Kenjutsu (Swordsmanship), mainly involves chopping movements, is one of the mainstream techniques of ancient Japanese martial arts when swordsmen fight for their lives. Swordsmen usually hold their swords with both hands, and with flexible footwork, they gather all the power on the sword blade through the coordination of their bodies. Enbudo practitioners strike with precision in sneaky angles, which is a technical Kenjutsu with both offensive and defensive skills. In ancient times, swordsmanship was used to kill enemies on the battlefield. Today, Kenjutsu which had long been replaced by guns and canons, has become a cultural tradition of refining people’s spirits and belief.
Master swordsmen in different eras of Japan had created many unique schools. Among them, the Shinkage-ryū Kenjutsu was created during the Japan Feudal Period by KAMIIZUMI Isenokami Nobutsuna, the famous Kensei (Sword Saint). His teacher was AISU Ikosai, the founder of the Kage-ryū school. KAMIIZUMI later merged his ideas into the Kage-ryū Kenjutsu and created the Shinkage-ryū, which has far-reaching influence on the inheritance of the later generations. Many Shinkage-ryū practitioners go to the Mie Prefecture, the “Hometown of Kenjutsu” every year to attend the Kensosai. Through demonstration of techniques and exchange of thoughts on Kenjutsu, they retain this Japanese ancient Kobudo culture, which combines training of bodies and cultivation of minds.
At the heart of the Silk Road and in the territory of today’s Uzbekistan lies an extensive oasis, which is surrounded by deserts and high mountains. Not only was it an inevitable path for merchants and travellers to go back and forth the East and West in the ancient times, it was also a place of strategic importance. Meanwhile, this place gave birth to Kurash, an archaic type of wrestling. When playing Kurash, speed and strength are particularly important. Players have to keep changing their throwing actions in order to distract the opponent, and then throw the opponent on the ground on their back in just a split-second.
Amir TIMUR, a formidable warlord who rose to power in the 14th century, conquered the whole Middle Asia, Middle East and North India. It is said that he trained his soldiers using Kurash. In the 19th century, the Russian Empire took control of Uzbekistan. The Russians absorbed the fighting techniques of Kurash and created Sambo. During the Soviet Union era, Sambo was vigorously promoted whilst the development of Kurash was suppressed. Nonetheless, the Uzbekistanis insisted on passing Kurash on by word of mouth and teaching in person. In this way, the traditional techniques, battle rules and philosophy of the sport were inherited from one generation to another. Uzbekistan became independent following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1990. Not until then was Kurash brought to light again. It was later included as a medal sport for the first time at the 2018 Asian Games.
Two Judo masters from Hong Kong and Macao travelled deep into Uzbekistan and visited three historical cities of the country: Samarkand, Bukhara and Tashkent. Surmounting obstacles like language, culture, climate, etc., they went from the modern training centres for members of the Kurash national team to prairies in the rural areas to learn the sport from Kurash players.