Here at the frontier, the leaves fall like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians, there are still two cups at my table.

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 ~

Sunday, August 21, 2022

Is Budo for Everyone?

Below is an excerpt from a post that appeared at The Budo Bum. The author asks the question, "Is Budo for everyone?"

The full post may be read here.

Is budo for everyone? I don’t know. Some of the great proselytizers of budo certainly seemed to think so. Kano Jigoro worked hard to get his Kodokan Judo into the national educational curriculum in Japan, and sent teachers all over the world to popularize it. Funakoshi Gichin brought Ryukyu Te to the main islands of Japan and created modern karatedo. Ueshiba Morihei wanted to spread his art of peace all over the world, and sent out teachers wherever there was interest. Kendo has a regular world championship. 

Is budo for everyone? Should it be for everyone? I and an army of others have written endlessly about the benefits of martial arts training and often suggest that some sort of martial arts training would be good for pretty much everyone. Besides the arts above, there are countless commercial martial arts schools that are premised on the assumption that everyone can, and should, do martial arts. I started out in a Kodokan Judo club at a university. We never considered that judo wasn’t for everyone.

After a few decades of practice, as well as having encountered many other budo forms, I have begun to wonder about this assumption. Classical budo were clearly not for everyone. Many ryuha had requirements that students bring recommendations, and then if the teacher accepted them, they still had to prove themselves. Students who couldn’t follow the rules or didn’t fit the particular budo culture were out. Students often had to sign lengthy pledges, keppan, promising to follow the rules of the school (see the chapter on keppan in Ellis Amdur’s Old School). These arts had, and still have, an innate assumption that they are not for anyone who walks up with tuition money.

Classical ryuha exist for themselves. A few were otome ryu, schools that were officially attached to local daimyo and were tied to the political scene, but most were not officially linked with any political organization and flourished or perished on their own merits and the ability of the teacher(s) to bring in enough students. The Bugei Ryuha Daijiten lists thousands of individual ryuha that existed over the centuries in Japan. Most didn’t survive any great length of time.  The ones that have survived the longest are famous; Kashima Shinto Ryu, Katori Shinto Ryu, Kashima Shinryu, Maniwa Nen Ryu. 

They are also famous for their pickiness when accepting new students.Their founders and members have never dreamed that these arts are meant for everyone. Just the opposite. These arts are treasures to be guarded jealously and not just shared with anyone. Until the end of the Tokugawa Shogunate in 1868, a person’s martial skills could be drawn upon in duels and fights. For the samurai classes, this was a matter of honor and legitimacy. With the very real possibility that they might have to use what their ryuha taught them, it became  vital that not everyone knew its secrets. A samurai might have had to rely on those secrets to survive.



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