History Girls

 Shorinji Kempo traces its origins back almost 5000 years to India.

From India, Buddhism spread to many countries, including China. Bodhidharma, the sixth century founder of Zen Buddhism, introduced Kempo to the legendary Shaolin Temple (“Shōrin-Ji” in Japanese), located in Honan prefecture. Here kempo became the main form of spiritual training for the buddhist monks and the monastery became famous for its fighting arts.

Wall paintings can still be seen today in the Shaolin Temple of dark-skinned (Indian) monks practicing and teaching kempo to light-skinned (Chinese) monks.

The Imperial Chinese Government, feeling threatened, destroyed the temple and persecuted the monks. The techniques however continued to be taught and practiced by various secret societies as a means of protection against bandits and corrupt officials. Many different forms of kempo were developed and kept alive by these secret societies.

Born in 1911 in Okayama prefecture, the eldest son of a customs officer, Doshin So was sent to live with his grandfather in Manchuria upon the death of his father.

From the age of 18, he travelled extensively in China and studied many of the scattered remnants of Chinese kempo. In Beijing, Doshin So studied under Wen Laoshi, the 20th Master of the Northern Shorinji Giwamonken School. At a ceremony held at the Shaolin Temple in 1936 Doshin So became Wen-Laoshi’s direct successor, the 21st Master.

On the 9th of August 1945, Doshin So was in Eastern Manchuria when the Russian army broke their treaty with Japan and crossed the border. On the 15th of August, the war ended in Japan’s defeat. During the next year, under the occupying Russian army he experienced the misery and suffering of defeat in a foreign land, where the interests of nations had come before the claims of ideology, religion, and morals. Nations had fought, and victory went to the country best able to organise its people to defeat and kill others. The strongest ruled, and the defeated Japanese in Manchuria were on the wrong side of that rule.

Amidst this bitter reality, Doshin So found a lesson which shaped the principles of Shorinji Kempo. He realized that it was neither ideology, religious differences nor national policies which determine the course of events, but rather the character and the way of thinking of the people involved. He put words to this realisation saying, “The person! The person! Everything depends on the quality of the person”.

The defeat of Japan in the war brought about the repatriation of Doshin So and indirectly became the cause of the transmission of kempo to Japan. On his return, in June 1946, he found a people in turmoil, confused and lacking any hope or sense of purpose. Doshin So could see that they were lacking in morality and pride, so he set about teaching the arts he had learnt.

Source:  Oxford University
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In 1868, a man and a new dynasty were born.The Meiji restoration brought many reforms to Japan and it’s provinces,seeking to ensure that in the future Japan would adopt a more westernised way of thinking. 1868 was also the year that Gichin Funakoshi was born in Okinawa. He was a sickly baby and his parents agreed that he was not likely to lead a long life.

At primary school, Funakoshi became friends with the son of one of Okinawa’s greatest experts in Karate, Yasutsune Azato, and through his friendship with the master’s son Funakoshi was introduced to the art. The Japanese government had continued it’s ban on the practice of Karate, so sessions had to take place in secret and pupils were forbidden to discuss the art with anyone.

Once his interest in Karate had taken hold, Funakoshi’s health began to steadily improve and his night time walks to Azato’s home became ever more frequent over the years. Night after night, Azato watched as Funakoshi would practice kata, sometimes each night for months until the master approved. As dawn approached, so Azato would lead Funakoshi into discussions on the essence of Karate and, like a kindly parent, ask about Funakoshi’s life as, first a pupil and then a school teacher. On occasion, Funakoshi would practice under the instruction of one of Azato’s friends, another Karate master, Itosu.

In Okinawa the martial art was known as bushi no te (“warriors hand(s)”) or, simply te rather than karate (“Chinese Hand(s)”).However, the Japanese pronounciation of kara could cause confusion since it either means “Chinese” (referring to the Tang dynasty) or “Empty” Funakoshi took the view that the art he practiced was more appropriately called Dai Nippon Kempo Karate-Do, or “Great Japan Fist-method Empty-Hands way” making use of the Japanese characterfor “empty” rather than that for “Chinese”. At first Funakoshi’s suggestion brought cries of outrage from practioners in both Tokyo and Okinawa, but he stead fastly stood by his way of thinking until it gained widespread acceptance.

As his skill in the art of Karate developed and after gaining the approval from his two teachers, Azato and Itosu, Funakoshi began to instruct. At the start of the twentieth century Funakoshi’s school was visited by a Commissioner of the Japanese goverment for whom he arranged a karate demonstration with some of his pupils. As a result, the Commissioner wrote a report to the ministry of Education and the practice of Karate was legally allowed to raise it’s head into the Japanese way of life. Indirectly it was the reason for Funakoshi’s promotion to a school in Naha, a port, and capital of Okinawa. The realisation of Funakoshi’s dream was comingto pass and at last he was able to bring the art of Karate before a wideraudience.

Some years later in 1921, the Ministry of Education announced that a demonstration of ancient Japanese martial arts was to be held in Tokyo. Funakoshi was invited to introduce his art tothe Japanese capital and his demonstration turned out to be a great success. Jigoro Kano , the founder of Judo, asked Funakoshi to lecture on karate at the Kodokan (Judo hall) Suddenly he was besieged by people wanting him to teach them karate and his planned return to Okinawa and his family, was postponed time and time again.

Students from the local universities, white collar workers and many other aspiring martial arts pupils came to study with Funakoshi – his audience required a reference book, and in 1922 Funakoshi’s first work, “Ryukyu Kempo: Karate” was published. 4 years later a revised version of the same book was re-issued under the new title of, “Renten Goshin Karate-Jitsu” (literally, strengthening of will power and self-defence through techniques of Karate). In 1935, “Karate-Do Kyohan” was published, and was concerned with the various types of kata.

In the same year, 12 years after the great Kanto Earthquake it became apparent that the temporary dojo used by Funakoshi, was no longer in a good enough state of repair for training in, but within a year a nationwide committee of Karate supporters had donated sufficient funds for the erection of the first dedicated Japanese karate dojo. The dojo was called Shoto-kan. Shoto (“Pine waves”) being the pen name used by Funakoshi to sign the Chinese poems that he wrote in his youth. With the completion of the new dojo, Funakoshi set about drawing up a set of rules and a teaching schedule for karate, including formalizing the requirements for grading (dan and kyu).

Karate was now well founded and widely practiced in the universities of Tokyo as well as in the Shoto-kan dojo, however Funakoshi was, by this time, nearly seventy years old and overseeing each class was impossible without the help from his third son, and appointed advanced students at each university.

In 1945, after years of the Great Pacific War which waged a steady attrition on Funakoshi’s youthful students, the Shoto-kan dojo was utterly destroyed during an air-raid. Knowing his country faced defeat, the Japanese Emperor issued his decree surrendering to the American forces. The chaos in Tokyo after the surrender forced Funakoshi to leave for Kyushu, where his wife had fled when the battle for Okinawa had begun. There the living conditions were extremely poor and before long, Funakoshi’s wife fell ill and died.

In 1947, Funakoshi made an emotional return to Tokyo where he restarted his karate tuition. Through a new friendship with an American airforce officer, Funakoshi was able to spread the wings of karate by teaching American airmen the art during an invitational visit to the US mainland, thereby ensuring that the knowledge of karate had begun it’s journey world-wide.

Source: Southampton University 

Image Source: labmassiv.com

The nature of the universe is constant change, a flux between harmony and discord; so it is with mankind. Even is our generation, the world community is greatly lacking in those virtues most crucial to humanity’s survival; namely: self-discipline, self-confidence, tolerance and patience at the individual/personal level.

Ancient records indicate the origin of systematized combative arts stems from the cradle of civilization in the pre-Egyptian Mediterranean area. However, each successive culture has incorporated its own psychological approach, and therefore technical modifications, to both armed and unarmed physical conflict resolution. This occurred because cultural variance is based in divergent psychological perspectives for conflict resolution, different social systems/conditions, and evolving technologies.

China, long recognized as the mother of far eastern cultures, is credited with the rational organization and codification of oriental combative arts. Purportedly, the monks of the Shaolin monastery were instructed by an Indian monk (Ch.: Bokidharma/ Jap.:Daruma) in exercises which emulate animal movements and their psychological responses to confrontations with other species. Naturally, these took the form of attack and defense; activities associated with hunting or being hunted for food.

Subsequently, the Chinese, in particular the monks of the fabled Shaolin monastery, are credited with the evolution of these exercises into highly organized, diversified methodologies for waging combat. Due to the extreme diversification and specialization introduced at the Shaolin temples, no one individual could master all aspects of their art. These techniques were considered secret because such knowledge was considered too dangerous for the general public to possess. Therefore, they were taught only to students that needed them and /or to the most ethical of students. Thus, these skills spread slowly throughout all of Southeast Asia.

By the late 1600’s, the Japanese had entered a relatively peaceful era under the leadership of the Tokugawa Shogunate. During this period they subjugated the Ryûkyû Islands, including the island of Okinawa. Okinawa, deprived of armaments, adapted to their situation by learning “empty-handed” combative arts from the Chinese. These skills were streamlined, by making them more efficient for conditions in Okinawa. After almost three hundred and fifty years, Gichen Funakoshi, an Okinawan, introduced Okinawa-te (Okinawa hand) to the Japanese public. Due to the enormous public acceptance, Funakoshi moved to Japan and changed the name of his art to Shotokan.

In 1909, the Yi dynasty of Korea came to an end with the Japanese Occupation of that nation. The Occupation lasted until Korea was liberated by the Americans during World War II. During this time the Koreans covertly studied Japanese fighting arts; especially Karate, Jûdô, and Jûjutsu. They incorporated much of the Japanese arts into their own combative styles, thus changing them forever.

Source: University of Florida

{April 19, 2010}   Ninjutsu History

The history of Ninjutsu is stepped in myth and superstition. The origins of some aspects within this art are still under debate in a few circles around the world. The very nature of the art makes it hard to find early records dealing with it. As part of tradition, Ninjutsu was not recorded on paper. Rather it was passed down verbally from teacher to student for over 800 years. This was due partly to the need for protecting their identities from the upper ruling classes of the period.

Only within the past few hundred years has the art started to be documented. In this time over seventy “Ninjutsu ryu” (school/families) have been catalogued/identified. A majority of which have died out or evolved into a new art. Some systems have adapted and changed. Some have become arts that are today known as something completely different. This has led to much debate over the authenticity of some lesser known Ninjutsu ryu. There is still much debate over the number of true ryu remaining.

Most of the known Ninjutsu families and practitioners originated in the Iga/Koga (Modern Mie/Omi) regions of Japan. The Terrain of the Iga/Koga regions was largely unexplored. Inhabitants lived a relatively isolated life. Most of the families in this region were farmers and craftsmen of various types.

People inside as well as outside this region kept records, some of these records refer to the individuals/families now recognized as Ninja/Ninjutsu families as “Iga/Koga no Bushi” (Warriors of Iga/Koga) and “Iga/Koga no Mono” (Men of Iga/Koga). This relatively isolated existence freed them from the oppressive “mainstream” society of the period, also enabling them to cultivate views that were otherwise not given the same chance to develop elsewhere in Japan.

Gradually over time, direct influences of the upper ruling classes crept into the Iga/Koga regions. This slow wave of influences eventually caused political and social unrest. These differences in perspective also created turmoil in the ruling classes of the middle to late 1500’s, ultimately leading to the invasion and destruction of communities in both the Iga and Koga regions of ancient Japan. Facing outnumbering samurai forces, the inhabitants started to create the art we now know as Ninjutsu. Due to this the “Iga/Koga no Bushi” (Warriors of Iga/Koga) and “Iga/Koga no Mono” (Men of Iga/Koga) were forced into fighting for their lives. They were known to use the superstitions of society and social groups around them as a tool/weapon. As a result they became feared and shrouded in a veil of shadows and myth.

The term “Ninja” was not in use until the Tokugawa period (1605-1867). This is also the period in which the stereotypical image of the “Ninja” started to take shape. This image was unfortunately a somewhat negative one. Ninja were made out to be the bad guys (“assassins without honor who used their cunning and stealth to kill anyone for a cost”) this was not a common practice. Unfortunately within all groups there are a few that do go bad. This is what people saw when they looked at the Ninja. This view of the Ninja was and still is to this day most always totally inaccurate.

Source: http://www.ninjutsusociety.com

{April 7, 2010}   Don’t think, feel!

Don’t think, feel! It is like a finger pointing away to the moon. Don’t concentrate on the finger or you will miss all that heavenly glory.
~ Bruce Lee ~

{January 8, 2010}   Kyra Gracie

Kyra Gracie Guimaraes, born on May 29, 1985 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, was welcomed into a clan of martial arts legends. From her grandfather Carlos Robson Gracie who founded the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ), to Kyra’s title-holder uncles Ryan Gracie, Renzo Gracie and Ralph Gracie, it was expected that Kyra would practice the sport.

In fact, she began training in jujitsu when she was only 11 years old. Her mother Flavia Gracie also practices the fighting style. However, Kyra Gracie made history as being the first female to compete professionally in BJJ and win numerous titles. When Kyra Gracie was in her teens, she moved to the United States to train at the Renzo Gracie Academy in New York and the Gracie Barra Academy in California.

By age 13, Kyra Gracie has already won the New York State BJJ and Brazilian BJJ Championships, both of which she earned in 1998. From then on, Kyra Gracie has managed to win four more Brazilian BJJ titles (in 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2004) as well as four otherNew York State BJJ titles (in 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2002).

Kyra Gracie has also won the World BJJ Championships in 2004 and 2005, the Asiatic BJJ Championships in 2006 and two Abu Dhabi Combat Club Submission Wrestling World Championships in 2005 and 2007. She has also become a Pan American BJJ Games Champion five times – in 2001, 2002, 2003, 2005 and 2007.

Kyra Gracie is now a black-belter in the sport. Thanks to her numerous titles and legendary name, Kyra Gracie has been featured in several magazines, such as Crosscombat, Black Belt magazine, BJJ Legends and VIP Magazine.

In most of her interviews, Kyra has stated that she can be a fierce fighter, but still remain feminine – a statement proven by thousands of her male fans around the world. However, in a 2005 interview with NY Mag, Kyra Gracie asserts that she never thinks of jujitsu as being sexy, but only as a sport.

Kyra Gracie, whose name is often misspelled as “Kira,” is currently living in California. Aside from competing around the world, she also teaches Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu at the Gracie Barra Academy in Lake Forest, California. She also remains associated with the Gracie Barra Academy inRio de Janeiro.


{November 6, 2009}   Women to box at the 2012 Olympics

Women boxers will have the chance to fight for gold at the 2012 Olympics.

International Olympic Committee chiefs voted on Thursday to lift the barrier to the last all-male summer sport.

Three women’s weight classes will be added to the Olympic programme for 2012 Games in London, with one of the 11 men’s classes dropped to make room.

“Women’s boxing has come on a tremendous amount in the last five years and it was time to include them,” said IOC president Jacques Rogge.

Women will fight at flyweight (48-51kg), lightweight (56-60kg) and middleweight (69-75kg).

The IOC’s decision was described as “historic” by Olympics minister Tessa Jowell.

“It will be a landmark moment come London 2012 when for the first time every sport will have women participating in it,” she said.

“There are still major disparities in the number of medals women can win compared to men but this is a step in the right direction.

“In this country women’s boxing has come on in leaps and bounds and is growing quickly at all levels.

“London 2012 will now create the first-ever generation of boxing heroines and hopefully inspire even more women to take up the sport.”

Source: BBC Sport

{September 22, 2009}   Kunoichi – Female Ninja

Women played a very important roll in the ninja clans of the past. Known as Kunoichi, the female ninja could often use their own femininity to get very close to the enemy.

Using psychological warfare and mind manipulation as weapons, the kunoichi could get in close enough to poison the victim without leaving a trace.

Kunoichi were trained in a variety of weapons, similar to the ninja, but because of the different situations they would face some smaller close range weapons were used more often.

Weapons like blinding powders, poisons, daggers, rope and even the fan were often carried because they could be used at close range and would be easy to transport without notice.

Imagine a young woman crying, and how it would make you feel. You’d probably want to try to help her, and maybe even offer her some assistance. This is just one example of how the kunoichi could trick someone into walking right into a trap, a very powerful weapon.

The clothing worn by the kunoichi depended on the situation, maybe it called for no clothes, who knows?

Source: entertheninja.com

Women’s History Magazine

{September 3, 2009}   Tomoe Gozen

“…Tomoe was especially beautiful, with white skin, long hair, and charming features. She was also a remarkably strong archer, and as a swordswoman she was a warrior worth a thousand, ready to confront a demon or a god, mounted or on foot. She handled unbroken horses with superb skill; she rode unscathed down perilous descents. Whenever a battle was imminent, Yoshinaka sent her out as his first captain, equipped with strong armor, an oversized sword, and a might bow; and she preformed more deeds of valor than any of his other warriors.”

Tomoe Gozen

{August 21, 2009}   The Samurai Sword

From the medieval period to the modern, the Samurai sword has evoked fascination amongst warriors and laymen alike and was believed by the Samurai to be joined to his soul. When a child was born to a warrior, a sword was present during delivery and on his death, a Samurai word be buried with his trusted weapon by his side, ready to serve him again in the after life.

According to mythology, the first sword was created by the god Inzanagi who used it to murder his son, the Fire god. This was because he had been such a painful conception for his beloved wife, Izanami, that she ran away to the underworld.

At the beginning of the process of making a new sword, the sword-smith would often be blessed and spiritually purified by a priest. Inazo Nitobe stated in his book, ‘Bushido: The Warrior’s Code’;

“The sword-smith was not a mere artisan but an inspired artist and his workshop a sanctuary. Daily, he commenced his craft with prayer and purification, or, as the phrase was, ‘he committed his soul and spirit into the forging and tempering of the steel’.”

What made the Samurai sword unique was that it overcame an age old problem in sword making. To keep a sharp edge, a sword had to be made of hard steel but this would be very brittle, increasing the chances of the weapon breaking in battle. Alternatively, the sword could be made with softer, more pliable steel but this would lead to blades dulling during prolonged combat.

The Japanese sword-smith overcame this by hammering together layers of steel of varying hardness, then reheating and hammering them out thin again dozens of times. When the right shape was achieved, the top part of the blade was covered in clay and it was re-heated once more.

After a prayer was said, the blade was dipped in water to cool. The top part cooled much slower as a result of the clay, making it soft and flexible while the edge of the blade was hard and very sharp. To test the weapon, rushes bundled around a bamboo core were usually used although it was relatively common to use corpses or even condemned criminals.

To make the swords requires a great amount of technical skill and craftsmanship making them not only weapons of note, but also works of art in their own right. This did not only apply to the blades, the hilt and scabbard were sometimes carved from ivory and depicted a story from Japanese mythology and along with the hand guard, were often embedded with silver or gold.

Master sword-smiths would often sign their names on their work, signifying the quality of the sword. One who usually refrained from this practice was the legendary Musumane, believed by many to be the greatest of them all. Legends sprung up around the sword smiths and their abilities. One of Musumane’s contemporaries, Muramasa, was said to make the blade so well that one of his creations would hold an upright position in a swiftly flowing stream and any dead leaf that the current brought against it would be effortlessly cut in two. However not to be out-done, Musumane’s blade was said to be so sharp that when thrust in the water, leaves would actually avoid it!

A samurai was usually armed with two swords, the Katana, the bigger of the two, and the Wakizashi. The katana was the main fighting sword and the smaller weapon was mostly used for removing the heads of enemies killed on the battlefield. If defeated, the samurai were expected to end their own life rather than face the humiliation of capture and it was the wakizashi that was often used. The warrior would disembowel himself in the ritual known as seppuku, before a second removed his head to relive the excruciating pain.

Learning to use the sword properly was considered a life time study and a samurai was expected to be a dedicated practitioner of the martial arts, especially Kenjutsu, (the art of sword fighting). A strict code of ethics and rituals surrounded the sword, which had to be handled and maintained correctly at all times.

There were five basic attacks to be mastered in kenjutsu, as in its modern day equivalent kendo: from top to bottom; left to right; right to left; side to side; and a straight-ahead thrust aimed at the throat.

Samurai were trained in the art of war first and foremost but also participated in one-on-one duels with each other. These fights were often over very quickly when masters were involved as both would move almost simultaneously, with one move usually being enough to determine the winner; the loser usually would be killed or wounded.

Sometimes both fighters would be killed in the fight but it was not always necessary for someone to die to determine who won the bout. However with the level of skill involved when two warriors of a high standard fought, more often than not the loser paid with his life.

Although the samurai traditions were officially banned in the mid-nineteenth century, much of it lives on. The modern art of Kendo (Way of the Sword) preserves the techniques used by the samurai for almost a thousand years, along with many of the spiritual aspects of the relationship between the samurai warrior and his sword.

Content Source: The Samurai Sword – Bukisa.com

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