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Learning Japanese Martial Arts – Karate, Judo and Kendo

Post: Wednesday July 16, 2014

When people think of Japanese sports, Sumo wrestling is often what comes to mind. However, if you’ve lived in Tokyo for any length of time, you know there are a number of other traditional sports in Japan. Almost all are martial arts of one form or another, whether using a weapon or empty handed. Participating in or watching these sports is a great way to experience a part of Japan’s culture that you won’t often encounter anywhere else.

Japanese martial arts



Perhaps the most well-known martial art of them all is karate, which originated in Okinawa. It means “empty hand” in Japanese and is known as a striking martial art with many punches, kicks, elbow strikes, and open hand techniques. There are numerous sub-styles throughout Japan and dojos (training halls) all over Tokyo dedicated to the practice of the art. There are quite a few that offer classes in English. The Japan Karate Federation would be a good place to start.





Karate information available below:

School NameDescription


  • See the web page for tournament information and more.
  • Information of what Karate is all about



Mas Oyama



  • Yomiuri Culture Yokohama & Ebisu, Tokyo
  • Karate Lessons for Women
    Karate Girls Dojo
    Children's Karate-do in Easy English






If karate is the most famous of Japan’s empty handed, martial arts styles, judo is a very close second. Where karate is characterized by strikes, judo, which means “gentle way” in Japanese, emphasizes throws and takedowns. In competition, strikes are actually forbidden, and the goal is to pin or otherwise immobilize an opponent using a variety of joint locks and choke maneuvers. As with karate, there are numerous dojos around Tokyo where you can take classes. The Kodokan Judo Institute offers classes where at least one instructor speaks English and would be a good option for those interested in learning this very distinctive martial art.





Judo information available below:

School NameDescription

Judo techniques videos and instruction

Kodokan School of Judo

Embassy Judo Club






Kendo, or the “Way of the Sword,” is a Japanese sport descended from the samurai swordsman style. A contest consists of two individuals armed with bamboo swords called shinai while wearing armored jackets and helmets. The two combatants strike and thrust at each other with repeated yells and shouts as they duel, attempting to land a strike on defined targets, including the head, wrists, and torso. The first combatant to three points wins the match.

If you’re interested in participating in Kendo, there are plenty of schools around Tokyo where you can take lessons and compete. One notable school that offers classes in English is Tokyo Kyumeikan Kendo Dojo. There are also Kendo competitions throughout the year if you want to observe a match or two. The best combatants participate at contests put on by the All Japan Kendo Federation and some are held in Tokyo.





Kendo information available below:

School NameDescription

All Japan Kendo Federation

All Japan Kendo Federation Online shop

Tokyo Kyumeikan Kendo Dojo

Katsushika Jodokai

Kendo Jinko Fuyashitai




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