Japan has pioneered more than a dozen styles of martial arts throughout history, some of which involve hand-to-hand combat, whereas others involve swords or other bladed weapons. However, a traditional Japanese martial art that's often overlooked is sōjutsu. In this post, we're going to discuss this age-old martial art, revealing when and where it was created and whether it's still practiced today.
What Is Sōjutsu?
Sojutsu is a traditional Japanese martial art that focuses specifically on the spear. In fact, the term "sojutsu" translates into "art of the spear" -- a term that accurately describes the art. Sojutsu practitioners are taught how to attack and defend themselves in battle using a spear, typically the Yari. It's one of the many weapon-based martial arts developed in Japan. Unlike most, however, sojutsu centers around the use of a spear. This is a unique element that differentiates it from other styles of Japanese and even Korean martial arts.
History of Sojutsu
It's unknown who invented sojutsu or when they did it. With that said, spears have been a key element of Japanese mythology for centuries, dating all the way back to the region's feudal period. At this time, the Yari become a popular alternative to traditional bladed weapons like the sword and wakizashi. Featuring a long handle with a pointed blade -- sometimes with multiple points -- the Yari was a formidable weapon for samurai warriors. Most importantly, though, it was cheaper to produce and easier to use than traditional swords, thereby making it a common weapon used by samurai warriors.
Like all weapons, though, samurai warriors had to train themselves to use the Yari. This led to the creation of sojutsu, which as previously stated, is a Japanese martial art focusing on the spear. Practitioners of sojutsu learn how to perform thrust attacks, slashing attacks, counterattacks and other techniques that may prove useful in battle.
Sojutsu is still practiced by thousands of people today but not for different reasons. In the past, samurai warriors practiced sojutsu for the purpose of improving their skill and proficiency with spears like the Yari. Today, practitioners of sojutsu do it for recreational and leisure purposes. There's no longer a need for samurai warriors to use a spear; there are other, more advanced weapons available. Nonetheless, sojutsu remains a culturally significant martial art that's still practiced in Japan as well as other regions.