We know very little about the swordfighting techniques of Yoshitsune’s time. Sword masters preferred to keep their techniques secret and passed their skills directly to their students. The modern art of kendo (“way of the sword”) mimics duels between two unarmed opponents, and legal strikes are limited to the opponent’s head, throat, right wrist, and abdomen. Modern kendo practitioners use a bamboo sword (shinai) which wasn’t invented until many centuries after Yoshitsune. Yoshitsune would’ve used a wooden practice sword.
Interested in participating in kendo? Contact the All U.S. Kendo Federation, the Canadian Kendo Federation, or the International Kendo Federation.
Horseback archery (Yabusame) is still practiced in Japan, usually as part of a shrine ceremony. The most well-known yabusame rituals are held in Nikko and Kamakura. These riders are galloping down a straight course and aiming at stationary targets. Imagine riding in circles around a moving opponent while trying to fire arrows into the small gaps in his armor.
Naginata were also used in Yoshitsune’s time. This is a modern kendo vs naginata match, using protective gear and bamboo weapons rather than steel. Interested in learning how to wield a naginata? Learn more.
Kyudo is traditional Japanese archery. In the video you’ll see that some of the archers are practicing on a wooden horse to prepare for yabusame. Learn more.
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