Some people think that Budo has no future as such, because its typical representatives have now become mere games. Like many games, they have dropped away from the ideal of training into the aim of winning, often as professionals entertaining a crowd. To win or lose a Kendo contest, they say, is the same thing as winning or losing a game of tennis.
Now it is true that the Kendo man no longer has any expectation of using a sword to defend himself. His special techniques with a sword find no application in life today. Even Judo, with its ridiculously narrowed and artificial rules of contest, has lost most of its usefulness in self-defence; few Judo men today would know how to meet an angry boxer.
But it is, in fact, very easy. You run in on all fours and pull him over by grabbing his ankles. The boxer has no technique for hitting down. I will list the main areas in which I believe the Budo tradition, if kept alive and revived, can still contribute something very valuable to the world. I will begin with the least important.
(1) Physical Training, the technique of nearly all popular games consists in managing a ball, which is a situation that never occurs outside the play area. Many of them lead to one-sided development, whereas the movements in Judo concern the whole body. In life, the Judo man keeps his balance on slippery ground, when a crowd is pushing, or when he moves furniture. Most people lift a weight by their arms, whereas the Judo man understands how to bend the knees and use the strength of the thighs. The Kendo posture, too, gives hints about how to sit at a computer without fatigue, and it also gives precision in bodily movement generally.
(2) Ball games require comparatively much more space. In a squash court, twenty Judo men can easily practise together. This means that Judo is especially good for cities where space is limited.
(3) Both Kendo and Judo are concerned with instant response to attacks against the body, whereas ball games are mostly concerned with a quite artificial aim.
(4) Self-control Sportsmanship taught this: to try very hard, but not to be ruffled by failure, or puffed-up by success. It is true that with the development of entertainment games practised by professionals before yelling crowd, this training element, which is sport has often been replaced by winning at all costs. Sportsmanship has, in some areas, been replaced by gamesmanship. But in many sports clubs, the ideal of the sportsman is still honoured and encouraged: a bad loser who makes excuses and gets angry is not respected.
Dr. Kano believes that the Budo ideal is especially useful for teaching, not merely this self-control, but also good fellowship. The Budo situations are those where the animal aggressiveness, and perhaps also fear, will be roused and then controlled, and finally turned into friendship, Jita-Kyoei. This, too, was the ideal of the sportsman: to shake hands after a fight, but boxing has a disadvantage: one of its purposes is to inflict damage, which is not true of the Budo idea. We foreigners, learning Kanji, always suppose that the character, tatakau (Sen), will be under Radical 62, meaning a weapon. After a long search, we find it under Radical 77, meaning “to check”. We also mechanically write the full character with the “weapon” on the right-hand side. In fact, there is a stroke missing, and it is not that character but the one for “ceremony”. I never met a Japanese who could explain this to me.
(5) Classical Budo texts, such as Heiho-kaden sho, seek to replace the warrior of Yang, who comes forward shouting, glaring, swaggering and making feints, by the warrior of Yin, who is calm outwardly and inwardly, though he can imitate the warrior of Yang if necessary. So far, this is the ideal of the sportsman. But Budo has something far deeper to give to the world: transcendence of win and loss, technique and strategy, and manifesting inspiration. This is one of the fractional applications of Zen to a limited field; others are: calligraphy, No dancing, and garden design.
The special point of Budo is, that the inspiration has to manifest, not at leisure, as in these other Ways or Do, but at high speed and responding to an opponent. The Do does not depend on excellence in technique, though there has to be some technique in the particular field so that the result can show itself clearly. What does it mean in practise? When going into an important Judo or Kendo contest: to give up all thoughts of win or loss or special technique (Tokui Waza).
If the mind can be emptied of such thoughts, a clear and unexpected result comes about. Sometimes this has little to do with any learned technique. The great Shogi grand master, Yasu Haru Oyama, told me that he did this Moku so at the beginning of a match. And, indeed, he used to sit perfectly still, sometimes for several minutes, before making his first move. There have been individuals in other countries who have discovered this secret of inspiration, but in general we can say that there is no tradition, and so we do not know how to train for it. It takes persistence and courage, but finally, what has been learned in the Budo art can be applied in life situations. It is typically and uniquely Japanese that the hints at it should be in the form of poetry:
The moon does not design to lodge there,
nor does the lake seek to catch the moon,
the lake of Sarusawa.
© Trevor Leggett