Samurai As Scholars, Swimmers, And Swordsmen

Samurai As Scholars, Swimmers, And Swordsmen


Samurai As Scholars, Swimmers, And Swordsmen

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

Japanese samurai has to master many things including swordsmanship, Chinese studies, poetry, spiritual discipline…and open water swimming.

Samurai learned suijutsu or suiei-jutsu (水術 in Japanese), one form of a martial art of combative swimming.

The samurai encountered numerous situations where he might need to cross a body of water, attack an enemy, fire arrows or defend himself while in a body of water with his armor on. Based on the warfare needs, the Japanese developed various different styles over the generations (suijutsu).

For example, the Iwakura-ryu (style) included various traditional samurai swimming techniques that required the samurai to be able to swim with armor, eat while swimming, and swim while tied with rope.

Other styles of ancient Japanese swimming techniques included the Shinden ryu (translated as marathon swimming), kankai ryu (translated as ocean swimming), suifu ryu (translated as river/rapids swimming), as well as several other schools that were based on the topography and waterways where the masters were located (e.g., coastline or mountain areas). For example, if the samurai had to fight while wearing armor, they would study the kobori ryu where the samurai would eggbeater (tread water like a water polo player or synchronized swimmer) while keeping their upper body above water to fight with swords, fire arrows or guns while in or crossing a river.

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