Thursday, October 5, 2017


Traditional Samurai armor
In traditional martial arts, one is essentially taught to defend, cripple and possibly kill another, but at the same time, a traditional martial artist is taught to respect, honor and assist others. Nothing seems more characteristic of the In/Yo or opposites that many people know as Yin and Yang

Much of the art in the martial arts comes from beauty, balance and mystery seen in movements, kata, and techniques, but in traditional martial arts, much art also comes from the way we show respect for others. There must always be art and a path towards humanity to be a martial art! Otherwise it is nothing more than MMA, kick boxing or street fighting.

A few martial arts appear to be performances by extraordinary athletics, and may even appear as intricate  dance. What separates martial arts from UFC, MMA, most sport karate and sport taekwondo are philosophy and concern for others. The beginning and ending of every training session in traditional martial arts provide a show respect of the art, the instructor, training partners, opponents and students. 

Then there is kata: forms of the martial arts. Kata are practiced as a personal form of meditation and a method for building physical fitness, power, focus and self-defense abilities. There are some traditional martial arts that demand attention because of the extraordinary beauty and  performance of the practitioners. Few martial arts are more traditional and artistic as the art of tessenjutsua martial art of samurai of old. 

A gunsen fan
Tessenjutsu is the martial art of the war fan. Samurai of old carried tessen since air-conditioning was not available, and they periodically found themselves in places where swords were not allowed. Not wanting to be unarmed, they trained in jujutsu and carried not so obvious weapons such as tessenTessen were designed to strike pressure points, joints and tendons, used in wrist locks, finger locks and elbow locks similar to a hashi stick (kubotan). In fact, many techniques used in these two weapons, are interchangeable. And some tessen were weighted with iron to increase its mass and assist in blocking and striking, which added to the effectiveness of the weapon. Whereas, hashi sticks were mostly made of wood although often sharpened to add to effectiveness.

Three are three general types of samurai war fans include: (1) gunsen, a folding fan used by the average warrior for cooling. (2) Another variety was gunpai (also gunbai, gumpai or dansen uchiwa). These large fans were made of iron and a wooden core used to ward off arrows and darts and even provide shade, or signal troops. (3) The third variety, known as tessen were designed as self-defense weapons.  Some were folding fans with outer spokes made of heavy iron plates deigned to look like a normal fan. While others were nothing more than solid pieces of iron shaped to look like a harmless, folded, fan that could be used similar to a club. Some also concealed blades.

The martial art of tessen is referred to as tessenjutsu (鉄扇術). Tessen-jutsu employs many joint locks. There are kata for tessen that show strong similarities to tai chi with other kata showing strong focus designed for karateTessen kata employ one tessen or two and there are even tessen-katana kataTessenjutsu is unknown to most martial artists, but its beauty has resulted in small groups of modern practitioners and a wide range of kata and dances.

Tessen fan-like weapon used by samurai
The use of the war fan in combat is described in early Japanese legends. Yoshitsune, a hero of one Japanese legend was described to defeat an opponent named Benkei by parrying the blows of his opponent's yari with an iron fan.

Some tessenjutsu practitioners became so skilled with the weapon, they were able to defend against an attacker armed with katana, and kill the opponent with a single blow. Like so many other Japanese arts of combat taught by samurai, tessenjutsu reached a high level of sophistication (see Daito Ryu website). Learn more about samurai arts and the many samurai weapons at the Arizona Hombu dojo in Mesa, Arizona.