|Copyright(C) 2004 The Japanese Association
After deciding to post this, I’ve thought a lot over the last week about what to say about this. So many things have weaved through my mind. In a sense, tens of topics come to mind, all of which deserving of their own post. And yet I can’t put that all down here at this moment. I don’t think it’s necessary, or even beneficial to do so. The topic of budo is best studied in small bits over long periods of time. To that end, I suppose my small words here and there in this manner should suffice.
That said, this document, the Budo Charter, is no small tidbit. Size-wise, it’s not so long, and probably didn’t take you more than two minutes to read and yet, this document is the product of well-experienced bodies who have come together to bind the core elements of the Japanese martial arts practiced today that can fit into the realm of budo, and that is big.
Coming to Japan I sought to discover the roots, reasons, and existence of martial arts. I have read, practiced, and thought what I have thought. After reading this document, I affirm its credibility as an accurate depiction and explanation of what budo is.
Perhaps the most powerful part of this document is that it illuminates what budo is not.
Budo is not about winning. Budo is not about being the best. Budo is not about destroying the self and transcending reality. Budo is not about killing. Though I will say Budo is not about these aforementioned qualities, it does involve them all on a deep level. We follow the threads of effort in existence. Budo has it’s roots in violence. However that is not what it is about.
To give my small opinion in a small manner, budo is about putting our efforts in the right places, widening our ability, all to the effect of functioning well in the world.Much of the world is society. In a lot of ways I used to think, and perhaps still do from time to time, that peace and society were lower than the victorious individual amid life-threatening situations, but I believe that it is quite the opposite now. Peace and society are the most relevant realms to our existence. We should seek to accept and contribute to peace and society by being here now, doing what we decide to do, not concealing ourselves away in dark caves waging war against ourselves.
In the last post I said I would talk about why budo is best understood in modern Japanese culture, and here I will mention some things that come to mind.
The budo charter was written in modern history by modern masters of various arts in Japan. This is not a secret text hidden within the castle of the greatest warrior in history some hundreds or thousands of years ago. The Budo Charter was drafted by modern minds, in modern times, for modern life.
The Budo Charter is not a decree about life, but a document about specific practices related to martial arts. One can interpret the document any which way they like, making connections to unrelated aspects of life. This is fun, incredibly helpful, and perhaps the unwritten goal of budo, but, it is what it is: a document about specific practices of Japanese martial arts.
This has been my personal experience in budo in Japan: you go to the dojo and work on specific techniques in a general unsaid way specified by the Budo Charter, and then you go into your life. All the general philosophical benefits will slowly grow in your life and you’ll have small epiphanies at random times, but one’s effort is wasted without physically concentrating on what exactly one is doing, which is practicing techniques within the budo atmosphere. The Budo Charter is something to check in on every once in a while, not chant 1,000 times at every sunrise. Although I guess you could do that if you wanted.
I believe budo is best understood in modern Japan because modern Japanese society operates under a lot of the same guidelines.
People in Japan do in fact revere their religions as sacred, yet seem to neglect their existence in daily life. This is similar to the ideas in the Budo Charter: practitioners believe the details as most-important, but they are rarely talked about, probably because they are not often directly thought about.
The vast amount of effort in Japanese society goes into work. One’s job is where the majority of effort is focused, so much to the effect that Japan is famous for it’s work ethic, or rather it’s overworked populace. Without getting into that discussion, this is similar to budo in that we must put our effort into what is in front of us, the specifics of our technique.
Perhaps the most glaring characteristics of the Budo Charter are related to one’s partners. In budo, what is more important than self-advancement, is the harmony of the group. This is often put to question in subtle ways, but generally if one cannot follow the pre-determined etiquete and get along with the other members, budo will not exist.
Got it? Apologies on the terse explanations on such vast subjects. I’m really not cut out for journalism. But my words here are not important. Just read the Budo Charter and judge for yourself. For me, it makes a lot more sense in modern Japanese culture, but if you don’t see that, or have never experienced Japanese culture, then what the hell, that has little meaning. Budo doesn’t need modern Japan, but I believe it’s best understood there, or here, rather.
What do you think?! Budo Charter: a good base for understanding budo? A big pile of unko?
Let your voice be heard in the comment section!