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Exploring the Japanese Martial Art Nitōjutsu

November 12, 2018

Exploring the Japanese Martial Art Nitōjutsu

Traditional Japanese martial arts can be traced back to the region's feudal period, during which schools were established so that samurai warriors could learn new attacking and defensive postures. Some of these martial arts focused on hand-on-hand combat, while others involved swords. Traditional Japanese martial arts involving swords are known collectively as kenjutsu -- an umbrella term used to describe all forms of swordsmanship-based Japanese martial arts. However, there are several different subtypes of kenjutsu, including nitōjutsu.

What Is Nitōjutsu?

Nitōjutsu is a form of kenjutsu that teaches practitioners how to use two swords. With most forms of kenjutsu, practitioners train using a single sword, such as a practice katana or wakizashi made of bamboo or wood. In the past, kenjutsu practitioners used real swords with a sharp, metal blade. This ultimately resulted in injury to many practitioners, so schools began teaching kenjutsu using practice swords. Nitōjutsu also uses these same bamboo or wooden practice swords. The key difference, however, is that nitōjutsu teaches practitioners how to use two swords, while other forms of kenjutsu focus on a single sword.

Why Nitōjutsu Revolves Around 2 Swords

You might be wondering why there's a specific brand of kenjutsu for the use of two swords. After all, most samurai warriors only used a single sword at any given time. Well, nitōjutsu was established during feudal Japan as a means of preparing samurai warriors for combat. Although samurai warriors during this period typically only used a single sword at any given time, they were required to carry two swords on them. The samurai code specifically required samurai warriors to carry a large sword and a smaller companion sword, a combination known as a daisho.

The purpose of daisho was to better prepare samurai warriors for a variety of combat scenarios. In open landscapes, a samurai warrior would likely use his large sword to engage opponents. But in close quarters, such as inside homes and buildings, a samurai warrior could use his short sword to attack and defend. Nitōjutsu taught samurai warriors how to use both swords effectively, while most other forms of kenjutsu focused on a single sword.

Origins of Nitōjutsu

The origins of nitōjutsu can be traced back to martial arts expert Miyamoto Musashi, who founded the Hyoho Niten Ichi-ryu school during 17th century Japan. This paved the way for other nitōjutsu schools while highlighting the importance of carrying two swords in the process. Nitōjutsu is now viewed as one of Japan's many traditional swordsmanship-based martial arts.


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