Kenjutsu is a physical art form that incorporates the use of Japanese swords. It is often used as a generic term for any martial art that focuses on Japanese swordsmanship. Swordsmanship is an old and traditional practice that still continues to be studied today.
As one of the ancient martial arts from Japan, Kenjutsu has been suggested to originate during the Kamakura Period (1192-1333). The regional rulers of Japan during this time were vying for power and land, which led to an outbreak of civil wars. Due to the wars that took place, Japanese warriors began to receive training in organized martial arts disciplines in order to prepare for fighting.
While Kenjutsu was in its heyday during the Edo Period, it began to decline in popularity with the emergence of samurai. Over the years, the need for further military and police force training not only brought Kenjutsu back in demand but it also became a standardized training discipline.
The physical styles of Kenjutsu vary, but some basic techniques include fighting without an opponent and actual full-contact techniques. When practicing Kenjutsu, solid wooden practicing swords, or bokuto, are used along with bamboo swords, or shinai, as a form of sparring. This sparring element of Kenjutsu is now more common with Kendo but Kenjutsu techniques have influenced other martial arts such as Aikido.
Those who practice Kenjutsu are referred to as Kenjustuka and some of the most well-known Kenjutsuka are Miyamoto Musashi, Itto Ryu and Takeda Shingen. Kenjutsu and other Japanese sword arts have inspired new martial art forms with swordsmanship at the core of their practice. Kenjutsu utilizes strong strikes to kill the opponent and involves the study of spirituality and philosophy.