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Photo #53 – Butokuden, Japan’s Oldest Martial Arts Training Hall

Butokuden at Kyoto Budo Center in Kyoto, japan

Episode 5 of the Savage Japan Podcast, the racism episode, was recorded at the nearby Kyoto International Community Center shortly after this photo was taken. Episode 5 with its difficult subject matter is proving to be a tough episode to crank out. The current target date for availability is Friday, September 10th. You can hear previous episodes of the Savage Japan Podcast at SavageJapan.com or SavageSnowPodcast.com.

On the same day of the kyudo archery examination, an iaido examination or tournament was underway. I walked across the Kyoto Budo Center grounds to get a couple of Butokuden Martial Arts Training Hall photos as promised back in episode 3 of the podcast. This is the same building that the sounds of kendo (bamboo sword sport) were emanating from during episode 3 of Savage Japan.

I didn’t stay long enough to figure out if this was a test or a competition, but there were flags in use that reminded me of how kendo sporting events are judged.

Iaido uses real swords, but it is exclusively a kata driven practice. The ritualized kata of iaido (specific choreographed movements) are largely built around how one might draw a sword quickly for use in defense or when attacking an opponent. There is no actual combat training.

However, using a real sword (sharpened or not) there are real dangers and iaido, despite its lack of aggression, can be said to be a considerably more dangerous activity than the Japanese bamboo sword sport of kendo.

Iaido sword training, much like kyudo archery, is a variation of an old martial art training method that has evolved in modern times into a meditative practice instead of a combat art. There aren’t too many reasons to go out and cut someone down with a sword these days or to shoot them with a bow and arrow for that matter, or at least there doesn’t seem to be that need in Japan.

Iaido and kyudo meditative practices, as well as the Japanese kendo bamboo sport, represent more practical and useful martial art derivative activities for the general population of Japan.

Despite the low light and shooting all the way across the building, I did get one interesting close-up image of an iaido practitioner. You can see it here in the next photo entry.

Japan Photo Journal – Living in Japan
Dan Savage [Email]

Grab anywhere on map to scroll around precise spot where above photo was taken. Zoom in & out with buttons in left corner. To learn more about geotagging your own photos, visit LearningtoGeotag.com.

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