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Japanese Martial Arts History

Mongolian tribesmen introduced the Chinese to violent skull-bashing wrestling in 770 B.C., and consequently, they indirectly introduced the Koreans and Japanese to it, too.
In China, the wrestling was called shang pu, and in Korea, it was called tae sang bak. Tae sang bak is also a synonym for the Korean wrestling form known as ssireum, which is pronounced as sumo in Japanese.

From there, Japanese martial arts history changed again in 23 B.C., when wrestler Tomakesu-Hayato was ordered to fight Nomi-no-Sukene. Nomi-no-Sukene kicked Tomakesu-Hayato to death by combining his violent wrestling with chikara kurabe. Thus, jujutsu was born.

Chinese martial artists also introduced chuan fa (kempo) to Japan in A.D. 607. When a style of chuan fa that was mixed with jujutsu was taught to Jigoro Kano (1860-1938), he removed the kicks and punches to create judo, which led to Morihei Uyeshiba’s creation of aikido in 1943.

The interaction and influence between the three countries is evident in many other Japanese martial arts, such as kendo. Likewise, when Okinawan martial artist Sakugawa created karate-no-sakugawa in 1722, the character “kara” originally referred to China. However, after Gichin Funakoshi introduced karate into Japan in 1921, kara’s meaning changed to “empty.”

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