By the late sixteenth century, forces were at work to unify Japan; and Ieyasu Tokugawa succeeded in unifying Japan in the middle of the seventeenth century. He set up the Tokugawa Shogunate, which lasted until the mid-nineteenth century, when the emperor was restored to power. The Tokugawa Shogunate created a strong central government and brought all the lords under the direct control of the shogun. It was a relatively stable and peaceful two hundred-and-forty year period. The shogunate controlled the economy and also kept the families of the lords as hostages in the capital city of Edo (present day Tokyo). Among the measures taken to ensure stability, foreign trade and Christian missionary work were prohibited, and Japan was isolated from the rest of the world. In this way new ideas and practices were kept from coming into the land and the status quo was maintained.
During this period, the samurai were relegated to bureaucratic roles, with little fighting to do. Some killed time in a life of dissipation, but others became rededicated to the pursuit of the martial arts. For many of them, however, this rededication involved a shift in the meaning of these arts. The martial arts had always stressed mental as well as physical training in preparation for combat. However, before the Tokugawa era, mental training was practiced as part of the fighting arts in order to perfect skill in fighting. In the Tokugawa period, since there was relatively little need for fighting, the fighting arts often came to be practiced as a form of mental training. For those arts which were transformed in this way--and not all were-- the aim of martial training became the attainment of a state of complete concentration and inner peace and the way of living that springs from it.
The shift of emphasis towards spiritual goals also frequently brought about a corresponding change in the nature of the actual techniques practiced. The movements began to be smoothed out as more attention was paid to how they felt and somewhat less attention was paid to their effectiveness in fighting. Nonetheless, there was still heavy emphasis placed on the actual life-and-death elements in the arts so as to preserve their rigor as spiritual training systems: after all, it was by coming face to face with death that the warrior had the opportunity to cultivate his self-understanding.
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