Budo, wildly know term that represents the very core of Japanese martial arts , morality , culture and their spirituality. What I am going to write will certainly cause a lot negative reactions ,but looking at Budo from the perspective of History as a science and from the perspecetive of Chinese and other Asian nations , only then this term comes to it’s true meaning . Truth must come before everything else.
Let’s start with the term “Budo”. It is not , as commonly believed very old , in fact it came into existence in the early 20th century and was invented by one person Hiromichi Nishikubo , a representative of Japanese police office . Hiromichi Nishikubo published in 1914 , series of articles where he debated about common name for Japanese martial arts and came to conclusion that term”Budo” (martial way or a path) is much better and more precise than old, outdated term”bujutsu” (martial technique) .
Term “Budo” according to Hiromichi , is much more suitable for educational system of Japan and it can help to develop in young generations loyalty , honor (Japanese idea of honor) and awareness of the need for personal sacrifice for the emperor .In 1919 Hiromichi became a headmaster of the biggest martial condge in Japan ,Bujutsu Senmon Gakko and immediately changes its name Budo Senmon Gakko . Soon after , books and magazines , published by government started to use term Budo and names of martial styles are changing form , for example Kenjutsu to Kendo ect. Ministry of education officially adopted this doctrine and terminology in 1926 . . In next several years , Ministry of Education revised and expanded term Budo , forming complete education doctrine and system around it . In 1931 “Budo’ represents mandatory ideological doctrine taught in Japanese schools .
Budo system , or more precise , gendai budo system ( new martial system \way\approach that includes djudo, aikido,kendo, iaido, karate do ,kyudo) was used in the system of public education to develop in young generations blind obedience and loyalty to the country and the Emperor as well as a feeling of divine virtue which can be achieved by personal sacrifice and complete disregard of personal well-being and life its self when it comes to the duty to emperor , country and superiors
Japanese schools of that period looked more like military facilities . Uniforms , military language , extremely humiliating punishments for even a smallest mistakes , everyday repeating the oath to the emperor and the country , posters against enemy on every corner as well as every day martial training made a generations of blindly obedient people , ready to sacrifice them slefs on the battlefield for the glory of Japan and the emperor and to to avoid the shame which their name and their families would bare if they do not do what is expected. These people with complete absence of personal responsibility committed probably the worst crimes in the history of civilization. They were traind to unconditionally fulfill any order from their superiors without any moral, ethical or human filters .
This militarized system of training was preserved and without much change presented to western people. Even today it is easy to see that indoctrination through Japanese Budo is extremely strong . Practitioners of Jpanases martial arts more than often have completely noncritical wiev of Japan , Japanese tradition and history . completely disregarding the facts . On the other hand , generation of instructors who introduced westernes with Japanese martial arts didn’t know anything ellse . They were indoctrinated through educational system , military and participation in war operations.
Foundation of Japanese fascism were built at beginning of Meiji reform in 1868 . In short , idology of Japanese society from this period is based in following :Japan is the center of the universe and Japanese emperor is a divine being and direct descendant of the goddess Amaterasu . Japanese gods have special relation with Japan, therefor Japan is the “chosen” country and Japanese are “chosen” people and all institutions of Japan are superior compared to rest of the world .All this is a foundation of Kodoshugisha (Imperial way \emperor’s way) which divine mission is to bring all nations under the same roof so the whole humanity can share and enjoy all the benefits of the rule of Japanese emperor.
All this is deeply rooted in aspects of Japanese society and way of life and thinking .Same message is spread through Japanese martial arts . At the end of WWII , out of the fear from communism , USA political approach in Japan in the matter of war crimes was discutabile . Many war criminals were not persecuted and used to suppress communists , Kodama Yoshio, Sasakawa Ryoichi and Nobusuke Kishi are just few among many.
Sasakawa financially supported many martial arts teachers and their schools , in return they participated in anti communist activities which often included extreme violence . Also , he used them to show the superiority of Japan all over the world through practice of martial arts .
Many westerners accepted not only the premise that Japanese martial arts are superior compared to all others but also many aspects of Japanese culture . More than everything concerns the facts that many westerners believe Gendai Budo is a complete form of religious practice with divine moral and ethical values that leads toward enlightenment
Without detail analysis of religious doctrine of Zen Buddhism and its final goals , I would like to mention some specific points that made Zen inseparable part of Japanese martial arts, or , more precise Zen and martial arts fused together . Today , almost no one raise a question why Zen was so popular in Japan among warrior cast during imperial period. In short ,Zen relativise terms of good and evil . War and violence are not contradictory to Zen practice and are not obstacle to achieving enlightenment .As long as warrior’s actions were not caused by his own desire (desire is main source of pain in Buddhism and liberation from desire leads to the enlightenment ) , as long as there is noy emotional connection to one’s actions there is no obstacles on the path of the enlightenment . If actions of the warrior were caused by outside circumstances and he reacts , not by his own will , but was forced to act , no matter what his actions are , they are not in collision with Zen practice . This way a person can be completely released of responsibility for his own actions . This kind of Zen Buddhism was incorporated in Japanese Budo,educational system, army, making fanatics completely indifferent for anything and everything , with total absence of empathy .
It is obvious that Zen as well as martial arts were used by establishment for achieving their military and political goals . Fascist government of Japan form the beginning of the 20th century had unconditional support of Zen teachers . This religious and political indoctrination caused 50 million people killed , mostly woman and children , all across Asia from 1895 to 1945.
Naniking Massacre is good illustration of Japanese actions in this period .
Soon after Nanking Massacre an article was published “ Zen Buddhism and its influence on Japanese culture” . Small part of that article is speaking for its self :” "The sword is generally associated with killing, and most of us wonder how it can come into connection with Zen, which is a school of Buddhism teaching the gospel of love and mercy. The fact is that the art of swordsmanship distinguishes between the sword that kills and the sword that gives life. The one that is used by a technician cannot go any further than killing, for he never appeals to the sword unless he intends to kill. The case is altogether different with the one who is compelled to lift the sword. For it is really not he but the sword itself that does the killing. He had no desire to do harm to anybody, but the enemy appears and makes himself a victim. It is as though the sword performs automatically its function of justice, which is the function of mercy... When the sword is expected to play this sort of role in human life, it is no more a weapon of self-defense or an instrument of killing, and the swordsman turns into an artist of the first grade, engaged in producing a work of genuine originality." D. T. Suzuki
We can clearly see how Zen justifies killing .
Some of the most famous and most appreciated Zen teachers, like Omori Sogen i Yasutani Hakuun, were ultrantionalists and militarist and they took active role in military operations during WWII. A man celebrated as the best Zen master of 20th century Toyama Mitsuru was intelligence officer , opium smuggler and “capo di tutti capi “ of Japanese organized crime after WWII.
Above presented text contains facts which every practitioner of Japanese martial arts should be aware of. The fact is that almost all Japanese masters from the period of introducing the West to Japanese Budo were militarily engaged and that they grew and raised in the spirit of the Japanese superiority and they hated everything that is not Japanese. The spirit of the Japanese elitism can be seen with practitioners of Japanese system and is reflected in a completely uncritical attitude and excessive enthusiasm for everything Japanese, especially about martial and spiritual practices of the Japanese Budo .As we can see term Budo has more recent origin and has been designed and used by the Japanese government with very specific objectives.
There is one interesting fact ,all Japanese martial arts masters are descended from samurai. Being a master of martial arts in Japan requires samurai origin .Generations of Japanese and Western martial arts practitioners were and still are deeply influenced or intoxicated is more accurate term , with stories about samurai, their moral code, impeccable warrior skills ect. Two books , "Hagakure" work of Tashiro Tsuramotoa and "Bushido, the spirit of Japan" work of Dr.Nitobe Inazô are actually the source and the cornerstone of today's image of the samurai. There is no other work before these two books that talk about samurai and Bushido in such a way. Both books are essentially fabrication of the authors with no real support in the actual historical evidence and facts.
Let’s analyze first the work of Dr. Nitobe Inazou (promoter but not the inventor of the term bushido) .He was a descendant of samurai family but was also a Quaker (Christian sect originated in England in mid-17th century) with strong Christian values .Even a superficial analysis of the book " Bushido, the spirit of Japan "shows that this work is plagiarism of book written by two influential Englishmen of the time , Charles Kingsley and Thomas Hughes.They are the creators of something called strong(muscular) Christianity. They glorified war and sport, boxing and rugby are seen as a way for the preaching of Christian values and converting young men from the boys in the correct Christians. Kingsley and Hughes believed and promote patriotism, honor, courage, dedication, physical fitness, self-control, obedience to authority, discipline, endurance, humility, loyalty. Plagiarizing the work of two Englishmen Nitobe, along with co-author Anna Harshorne , wrote the work "Bushido, the spirit of Japan" which was written specifically for Westerners in order to promote the Japanese culture. "Bushido, the spirit of Japan" is a work that represents the samurai as warrior-saints - who completely correspond to the description of the knights of king Arthur from the work of Sir Thomas Malory's. While Mallory vision of the Arthurian knights is taken as an example of fantasy Nitobe’s work is still considered some sort of "Bible" among practitioners of Japanese martial arts. This work was later used as a propaganda material among the Japanese themselves glorifying impeccable warriors of Japan who have become role models for younger generations.
Second work that introduces us to the code samurai is Hagakure. First of all it should be noted that Hagakure is interpretation of thinking of one man, Yamamoto Tsunetomo- which has been collected and written by his pupil Tashiro Tsuramoto .Before we analyze Hagakure , we should be aware of certain historical events. Firearms arrived in Japan with the Portuguese in 1543 .Pragmatic Japanese have realized the strategic advantage of firearms and adopted it almost immediately .Famous Battle of Nagashino in 1575 . marked the beginning of the end of the samurai as a warrior in Japan. Oda Nobunaga ,using firearms, buried behind a palisade with an army composed of people from the lower social cast (mainly farmers) who were mostly Christian converts virtually wiped northern cavalry of Takeda Katsuyori .Tokegawa Ieyasu in 1600 in the battle of Sekigahara again showed power of the firearms and literally obliterated an army loyal to Toyotomi Hideyori. It became clear that ,regardless of all the combat experience and skills possessed by the samurai ,they simply have no chance in a fight against people armed with firearms and only 6 months of tactical training. Since that time standing army was made up mostly of the lower social levels of the population. The samurai, as the nobility and not having any real authority nor there was a need for their military engagement began to engage with the administrative work in order to survive. Shogunate era is the era of peace, and there was no opportunity to gain any combat experience. Samurai class was under the watchful eye of shoguns who followed their every step and shortly after the establishment of the shogunate duels were prohibited .Glorified ritual suicide was actually a consequence of the law introduced in the late 17th century which enable the Shogun to easily and without trial get rid of political enemies. The law prohibits the assets of the people convicted to the death penalty can be transferred to successors and will be taken by the state ,while the property of a man who killed himself without obstacles conveys to the successors. Thus, the shoguns, without trial, far from the public eye had the ability to easily get rid of those who are unfit.
Hagakure is a work made more than 100 years after establishment the Shogunate . For more than a century there was no war in Japan. Yamamoto Tsunetomo , whose stories were used as a base foundation for Hagakure , was a samurai who didn’t commit suicide , as the law ,which he wrote later himself , required , after his feudal lord committed suicide wich was a result of disagreement with the politics of the Shogun . In order to avoid persecution he escaped in a Buddhist monastery and became a monk / Later he became spiritual leader to young samurai from wealthy families . It is important to note that Yamamoto Tsunetomo didn’t have any fighting experience besides beheading people conviceted to the death penalty . What beyond doubt is taken as the original work that completely true speaks about the life of the samurai is actually a very free interpretation of a man who lived in peace,with no fighting experience , escaped death disregarding the law and later as a Buddhist monk, taught younger generations of ethical and moral values of Buddhism.
Hagakure is more romantic vision of the life of one disappearing social class than it actually has any basis in the the reality .This work can not even pass a superficial historical analysis. The truth of the samurai warriors before Shogunate is the same as a truth about all the warriors all over the world. The samurai were brutal warriors, very skilled in their way of warfare .For thing such as honor, morality and loyalty valid historical sources (not fictionalized histories and biographies written for a wide audience) should be consulted , and you can quickly see that betrayal, intrigue, contract killings, changing sides are nothing unknown to a samurai as it was case anywhere else in the world . Samurai fought for pay, and they went where they were better paid..
While it is clear that samurai in the modern war have absolutely no role, spirit of samurai so magnificently presented and glorified was a great propaganda tool in creating ways of thinking for young generation in the period from the late 19th century until 1945 which was actually a period og Japan imperial raising. The real truth is that bushido was formalized during the shogunate era, an era of peace and prosperity and no there are valid data about any code of samurai , if such even existed before late 17th century. While Hagakure and "Bushido, the spirit of Japan" reflect the samurai as a harmless people full of grandeur and all human qualities, the truth is that they were cold-blooded killers . The conclusion is obvious, bushido has nothing to do with the actual medieval samurai but has everything to do with Japanese imperialism in time from 1895 to 1945. And finally I leave the link that has some interesting details about the samurai way of life.