Japan's samurai warriors were prevalent during the country's feudal period. For over 1,000 years, these men were an important part of Japan's culture and national identity. This military class employed different techniques when engaging in battle, and this knowledge lives on today.
Despite current misconceptions, the samurai were experts with more than just the sword. They used the bow and arrow and a thrusting spear called a yari. Thanks to an early emphasis on fighting while on horseback, early samurai focused on the bow and only used the sword for close-in fighting. The swordsmanship samurai became known for didn't come about until the mid- to late-17th Century.
Kenjutsu is a form of martial arts created 15th century Japan. Primarily designed to prepare samurai for battlefield combat kenjutsu focuses on swordsmanship above all else. Stances and techniques depend on the teacher's style. A fighter's movement depends on their personal style as well, but there are right and wrong ways for a samurai to carry himself and to hold a sword. The goal of kenjutsu is for the warrior to become one with his sword. Masters of the samurai code never give up, refusing to bring dishonor to themselves and their masters.
The samurai often named their swords, believing it represented their warrior's honor. The first swords were straight, but the need for stronger and sharper swords influenced the blade's evolution to the curved swords associated with samurai today. Samurai often wore two swords towards the end of the class's existence. The traditional katana, often more than two feet long, and the wakizashi, which was usually between one and two feet long. Japanese swordsmanship evolved with changes in armor, so that stabbing and thrusting at gaps and joints became paramount. Wielders of the katana kept the blade flowing quickly when in action, using their hips to push the blade through the air.
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