Were martial arts ever banned in feudal Japan?

Discussion in 'Off Topic Area' started by hardball, Dec 8, 2013.

  1. blindside

    blindside Valued Member

    Sorry, not offhand, most of my martial arts library is buried in a storage locker right now. I remember being surprised that other classes could wear a blade. Offhand I can't remember where the commentary about the long saya for merchants came from though, maybe a Dave Lowry book, but that is just conjecture.
  2. hardball

    hardball Valued Member

    Thanks, your post helps a lot. Do you have a bibliography or reference for this?
  3. dormindo

    dormindo Active Member Supporter

    They're not, if the history is to be followed. It would appear that among capoeira's antecedant arts in Central Africa, the ngolo and a fighting tradition that included the use of sanguar/nsanga (jumping to and fro, twisting, turning, evading) were part of the tradition before the need to try to hide anything from overseers. In short, it would appear that it was the practice of those were practitioners of the art in the Congo/Angola region even at the point of contact with the Portuguese (see the works of T.J. Desch Obi and John Thornton).

    Also, inasmuch as the dance was supposed to fool people into thinking that no fighting was going on (according to the stories that even I heard and initially believed when I first started capoeira), the history seems to indicate otherwise, as European travelers (such as Rugendas) unfamiliar with the practice of capoeira seemed to describe and depict it pretty actually as a ritualistic (and sometimes violent) fight. Also, the arrest record seems to indicate that the authorities had no trouble recognizing capoeira and apprehending it for what it was (though, of course, some arrests appear quite contestable). So, the evasive, dancelike elements of capoeira don't appear to have much, if anything at all, to do with hiding the intentions of the practice from the authorities.

    Now, I'm obviously out of my depth talking about Japanese/Okinawan history and martial arts, but I'd like to say as a historian in training myself that I agree with the earlier mentioned contention that the use of farm tools as weapons needn't indicate the placement of a ban on weapon use. There could be many drivers, including poverty--as was mentioned, lack of materials to make proper weapons, lack of access because of class restrictions, etc. Okay, now my awkward foray into Japanese history is done, I'll watch the rest of you do it correctly.
  4. Ben Gash CLF

    Ben Gash CLF Valued Member

    So, to restart this thread and add in some thoughts I've had, your question pre-supposes that what we now know as Ryukyu Kobudo is the entirety of Okinawan weapons work. Really it's more a case of what's more or less unique to Rykyu (within JMA) and Bo.
    As I asked earlier, weren't the Shimazu responsible for military matters in Okinawa? If you weren't Bushi then you wouldn't really need sword and pole-arm arts, and it would appear that the Satsuma systems were practised on Okinawa. Indeed one of Funakoshi's teachers was an practitioner of Jigen-ryu and Kyudo, which he must have learned prior to the Meiji restoration.
    Your question also starts with the assumption that the weapons are agricultural in origin. Tonfa, Sai and Kama are all found in the Fujian-ese parent systems of Karate, where they're viewed as weapons, not farm tools. Analogues can be found in numerous SE Asian systems as well.

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