Budo (武道)

Budo has developed from a traditional Japanese martial art ("kobudo," old budo), to which has been added the aspect of "geido" (the way of artistic self-discipline), which aims for the perfection of character through practices to hone the skills, to the techniques to kill or conquer others. In pursuit of the "do" or "michi" (the way), it has something to do with "sado" (the way of tea), "nihon buyo" (Japanese dance) or "geido" in that they share the common mental attitudes or movements, such as "zanshin" (a state of awareness; of relaxed alertness, which is spelled as 残心, 残身, 残芯).

The ideal of budo varies from one school to another or from one martial artist to another, and contradictory views exist.


The word "budo" referred to the Bushido (Japanese chivalry) in the Edo period, but late in the Edo period it also became a reference to bujutsu (martial arts).

In the Meiji period, bujutsu became old-fashioned and survived only through means of bujutsu performances. Given the situation, Jigoro KANO theorized and rationalized jujutsu (a kind of Japanese martial art style including unarmed and armed techniques) in his own way, developed judo from it, did lots of "randori" (free-style) practice, and thus flourished. With reference to this, the trend came to have content that emphasized not the traditional techniques but the educational effect, or mental training, from the end of the Meiji period to the Taisho period, just after the Japanese-Sino War (in the song of the kendo master Sasaburo TAKANO, 'As kendo is the way of God's instructions, cultivate the "yamato-gokoro" (Japanese spirit) by way of the sword'), and Japanese bujutsu as the way of Japanese traditional fighting skills was adopted in school education as a means to promote mental training in the subject under the Empire of Japan.

On this point, according to the study by Tamio NAKAMURA, a professor of Fukushima University, and Ichiro WATANABE, a professor emeritus of Tsukuba University, the name 'budo' was applied in the sense of educationally useful and earnest training in order to differentiate from bujutsu, which had degenerated (or was regarded as such) because of bujutsu performance and so on.

In this case, the martial art called "budo" didn't distinguish the modern budo from the traditional one, but as a reference only to the traditional one it is often called 'kobudo' (old budo) or 'koryu' (old style), etc. Lately, it is sometimes called 'ko bujutsu' (old bujutsu).

School education

During the Meiji period, Bujutsu was considered to be difficult and harmful in school education, but in 1898 "gekiken" (kenjutsu, swordplay) and jujutsu were introduced as an extra lesson in the junior high schools of the old education system through the improvement of pedagogical methods such as the method of mass education or the unification of the basic skills of judo (jujutsu) and kenjutsu by the Kodokan Judo Institute and Dainippon Butoku-kai (Great Japan Federation of Martial Arts), and the lessons were called "budo," "kendo" and "judo" as compulsory, formal subjects. To teach them in school was forbidden by the General Headquarters (GHQ), but judo was adopted in 1950 and kendo in 1952 as optional training aids in the junior high schools of the new education system by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. Under the Education Ministry guidelines for junior high schools in 1958, budo such as sumo, kendo, judo-kendo, judo and so on, which were called "kakugi" (combat sports), were taught as formal lessons.
The practice fields of kakugi are written as '格技場,' but in the gymnasiums of local governments they are also spelled as '挌技場.'
The name "kakugi" was changed back to "budo" under the new guidelines by the Ministry of Education in 1989.

The relationship to sports

The manner in which one perceives the relationship between budo and sports varies from one school to another or from one martial artist to another, as follows:
Even if the 'sport' is replaced with 'kakutogi' (combat sports), there is a view that regards them as the same.

Conceptually, sports are contrary to budo, and thus the more of a sports aspect there is, the less of a budo aspect there will be.

Conceptually, sports aren't contrary to the budo, and thus it's possible to be both a sport and budo at the same time.

The sport is just a part of the budo, however much the sport part increases; it is absolutely a part of the budo as a whole.

Even jogging, chess and yoga are in the sport, so the budo naturally belongs to the sport. Thus, any budo belongs to the sport.

The definition of the sport is ambiguous, but that of the budo is even more so. Thus, it is meaningless to think of this.

The introduction of the game and competition

Although the game and competition are introduced into some of the budo, they were originally just parts of the budo.

According to the section on 'the characters of budo according to Jigoro KANO,' some people think the essence of budo lies in the game, the "kata" (form) competition or demonstration competition, as in judo, which Jigoro KANO first put as a budo.
However, although aikido (the art of weaponless self-defense) is regarded as a budo by all, most of the schools of aikido do not hold games or competitions and so it is wrong to say that 'the budo without holding them cannot be a budo.'
Some people deny the game or competition in order to achieve the ideal of the budo.

Even in the budo that holds the game or competition, the aim varies from one disciplinant to another; some aim to win, but others concentrate on their own training without sticking to them. We know that those who are competitive in the game or competition don't always acquire the system of high-level budo techniques. In this regard, we need to remember that to win the game or reach a higher level isn't an absolute must.


There is more enthusiasm in aiming to win the game or competition in order to see the results of training.


Those who tend to concentrate only on the game or competition tend to neglect the skills other than those of the game or competition, and their skills are likely to change from those that are essential. In modern times, the important things in budo are the formation of character and mental training; the skills aren't so important, and some people think the bujutsu-part of budo is just an expedient way to gather rowdy fellows who need mental training.


There is an increase in the opportunity of "randori."

We can prevent the skills from losing substance.

We can easily improve the skills and correct the inappropriate ways they've been handed down.

The skills just for the game lead us to acquire the right sense of body movement.

We can easily gain physical strength.


Useful skills in the rules of the game are emphasized, but the other skills are likely to be neglected. Also, on the premise that we start one-to-one fighting by signal, whatever the rules of game are (even without banned skills or techniques), it's difficult for us to acquire the skills that include surprise moves, hidden weapons and so on.

We're inclined to emphasize muscle strength or speed rather than skills.


If we only hold the game and "kumite" (sparring), the "kata" and demonstration skills are likely to be neglected, and so by holding "kata" or demonstration competition at the same time we can prevent them from being neglected.


From a practical standpoint, the question of which kind of "kata" or demonstration is best will vary from one school to another, from one martial artist to another and so on, and it's difficult to make such assessments objectively. As a result, the criteria for point ratings tend to emphasize the showy beauty or speed but deviate from the essence of budo (see the Chinese bujutsu "dento ken" (traditional Tai Chi) and "seitei ken" (the new type of Tai Chi)). However, some refute this on the grounds that "bi" (beauty) is essential because it's included in one of the three major elements of budo, "yo" (usefulness), "bi" and "do" (way).

The characters of budo according to Jigoro KANO

In the early Meiji period, the originator of judo, Jigoro KANO, expressed the characteristics of judo (budo) as follows:

Judo (individual budo) is the basic principle.

We aim to complete the formation of our character by practicing and playing in matches.

There are the nationwide organizations, and we can practice and play matches throughout Japan.

Judo has a few basic skills and many applied ones.

Judo matches are held in tournaments.

Judo has a system of promotion (dan-ranking).

Major budo (including the emerging ones)




Kyudo (Japanese art of archery)

Nihon eiho (Japanese-style swimming)

Ninjutsu (ninja art)

Jodo (form of martial art using a cane staff)




Jukendo (bayonet)

Shinei Taido (Shinwa Taido) martial art

Naginata (long-handled sword)

Nihon kenpo (a Japanese-style martial art)

Ogodo (healthy martial arts)

Kenseido (art of self defense)

Taido (literally, the way of the mind and body, a kind of Japanese martial art)

Chokendo (way of long sword)

Tankendo (way of short sword)



Juho Tokaken


Shintaido (literally "new body way", an avant-garde martial art)

Sports Chanbara (sportive swordfighting)

Sports Fukiya (sportive blowgun)





Todo (way of sword)

Kodaichido (way of short sword)

Sodo (Spearsmanship)

Koppo (a martial art with bare hands) (kakutogi)

Mobius Kiryuho (the Japanese Art of Flowing Movement)

Nanbudo (Art for the creation of "Ki" energy)

Seiken shinkage-ryu (a school of the combative sports)

Kitadoin Kenpo (Japanese martial art originated from a school of Shorinji Kenpo)

Toyo Kenpo

Hanshado (way of reflex)

Shorinji Kenpo (modern Japanese martial art based on Shaolin Kung Fu)

Dan and kyu (grade)

Ever since Dainippon Butoku-kai applied the dan-kyu promotion system for judo, kendo and kyudo before the war (previously, the dan promotion system had been adopted by the Kodokan, the kyu promotion system by the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department (the Interior Ministry)), the other budos have also adopted the promotion system. However, the distinctions have their own respective historical backgrounds, which vary significantly from one budo to another. Also, honorary dan are sometimes given to those who have superb achievements and so on, despite the judgment.


Some people skip the kyu.

10kyu, 9kyu, 8kyu, 7kyu, 6kyu, 5kyu, 4kyu, 3kyu, 2kyu, 1kyu


Syo-dan (1dan), 2dan, 3dan, 4dan, 5dan, 6dan, 7dan, 8dan, 9dan, 10dan

Hanshi (the first-grade martial artist):

Hanshi has a grade of 7dan or higher (more than 8dan in Zennippon Iaido Renmei, All Japan Iaido Association).

Jun-hanshi (the second-grade martial artist):

(A title that is given only in the Zennippon Iaido Renmei)

Kyoshi (the third-grade martial artist):

Kyoshi has a grade of 6dan or higher (more than 7dan in Zennippon Iaido Renmei).

Renshi (the fourth-grade martial artist):

Renshi has a grade of 5dan or higher (more than 6dan in Zennippon Iaido Renmei).

Titles such as renshi, kyoshi, (jun-hanshi) and hanshi are often given in budo. The origin of these titles is thought to lie in the fact that the title of seirensho was given to those who practiced very hard in budo, which supposedly led to the entitlement of renshi, and it came into existence as the title of kendo as well as the titles such as tatsushi (later, kyoshi) and hanshi during the Meiji period. Later, these titles were often given in iaido, jodo, kyudo, karate and so on.

The theory of budo

The theory of budo by Jigoro KANO

The theory of budo by Kenji TOMIKI

The theory of budo by Tsugumasa NANGO:

He scientifically elucidated the budo by means of materialistic dialectic and established the essentialist theory of budo, the theory of proficiency in martial arts, the theory of the duel and so on, but he is criticized as not having suggested any outcome based on those theories.

Jinjas (shrines) that are deeply related to budo

Kashima-jingu Shrine

Katori-jingu Shrine:

These shrines are regarded as the gods of Japanese bujutsu and budo, and the name 'Kashima Daimyojin' (鹿島大明神) and 'Katori Daimyojin' (香取大明神) are often enshrined in the dojo (training hall).

Hayashizaki Iai-jinja Shrine:

Shigenobu HAYASHIZAKI, the originator of iai, is enshrined there.

[Original Japanese]