Bujutsu (武術) is the Japanese denomination of a set of combat systems transmitted since the Japanese feudal era (about 1185-1625). The term collectively indicates the disarmed or most often armed martial arts that, at least until 1868 (Meiji restoration), were specific competence of the military class (Buke) whose typical exponent was bushi or samurai. A more classical variant of this word, in the sense of the organic system of military education, is bugei (武藝). The ancient Bujutsu (koryu) should therefore be distinguished from the contemporary Budo (武 道), its elaboration based on more modern educational or pedagogical systems (gendai) especially in the first half of the twentieth century.

The Bujutsu had some features characteristic of other traditions of military exercise. It was organic, that is, a more or less integral system containing different subsystems applicable to various fields (from military technology to ethics). It was organized, that is, controlled by the authorities and well-divided into family or clanic schools that originated in countless styles (Ryū).

Despite studies highlighting the influence of Chinese military arts in the Japanese bujutsu, the latter developed basically within Japan's climate and historical conditions. According to what can be drawn from historical documents, the oldest Japanese martial art would be the form of struggle called sumō. It is, however, something completely different from the Sumo that, from the Edo period to the present, was presented as a form of show. It is assumed that the ancient sumo was a form of struggle through the use of kicks.

The various martial arts schools do not form during the Battle States, but at the beginning of the Edo era. It is thought that, at the end of the latter, the number of schools would exceed one hundred if not thousands, but there is no secure documentation. After the Meiji Restoration, in the era of modernization (bunmei kaika, 文明 開化), martial arts are rejected as retrograde but after World War II they undergo a much stronger attack. Many schools disappear, among the various causes there is the death in war of the designated successors of the various traditions.

Small schools, where the secrets of art are transmitted solely from father to son, in most cases do not set up a gym, pursuing tradition only within the family. This is why it is easy for them to extinct, during historical changes, in the absence of someone who can do it through with successive generations. There are also extreme cases where only by participating in the funeral of the parent comes to know that there was a martial art and a heir among the children in the family.

Contemporary martial arts, called budu (武 道), are born and developed on the basis of the historical martial arts after the Meiji period. Their different shapes, which rigidly retain their ancient styles, so come to the contemporary arts, and are still transmitted in different forms.

There are also several recent training martial arts, devoid of a traditional past, aspiring to the definition of bujutsu. In the background, however, criticisms of these "modern martial arts" are sacrificed, which would sacrifice martial spirit in favor of the safety of practitioners, pursuing a competition that is in line with the rules, alien to their original form.

The 18 Military Arts
In the military tradition of the Edo period, the term Bugei Jūhappan (武 芸 十八 般) means "18 military specialties" as the collective denomination of combat systems in which the samurai had to excel. However, the term is borrowed from Chinese texts and has purely formal value, in fact the list of specialties taught depended largely on school (Ryū) and changed over time. Generally since the Kamakura era, schools became more and more specialized, and the most popular systems are still focused on the use of swords, spear and more and more rarely the bow. A possible list of specialties is as follows:

Bōjutsu o Jōjutsu
Ninjutsu, Ongyōjutsu