The Sohei were the warriors Buddhist monks of feudal Japan. Throughout history the Sohei would find themselves embroiled in wars, offering advice, and fighting to defend themselves. They would teach their trainings in a brotherhood of monasteries and training temples, passing on their fighting and weapon skills to new recruits for the future success of the Sohei.

While it’s easy to picture the Sohei as a shaven headed monk fighting in their robes, the Sohei were much more advanced and prepared than this. With feudal Japan bringing war and fighting to the fore, the Sohei were responsible for their own safety and protection, this lead to their evolution as warriors.

The Sohei would be armed with similar weapons to a Samurai, wore armour like a Samurai and would fight in a similar fashion. One key difference would be the use of the naginata, a large polearm weapon with a curved blade at the head, which would allow the Sohei to easily disarm or attack horse riders, like the Samurai.


The Yamabushi are a group of Japanese mountain hermits that believe in life with abstinence from earthly pleasures, who followed the Shugendo beliefs and way of life. Yamabushi literally translated means ‘one who lies in the mountains’ but the words Yama which means ‘mountain’ and the word bushi which means ‘warrior’ is probably a better interpretation of their name. The Yamabushi were long thought to have supernatural special powers, which led them be viewed as both spiritual and mystical, just adding to their allure and mystique.

In addition to being deeply philosophical and spiritual people the Yamabushi were also skilled in combat. Martial arts was common for them and in a similar fashion to the Sohei the Yamabushi would also carry swords and wear armour, and were almost as deadly in a battle as a Samurai.