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Japanese name
Kanji: 武道
Hiragana: ぶどう

Budō (武道 ?) is a Japanese term describing martial arts. In English, it is used almost exclusively in reference to Japanese martial arts.



Budō is a compound of the root bu (:ぶ), meaning war or martial; and (:どう), meaning path or way. Specifically, is derived from the Buddhist Sanskrit mārga (meaning the "path" to enlightenment).[1] The term refers to the idea of formulating propositions, subjecting them to philosophical critique and then following a 'path' to realize them.[2] signifies a "way of life". 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 given art form. The modern budō has no external enemy, only the internal enemy, one's ego that must be fought[3] (state of Muga-mushin). Similarly to budō, bujutsu is a compound of the roots bu (武), and jutsu (術:じゅつ), meaning science, craft, or art. Thus, budō is most often translated as "the way of war", or "martial way", while bujutsu is translated as "science of war" or "martial craft." However, both budō and bujutsu are used interchangeably in English with the term "martial arts". Budo and bujutsu have quite a delicate difference, whereas bujutsu only gives attention to the physical part of fighting (how to best defeat an enemy), budo also gives attention to the mind and how you should develop yourself. Modern budo uses aspects of the lifestyle of the samurai of feudal Japan and translates them to self-development in modern life.


It may be difficult to delineate the differences between budō and bujutsu. Sometimes, the differences are considered historical; others cite differences in training methods, training philosophy, or emphasis on spiritual development. Some of the distinctions between the two forms are discussed below.

Gendai budo vs. Koryu bujutsu

During Japan's feudal era, the word bujutsū was more commonly used to describe martial arts than the word budō. Today, "classical" martial arts created before the Meiji Restoration are often called koryū bujutsu (literally, "old-style martial art/science"). Correspondingly, modern martial arts created during or after the Meiji Restoration are called gendai budō (literally, "modern martial way"). Gendai budō such as "judo", "kendo" and "iaido" came from koryū bujutsu such as "jujutsu", "kenjutsu" and "iaijutsu" respectively.

The final transition from the classical arts (koryū bujutsu) to the modern arts (gendai budō) was mainly due to the American conditions given to the Japanese for the acceptance of their surrender at the end of the pacific campaign (WWII). This included the condition that all Japanese military forces be disbanded (and many senior officers be submitted for war crime trials).This also meant Classical schools of martial arts were forbidden to teach killing techniques, which in the eyes of the Americans, could be a training ground for insurgents. These Schools were therefore adapted to suit the current situation. Much in the same fashion as North American Martial arts developed into a style of "dance" to hide their true intent. Gendai Budo Martial Art's were focused more towards sports and competition. This difference in observable intent (as opposed to the death of one's enemies) allowed Gendai Budo to flourish in post war Japan while Bujutsu was driven underground. Far from being made obsolete, Bujutsu and Budo are both relevant today in their respective roles. Gendai Budo as fitness and competition training and Bujutsu as true martial training for the defence of self and others. A battlefield education with the promotion of spiritual, moral, and physical values has always been the key to enlightenment, gaining the mind and eyes of God (kami), in Budo.

Civilian vs. military

Many consider budō a more civilian form of martial arts, as an interpretation or evolution of the older bujutsu, which they categorize as a more militaristic style or strategy. According to this distinction, the modern civilian art de-emphasizes practicality and effectiveness in favor of personal development from a fitness or spiritual perspective. The difference is between the more "civilian" versus "military" aspects of combat and personal development. They see budō and bujutsu as representing a particular strategy or philosophy regarding combat systems, but still, the terms are rather loosely applied and often interchangeable.

Art vs. lifestyle

One view is that a bujutsu is the martial art you practice, whereas a budo is the lifestyle you live and the path you walk by practicing a bujutsu. For example, one could say that Judo and Jujutsu practiced as a practiced martial art are one and the same, being that the practice of the art Jujutsu leads to obtaining the lifestyle of Judo (it should be noted that Judo was originally known as Kano Jujutsu, after Judo's founder Kano Jigoro). That would be true with arts such as kenjutsu/kendo and iaijutsu/iaido as well.

Identifying an art

The Japanese organization, Dai Nippon Butoku Kai keeps official records of koryu bujutsu and gendai budo schools (ryuha) in Japan. In order to receive information about these particular school or art belongs to any of those types, you can contact the Dai Nippon Butoku Kai.

Generally speaking, a school of martial arts chooses whatever term they feel most comfortable with. A martial arts school might choose to call their practice bujutsu, because they desire a connection with the past, or to emphasize that their art is practiced as it was during a certain point in history. A school might choose to call their practice budō to reflect an emphasis on spiritual and philosophical development, or simply to reflect that the art was developed more recently.

See also


  1. ^ Morgan, Diane (2001). The Best Guide to Eastern Philosophy and Religion. New York: Renaissance Books. pp. 38.  
  2. ^ Kiyota, Minoru (1995). Kendo, Its Philosophy, History and Means to Personal Growth. Kegan Paul International. pp. 15.  
  3. ^ Craig, Darrell Max (2002). Mugai Ryu - The Classical Samurai Art of Drawing the Sword. Boston, Mass.: YMAA Publication Center. pp. 2.  

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