DNOWS Header

Image Map

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Swimming As Samurai

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

At the International Aquatic History Symposium and Film Festival in 2012, Professor Atsunori Matsui, Professor Toshiaki Goya, and Hiroyasu Satake presented a paper entitled The History and Problem of Swimming Education in Japan.*

The aquatic researchers noted that swimming has long been performed in the island nation of Japan by the samurai warriors.

But it was a tragic sinking of a passenger boat in 1955 where 168 people drowned that spurred a nationwide building of swimming pools at schools in 1961. The Ministry of Education defined and encouraged the teaching of freestyle and breaststroke.

The construction program was largely successful with 86.7% of elementary schools, 73% of junior high schools, and 64.5% of high schools in Japan with their own pools and swimming as a compulsory subject in public education.

While children and teenagers throughout Japan learn how to swim in school, swimming was a matter of military necessity in previous centuries. Between the 15th and 17th century, warriors occasionally swam with their armor and helmet. Between the 17th and 19th centuries, swimming was passed along by military personnel who had to navigate through the rivers, seas, and lakes of Japan. Those traditions are kept alive by the Japanese Swimming Federation that authorizes 28 traditional styles of swimming as “Nihon-eiho” (Japanese style of swimming).

Professor Matsui explains that in the Japanese swimming textbooks of earlier times, the Japanese taught simple things (e.g., how to put swimsuit on), technical strokes (e.g., sidestroke, freestyle with scissors kick), survival skills (e.g., how to stay afloat, how to dive, how to recover from cramping), and open water navigational issues (e.g., how to go through waves and how to swim out of currents and eddies).

In 1968, swimming was recognized as an important physical exercise in school due to the revision of curriculum guidelines by the Ministry of Education. It is required in elementary school and by the time they are in junior high school and senior high school, they are also taught backstroke, butterfly, and the individual medley.

Photo above shows Jigoro Kano (1860-1938), the founder of Judo and first Asian member of the International Olympic Committee. He also served as director of primary education for the Japanese Ministry of Education who insisted on the importance of the swimming education and made it with a compulsory subject in a teacher-training curriculum.

* Refer to the presentation 'The History and Problem of Swimming Education in Japan' here.

Copyright © 2014 by World Open Water Swimming Association

A Thank You Gift from WOWSA

WOWSA is celebrating the
1-Year Anniversary of the monthly Open Water Swimming Magazine
by giving you a free copy of the anniversary issue.

Open Water Swimming Magazine Anniversary Issue
File Size: 13MB


Download the file to your computer, and then right-click to extract the magazine which is inside the zip folder. The magazine is in PDF format.

CLICK HERE to download your free copy now.

Open Water Swimming Magazine

Open Water Swimming Magazine

The Open Water Swimming Magazine is the monthly magazine entirely focused on open water swimming heroes and heroines of every age, ability, and background. Published by the World Open Water Swimming Association, the Open Water Swimming Magazine is a free benefit to WOWSA members.

WOWSA Member Benefits include 12 issues of the Open Water Swimming Magazine, the annual 276-page Open Water Swimming Almanac, a free listing in Sponsor My Swim, outstanding product discounts from FINIS, an entry in Openwaterpedia and more...

The Other Shore

The Other Shore follows world record holder and legendary swimmer Diana Nyad as she comes out of a thirty-year retirement to re-attempt an elusive dream: swimming 103 miles non-stop from Cuba to Florida without the use of a shark cage. Her past and present collide in her obsession with a feat that nobody has ever accomplished. At the edge of The Devil’s Triangle, tropical storms, sharks, venomous jellyfish, and one of the strongest ocean currents in the world, all prove to be life-threatening realities. Timothy Wheeler’s documentary brings Diana Nyad’s extraordinary adventure to life as Diana sets out to prove that will and determination are all you need to make the unimaginable possible.

2014 Open Water Swimming Almanac

An Almanac for Open Water Swimming

An almanac is essentially a body of knowledge which is so complete that it enables people in different fields to make predictions about the future of their respective industries.

This, for example, was the purpose of the traditional farmers almanacs. It enabled farmers to determine as accurately as possible which crops to plant for the greatest harvests in a given year.

But the farmers almanac was just one example among many.
There are, of course, many different kinds of almanacs.

In fact, there is even one for open water swimming...

Preview the Open Water Swimming Almanac:

The trends are very clear.
The tide is rising for open water swimming.


Open Water Swimming Event Sanctioning

World Professional Marathon Swimming Federation

Open Water Race Calendar

Coaches Education Program