(Dao) - The Japanese Way
to isolationist policies that were brought about by a
similar but different set of circumstances in Japan and
China - and a mutual fear of debased western ways, all
of the Japanese martial arts i.e. all other martial arts
aside from Tai Chi - and by extension Kung Fu (see below),
and ethnic western forms such as wrestling, boxing, fencing,
archery etc. were all but unknown here in the west until
only a matter of decades ago.
We obviously had our fighting traditions and sports
here the west, including some similar to those in the
east - but what we did not have since perhaps the medieval
institution of knighthood and the age of chivalry was
- the 'art'.
we had 'discovered' eastern arts, us westerners were
perhaps most fascinated with their rules of etiquette,
philosophy and spirituality that made it an art, and
not just a matter of fitness or survival.
Japanese martial arts and martial art culture complete
with esoteric rules of etiquette and ritual was the
first to be brought to the west - and some of the codified
behaviours such as bowing and the coloured belt grading
system stuck; some were assimilated or altered and some
were just plain dropped or ignored. Some of these rules
that were by then irrelevant or non applicable were
quite understandably dropped, but so too perhaps were
some of the good or intrinsic ones. For instance, Karate
used to be called Karate-do.
The 'do' that got taken away from Karate is like the
do added to 'taichi' - and to explaining more I must
now dissect the relevant Japanese martial art terms.
In Japanese martial art culture the suffix 'do' transforms
a sport into an art and indicates that some philosophy
and correct moral discipline is intrinsic to it. For
the Japanese do is an experiential term in the sense
that the practice (the way of life) validates the discipline
cultivated through a given art form. The 'art' in this
case is martial art; though now we should remember that
traditionally and at the conception of Japanese martial
art this included poetry, painting, calligraphy and
flower arranging to name but a few. Samurai were expected
to be cultured and literate, and admired the ancient
saying "Bun Bu Ryo Do" (lit. literary arts,
military arts, both ways) or "The pen and the sword
in accord," The number of men who actually achieved
the ideal and lived their lives by it was high.
Budo is a compound of the Japanese words bu, meaning
war or martial; and do, meaning path or way. "Bu"
may be interpreted as meaning "courage" or
"the way of war".
The practice of a budo art ultimately involves the practitioner
in a commitment to a way of life dictated to enhancing
the most creative and altruistic qualities of human
character, and the simple and practical virtue of budo
martial discipline is that it is an excellent means
of awakening courage. Some of the arts that retain the
suffix do are JoDO, AkieDO, TaekwonDO and a few more.
arts are derived from the combat arts - they did not
develop independently of them. Contemporary budo forms
can be traced back to the Japanese hereditary warrior
class, the Samurai (bushi). "Budo"
refers to the idea of formulating propositions, subjecting
them to philosophical critique and then following a
'path' to realize them.
picturegram (as opposed to the word) (Jap) "DO"
and (Chin) "TAO" is actually derived from
the Sanskrit MARGA - meaning the 'path' or 'way' ...
Bujutsu is a compound of the words bu, and jutsu, meaning
science, craft, or art and the composite is therefore
translated or interpreted as "science of war"
or "martial craft". Bujutsu was the realm
of the higher classes, aristocracy and warlord. These
days, both budo and bujutsu are used interchangeably
in English (Romanised) with the term "martial arts".
early Japanese term for warrior, "uruwashii",
was written with a kanji (picturegram) that combined
the characters for literary study ("bun")
and military arts ("bu"), and from as early
as the late 12th century the educated poet-swordsman
is held up as the ideal of human endeavour. This class
would call themselves "bujutsu-do"; those
that follow the way of bujutsu.
samurai (budo) army and the navy were modernised in
1854. In defining how a modern Japan should be, members
of the Meiji government decided to follow the footsteps
of United Kingdom and Germany, basing the country on the
concept of "noblesse oblige." Samurai were not
to be a political force under the new order and with more
Meiji reforms in the late 19th century, the samurai class