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Sword Martial Arts Through The Centuries and the Weapons They Use

Sword Martial Arts Through The Centuries and the Weapons They Use - Made4Fighters

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Every martial art requires years of dedication and practice, and requires you to learn repetitive hand and foot movements.

Martial arts aren't all about mastering the body. Many involve mastering a weapon like swords, sticks, and knives.

The three major regions of contemporary martial arts e.g. China, Japan and Europe, all feature swordplay. They range from Systema in Russia, hapkido in Korea, and pekititirsia kali in the Philippines.

Each branch uses a different type of sword and has unique forms of sword fighting unique to them.

Many sword martial arts are graceful and fluid. Sword-based martial arts almost look like dancing in their displays of control and beauty. Sword martial arts are often performance-based. Others use historically accurate swords designed for lethal precision.

When deciding to learn weapons-based martial arts, first consider your goals. 

What kind of precision do you want to achieve?

This will enable you to decide on a martial art that aligns with your ultimate goal.

In this post, we’ll lay out the different weapon-based martial arts, feature the different types of martial arts weapons, and help you find a suitable sword fighting style that’s right for you.

Japanese Sword Martial Arts

The Samurai warrior class was responsible for making sword martial arts popular in Japan. This class and mythos related to them persist even today.

The Samurai were an elite class of warriors who treated their swords as sacred and instilled their beliefs in their training. They created a style of swordsmanship honoring the ancestral and holy beginnings.

The Samurai may be long gone, but new fighting styles have carried on their traditions.


Kendo translates into "The Way of the Sword."

Kendo practitioners have to strengthen their bodies as well as their minds. Kendōka use swordsmanship practices and rituals that preserve Japan's cultural heritage

Kendo is a martial art that instills strong cooperative inclinations and morals. Regular practice of kendo gives people a sense of community.

In September of 2018, 59 countries or regions were International Kendo Federation affiliates . This federation is a friendly and non-political organization whose purpose is to develop kendo.

Kendo appeals to a broad spectrum of people. Children and toddlers can begin to learn the basic techniques of Kendo at an early age. Older adults also practice Kendo to stay strong and mentally healthy.

Kendo techniques come from different historical swordsmanship styles. Many people call it Japanese fencing, but that isn't exactly accurate. Kendo's historical roots are based in samurai bushido practices and jiu-jitsu.

If kendo interests you, then browse our selection of bokken swords  and be one step closer to becoming a modern-day samurai.

Kenjutsu Ko-ryū

“The technique of the sword” is the rough translation of Kenjutsu.

Kenjutsu is roughly translated as "the technique of the sword." It's an

umbrella term that includes all kinds of Japanese swordsmanship. Kenjutsu as a term became more defined after the Meiji Restoration in 1868.

This term is now used to describe a certain type of martial art practiced in pairs. Drills involve the teacher playing the role of attacker. Students defend themselves from the teacher's attacks using Kenjutsu techniques.

Schools use varied gear and equipment while teaching. Some participants only wear light leather gloves, and others wear full suits of armor.

Stick swords or blunt steel swords are often used for practice. The width and type of sword also vary among the students. Some schools claim to teach the original Kenjutsu style, but claims like this are hard to prove. Kenjutsu passes down the generations from father to son. Because of this, tracing its true origin is difficult.

Chinese Sword Martial Arts

Wushu is a Chinese martial arts term that originated at the same time as Kung Fu. It's an umbrella term describing more modern Chinese martial arts. Some of these martial arts use swords in their fighting styles.

Qingping Jian

A Daoist priest named Pan Zhen popularized the modern Qingping Jian. Qingping Jian is a fighting style that involves years of travel and meditation.

Modern Qingping Jian is a non-combative, performance-based fighting style. Like other Chinese martial arts, Qingping Jian likely descended from dance moves used in Chinese theater.


Taijiquan is a popular martial art sport which is often known as tai chi. Some forms of tai chi involve the use of a sword.

Tai chi students focus on connecting with the sword and making it an extension of his/her arm. Taijiquan teaches a connection of the mind and body. This enables the practitioner to feel their presence in the world around them. Like other sword martial arts, the sword forms are often considered a mystical aspect of Taijiquan.

Other Weapons-Based Martial Arts

Many martial arts use other weapons, not just swords. Almost all fighting styles teach people to use their weapons as an extension of their bodies.

Sticks and knives are two other common weapons used in martial arts training. We'll go over some of the fighting styles that use these weapons.

Stick Based Fighting Styles

Stick-based fighting styles are common in Japan. Several martial arts use a stick or a shaft while training and during combat. Some of these sticks have a small blade attached to the top to give them a more lethal design.


Naginatajutsu is a Japanese martial art of wielding naginata.

Samurai and warrior monks used this polearm weapon during Japan's feudal period. Several variations of the naginata exist throughout history. Almost all the designs include a wood pole with a curved, single-edged blade at the top.

In modern sparring, a wooden naginata uses a bamboo blade for safety.


Bojutsu is a Japanese martial art that uses a bo staff.

Bojutsu uses movements like thrusting, swinging, and striking. These often resemble empty-hand movements used in other martial arts.

The philosophy behind Bojutsu is that bo (or staff) is an extension of your limbs. Many empty-hand fighting styles like karate use bojutsu for this reason.

The basis of Bojutsu techniques comes from Quanfa and other martial arts. Chinese monks and traders brought this martial art into Okinawa. In Bojutsu, attacks are often avoided by footwork, returning strikes, and jumps.

Knife-Based Fighting Styles

Knives are also featured in many martial arts. In some fighting styles, knives can take the place of a stick or other bladed weapons. Samurai often used small knives as their backup weapons. When your primary weapon is out of reach, the knife serves as a defensive option.


Tantojustu uses a small knife called a tanto, and is a style of Kenjutsu.

A tanto is a traditional Japanese knife made during Japan'sHeian period. Samurai carried tanto with them along with their primary weapon, usually a katana. The tanto and katana were the samurai's two primary weapons.

The tanto was a backup option used in close-quarter combat. It was a handy side-arm if for some reason the katana was unavailable during battle.


Kali, arnis, or eskrima (escrima) are interchangeable terms for the same martial art. All three of these are umbrella terms used to refer to the national martial art of the Philippines.

Filipino Martial arts or (FMA) is the national martial art of the Philippines.

Filipino martial arts weapons use sticks, knives, or bladed weapons along with open-hand techniques. Kali is a combination of several different styles.

Students train with a knife and stick first. Once they have mastered that, they move on to advanced empty-hand training. Most students begin training with two weapons like a pair of knives, sticks, or a combination of both.

Sword Martial Arts Are Deadly But Effective

Sword martial arts and other weapons-based fighting styles are graceful, but difficult to truly master. They require precision, control, and high-levels of discipline. Practice with martial arts weapons can help deepen your understanding of martial arts and take them to a whole new level.

We have our own selection of martial arts training weapons  at Made4Fighters, from escrima sticks to karate bo staffs. Get yours today, and start on the path towards becoming a weapons master.