Monthly Archives: May 2013
Monthly Archives: May 2013
Budo: 武道One thing we must remember is the strong influence that was left by Gigoro Kano (嘉納治五郎1860 – 1938), the founder of Judo 柔道. He was a very influential person not only in the martial arts but also in all education systems in Japan in late 19th century and early 20th century when modern day martial arts were developing. As a result of his work Judo and Kendo were inducted into high school curriculum starting in 1898. I described the details of the relationship between Funakoshi and Kano in my book, Shotokan Mysteries. Without the support Funakoshi received from Kano, Okinawa-te could never have become popular as we see in Japan and eventually around the world. After the World War II, budo training was banned by GHQ (Allied Occupation Forces). For a few years karate training was also banned but the letter that was sent from GHQ to the Japanese Ministry of Education did not mention karate. For the technicality karate was allowed to start its activities (training) sooner than judo and kendo. Judo had to wait till 1950 for it to be included in as a selective subject in high school curriculum. Kendo needed two more years before it was included in high school curriculum. In 2012 Budo and dancing became the required courses of high school in Japan. Budo entails for Judo, Kendo and Sumo. Most high schools picked Judo as their required course but a few schools offer other courses. Unfortunately, as of now karate has not been able to gain a regular position in high school education.
.Kobudo: 古武道 This word means literally "old martial way" as it is compared to the modern day martial art such as Kendo, Judo and Karatedo. There are two categories for the term of kobudo: 1. Koryu budo: A type of Japanese martial art which has kept its ancient mode of training and has been preserved and handed down from generation to generation, originating prior to Meiji Restoration of 1886. This includes kenjutsu (sword), jujutsu, sojutsu (spear), kyujutsu (archery), hojutsu (gun), etc as well as swimming and horse riding. 2. Okinawa kobudo: the martial arts weaponry systems originating on the island of Okinawa. Bujutsu: 武術 This term also have several definitions.
What are Bushido, Budo and Bujutsu？
How are they different? These are commonly used by the karate practitioners but I am not sure how many people have a clear understanding of these terms. I notice even among the Japanese people some confusion with these terms.
As the explanation of Bushido is pretty complex I will break my article into two parts. I will dedicate Part 1 to this interesting subject of Bushido and try to cover some important part of history and its cultural background.
Bushido武士道: Part 1
The definition of this term changed as time and era changed. For that reason we will start with some history of this term. The first time the term, “Bushido” was used in a written document in Japan was in Koyo Gunkan 甲陽軍鑑, a record of the military exploits of the famous Takeda family, compiled by the Takeda vassal Takanobu Takasaka between 1575 and 1586. I will not go deeply into the stories written in this book as our focus is the term of Bushido. If you are interested in the details of this book, you can check Wikipedia and there is a page dedicated to this book (only three paragraphs, however). Unfortunately, there is no translated version of this book in English, as far as I know.
By the way, my ancestor, Takatoshi Yokota is listed in this book as one of the main vassals of Shingen Takeda. Here is the Wiki page about Takatoshi Yokota: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yokota_Takatoshi
The main theme of this book is the importance of the techniques and the skills of an individual samurai to survive through the battles so that his fame as a warrior would be recognized and most importantly his fame as a brave warrior will be recognized and most importantly his family name will be respected. This idea is typified in a statement by a famous war lord, Takatora Todo, “A true bushi (samurai) must change his lord at least 7 times before he can claim himself as a true samurai.” He even encouraged a samurai to go unemployed or become a ronin (master less samurai) in order to look for a promising war lord. Before the 17th century especially in the war era of the 16th century, the main thing for a samurai was to win and survive by using all tactics possible including the tricks, lies and deceive. This is well documented when you read about the tactics used by famous Musashi Miyamoto 宮本武蔵, the author of Gorin no sho 五輪書 (The book of Five Rings). He was frequently very late when he came to the fighting site (many hours in fact when he fought another famous samurai, Kojiro Sasaki). He also used other deceitful tactics such as hiding before a surprise attack. Though he was not too respected he was not criticized or condemned either for his actions. Winning in a fight was the ultimate goal during those centuries and indeed the result justified the means. I am afraid these facts probably disappoint many western readers who have the romantic feelings or affection to the honorable samurai who were glorified in many Kurosawa samurai movies. However, the values and the attitude of samurai will change as time goes by so keep on reading.
After the century of wars ended in and around 1600, the peaceful era of Edo started by Shogun Tokugawa. The introduction of the concepts of Gi 義, Rei 礼, Yu 勇, Chu 忠, Ko 孝, Shin 真, Makoto 誠, etc. came from the Confucianism with some influence from Shintoism and Buddhism. I probably do not need to go into the meaning of these words but these concepts were encouraged by the management of Tokugawa Shogun for the purpose of governing and controlling of the samurai and the war lords. Samurai was encouraged to be brave and fearless fighters during the war era but their characters and the values became unnecessary. In fact, it even became a serious problem for the Shogun government if they were not obedient as the Shogun wanted a stable government and no more wars. Thus, they needed a different set of code and principles for the samurai. What came into play was Confucianism which brought the five principle or the virtues:
· Gì (義, Righteousness or Justice)
· Rei (禮, Propriety or Etiquette)
· Chì (智, Knowledge)
· Shìn (信, Integrity).
The other concepts were included later; Meiyo (名誉 Fame), Chu (忠 Loyal), Yu (勇 Bravery).
The peaceful era lasted more than 200 years under Tokugawa Shogun reign and the values of the samurai steadily changed from individual bravery or honor to more blind loyalty or total obedience to their war lords and ultimately to Shogun. Many samurai felt their work was becoming too bureaucratic and feared that they were losing the bushido spirit. This frustration lead to the publication of a wellknown book, Hagakure 葉隠. In fact, Tsuramoto Tashiro compiled the commentaries from his conversations with Tsunetomo Yamamoto from 1709 to 1716. In it Yamamoto criticized of a blind obedience and duty. However, he is best known for one very short sentence he left in the book; “Bushido means to die (for the honor)”. Harakiri (seppuku) was praised as the symbol of the samurai spirit. Unfortunately, this book was banned by the government of his war lord and it was not read widely during his time. I have mentioned about this book when I explained the origination of a word, “Oss” so some readers may remember about this book. This is an interesting and not so complex book to read to understand the thinking pattern and beliefs of samurai. I recommend it if you have not read it yet.
After Meiji restoration in 1886 which ended feudal age of Japan that lasted for many centuries, the concept of blind obedience was picked up by the Meiji government. Samurai used to be loyal to their war lords and now the citizens were taught to offer their loyalty to Meiji Emperor. The nationalists in the early 20th century tried to make bushido the national doctrine of Japan. Some educated Japanese philosophers became Christian in that period and received higher education in the USA. One of them was Inazo Nitobe who wrote an excellent book in English called “Bushido: The Soul of Japan” (1900) which was read by Theodor Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy. Interestingly, due to the popularity of this book in the USA it was translated into Japanese and published its Japanese version in Japan in 1908. This book would be a good one to understand the philosophy and the values of the samurai that were handed down to 20th century and commonly found among the average Japanese in early 20th century. I believe some of the samurai values survived to this day in Japan. This is one of the reasons why Japan remains to be the safest country in the world as our culture is based on mutual respect and honesty.(This will continue to Part 2: Budo, Kobudo and Bujutsu. Hopefully I will post it before the weekend. Send me your comments here at Karate Coaching blog.)
Bowing, rei is a very important ritual and etiquette in our dojo but do you know the proper way of doing rei? I hear that in many dojo a correct way does not get taught properly. I also find the incorrect way of bowing is exercised in some of the dojo I visit. I will explain the correct way here so you can use this as your reference. I must clarify that what I describe here is the common etiquette exercised in the standard Shotokan dojo in Japan.
Many of the other styles and martial arts do their rei differently. I was a member of Kyokushinkai for one year and they do it differently. When I joined Kyokushinkai I was already sandan in Shotokan. I wanted to experience the full contact karate as I was struggling with the idea of non contact kumite. When I joined kyokushinkai, ignorantly I expected the rei method to be identical. I remember clearly how surprised I was when I found it was quite different. I will not go into their method as this article is written specifically for the Shotokan practitioners. If you practice aikido, kendo, i-aido, etc. you most likely have experienced different rituals.
In a Shotokan dojo, there are two situations for bowing. One is ritsurei from standing position and the other zarei from sitting or seiza. Let me explain both situations and start with Ritsurei as it is simpler.
Part 1 Ritsurei立礼
From shizentai stance (natural stance with the feet in shoulder length apart) with your arms and open hands extended on the sides of your body. I will explain using the illustration below (front view).
1) Bring right foot inward (hands and arms do not move). There is another method which is not as polite as the method above but it can be done as follow; bring left foot half way in first then bring right foot in to complete.
2) Make musubi dachi
3) Bow by bending from the hips with the upper body straight. Your eye sight goes down to the floor in front of you. Bend down about 30 to 45 degrees. In Japan there are many rules and the degrees of the bowing change depending on the situations. In dojo situation approximately 30 to 45 degrees is proper. It does not need to be any deeper than 45 degrees. An extreme deep bowing (close to 90 degrees) is very rarely done and it is used only in an unique and unusual situations such as apologizing in Japan. This is not necessary in dojo situation. At the same time, the bowing must not be less than 30 degree as it will appear as disrespecting and impolite. (see the side view below)
5) Bring the fists to your front with a shoulder width apart as you assume shizentai stance.
Standing bow is not too difficult for the westerners and most practitioners perform well with this bowing ritual.
One common question I hear is the position of the hands. Some people said “When I visited Japan most of the people put their hands in front of their thighs rather than the side (photo). It is true that this method is very common especially among the merchants and women. I do not have a photo here but I remember seeing a photo of Funakoshi sensei bowing this way. So, I do not think this is an incorrect way but I can say it is not very common among the karate practitioners.
I need to bring your attention to two common mistakes I see in the western world:
I will explain Zarei, seiza bowing in Part 2 which will be out in a day or two.
藩 in Kyushu island). Famous author of Hagakure(葉隠), Yamamoto Tsunetomo (山本常朝 1659 – 1719) w
as born in this clan and bushido was very strong and strictly exercised there. Sup
posedly the young samurai of Saga clan in 18th and 19th centuries used “Osu” for their morning greetings.If you are interested in Yamamoto Tsunetomo, see Wikipedia about his biography: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yamamoto_Tsunetomo Hagakure was considered by many samurai as the spiritual guide to true bushido. If you do not know about this famous book, Hagakure read the simple explanation in Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hagakure Many people asked me why there is only one “Osu” for both yes and no answers. To be able to understand this you need to understand the culture of bushido or Japanese martial arts. The backbone of bushido is total obedience. Read Hagakure and you will have a better understanding whether you agree or disagree with the fundamental concept of total obedience. Here in the western world, when a sensei says “jump” the students may ask “why” or say “no”. Of course, some of them may ask “How high?” In a Japanese dojo, all the students without an exception would answer “Osu” and jump. So, there is no need for a“no” answer in a dojo in Japan. I am sure many Western people would probably consider this act “stupid” or brain washed and unwise. I want to emphasize that the purpose of the comparison of the cultures of the two different worlds is not to judge which is better or right, but rather to show merely the differences so that the readers will have a better understanding. I hope you now have a better idea of what “Oss” stands for and where it came from. I also hope that you will appreciate this word better and be more conscientious when you say "Oss!". Special thanks to Colin Watkin who provided the picture. You can find great articles on his website: www.hyoho.com