Budo World

What is Budō?

2012 Japanese Budo Delegation to the Republic of India (Photo: Nippon Budokan Foundation)

2012 Japanese Budo Delegation to the Republic of India (Photo: Nippon Budokan Foundation)

Budō has its origins in combat techniques designed for self-protection and to kill enemies. Intrinsically connected to the traditions of Japan, its cultural qualities have remained inherent throughout history and it has developed into various forms of combative physical culture in the modern era which seek to facilitate personal development.

There are many complexities that arise when trying to explain exactly what budō is, but the “Budō Charter” 1) established by the Japanese Budo Association 2) in 1987 and the “Philosophy of Budō” 3) in 2008 offer some important clues.  

Basically speaking, martial arts (bugei, bujutsu) 4) from before the early-modern period (Edo period, 1600-1868) became sportified into what are referred to now as budō. 5) In particular, jūdō, kendō, sumō ,and naginata, fall into this category. In addition to these, from the mid-nineteenth century martial arts such as aikidō and shōrinji kempō which do not necessarily have long histories in Japan, as well as karate which was introduced from Okinawa and has strong Chinese influences, or jūkendō which has its base in French bayonet techniques, are also included in the Japanese budō arts. This is because they share common traits of being sports that have their roots in combat, and place considerable emphasis on budō spirituality. 6)

  1. Budō, the Japanese martial ways, have their origins in the age-old martial spirit of Japan. Through centuries of historical and social change, these forms of traditional culture evolved from combat techniques (jutsu) into ways of self-development ().
    Seeking the perfect unity of mind and technique, budō has been refined and cultivated into ways of physical training and spiritual development. The study of budō encourages courteous behaviour, advances technical proficiency, strengthens the body, and perfects the mind. Modern Japanese have inherited traditional values through budō which continue to play a significant role in the formation of the Japanese personality, serving as sources of boundless energy and rejuvenation. As such, budō has attracted strong interest internationally, and is studied around the world.
    However, a recent trend towards infatuation just with technical ability compounded by an excessive concern with winning is a severe threat to the essence of budō. To prevent any possible misrepresentation, practitioners of budō must continually engage in self-examination and endeavour to perfect and preserve this traditional culture.

    It is with this hope that we, the member organisations of the Japanese Budō Association, established The Budō Charter in order to uphold the fundamental principles of budō.
    Through physical and mental training in the Japanese martial ways, budō exponents seek to build their character, enhance their sense of judgement, and become disciplined individuals capable of making contributions to society at large.
    ARTICLE 2:KEIKO (Training)
      When training in budō, practitioners must always act with respect and courtesy, adhere to the prescribed fundamentals of the art, and resist the temptation to pursue mere technical skill rather than strive towards the perfect unity of mind, body, and technique.
    ARTICLE 3:SHIAI (Competition)
    Whether competing in a match or doing set forms (kata), exponents must externalise the spirit underlying budō. They must do their best at all times, winning with modesty, accepting defeat gracefully, and constantly exhibiting self-control.
    ARTICLE 4:DŌJŌ(Training Hall)
    Thedōjō is a special place for training the mind and body. In the dōjō, budō practitioners must maintain discipline, and show proper courtesies and respect.
    Thedōjō should be a quiet, clean, safe, and solemn environment.
    Teachers of budō should always encourage others to also strive to better themselves and diligently train their minds and bodies, while continuing to further their understanding of the technical principles of budō. Teachers should not allow focus to be put on winning or losing in competition, or on technical ability alone. Above all, teachers have a responsibility to set an example as role models.
    Persons promoting budō must maintain an open-minded and international perspective as they uphold traditional values. They should make efforts to contribute to research and teaching, and do their utmost to advance budō in every way.

  2. The Japanese Association of Budo was created in 1977 to represent the various budō federations.
  3. Budō, the martial ways of Japan, have their origins in the traditions of bushidō — the way of the warrior. budō is a time-honoured form of physical culture comprising of jūdō, kendō , kyūdō, sumō, karate, aiki, shōrinji kempō, naginata and jūkendō. Practitioners study the skills while striving to unify mind, technique and body; develop his or her character; enhance their sense of morality; and to cultivate a respectful and courteous demeanour. Practised steadfastly, these admirable traits become intrinsic to the character of the practitioner. The budō arts serve as a path to self-perfection. This elevation of the human spirit will contribute to social prosperity and harmony, and ultimately, benefit the people of the world.
  4. Types of bugei:
    The “bugei jūhappan” refers to the eighteen types of martial technique comprised of kyūjutsu (archery), bujutsu (horse riding), jutsu (spearmanship), kenjutsu (swordsmanship), suiei-jutsu (swimming), battōjutsu (sword drawing), tantōjutsu (short-sword), juttejutsu (truncheon), shurikenjutsu (projectiles), fukumibarijutsu (spitting needles), naginatajutsu (halberd), hōjutsu (gunmanship), toritejutsu (arresting techniques), jūjutsu (grappling), bōjutsu (staff), kusarigamajutsu (sickle and chain), mojirijutsu (sleeve entangler), shinobijutsu (espionage) and son on. Collectively, these techniques were referred to as bugei or bujutsu.
  5. Martial arts from the early-modern period and before are now referred to as “kobudō” and are still studied to this day.
  6. Types of budō:
    The Japanese Association of Budo recognizes the federations representing the nine budō arts of jūdō, kendō, kyūdō, sumō, aikidō, shōrinji kempō, naginata, and jūkendō.