Learn about the ways of the mind, body and spirit through many unique forms of Japanese martial arts including judo, karate, kendo, naginata, and shorinji kempo. At a future in-person Festival, enjoy an exciting variety of demonstrations on the Japantown Peace Plaza stage, showcasing the physicality and strength of our San Francisco Bay Area practitioners.

Read about this year’s performers on the 2021 Performer Profiles page.

Judo 柔道

Judo descends from jiu-jitsu, and became a competitive Olympic sport that includes the techniques of throwing and grappling, plus applying joint locks and strangle holds. Prearranged attack and defense forms are also practiced. Judo helps students with self-defense and overall health, helping them gain confidence while developing the mind, body, and spirit through exercise and discipline. Philosophical lessons are also taught, as the mission of judo is to improve oneself both physically and mentally in order to better society. Students are taught lessons of perseverance, determination and dedication, mental and spiritual focus, and thoughtfulness for others.

Karate 空手
Martial Arts
World Oyama Karate’s ice block breaking demonstration

Karate (empty hand) is a martial art that does not utilize armor, but instead develops the full body for strikes, kicks, throws, defensive blocking, and counterattacks. Karate practice includes kihon (basic techniques), kata (forms), and kumite (fighting). Kata practice helps develop physical techniques and body awareness, while kumite helps students learn confidence versus an opponent, timing, and interpersonal awareness. Students learn how to concentrate their mind and body to strike with great impact during their practice.

Kendo 剣道

Kendo (way of the sword) is modern Japanese sword fencing with shinai (bamboo swords) and bogu (protective armor). This is a full contact martial art with the main purpose to become a better person through the study of the Japanese sword, by building character, respect, and self-discipline. Students first learn the basics of reigi (etiquette), postures and footwork, and how to swing a sword properly before training with armor for sparring practice.

Northern California Naginata Federation
Northern California Naginata Federation
Naginata 薙刀

Naginata is a Japanese long pole weapon, made up of a sword mounted to the end of a staff. The art of wielding the naginata has been handed down through the generations since its usage in the battlefields in medieval Japan. Naginata is unique among martial arts as the tradition in Japan was maintained primarily by women in the last three centuries. Atarashii Naginata is the modernized and most widespread form, created in 1955 as the standardized combination of techniques from the most influential traditional schools of Naginata in Japan. Students train to cultivate their mind, body, and spirit in kata (choreographed practice) and shiai (full contact sparring with flexible weapons and armor).

Shorinji Kempo 少林寺拳法

Shorinji Kempo (Shaolin Temple Boxing) is regarded as a variation of Shaolin Kung Fu, and students learn principles rooted in Zen Buddhism. This martial art is based on the concept of integrating body and spirit into a system of self-defense techniques with mental training to promote health. The Japanese martial artist, Doshin So, developed shoriji kempo in 1947 to help individuals develop self-confidence, courage, and a spirit of compassion, thereby allowing students to help others and improve society. Training includes goho (hard methods like cuts, kicks, and strikes), juho (soft techniques in self-defense like release and reverse), and seiho (correcting methods for recovery like acupressure massage).