Suijutsu - How The Ancient Japanese Samurai Swam

Suijutsu – How The Ancient Japanese Samurai Swam

Suijutsu – How The Ancient Japanese Samurai Swam

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

Just get in and swim…” is an instruction that simply would not work in ancient Japan.

No, the Japanese samurai learned suijutsu or suiei-jutsu (水術 in Japanese) as one form of a martial art of combative swimming.

Centuries ago, the Japanese 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 including swimming with armor, eating while swimming, and swimming while tied with rope.

Other styles of ancient Japanese swimming techniques included the Shinden ryu (marathon swimming), kankai ryu (ocean swimming), suifu ryu (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.

These ancient and refined martial arts of suijutsu are experiencing a revival of sorts in Japan.

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