Tuesday, June 25, 2013

What is Budo?: The Budo Charter

The budo Charter(budo kensho)
 , 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, has been refined and cultivated into ways of physical training and spiritual development. The study of encourages courteous behaviour, advances technical proficiency, strengthens the body, and perfects the mind. Modern Japanese have inherited traditional values through which continue to play a significant role in the formation of the Japanese personality, serving as sources of boundless energy and rejuvenation. As such, 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 . To prevent any possible misrepresentation, practitioners of 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 Association, established The Charter in order to uphold the fundamental principles of .
Through physical and mental training in the Japanese martial ways,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 , 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 . They must do their best at all times, winning with modesty, accepting defeat gracefully, and constantly exhibiting self-control.
ARTICLE 4:(Training Hall)
The is a special place for training the mind and body. In the , practitioners must maintain discipline, and show proper courtesies and respect.
The should be a quiet, clean, safe, and solemn environment.
Teachers of 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 . 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 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 in every way.
Member Organisations of the Japanese Association
Zen Nihon Renmei
(All Japan Judo Federation)
Zen Nippon Renmei
(All Japan Kendo Federation)
Zen Nihon Renmei
(All Nippon Kyudo Federation)
Nihon Renmei
(Japan Sumo Federation)
Zen Nihon Renmei
(Japan Karatedo Federation)
(Aikikai Foundation)
(Shorinji Kempo Federation)
Zen Nihon Naginata Renmei
(All Japan Naginata Federation)
Zen Nihon Renmei
(All Japan Jukendo Federation)
(Nippon Budokan Foundation)
Established on 23 April, 1987 by the Japanese Association (Nippon )
English translation revised 16 September, 2004
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.
So that's basically it.
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!


  1. It reminds me of the ken-po goku-i. Not as to content and meaning bur rather the essence. Your commentary is also succinct and to the point without all the flowery rhetoric you read today. I would have to contemplate the charter a bit more before commenting as to my perspective and perceptions.

    I thank you for publishing it as this is the first I have heard of it and that means something to me since I do a lot of research.

    In all the publications and such both written and eWritten, etc. this is the first exposure of the charter to me.



  2. Actually, I was probably in Japan for almost two years before I saw it. I was at a different aikido dojo for a seminar and during one of the breaks wandered over to where it was hanging on the wall, and there it was. That's actually still the only place I've seen it, and never heard anybody talk about it. Very strange. I would think that that fact would lower it's credibility, but it is "the" official budo document, and maybe all Japanese budoka are in fact aware of it. I don't know. Thanks for the comments.

  3. nice bLog! its interesting. thank you for sharing.... aikido