The autumn leaves are falling like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are always two cups at my table.

T’ang Dynasty poem

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~

Thursday, June 10, 2010

What Do You Think You're Doing?

Noted martial arts writer Nick Lowry wrote an article about the difference between a -jutsu art and a -do art. Below is an excerpt. The whole article may be read here.

Innumerable times over the years students have come to ask the difference between JUTSU and DO, and for the most part my answers have always been to describe the basic surface distinctions—the historical, the philosophical, technical—the simple pragmatic basis of JUTSU as the basic military or soldierly training model, and DO, the modern pursuit of excellence and self actualization, the making of happier, healthier people and society and such.
It is much deeper than that. On a most basic level JUTSU is the madness of violence and DO is the sanity of nonviolence.
JUTSU is deeply and committedly a perspective of dualism—of self and other, of good and bad, of heroes and villains, of us and them. JUTSU promises empowerment through competence, technical and strategic skill and through superior firepower. JUTSU is all about winning and killing. This is basically kid’s stuff, the adolescent fantasy of the ultimate warrior who can conquer the world and make everything fit into the “big plan.” It is a natural extension of the mind that cannot but react to the karma of the circumstance except to try to steer it, control it, and force it. Make no mistake, JUTSU is a commonsense direct approach and it will solve some problems; it does have its good points, it has developed remarkable tools and techniques in the pursuit of its ends. But at the end of the day, since blood never successfully washes away blood, it is still madness. When we enter the path of training in the martial arts we all tend to start from just such a perspective (and notably, this is irrespective of what art you are pursuing and whether its name ends in the suffix “-jutsu” or “-do”).

DO requires something different. DO will not bend to the will, will not be tamed into submission, will not become subservient to the ego, to the “self.” DO does not lend itself to self-aggrandizement (those who attempt to do such leave behind a wake of sad and humorous carnage in their lives. They reduce themselves to becoming caricatures of real seekers of the way—can you say Segal?) DO is a move past dualism into the nondual and back out the other side. It transcends and includes JUTSU. It is a complete liberation of self from self that compels us to work according to principles, to harmonize the activity of self to align with these principles and to follow where they lead. DO is not, and can never be attained or mastered. DO is rather what we surrender to, once we have gotten still enough and quiet enough to pay attention to reality. Through DO we can come to understand and embody principles such as AIKI and JU.


Chris Hellman said...

I can't help thinking that this is rather confusing to anyone who has a deeper or more widespread appreciation of the use of the terms 'do' and 'jutsu'. It is very easy to label things and attach quasi-religious terminology, then declare that everything you like is one thing and everything you don't is another. In other words, a 'jutsu' art is a 'do' if it follows certain 'non-dualistic' philosophical principles; a 'do' is a 'jutsu' if it doesn't... regardless of what they are called or have been called in the past.

This may be all very well if you are referring to aikido, karate and the related modern disciplines that are often termed 'do'.

However, many arts which contain the tag 'jutsu' have had a spiritual/philosophical component for the greater part of their existence. In many cases, this has been just as or more integral to the art than in modern disciplines, and with arguably greater depth. To say that those arts known as 'jutsu' are basically to do with killing seems to be an oversimplification, but even if we let it pass, to say that their inherent duality is then reflected in their techniques, whereas 'do' disciplines are based on non-duality seems to fly in the face of the fact that the higher techniques of many of these 'jutsu' are based on exactly the same non-dualistic principles.

Of course, the basic premise is really that 'do' are morally (and no doubt spiritually) superior. This strikes me as reflecting a very poor understanding of the way many arts are practiced and transmitted, and of the practitioners themselves.

Rick said...

The single best expalnation of the difference between a jutsu and a do was written by Donn Draeger in his Martial Arts and Ways of Japan. I'm sorry for not supplying a link, but I'm on my phone entering this.

In a nutshell the techiques are identical, it is simply a matter of one's emphasis.

Charlie said...

I agree with Chris. If you look at European Knights of old; they trained for combat (JUTSU), yet had a code of chivelry (similar to DO).
The Samurai too trained purely for combat (JUTSU) and although they could be very brutal, they would be completely loyal to the point taking their own life inf they failed their master (a weird kind of DO).
Although it may seem strange to compare the harsh brutality of some Samurai to a "DO", the Samurai always had the concept of something greater than themselves, of unquestioning loyalty and service to their clan. This contradicts the above article that those who practice JUTSU are just interested in dominance over others.
I think JUTSU and DO are intertwined and like Rick say, is a matter of emphasis.