenjutsu; practitioners utilize the shinai or bamboo swords and the bogu which is the protective armor of a Kendoka. Kenjutsu is considered as a term for every koryu school that teaches Japanese swordsmanship, particularly those that have been utilized before the Meiji Restoration period.

Contemporary Forms of Kendo

The contemporary styles of Kendo and Iaido were founded during the twentieth century which included the modern curriculum of kenjutsu; this art first originated from the samurai class of Japan and unlike Kendo, kenjutsu means the art, method, or technique of the sword. In this day and age, Kendo is continuously practiced in Japan, as well as in other nations all over the world; this is because Kendo is a type of activity that mixes the practice of martial arts, as well as the values combined with strenuous physical sport-like activities. Additionally, it is also considered as a type of sport that sets extreme significance on etiquette.

Brief History of Kendo

There are generally two theories regarding the origins of modern-day Kendo: one is that the main origin of Kendo lies in the classic art of fencing where each participant faces off using actual swords. The martial art was claimed to be introduced from China for more than a thousand years in the past; though another theory states that Kendo was refined from Japan’s own style and type of fencing.

Samurai warriors who practiced and trained in the art of fencing took a long span of time to actually perfect this; also, the practice of this art with the use of swords was eventually included in studying Buddhism, morals, and most especially Zen. This was because the samurai also had to practice the art of spiritual training; so at the end of the eighteenth century, safe bamboo practice weapons and protective gear appeared which eventually made the present-form of Kendo appear and flourish.  In this day and age, Kendo has become an extremely popular activity in schools and it has become a type of sport that offers both mental and physical training.

Kendo Equipment

Practicing Kendo requires the Kendoka to wear and use the classic style of Kendo gear which consists of a bogu and one or two shinais. The shinai represents the katana and is usually made from four bamboo slats that are often held in place using leather fittings; additionally, modern variations of the shinai are also utilized and these have carbon fibers that are reinforced with resin slats.

Kendo makes use of various strikes and attacks that involve a single edge as well as the tip of the bokuto or shinai. It is necessary to utilize protective armor when practicing the art of Kendo to protect specific target areas that are located on the practitioner’s head, body, and arms; a Kendoka’s head is protected by the men (stylized helmet) that features a men-gane or metal grill that is present to protect the wearer’s face. There are also durable fabric and leather flaps called the tsuki-dare that are present to protect one’s throat, as well as the men-dare (padded fabric flaps) to safeguard the side of the wearer’s shoulders and neck. The other necessary Kendo equipment includes the following:

  • Kote – these are thick, long and padded fabric gloves that protect the Kendoka’s wrist, hands, and forearms.
  • Do – a breastplate that protects the torso.
  • Tare – part that is made up of three thick and bulky vertical fabric flaps that protect the groin and waist.
  • Tenugi – a cotton towel that is wrapped around the Kendoka’s head and is worn under the men to work as a base for it to fit properly; it is also necessary to absorb perspiration while engaging in Kendo practice.

Clothing worn beneath the bogu consists of the keikogi or Kendogi (jacket) as well as a hakama which is an article of clothing that is split in the middle to create two wide-legged trousers.

Kendo Techniques Kendo techniques are made up of both thrusts and strikes, whereas strikes are only executed towards specific areas called the datotsu bui and these include the head, wrist, or the body – all of these are well-protected by armor. The specific targets in Kendo include the men, yoko-men or sayu-men, the right kote which can be targeted at any period, the left kote when in a raised stance, plus the right or left side of the do.

Remember that the tsuki (thrusts) are only allowed to target the throat since incorrectly executed thrusts could seriously injure the practitioner’s neck. Generally, thrusting moves during free practice, as well as competitions are restricted only to the senior and more experienced dan leveled Kendoka.

The Historical European Martial Arts

The Historical European Martial Arts or HEMA refers to the form of martial arts that have originated from Europe, particularly utilizing the arts that were formerly practiced, yet died out or developed into varying forms; though there are only a few surviving records of the classic martial arts (specifically gladiator combat or ancient Greek wrestling) that were dedicated to the combat manuals or technical treatises dating from the Late Middle Ages to the Early Modern Era. Because of this, the focus on the Historical European Martial Arts was specifically during the time of the half millennium throughout the years 1300 to 1800 wherein Italian and German schools appeared and flourished during the late Medieval and the Renaissance period (specifically the fourteenth to the sixteenth centuries).

Nineteenth-century martial arts such as classical fencing can also be included in HEMA just like the traditional or classic styles that have been demonstrated during the nineteenth and the early twentieth centuries; these include folk wrestling, as well as the traditional styles of stick fighting.  There were times when the term WMA (Western Martial Arts) was utilized in the United States in a much wider sense which included contemporary and classic disciplines; during the later period of the Middle Ages, the longsword was said to have a status of honor among disciplines, and at times, historical European swordsmanship was utilized to specifically determine swordsmanship styles and techniques.

Ancient History of the Historical European Martial Arts

Generally, there are no known records on HEMA before the later period of the Middles Ages yet some medieval literature featured certain records on military knowledge and martial deeds in addition to the historical artworks depicting weaponry – such as the longsword and rapier – and combat. Numerous researchers have tried to reorganize the traditional fighting styles like the Gladiatorial Combat, Pankration, Viking Swordsmanship, and the Byzantine Hoplomachia in reference to various resources and constructive experimentation.

HEMA during the Renaissance Period

During the sixteenth, the summary of traditional Fechtbücher (combat manual) were produced – a few of these were printed specifically during the 1540’s by Paulus Hector Mair (a civil servant who was active in various martial arts in his period) and during the 1570’s by Joachim Meyer (a sixteenth century fencing master and German Freifechter). At the time of the sixteenth century, German fencing slowly developed and evolved featuring sportive aspects. Treatises of Meyer and Mair were based on the teachings from the earlier Liechtenauer tradition yet with distinct and contemporary aspects.

As the mid-century came, equipment such as the companion weapons and polearms slowly lost their importance and popularity, eventually fading out of such treatises; in the year 1553, Camillo Agrippa (a renowned architect, engineer, fencer, and mathematician from the Renaissance period) was the very first individual to describe the hand positions (specifically the quarta, prima, terza, and seconda guards) that remained as the backbone of classic Italian fencing throughout the next centuries and the future. From the sixteenth century, the Italian rapier fencing acquired great popularity throughout Europe, specifically with Salvator Fabris’ (Italian fencing master who came from Padua) treatise in the year 1606.

The Modern Community of the Historical European Martial Arts

Since the year 1990, communities of Historical European Martial Arts have appeared and flourished, as well as in other English-speaking areas such as Australia, North America, and a lot more. These groups continuously attempt to reconstruct and reorganize the Historical European Martial Arts by utilizing a variety of training procedures; and although the primary focus is on the Renaissance and Medieval martial arts masters, the methods of teachers from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries were also studied and learned, as well as reconstructed.

The Longsword and Rapier in Hema

For those who enjoy longsword battles in films, television series, and even in animation, this fast growing sport is something one would definitely enjoy; this is called the longsword fighting which is referred to as the rebirth of a long-forgotten historical European martial arts. In this day and age, enthusiasts have grown interested in HEMA which includes activities such as various types of sword fighting using weapons (just like the rapier) and grappling. Despite the numerous categories and equipment utilized under this, the longsword has become one of the most popular and is gaining much attention from martial arts enthusiasts. The Long Point tournament which began in the year 2011 is now one of the biggest HEMA even in North America, and their open-steel longsword division featured fifty-five participants with eight of them being women.