Traditional Japanese martial arts are divided into gendai budo (modern) and koryu budo or kobudo (ancient). Gendai budo refers to forms that were established after the Meiji restoration (1868), an era of major modernization in Japan, while kobudo refers to systems founded prior to that period.
The Japanese word kobudo consists of two characters; ko (ancient) and budo (martial arts or ways). Kobudo styles or ryu follow traditions developed in ancient times; utilize the classical weapons of sword, spear, bow, and minor weapons such as the naginata (halberd), kusari-gama (sickle and chain), shuriken (throwing knives), staffs of various lengths, the sai, kama, tonfa and others.
Kobudo-ryu differs from gendai budo in a variety of ways. Significantly, ancient styles do not share the kyu – dan ranking system of modern styles. Generally, it utilizes a graduated methodology beginning with sho-den (introductory level), chu-den (intermediate level), oku-den (advanced level studies), culminating with menkyo kaiden (certificate of mastery). Additionally, many kobudo styles maintain strict secrecy of their methods, rarely make public demonstrations, and accept students only with a proper introduction. Whereas, modern styles such Kendo and Judo are based on open practice where all are welcome to join.