Tuesday, October 19, 2010

What is Budo Karate?

Budo is a compound of the root bu meaning war or martial and do meaning path or way. Specifically, do comes from the sanskrit word marga (meaning the path to enlightenment) The term refers to the concept of creating propositions, subjecting them to philosophical examination and then following a "path" to realize them. Do signifies a way of life. Do in the Japanese context, is an experiential term, experiential in the sense that practice (the way of life) is the norm to verify the validity of the discipline cultivated through a specific art form. Within modern budo (Gendai budo) there exists no external enemy, only the enemy within, our own ego which must be fought. Bujutsu, very similar to Budo is a compound of bu and jutsu. Budo is translated as the way of war or "martial way" while bujutsu can be translated as the science of war or "martial craft." Budo and bujutsu have a subtle difference. Bujutsu focuses on the physical aspect of fighting (what is the best way to defeat an opponent), while budo gives attention to the mind and how one should perfect oneself.

According to karate master Gogen Yamaguchi:
Budo did not originate in a peaceful atmosphere. In was necessary to protect one's life at the time, and to learn how to use Budo as a weapon and achieve one's responsibility as a warrior. It was the warriors duty to develop spirit. It was necessary to obtain technique to protect oneself, and one had to have a strong spirit to correspond to that.

Mas Oyama was quoted as saying:
Karate is the most Zen like of all the Martial arts. It has abandoned the sword. This means that it transcends the idea of winning and losing to become a way of thinking and living for the sake of other people. Its meanings therefore, reach the profoundest levels of human thought. For a long time I have emphasized that karate is Budo, and if the Budo is removed from karate, it is nothing more than sport karate, show karate or even fashion karate-the idea of training merely to be fashionable. Karate that has discarded budo has no substance. It is nothing more than a barbaric method of fighting or a promotional tool for the purpose of profit. No matter how popular it becomes, it is meaningless.

So what is Budo Karate?
For me Budo karate is karate that has cast off the focus on the superficial, to go deeper into the character of the practitioner. It is karate that cultivates spirit and a strength of being that overcomes all obstacles, in and out of the dojo. It means training as if your life depended on it. Let me reiterate and clarify. Training as if your life depended on it does not mean you can quit because you are tired, or bored or even exhausted. It doesn't mean that you need to spice up the routine because it's so drab and can use some much needed flair. It means having an intensity to your way of training and life. It means honoring your commitments (and your word) in and out of the dojo. Budo karate is a way of life that demands your all when you are on the floor, and proposes that you live your life fully present in every moment.

Budo Karate is not romanticized and in fact is not what may be considered attractive. It requires you to delve in deep and face yourself, your fears, your insecurities,and your inadequacies, and to continue to reach for perfection despite it all. It means tears and doubt, with the certainty that if you continue, you will be transformed. It means being on the path of the mountain realizing that you will never reach the summit. Budo Karate is not for everyone, many are content with a martial art that does not go deep into the character of the practitioner, and that's fine also.

On a another level and in the context of when karate started, Budo (and Budo karate), usually meant life and death confrontations. Not many of us train as if our lives depended on it. In many minds, training in a dojo is no different from going to the gym. There is however a vast difference. The training in a gym while it may transform your body, usually has little or no impact on your character and way of being. The transformation that occurs in a dojo, happens because the circumstances are vastly different. You are confronted with yourself, your ego and you can not run from it.

Training this way (as if your life depended on it) adds another dimension to what may be an otherwise regular training session. When this mindset is in place, we are fully present in the moment, appreciating everything we can do and have. Nothing is wasted and our desire to learn and grow increases. The maxim "Train as if it is your last day" applies here. It directly translates to how we live our lives. If we regarded each day as if it were our last, it would radically alter how we spent our days, and what activities we deemed" important" or relevant.

Budo karate is a rare occurrence and many schools do not advocate this kind of training because it is not mainstream and does not appeal to the general populace. When it does it exist, it is something to be appreciated and continued.

We should all strive to live our days as if it were our last one.

strong spirit-strong mind-strong body
Sensei Orlando

Martial Art or Martial Way?

I have been asked on several occasions what kind of Martial Art do we study? For some reason the question has always made me pause, not because I don't study a martial art (as loosely defined by society) but because I have never equivocated my training with an art. I have never viewed myself as a martial artist but rather a follower of a Way. I have always felt that the term martial artist lends itself to open interpretations and falls victim to what most people perceive to be the disciplines practiced by those of us that have chosen to practice or follow the path of martial ways. These opinions are usually fuelled (erroneously) by the media and the entertainment industry.

Many reading this may feel it is a matter of semantics, and I have found in my own personal experience that unless a person is actively pursuing a discipline, all of them get lumped together under an umbrella of "it's just kicking and punching - so it must all be the same."

So what is a martial art ? The term martial art is used to loosely describe the many combative systems and sports that exist here in the West. If we examine them closely however, we will discover that they are not all truly martial in nature or arts for that matter. The literal sense of the term martial, implies that it must have a military application, and historically many of the combative systems that exist today have their roots in systems that were used in military settings.

The same can be said for those systems that were developed by the "civilian" populace (like Karate) and many of the combative systems were employed in military and paramilitary settings. For this reason I think the literal definition is too limiting. In fact many of the "civil" arts are part of the curricula for the military forces today.

The real difference is found when a combative system makes the transition to combat sport. I find that one of the stark contrasts is that within the realm of "sport" there are rules and a framework to contain those rules. What may work on the tournament/arena floor, can be completely ineffective in an actual combat situation. The danger then becomes a false feeling of preparedness. A sport practitioner may feel they are practicing a martial art but they may be mistaken. It is certainly not a martial way, but if that isn't, then what is?

In order to shed some light on this term (martial way) we need to go to the Japanese terms of bugei and bujutsu - both which mean literally "martial art" and the term budo (martial way). Where a practitioner of a bujutsu system is focused on learning how to prevail and succeed in combat, a budo practitioner has embarked on a system of physical, mental and spiritual discipline to in order to perfect his character and self. This is not to say the bujutsu systems do not require physical, mental, and spiritual discipline, but it is not their focus. Several of my instructors and Sensei have taught me that to achieve the "do" you have to enter through the "jutsu". Which means that while a system or art may be effective as a fighting system it needs to have the components both jutsu and do to be effective. Too much in either direction can lead to imbalance.

So which should you pursue? Only you can answer that question. Yes I know I sound very much like those teachers who answer a question with a question. The truth of the matter is that we each come to the Martial Arts for unique reasons, be it confidence, discipline, learning to fight etc. I can only say that personally for me the Martial Way is a way a living. Which is why I say, when asked, that I practice Budo or budo karate (which is a subject for another post).

What I do and I hope encourage my students to do, is live in way that reflects a life of discipline and pursuit of excellence not just in the dojo or training hall but in life. My training is not just something I "do" on certain days of the week. It is not interchangeable with other activities, because its a way of living, not an activity I just engage in. It means sacrifice at times, hard work and perseverance.

So distilled to its essence, a martial art is something you endeavour to do and become proficient at, while a martial way is a method of living. They are not mutually exclusive although at times it may seem to be the case. In fact, they are and can be two halves of a whole. Strive to maintain balance in the do or Tao (from the Chinese) and the jutsu.

strong spirit-strong mind-strong body
Sensei Orlando