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Nanbudo (Japanese ???) is a relatively recent martial art, of Japanese origin. It was founded by Yoshinao Nanbu (Japanese ????) (1943—) in 1978. It has its roots in many Japanese systems such as aikido, karate and judo.

The system of martial arts known as Nanbudo was founded in 1978 by Yoshinao Nanbu Doshu-soke. Mr. Nanbu was born in 1943 in Kobe (Japan), in the Nanbu family, a traditional bushi (samurai) family from the Iwate Prefecture on Northern Honshu. He grew up in a milieu where martial arts were greatly respected. Amongst other distinguished family members was his grandfather, Yoko Zuna, a famous Sumotori. Growing up in a very martial arts-orientated family, he started learning martial arts at an early age. At the age of five he started learning Judo from his father, a 5th Dan who taught the Kobe police force[citation needed]. After a few years he started learning Kendo from his uncle.

At the age of 18, he entered the University of Economic Sciences in Osaka. There he discovered Karate. He learned Shito ryu and Shukokai Karate under Masters Tani (8th Dan) and Tanaka. He quickly grew very proficient in this discipline, and in 1963 he won the Japanese University Championship, at that time the most distinguished Karate championship in the world. Following his successes in Japan, Henry Plée, a great French karate master, invited him to come to France to compete. He won most of the competitions (it is said that Mr. Nanbu has never lost a match in career as a competitor), and returned to Japan after a few years. There he was entrusted with the task of spreading Shukokai in Europe. After a few years, judging his task complete, he founded the system of Sankukai (still practiced today). However, he felt that Sankukai was an incomplete system. Furthermore, he was weary of the political intrigue and pettiness surrounding him. He retreated from all activities in 1974 and withdrew to Cap d’Ail. There he meditated upon the nature of martial arts, and in 1978 he emerged with a complete new system, called Nanbudo. Ever since, he has been refining the system. Today he is technical director of the WNF (Worldwide Nanbudo Federation), and holds seminars all over the Nanbudo-practicing world.

Nanbudo is a system with its roots in Japanese Karate. Although it has many similarities with this system, it is considered as an independent system.

Nanbudo is a martial art, and as such teaches the traditional Japanese ways of combat. However, as a system, Nanbudo includes much more than just fighting techniques. The system is intended as a holistic method of self defence and training, and combines kido ho and budo ho, the techniques for health and the techniques of combat. It is based upon four concepts: breathing, energy manipulation, gymnastics and spirit/ mental strength. The techniques are a combination of traditional techniques from Japanese martial arts and Master Nanbu’s own philosophy. They are based on movements and patterns in nature, and are intended to work as a system to strengthen the body, as well as prevent many modern-day illnesses. The defence techniques in Nanbudo include punches, strikes, kicks, throws, locks, joint and pressure point techniques, and grappling techniques. The majority of techniques are unarmed, but the system also uses the weapons bo (six foot staff) and bokken (sword).

The system can be roughly divided into four parts: Kata, Randori, Ju and Ki.

Kata is a concept shared by all forms of Karate, as well as many other Japanese, Korean and Chinese martial arts systems. It is a formalized pattern of movements, a defence against one or more imaginary opponents. It is intended to teach the practitioner control and balance, and serves as a help in learning techniques. The techniques in kata are often highly stylized, and bear little resemblance to the real techniques (although this is not always the case.) Also, some of the techniques in kata stem from an earlier period of civilization and are quite deadly. Nevertheless, kata is a useful tool when teaching self defence, as it emphasises balance and breathing, and helps the student remember the general shape of techniques until they are fully learned. Kata, when performed correctly by a competent practitioner, can be extremely beautiful, and are often used in competition and performances.

The kata of Nanbudo can be divided into several categories: Basic, Advanced and Superior. The Basic katas, or Shihotai, consist of one technique performed in four directions. There are seven Shihotai: tsuki, ten, chi, hassu, ki, mizu and ku, one for each day of the week. Shihotai serve as an introduction to kata. The advanced katas, or Nanbu-katas, are longer systems, consisting of 30 or 40 techniques. Each emphasises a different type of technique, and each includes a variety of techniques. There are five Nanbu-katas (Shodan, Nidan, Sandan, Yondan and Godan), one for each season of the year, and one for the whole year. The third type of kata is the superior kata type. These kata are traditional kata shared by many karate-systems. But although many systems share a kata, its actual shape can vary a lot (for instance, Nanbudo Seipai is very different from the form used by the Sakugawa Koshiki Shorinji-ryu system)[1] There are a number of Superior kata, and not all are practised by all clubs or practitioners. The most common are Seipai, Seienchin, Hyaku Hachi and Ikkyoku. There is also Sanposho and Sanpodai. The superior katas are black-belt curriculum, and only one is required to attain the first Dan. In addition to these katas, there are a few katas for weapons. Amongst others, there exist versions of the Shihotai for bo, as well as the kata Tenryu. There are also kata for bokken. The last type of katas are the ki katas. See the ki-section for more on these.

Randori is a concept that, while not unique to Nanbudo, is used in very few other martial arts, and rarely in exactly the same way. Basically, a randori is a seven-step fight between two people. It is highly formalised, and each randori uses unique techniques. The randori has two participants: the tori, or attacker, and the uke, or defender. Both have a fixed set of moves to perform. For the tori, it usually consists of one left punch, one right punch, one left front kick, one right, one left roundhouse kick, one right, and one right punch. This is the standard, and only a very few randori use anything different.

For uke, it is a little more complicated. Each randori has its own separate set of defences. These include throws, punches, kicks, locks and basically all techniques in the system. There are currently some 20-30 randoris, with more being created by Mr Nanbu. There is a very strict set of rules regarding the performing of the randori. Each randori is preceded by the opponents taking their places facing each other. They say the name of the randori together, then they state their part, tori first. If two practitioners of different belts (grades) are performing a randori, the highest belt is given the privilege of being uke first. This has the advantage of allowing the lower belt to see how the higher belt performs the technique. This works because a randori is nearly always performed twice in succession (except for shows) so that both get to be tori and uke.

After the names have been called out, the practitioners then perform the yooi: a sharp inhalation and exhalation, while also assuming a formal ready position. They then assume the kamaete, or ready combat position. At the call hajime (from sensei), the randori begins. After each technique the practitioners change places, except at the last technique, when they return to starting point. They then perform yooi again, bow, and are finished.

In addition to the randori, in which two fight, there exists a multi-opponent system. The most common is niningake, with two toris. In niningake the one difference is that uke must always keep the attacking tori between himself and the other tori, to avoid a simultaneous attack. There are also other forms like sanningake (three toris), yonningake (four toris), etc., but these are very rarely practised, and only by a very few clubs.

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