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Budo

Budō and Kyokushin

Budō (武道) is a Japanese term describing modern Japanese martial arts. Literally translated it means the “Martial Way“. Budō is a compound of the root bu (武), meaning “war” or “martial”; and dō (道) – Dao in Chinese – sometimes spelled tao), meaning “path” or “way”.

Japanese martial arts are divided into two separate and very distinct categories; Bujutsu and Budō.

Similarly to budō, bujutsu is a compound of the roots bu (武), and jutsu (術), meaning technique. Thus, bujutsu is translated as “science of war” or “martial craft.”

Budo and bujutsu have quite a delicate difference; whereas bujutsu only gives attention to the physical part of fighting (how to best defeat an enemy), budo also gives attention to the mind and how one should develop oneself.

Bujutsu is the original of the two, for lack of a better word, and are quite literally the “martial arts” of Japan, with the goal being the absolute effective application of fighting techniques in combat.

Budō is the newer of the two categories and traditionally there is no budo form of an art without its bujutsu parent. Examples, Judo and Jujutsu, Kendo and Kenjutsu, Aikido and Aikijujutsu, etc.

The budo are literally the “martial ways” of the Japanese fighting arts. The budo or martial ways, in contrast to bujutsu, are less concerned with practical and realistic application of techniques in the modern age, but much more focused on the perfection of the moral fiber of the individual budo student.

In essence, the goal is to translate what the student learns in the dojo and apply it to everyday life. One famous statement by Karate master, Sensei Gichin Funakoshi, founder of Shotokan Karate-do, summarizes the budo ideal clearly, “The ultimate aim of Karate lies not in victory or defeat, but in the perfection of the character of its participants.”

The martial arts historian, Donn Draeger, stated “Budo is concerned with self-perfection and Bujutsu is concerned with self-protection.”

To a degree this is simplifying the differences in approach, but it clearly separates the two categories.

The goal of bujutsu is not by any means the perfection of character but rather preparing the warrior for the eventuality and reality of real life combat with the correct technique being the difference between life and death.

A modern example might be soldier. The modern solider isn’t learning how to use an assault rifle for the perfection of character, he is learning how to use the weapon for combat – this is how training is approached in classical bujutsu.

During 1600 to 1850, and beginning with the battle of Sekigahara, gave control of Japan to the Tokugawa Bakufu. After four centuries of bloody civil wars between various Daimyo and their Samurai, a long period of peace was to follow. This led to Bujutsu, the classical martial arts practiced by the Samurai during peace. While there was no enemy during the peacetime, the Samurai would continue honing their martial skills by practicing in the dojo.

In the 17th century we see the emergence and rapid spread of the Ryu-ha, or schools of martial arts, and the seeds of Budō are planted and established. In Kenjutsu alone, there was said to be five hundred different schools. The emphasis was on Kenjutsu or swordmanship as the Samurai was expected to carry a katana at all times when in public. Kenjutsu practice was carried out with the Bokuto or wooden sword.

As we approach mid 19th century and the modernization of Japan starts to take hold with the dawn of the Meiji restoration, we saw Martial technique, or Bujutsu, transform into modern Budō.

Budō is not only about learning about and training in the martial techniques, but it has been developed as a method of practicing and tempering the mind and the body in accordance with the teachings of the unity of spirit and technique, and of cultivating etiquette. Budō does not only focus on physical strength, but it also focuses on self-control and discipline.