[Interview] Alex Bennett – Aikido, Kendo, Karate… The origins of modern Budo (S01E09)
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[Interview] Alex Bennett – Aikido, Kendo, Karate… The origins of modern Budo (S01E09)

January 14, 2020


Alexander C. Bennett has two PHDs in
Human Studies and Sciences from the University of Canterbury and Kyoto University. He holds the ranks of 7th dan Kyoshi in Kendo,
5th dan in Iaido and Naginata, 3rd Dan in Jukendo and Tankendo. He is professor at Kansai University of both
Kendo and Japanese Culture and History, vice-president of the International Naginata Federation,
Member of the international committee of the All Japan Kendo Federation, director at the
Japanese Academy of Budo, cofounder of the Kendo World Magazine, and author of several
books in English and Japanese. He created this doctrine,
and created this new form of Jujutsu, and he didn’t call it Kodokan Jujutsu,
he called it Kodokan Judo and this is quite revolutionary. What is the difference between “jutsu” and “do” ?
Well it depends, really, because Bujutsu, as it used to be called, or the Koryu, the traditional schools are still called Bujutsu, they’ve always had that kind of spiritual element and,
like I said before, that sort of, has always involved a sort of a quest for self perfection, so it has these educational qualities. But he tried to distance himself from standard Jujutsu because Jujutsu in his day
actually had a bit of a bad name. It was associated with brawlers, with violence,
people beating each other up and gangsters, basically. And he said:
“Well, the Jujutsu that I do is far more noble than that.” “It is a way in which you can perfect yourself as a human being” “So I’m going to call Kodokan Jujutsu,
I’m going to call it Kodokan Judo”. “Do”, be meaning “the way”,
“a way of life”, “a way of becoming a better human being”. So he is accentuating not so much
the technical aspect of his style of Jujutsu, but the educational potential of his style of Jujutsu,
so he called it Judo. At that time, other martial arts
like Kendo or Kyudo and so forth, they were not cool. They did not have “do” attached to them. They were Kenjutsu or Kyujutsu, or whatever “-jutsu”. And so, although he wasn’t the first to attach “do”, there were other examples in history
but long forgotten and very, very minor. What he did… Even with this nomenclature, just using “do” as the suffix was really the start of modern Budo. And he provided a blueprint
for many of the other martial arts. Now, in Japan,
modern Budo consists officially of nine Budo, right? Yeah, Nippon Budo Kyogikai,
the Japanese Association of Budo. Of course, there are many, many more
that do not belong in that Nihon Budo Kyogikai. But officially at least, from a governmental stance,
there are nine. And if we just take the example of these nine Budo,
all of them were very much influenced by Kano Jigoro. Because he, as I said, he adapted Judo to suit the time, something that was going to be useful,
acceptable among the general populace. Because, until this time, martial arts were not really practiced by anybody other than samurai, but, of course… Well that’s the standard image of course, lots of people participated in various kinds of martial arts, commoners as well,
but generally it was the domain of the samurai. But now what he was trying to do is make it
the domain of Japanese people, and more than that, he went overseas a number of times in an official capacity as an educator, on tours of Europe and the United States. And every opportunity he had he would demonstrate to audiences overseas the wonders of Judo and, you know, how rational it was,
but not only rational but very educational. And his influence overseas is still seen today. I mean, what he started really… …was key in the spread of Japanese martial arts outside of Japan, in many ways. And following… When you talk about Budo, modern Budo of course, every Budo is different, and, all of it, you know, the history is actually that
you can’t just say it all comes from the same place. It doesn’t. I mean, if you look at Shorinji Kempo for example,
that was created by So Doshin in the post-war period, based on his experiences in China. But it’s still considered
one of the official nine modern Budo recognized by…, “traditional” Budo, recognized by the government. Aikido, which you do, I mean it’s very much… It’s based on a long history of Daitoryu, Aiki-jujutsu, and various other, sort of, influences and was created by Ueshiba Morihei,
just as Kano Jigoro created Kodokan Judo, but it didn’t really become known
until the post-war period, and even in the pre-war period there was only a very select small group of people
that were invited to study it, right? So it was never really considered
to be a means for education as such. And Karate. Karate is another interesting example,
traditional Japanese Karate. But it comes from Okinawa. Okinawa sort of has two identities: it was governed by the Satsuma domain, so it was sort of part of Japan, but at the same time it was also the Ryukyu Kingdom. So they sort of have two, you know,
completely separate culture altogether. In fact, I think it’s fair to say that Karate was one of the first traditional martial arts to be modernized as well, in Okinawa,
where it was actually taught to students in schools before mainland Japan
introduced Budo into the education. But sources on that are a little bit scant
and it’s hard, to sort of like, verify. But in any case traditional Japanese Budo… Well really, you know, it depends on how you think of Okinawa and its place in Japanese history. Jukendo, which is the art of the bayonet. I mean, you would know a lot about that because, really, it has its roots in France, okay? It’s like the French introduced these techniques
of using the bayonet in fighting, in combat, and that was taught to conscripts
in the Japanese military. It was adapted and introduced, sort of,
some teachings and ideas from traditional Sojutsu, which is the art of the pike or the spear. But is it a pure Japanese Budo?
Well it’s hard to say, isn’t it? I mean what is pure? It was adapted to suit,
in the case of Jukendo it was the military, but later on it became a vehicle for education as well. So all of these Budo are actually different. Their histories are different. But really we owe a lot to Kano Jigoro
for providing the blueprint which enabled these various systems of combat
to be considered something more than just fighting, something that all people can participate in,
and use as a way to refine the self and be a useful, nice person in society
if that’s what you aspire to be. I guess few Japanese people even know this but… In the next episode,
Alex tells us how Budo became a modern concept focusing on the use of ancient traditions for educational purposes, and explains the involvement of Nishikubo Hiromichi and the Dai Nippon Butokukai in the creation of modern structures that supported this evolution. There was a guy called Nishikubo Hiromichi, and he was the principal,
the headmaster, of the Dai Nippon Butokukai ..created in 1895 to preserve martial arts
and promote them. “Hey, this is really important culture guys!”, “We’re got to look after this, we’re going to keep this” “So from now on we’re going to call “Kenjutsu” Kendo.” “Everything’s going to end with a “do”” So the idea of Budo itself, officially,
is not even a hundred years old. Stay tuned you’ll learn a lot about the history of Budo
in the next episodes.

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  1. It is weird to see the progression of Jitsu to Do, nowadays MMA has became those brawlers Kano Sensei was departing from (martial art technique stripped of appreciation of honor, respect for your enemy, discipline, and spiritual development) Is it a tide that comes and goes cyclically? Or just a parallel side effect of martial arts.

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