The Iaido Journal  July 2010
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Through the Mists of Time 5

copyright 2010 Douglas Tong, all rights reserved

In this series of articles, we examine parts of Master Yoshio Sugino’s seminal book Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto-ryu Budo Kyohan (A Textbook of Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto-ryu Martial Training), published in Japan in 1941.

In this passage, Sugino Sensei relates what budo means.

Budo’s Meaning and Purpose (Part 1)

“The way of martial arts are Amaterasu Omikami (the great sun goddess), Japan’s building at the time the gods came, before the place the leading gods, the warrior gods, this meadow of the country in which the violent gods were made peaceful.

The gods at the beginning, just, not selfish, 100%, to Heaven’s duty and grace responded.

In this way, the old song: “Umi ukaba mizu tsuku shikabane, yama ukaba kusa musu shikabane, okimi no soba ni koso shiname kaeri ni ha seiji.”(“In the ocean, dead body. In the mountain, in the grass, dead body. Beside the prince I will die.”), as it is written.

This is the martial way’s fundamental spirit, it can be said of this song.

In other words, martial training, according to our spirit, the physical body polishing, with this, the Emperor’s country’s prosperity, in strength to try hard, these things are the essence of Budo.”

( to be continued…)

Sugino Yoshio
The 16thYear of Shōwa
Chiba-ken, Katori-gun, Katori-cho

Extract from:
Sugino Yoshio & Ito Kikue (1941). Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto-ryu Budo Kyohan.
 

Author’s post-script:

Umi ukaba mizu tsuku shikabane,
yama ukaba kusa musu shikabane,
okimi no soba ni koso shiname kaeri ni ha seiji.

In the ocean, dead body.
In the mountain, in the grass, dead body.
Beside the prince I will die.

A powerful poem here. We see the fundamental spirit of classical Japanese budo. A tragic outlook but a heroic one. In many Japanese samurai fables and movies, we frequently encounter
tragic heroes. A good example of this tragic ethos is embodied in the famous story of the 47 Ronin, which some view as Japan’s national legend since it is emblematic of many of the virtues that the Japanese people admire: loyalty, sacrifice, persistence, and honor.

In this passage, Sugino Sensei related the key tenets of budo (if we interpret budo as meaning “the martial way”):
1.    to polish the physical body; in other words, to prepare and ready the body for exertion.
2.    to make supreme efforts for the prosperity of the Emperor and the nation.

This last point, to make supreme effort for the Emperor, is very much the essence of the philosophy of the samurai, that of service.

“From the earliest times, the Samurai felt that the path of the warrior was one of honor, emphasizing duty to one's master, and loyalty unto death.”
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samurai

The original meaning of the word “samurai” meant “to wait upon or accompany a person in the upper ranks of society” and “those who serve in close attendance to the nobility.” And in a military world with clan fighting clan especially during times of unrest such as the Sengoku Jidai, military service for one’s lord carried with it the real potential for a tragic ending to one’s life. But in such service was heroism. To sacrifice yourself for others. Tragic but heroic.

This is mirrored in the philosophy of many police services in the world. The motto most commonly adopted now is: “To serve and protect”…

Sugino Sensei makes an important point. He talked about “…the martial way’s fundamental spirit.” We must not forget that in the end, budo training is about this. We can teach techniques, endless techniques, but it is all for naught if we do not teach about the soul of budo. Techniques are just the physical and the technical. But the traditions and the customs and the morals and the ethics of swordsmanship, these are the spirit of budo.

It is like the letter of the Law and the spirit of the Law.

Just teaching techniques is empty, like a corpse. You need to have the soul to make it complete.

“Beside the prince I will die…”
This is the essence of traditional Japanese budo.


 Mr. Tong can be contacted via email at: dtong@tokumeikan.com

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