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New Budokan Kamiza 6th Oct 2021_edited.jpg

1960 - 2023





Bushidō - (Japanese: “Way of the Warrior”) the code of conduct of the Samurai,


or Bushi (warrior), class of premodern Japan




Budo – (Japanese: “Bu – Martial    Do – the way. Martial way”)

Although the name Bushidō was not used until the 16th century, the idea of the code developed during the Kamakura period (1192–1333), as did the practice of seppuku (ritual disembowelment).


Since the days of the Kamakura shogunate (1185 – 1333), the "Way of the Warrior" has been an integral part of Japanese culture.


The medieval Japanese military class was attracted to Zen Buddhism, because of the discipline required in its daily practice and its notion of non- attachment, which served each individual well on a practical level as they could achieve an enlightened state which eliminated suffering – the central tenet of all Buddhism.


Zen monks occupied positions of political influence in both Kyoto, where the Emperor and the ruling family reigned supreme and in Kamakura, the new seat of the Shogunate, especially when Yoritomo took the title of Seii Taishogun in 1192.


Eisai, was a Tendai priest who studied extensively in China and returned to Japan in 1192. He was frowned upon by the Tendai establishment and moved to Kamakura, where he won the support of the newly established Shogunate and set up temples there and in Kyoto. Eisai was generally regarded as being responsible for introducing Zen to Japan and was both politically and artistically influential.

The Soto sect of Zen Buddhism was founded by Dogen Zenji with the building of the Eihei Temple in what is now the Fukui Prefecture in 1243.


Dogen lost his parents at an early age and was influenced by the impermanence of things. He began to teach Zazen and its central tenet of Shikan Taza or seated meditation as the most effective road to Satori, which can mean personal enlightenment or self-realization.


At that time the Minamoto family established Japan’s first military government (bakufu), headed by a hereditary leader called the Shogun. However, the supreme obligation or duty of the samurai was to his Lord, even if this might cause suffering to his parents.


The extent to which duty superseded all else is perhaps best exemplified in the story of the 47 rōnin from the early 18th century. These Samurai, who had become masterless (Rōnin) after their Lord had been treacherously murdered, avenged their Lord’s death against the express instructions of the Shogun and afterward were all ordered to commit seppuku.

During the Muromachi period (1336–1573) the “way of the warrior” - the Samurai Code of Conduct began to become more refined by adopting selected daily activities, alongside martial training, such as Zen (meaning meditation), ikebana, the tea ceremony, poetry such as the death poem (written by Samurai before suicidal missions or battles) and literature.

The sayings of Sengoku-period retainers and warlords such as Katō Kiyomasa (1562–1611) and Nabeshima Naoshige were generally recorded or passed down to posterity around the turn of the 16th century when Japan had entered a period of relative peace.


In a handbook addressed to "all Samurai, regardless of rank", Katō states

"If a man does not investigate into the matter of Bushidō daily, it will be difficult for him to die a brave and manly death. Thus, it is essential to engrave this business of the warrior into one's mind well”.


During the Edo (Tokugawa) period (1603–1867) Bushidō thought was infused with Confucian ethics and made into a comprehensive system that stressed obligation or duty. The Samurai was equated with the Confucian “perfect gentleman” and was taught that his essential function was to exemplify virtue to the lower classes.


Obedience to authority was stressed, but duty (“Giri”) came first even if it entailed violation of law.


In the mid-19th century, however, the precepts of Bushidō were made the basis of ethical training for the whole of society, with the Emperor replacing the feudal Lord, or Daimyo, as the focus of loyalty and sacrifice.


The precise content of the Bushidō code varied historically as the Samurai class came under the influence of Zen Buddhist and Confucian thought, but it’s one unchanging ideal was martial spirit, including athletic and military skills as well as fearlessness toward the enemy in battle. Frugal living, kindness, honesty, and personal honour were also highly regarded, as was filial piety, respect for one's parents, elders, and ancestors.


As such it contributed to the rise of Japanese nationalism following the Meiji Restoration (1868) and to the strengthening of civilian morale during the Sino-Japanese War (1937–45) and World War II.

Instruction in the code was officially abandoned with Japan’s defeat in 1945.


Elements of the code remain, however, in the practice of Japanese martial arts and in the sport of sumo wrestling.

Bushido is often referred to as the soul of old Japan and the spirit of the new.


Then consider if you would, the similarity between Bushido and Budo.


Budo – (Japanese: “Bu – Martial    -    Do – the way   -   Martial Way”)


As a lifestyle, Budo is known as the The Martial Way

Budo philosophy has been developed over time (approximately 400 years) from the teachings of Japanese Bushido.


The two concepts, Bushido and Budo, are fundamental to the study of the Japanese martial arts. In essence Bushido is the code of conduct which we, as martial arts practitioners, subscribe to whilst we learn the martial way.

In my view it is impossible to practise the one without the other.

Miyamoto Musashi said, “The way is in training”.


When I started karate at the end of each class, we used to recite the maxims which we were expected to apply both in the in the dojo and in our everyday lives.

These were Etiquette, Effort, Respect and Self Control.


The study of martial arts requires both the physical aspect and the mental aspect.


The training of the body and the training of the mind.


To achieve mastery of a single martial art requires a lifetime of dedication and there is no avoiding the physical aspect of the training.

We often say, “There is no gain without pain”.

At Budokan we expect students to train both within the dojo as well as when in private at home or elsewhere.


Progressive skills development is necessary for the attainment of mastery of a martial art and that is why we assess the progress a student makes progressively throughout every year.


Students are taught the basics which they are expected to master before they move on to more complex techniques.

….   Returning then to the maxims we recited after every class and how they apply to the study of Budo. These require each and every student to observe Dojo etiquette.

For example, we always remove our shoes when entering the Dojo.

We used to prepare the dojo by washing down the floors at the beginning and end of every class.

We bow to each other and to the instructors.

We say “please teach me” at the beginning and “thank you” to the instructor at the end of each session.

We also meditate for a short time at the beginning and end of each class.

The question is why is this necessary?

This is an outward manifestation of an inner desire to remind ourselves, and show others outside the martial arts, that we have respect for one and another, the instructors, the dojo, ourselves, and others.

One cannot avoid the physical aspect of martial arts training.

You have to get on the dojo floor and sweat to achieve progress and it is essential for a student to give the maximum effort on each occasion he practises his skills. This effort is what makes martial arts training worthwhile.

The benefits are, I would say self-evident.

Exercise is good for one’s health, it helps to rid oneself of negative thoughts and the release of endorphins makes one mentally strong.

There is no denying that the practise of martial arts can lead to situations when tempers might flare up. Practitioners must develop self-control and those who don’t soon fall below the estimation of their peers and expectations of their Teachers and Instructors.

At the same time as engaging in the physical side of training students learn how to control their breathing, how to focus on what they are doing and what the opponent is doing.

We are taught to analyse each technique and what its application might be.

They must also engage the mind. We meditate to find a balance within our everyday lives and to rid ourselves of negative thoughts and emotions.

It teaches us to focus.


Having regard for the aforesaid I must return to the concept of “Giri”!


Giri - pronounced ‘Gidi (as most Japanese people cannot roll the “R”’ ) is a Japanese concept roughly corresponding to duty, obligation, justice, and correct action. There is no equivalent word in the English language. It should be a very important rule for practitioners of the martial arts. This concept has attracted a great deal of interest from the rest of the world.


What concerns me is how many students of Budo understand the concept of Giri and how few regulate their actions and thoughts in keeping with the concept. Giri transcends limits of right action, duty, courtesy, obligation, and right thinking - which emanate from the Eightfold Path of Buddhist philosophy.


Early students of Bushido studied the ‘kashoki’.

These are five scrolls with wide-ranging content, including Samurai knowledge with moral precepts, the knowledge of ordinary people, the teachings of Confucian Buddhism, Mencius and others.

It contains moral precepts which explain theoretical aspects of Bushido.


The fifth scroll has an important definition that was made by a Samurai and is therefore the first known description of morality in Bushido.


The Bushido spirit was the Kashoki.


The fifth scroll provides that “The essence of Bushidō is: do not lie, do not be insincere, do not be servile, do not be superficial, do not be greedy, do not be rude, do not be boastful, do not be arrogant, do not slander, do not be unfaithful, be on good terms with comrades, do not be overly concerned with events, show concern for one another, be compassionate, with a strong sense of duty”.


Being a good Samurai takes more than merely a willingness to lay down one's life."


In my view this is Giri.


Over the last 100 years modern societies have encouraged their citizens to adopt a social and political doctrine of individualism and wealth creation and I believe we have lost sight of Giri.


And with reference to the Kanji of Bushido and Budo (above) it may be the latter that will fade away, whilst we will continue to revere the former.


Peter Bush

October 2021

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