The Iaido Journal  Aug 2010
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Through the Mists of Time 6

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 2)


Since Meiji times, foreign thoughts and culture, flowing and entering in, have at last been changing sacred BUDO into sports, becoming competitive, winning and losing competition, good or bad competition, this situation is never true martial spirit, not true spirit.

Therefore, BUDO’s purpose is the Emperor’s grace to answer humbly. Country’s duty grace to reward in only one way.

This mission’s completion, in order to complete it, the tradition from old times came passed down, BUJUTSU (martial arts) and SHUGYO (ascetic training), these things done with true Japanese spirit, learning with loyal, brave, severe BU to honestly love and cultivate the country’s spirit.

One morning (at a time of emergency), the experience when as usual, not failing, trained in martial techniques, a healthy body is offered to the Japanese Emperor’s people, the highest and biggest, most beautiful responsibility to complete.”


Sugino Yoshio
The 16th Year 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:

Some compelling ideas in this passage.

“… becoming competitive, winning and losing competition, good or bad competition, this situation is never true martial spirit, not true spirit.”
In other words, true budo spirit is not about winning and losing. The true meaning and purpose of martial arts is not to become a killing machine nor is it to become some kind of athletic champion who can defeat all challengers. It is not about being able to “show someone who’s boss.” Here is an excerpt from the famous movie “The Karate Kid” that illustrates this point perfectly.

Daniel: Ever taught anyone?
Miyagi: No.
Daniel: Would you?
Miyagi: Depend.
Daniel: On what?
Miyagi: Reason.
Daniel: How’s revenge?
Miyagi: Look revenge that way, Daniel-san, start by digging two graves.
Daniel: At least I would have company.
Miyagi: Fighting always last answer to problem.
Daniel: No offence, Mr. Miyagi, but I don’t think you understand the problem.
Miyagi: Understand perfect. Friends, karate students, yes?
Daniel: Yeah.
Miyagi: Problem: attitude.
Daniel: Problem is, I’m getting my ass kicked every other day.
Miyagi: Yes. Because boys learn wrong attitude. Karate used to defence.
Daniel: That’s not what these jerks are taught.
Miyagi: Can see. No such thing bad student, only bad teacher. Teacher say, student do.

It is not about medals, trophies, certificates, or plaques. It is not about belts, dans, or menkyo.

Daniel: Mr. Miyagi, what belt do you have?
Miyagi: Canvas. You like?
Daniel: Yeah, it’s very nice.
Miyagi: J. C. Penney, $3.98.
(Miyagi sees by Daniel’s face that his joke is not understood)

Miyagi: In Okinawa, belt mean “don’t need rope hold up pants.”
Karate here. (taps his head)
Here. (taps his heart)
Not here. (he pulls on his belt)
Understand?

Daniel nods.
Miyagi: Good night, Daniel-san.

“BUDO’s purpose is the Emperor’s grace to answer humbly. Country’s duty grace to reward in only one way.”
The translator uses the word “grace”. But it seems a better translation might be “call”, as in “call to duty”. So we could re-interpret these two sentences to read something like this:

“The purpose of budo is to humbly answer the call of the Emperor. The call to duty from/for the country can only be answered in one way.”
Thus, the purpose of budo is to be ready to serve the Emperor.

“This mission’s completion, in order to complete it, …BUJUTSU (martial arts) and SHUGYO (ascetic training), these things done with true Japanese spirit, …”

He talks about “this mission” which obviously refers to the purpose of budo discussed in the previous paragraph. To be ready to serve the Emperor (this is the ultimate mission), samurai ideally engaged in two types of training: martial arts and “ascetic training”.

For some information about shugyo, look here: http://zendoctor.com/ShugyoMeaning.html

“… these things done with true Japanese spirit, learning with loyal, brave, severe BU to honestly love and cultivate the country’s spirit. … a healthy body is offered to the Japanese Emperor’s people, the highest and biggest, most beautiful responsibility to complete.”

In the two quotes above, we can clearly see that Sugino Yoshio Sensei loved his country. Some key words from these two quotes: honestly love the country and the highest responsibility. Honestly loving your country is about patriotism. Offering your body to the Emperor (i.e., the highest responsibility) is about self-sacrifice, sacrificing oneself for the country.

Sound familiar?
Recall the famous words of John F. Kennedy in his inaugural speech:

And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country.”

Source: http://www.famousquotes.me.uk/speeches/John_F_Kennedy/5.htm


Self-sacrifice. Duty. Our police officers, military personnel, firefighters. They all know about duty and self-sacrifice. And we have heard these words, these “virtues”, spoken of before, a long time ago.

“This code is said to have emphasized virtues such as loyalty, honor, obedience, duty, filial piety, and self-sacrifice.”

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bushido


So, ultimately, what is Sugino Sensei talking about in this entire passage? Simply, he is talking about Bushido. The meaning and purpose of budo is to follow the ancient code, Bushido.

In koryu, nothing has changed. It may have a more modern face to it now, but deep down inside, at its core, it is really still the old code. A 600 year-old code, passed down from generation to generation, travelling down the centuries, to now.


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

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