3 Of The Most Popular Martial Arts In Japan

Mei Yamaguchi DC 4821

Martial arts in Japan are highly respected across the globe for their “bushido” virtues of loyalty, discipline, compassion, and devotion to duty.

Japanese martial arts started with the samurai warriors in the feudal era, but since that time, they have evolved and taken on new meaning in the modern world.

As ONE: CENTURY in Tokyo, Japan draws near, let’s take a quick look at three of the most famous Japanese martial arts that have stood the test of time and are still widely practiced today.


Hiroki Akimoto

Karate is perhaps the most iconic of all the Japanese striking arts.

It dates back to when the island of Okinawa first absorbed the art of kung fu from the Chinese during the early days of trade. As these arts adapted and evolved, the distinct style of karate soon emerged from Okinawa.

The word karate literally means “empty hand” in Japanese. It incorporates the use of punches, kicks, strikes, and blocks for both offensive and defensive techniques. Karate movements are direct and fast, with an emphasis on using counter attacks to exploit an opponent’s weakness.

Karatekas, or those who learn karate, train every part of their bodies as a weapon and deliver as powerful a blow as possible at a specific target. This practice trains the concentration of one’s strike into a single point of contact, and it has been helpful for several ONE superstars including Mei “V.V.” Yamaguchi, Hiroaki Suzuki, and Hiroki Akimoto.

The sport has grown immensely since its inception, and an estimated 60 million people worldwide practice karate today. The World Karate Federation is the main governing body and has helped make karate an Olympic-recognized sport. For the first time in history, the Okinawa martial art will be included in the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

Also, in pop culture, karate is one of the most popular disciplines shown in Japanese martial arts movies. In fact, Jackie Chan’s action films inspired Yamaguchi to start training in the discipline.


Ayaka Miura

Judo is a self-defense grappling art that evolved from samurai jujutsu.

After the end of medieval times and the subsequent decline of the samurai, the importance of jujutsu diminished significantly.

Thanks to the timely intervention of Jigoro Kano, the Japanese martial art was not lost amidst the influx of Western culture and influences. Kano revived and popularized the sport in 1882, and he is now recognized as the founder of judo.

The word judo means “gentle way” in Japanese. As such, judokas use the strength of their opponents against themselves, rather than relying on their own individual strength.

In judo, the goal is to either throw or take your opponent to the ground and immobilize him or her. Movements like grips and throws have to be quick and precise, and are aimed at the weakest point of an adversary.

Today, judo is practiced all around the world. Over 190 countries are registered in the International Judo Federation and thanks to Kano, it was recognized as an official Olympic sport at the Tokyo Olympics in 1964.

Also, with heroes like Ayaka Miura, Shinya “Tobikan Judan” Aoki, and Yoshihiro “Sexy Yama” Akiyama proudly representing the art, judo’s popularity will only continue to blossom.



Aikido is another highly popular discipline, and it is considered one of the best Japanese self-defense martial arts.

Morihei Ueshiba played an important role in aikido’s history. He developed the art as a peaceful alternative to the more combative martial arts.

He wanted practitioners to defend themselves without putting their attackers at great harm or risk, which helps explain why aikido techniques include wrist and arm-joint grabs.

There are many aikido tournaments, and stars like Rika Ishige practiced the martial art to help her overcome bullies.

The emphasis on self-defense and harmony of movement to control an opponent is why members of Japanese society embrace the martial art.

You can see Ishige demonstrate her skills in this art when she returns to competition at ONE: CENTURY PART I. Also, Yamaguchi and Aoki will display their abilities at ONE: CENTURY PART II just hours later.


ONE: CENTURY | ONE Championship’s 100th Live Event | Tickets: Purchase here

  • Watch PART I in USA on 12 October at 8pm EST and PART II on 13 October at 4am EST
  • Watch PART I in India on 13 October at 5:30am IST and PART II at 1:30pm IST
  • Watch PART I in Indonesia on 13 October at 7am WIB and PART II at 3pm WIB
  • Watch PART I in Singapore on 13 October at 8am SGT and PART II at 4pm SGT
  • Watch PART I in the Philippines on 13 October at 8am PHT and PART II at 4pm PHT
  • Watch PART I in Japan on 13 October at 9am JST and PART II at 5pm JST

ONE: CENTURY is the biggest World Championship martial arts event in history with 28 World Champions featured across various martial arts. No organization has ever promoted two full-scale World Championship events on the same day.

The Home Of Martial Arts will break new ground as it brings multiple World Title bouts, a trio of World Grand Prix Championship Finals, and several World Champion versus World Champion matches to the famous Ryogoku Kokugikan in Tokyo, Japan on 13 October.

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