This is a question that is often asked of me by my students; “what is Budō Culture?”. The answer can be either very simple or complex; essentially Budō Culture is a representation of Martial Art behaviours, rituals, traditions, beliefs, customs and habits. That said, this term can mean many things to a follower as we all enter the Dojo for different reasons… This great video of Budō in Japan surmises my above definition without words!
Budō (武道) is a Japanese term that comprises of two kanji characters meaning Martial (Bu) Way (Dō). This term typically refers to all Japanese Martial Arts such as Karate-Dō, Judo, Kendo, Jodo etc. The concept of Budō is more accurately translated as “to stop violence,” or perhaps “to bring about peace.” The warriors of the past regarded their skills as tools for maintaining peace rather than engaging in warfare. However, sometimes war would be necessary to restore peace. Ultimately, the aim of any Budō is restore balance and harmony to any disturbance.
Budō Culture is a term used to describe a group of elite Martial Artists that simply follow the way and rituals of the Warrior class. In order to understand Budō Culture we must first understand the essence or the heart of how Budō is practised. Below an account of the basic guidelines.
People of Budō are seekers of the truth, aspiring for more in life than just daily routine or material gain. They have abilities and skills that allow them to uniquely contribute towards society. However, it is sad to say that Budō is often misunderstood for a combative sports practice that is only concerned with aggression and the pursuit for medals and trophies. This stereo type is a product of poor understanding and misconception.
Martial Arts practice can be very dangerous; therefore, it is imperative for practitioners to adhere to ethical standards and code of Bushidō (way of the warrior). These rules have existed in Japan for centuries and must be followed by all Martial Artists. Nevertheless, people tend to break rules every now and then, however, in Budō this is unheard of and is unacceptable in most Dojos.
Bushidō demands physical and non-physical qualities of a Martial Artist such as courtesy, sincerity, loyalty, discipline, and courage. These rules of Bushidō govern our interactions with each other. Essentially our egos are exposed in the Dojo through the journey of discovering fear and pain. Bushidō helps to bridge the gap against the conflicts that may arise through practice.
The Culture of Budō is intertwined with the history of Martial Arts and the various schools/styles of Martial practices that have emerged over the years. For example, when Bodhidharma travelled to China in 527AD, he brought with him a set of customs, rituals and schools of thought associated with Chan Buddhism. These ideas eventually merged with the ways of Shaolin Monastery and its practise/creation of Shaolin Kung-Fu. By the 1400s, China and Okinawans were trading goods and services along with Martial Arts, thereby, creating another dimension within the cultural entanglement of Budō.
Budō culture is deeply rooted in the history and development of the Samurai dating back to the 12th century. The Martial Arts associated with this period are known as “Koryū” (古流, meaning old style). These arts were used on the field of battle and then later developed by the historical Samurai.
Along with Koryū a culture of Budō has emerged over the centuries and is still practiced in Dojos today through the teachings of the masters and traditions.
Examples of Budō Culture: Below are some examples of the diversity of Budō Culture and how far it can stretch. For the purpose of simplicity, these examples have been categorised into the following 3 categories:
Dojo Rituals; removing of shoes, paying respect to shrines/ancestors/teachers. bowing into the Dojo, bowing to your opponent, wearing of a certain attire, study of the Miyamoto Musashi, study of the Art of War and study of Bubishi.