List of Japanese Martial Arts Styles

Each and every one of the Japanese Martial Arts Styles is distinct in their own way. It’s an understatement to say that the whole world of martial arts and fighting owe a great deal of its success and evolution due to the martial arts in Japan. Learning some of the forms of the Japan martial arts is essential to become a better fighter, athlete and person. Here is a short list of Japanese Martial Arts Styles that have been the most influential, recognized and are still practiced today:

List of Japanese Martial Arts Styles

Aikido - “The Way of Harmonious Spirit”

steven seagal aikido practitioner japanese martial arts

Aikido is one of the most well known of the japan martial arts styles because of it’s ability to be learned by anyone and it’s philosophy for self defense. It’s categorized as a grappling martial art - it’s performed by complementing the motion of the attacker and redirecting the force of the attacker rather than challenging it head on.

Aikido doesn’t have to be performed by one with great physical strength due to it’s nature of redirecting attacks of your opponent. Emphasis is put on flexibility, relaxation and endurance rather than strength training. The practitioner is taught to “lead” the attack’s momentum using entering and turning movements. With various joint locks and throws to finish some techniques, it’s useful in subduing crazed attackers.

And yes Steven Seagal is a practitioner and yes he could kick your ass.

Bojutsu - “Staff Technique”

bojutsu staff bo training

If you feel like being an old school ninja or just feel like being able to wield a staff, then Bojustu, the Japanese martial art of the ‘bo’ or the staff is for you. The main techniques consist of slashing, stabbing and swinging as well as even using the staff to pole vault or prop up for hand strikes. It also involves threatening the opponent by twirling the staff at extreme speeds and once the opponent is off guard the momentum of the spinning staff can be used to attack.


This is one of the Japanese martial arts styles that doesn’t normally take place in competitions because it’s schools training is aimed more towards self defense and protecting others through disabling attackers by using techniques to break their limbs which can lead to death.

The japan martial art is comprised of koshijitsu (joint manipulation), koppopjutsu (bone manipulation), jutaijutsu (throwing, grappling, ground fighting), dakentaijutsu (strikes), happo bikenjutsu (modern and traditional weapon attacks). and ninpo (ninjutsu). The various teachings and techniques is aimed to give the students and open mind of infinite possibilities.

Enshin Kaikan - Full Contact Karate

The main concept of Enshin Kaikan is the Sabaki Method - the main goal is to turn an opponent’s power and momentum against him and reposition oneself to the opponent’s blind spot to counterattack from a more favorable standpoint. It doesn’t limit itself from just striking; it also uses sweeps, grabs and throws associated with Judo and other grappling japanese martial arts styles.

Iaido - Sword Fighting

If you aspire to be an ancient Japanese samurai, this is the direction to go in. The art of Iadio is associated with the smooth, controlled movements of drawing your sword, striking or cutting your opponent, cleaning the blood from your blade and then putting it back into it’s scabbard (holster thing).

Due to it’s use of swords, it’s mainly taught based on learning forms or katas. There is no competition or sparring, therefore it’s emphasis is on fluid, controlled, precise motions - it’s commonly referred as the “moving Zen”

Judo - “Gentle Way”

olympic judo throw technique

Judo is one of the most recognized and popular of the martial arts in japan. Judo’s object is to throw or takedown your opponent, subdue his movement, and force him to submit by joint locks or chokes. Believe it or not strikes and thrusts by hands are a part of Judo, but are not allowed in competition or randori (free practice).

The main principle of Judo is using your opponents strength against him and adapting to the changing circumstances. The idea of pushing and pulling forces guide the way you use your opponents momentum against him in order to throw or sweep him to the ground.

Jujitsu - (Jiu-Jitsu, Ju-Jitsu or Jiujitsu)

At it’s heart Jujitsu is a method of close combat for defending an armed opponent without using any weapons. There are however many variations of the art which leads to a diversity of approaches including joint locks, holds, gouging, throwing, trapping, biting etc. and even some schools teach the use of weapons.

Most of the emphasis is on throwing, pinning, joint locking, choking and strangling techniques. Employing the principles of balance, leverage, and momentum help overcome your opponent and therefore is known as a “soft” art.

Ninjutsu - Ninpo

ninjutsu ninjitsu black ninja with sword

This is one of the popular Japanese martial arts styles because it uses strategy, tactics, guerilla warfare and espionage... sounds bad ass right?

Ninjutsu was developed as a collection of fundamental survivalist techniques in the war ridden state of feudal Japan. It included methods of gathering information and techniques of misdirection, avoidance, disguise, escape, concealment, non-detection, archery and medicine. Since the activities of these ninjas were seen as dishonorable they were often hired guns who were below Japans social classes - often referred to as ‘non-humans’.

Shotokan Karate

former UFC light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida practiced shotokan karate

Shotokan karate is comprised of 3 elements: Basics (kihon), forms (kata) and sparring (kumite). The stance of a practitioner is often long to provide stability, enable powerful movements and strengthen the legs.

The philosophy is based on the Twenty Precepts of Karate, alluding to notions of humility, compassion, patience, respect and calmness. Not only would these principles increase the practitioners skills, but it will also improve their character.

And hey, maybe you can become light heavyweight champion of the UFC like Lyoto Machida one day.

"The ultimate aim of Karate lies not in victory or defeat, but in the perfection of the character of the participant."

Hopefully this list of Japanese Martial Arts Styles was useful in learning the basic ideas of what each martial arts concepts are and how they relate to modern day martial arts.

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