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Thread: Use of term "Ryu" in gendai budo

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    Default Use of term "Ryu" in gendai budo

    Hi all,

    Here's a question I was wondering about, I hope I'm posting in the correct forum. I've read in a lot of posts here and in some of the essays on koryu.com about how the term ryu is much more complex than just "style", and encompasses a much larger social structure. What about gendai budo though? There's toyama ryu, and I believe some iaido schools using this term, as well as a number of karate schools (e.g. shito ryu, wado ryu, goju ryu) etc. that don't seem to meet this classical definition, and are, in fact, simply "styles". Is it simply understood from knowing the history of a particular art, or is there some other subtle delineation that I'm not aware of?

    thanks,
    Jason
    Jason Ginsberg, L.Ac.

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    The classical definition is just that: a definition for classical times. From that classical definition comes the modern definition of simply "style". E.g., the California roll might be termed "Amerika-ryu sushi" in Japan. Or a well-known chef might have his way of cooking described as "XX-ryu", XX being whatever his name was.
    Josh Reyer

    Swa sceal man don, žonne he ęt guše gengan ženceš longsumne lof, na ymb his lif cearaš. - The Beowulf Poet

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    The word ryu doesn't really mean "style". It means "stream" and I've also been told that it could mean "tradition", although that did not come from a native speaker and could be wrong.

    In thinking of it as "stream", it refers to the flow of information from the head, downstream to the students. With regards to a specific ryu, it refers to specific information (kata, theories, techniques, etc) being passed down in a particular format, by a particular method, etc.

    It is also not peculiar to martial arts there are chado ryu (tea ceremony), ikebana (flower arranging) ryu, bonsai (small tree cultivation) ryu, etc.

    What I find interesting are the terms KORYU (ancient stream) and GENDAI (modern). Why was there not another term coined using RYU to describe the new arts? This should tell us something about the intended use of the word RYU.

    Many gendai "styles" use the term RYU in thier name. But I would think that it does not have the same connotation as does the usage in the name of a true koryu. So perhaps when used to name gendai arts, the word STYLE is a better interpretation.
    don engle

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    Quote Originally Posted by dengle View Post
    The word ryu doesn't really mean "style". It means "stream" and I've also been told that it could mean "tradition", although that did not come from a native speaker and could be wrong.

    In thinking of it as "stream", it refers to the flow of information from the head, downstream to the students. With regards to a specific ryu, it refers to specific information (kata, theories, techniques, etc) being passed down in a particular format, by a particular method, etc.
    In certain contexts it does indeed mean "style". Baseball player Ochiai Hiromitsu's fiercely independent way of training and viewing baseball has been called "ore-ryu" "I/Me-style". I was just reading something wherein a koryu headmaster described D.T. Suzuki's way of looking at martial arts and Zen as "Seiyou-ryu" "Western Style". It has a tradition of being associated with traditional arts, as you mention, but because of that, in modern Japanese it also has the basic meaning of style.

    What I find interesting are the terms KORYU (ancient stream) and GENDAI (modern). Why was there not another term coined using RYU to describe the new arts? This should tell us something about the intended use of the word RYU.
    Not really. They weren't coined in opposition to each other. Budo has always just been budo. When making cross-era comparisons, "gendai budo" helps to talk about modern budo, while old traditions are koryu (old ryu) budo, korai budo (coming from the past), or just plain "kobudo" (old budo). Actually, in my experience, "kobudo" is used for more often for a generic term, while "koryu" might get used occasionally in writing. When used in spoken converstation, it often gets a, "Huh?" response, even from budoka. It seems to have caught on as a term much more in the West than here in Japan. When it is used, my impression is that it has a "old ryuha" nuance, while "kobudo" has more of a generic, "pre-Meiji Japanese martial arts" feel.

    Many gendai "styles" use the term RYU in thier name. But I would think that it does not have the same connotation as does the usage in the name of a true koryu. So perhaps when used to name gendai arts, the word STYLE is a better interpretation.
    No perhaps about it. That's what it means.
    Josh Reyer

    Swa sceal man don, žonne he ęt guše gengan ženceš longsumne lof, na ymb his lif cearaš. - The Beowulf Poet

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    Mr Reyer,
    I was wondering if you could clarify a term used with a style name.
    I dont know the kanji but it is the "ha" part of a name like:
    Chibana-Ha Shorin Ryu.

    Would "ha" be refering to a specific branch within a ryu?

    Thanks
    Joe Stitz

    "Black belt and white belt are the same, white belt is the beginning of technique. Black belt is the beginning of understanding. Both are beginner belts."
    - Doug Perry -Hanshi, KuDan -Shorin Ryu ShorinKan

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    Default Ryugi ha blah blah....

    There are several things to bear in mind while unraveling Japanese martial arts names.

    Generically, there are 2 main categories under discussion (with lots of exceptions, but this will work for discussion)
    Budo 武道 Martial way
    Bujutsu 武術 Martial art
    Then, the age terms.
    Gendai 現代 Modern
    Koryu 古流 Old style / stream / school (ala' Ellis Amdur's book 'Old School’), by definition a documented unbroken lineage from 1867 or earlier, despite the wishes of many to the contrary.

    So, you can have a 'gendai bujutsu' or 'gendai budo', and a 'koryu bujutsu', but not a 'koryu budo' because budo itself is a documented, modern social fabrication, dating after 1868. (There are historic examples of citations of budo prior to 1868, but no large movements such as developed later.)

    'Do' or 'jutsu' can be generically appended to the major weapon or style, so you can have generic styles, e.g.:
    Kendo 剣道 Way of the Sword
    Kenjutsu 剣術 Art (or Technique) of the Sword
    etc. 'Budo' is the top level, so it's unnecessary and redundant to add 'budo' to any '-do' style. (Although you could fabricate a correct Japanese sentence along the lines of 'Yes, I practice a gendai budo, I study judo...') Or any other of the eight modern martial ways, which are kendo, iaido, naginatado, kyudo (archery), Shorinjikempo, aikido, karatedo, and sumo (yes. Sumo is a modern martial way, and jodo is not. As a jodoka I am confused that the Japanese government does not include jodo, but there you are....)

    The 'ha' typically identifies the branches outside the mainstream or school; some indicate lineage or history, others indicate breaks with the mainstream (sometimes a sensitive issue). Usually named after the teacher that established that branch. Note that sometimes other terms are used; 'den' 伝 means 'teaching' or 'tradition', etc., and can be used identifying geographic locations or other distinctions, e.g.,
    備中伝竹内流柔術
    Bitchu-den Takeuchi ryu jujutsu
    which means 'the Bitchu (city) tradition of Takeuchi style jujutsu'.

    So, from some common examples,

    中村派戸山流抜刀術
    Nakamura-ha Toyama-ryu Battojutsu
    means, 'The Nakamura branch of the Toyama style of the techniques of cutting with a drawn sword.' It is a 'jutsu' since the Imperial Army Toyama School where the style was taught was not intent on teaching moral life - it was simply a military technique.

    But 中村流抜刀道 Nakamura-ryu batto-do identifies a completely different style established by the same Nakamura-sensei as a Batto Do, a Martial Way, a budo. Since it was his style, his name is used in the style designation.

    戸塚派揚心流柔術
    Totsuka-ha Yoshin-ryu jujutsu
    The Totsuka branch of Yoshin style jujutsu (namely, the main opponents of Kodokan judo in the Tokyo Metropolitan Police matches in 1888.)

    If in the discussion it is clear that the basic style is unambiguous, or it is so famous as to be known, the Japanese will leave off the generic style, naming only the ryu, e.g.,

    二刀一流 Niten ichi ryu
    二天一流 Niten ichi ryu
    二天流 Niten ryu
    武蔵流 Musashi ryu
    all refer to the 剣術 kenjutsu style made famous by Musashi. Since it is so well known as a kenjutsu style, it is typically not even identified as such. ('I bought a Chevrolet' suffices in the US to note a Chevy car.)

    There may be an error in there someplace, but does this help?

    Cheers,
    Lance Gatling ガトリング
    Tokyo 東京

    Long as we're making up titles, call me 'The Duke of Earl'

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    A couple nitpicks...

    Quote Originally Posted by Lance Gatling View Post
    There are several things to bear in mind while unraveling Japanese martial arts names.

    Generically, there are 2 main categories under discussion (with lots of exceptions, but this will work for discussion)
    Budo 武道 Martial way
    Bujutsu 武術 Martial art
    Then, the age terms.
    Gendai 現代 Modern
    Koryu 古流 Old style / stream / school (ala' Ellis Amdur's book 'Old School’), by definition a documented unbroken lineage from 1867 or earlier, despite the wishes of many to the contrary.

    So, you can have a 'gendai bujutsu' or 'gendai budo', and a 'koryu bujutsu', but not a 'koryu budo' because budo itself is a documented, modern social fabrication, dating after 1868.
    Google disagrees with you. Indeed, if "budo" only referred to post Restoration arts, there'd be no need for the phrase "gendai budo". The phrase "gendai budo" is used to distinguish modern budo from "kobudo, koryu budo, korai budo" etc.

    Or any other of the eight modern martial ways, which are kendo, iaido, naginatado, kyudo (archery), Shorinjikempo, aikido, karatedo, and sumo (yes. Sumo is a modern martial way, and jodo is not. As a jodoka I am confused that the Japanese government does not include jodo, but there you are....)
    It's not very confusing at all. Jodo, despite the "do" in its name, is represented by martial traditions that go back into the Edo period. One may refer to "jodo" as a general term, but for the majority "jodo" is SMR jojutsu in a modern organization.

    Sumo, on the other hand, has no such lineage. The word itself just means "wrestling", and modern sumo in terms of training, rules, and organization dates back to the Meiji period. What they do today, and the way they are doing it, is not how they did it way back when. Sumo is modern like epee fencing is modern -- yes, they derive from ancient antecedents, but their present forms a relatively recent.

    The 'ha' typically identifies the branches outside the mainstream or school; some indicate lineage or history, others indicate breaks with the mainstream (sometimes a sensitive issue). Usually named after the teacher that established that branch.
    A "ha" is simply a distinct group, faction, sect in an otherwise homogenous group. For example, in the U.S. Democratic Party right now there is a Hillary-ha, and an Obama-ha. Protestantism and Catholicism are considered two ha of Christianity.

    Note that sometimes other terms are used; 'den' 伝 means 'teaching' or 'tradition', etc., and can be used identifying geographic locations or other distinctions, e.g.,
    備中伝竹内流柔術
    Bitchu-den Takeuchi ryu jujutsu
    which means 'the Bitchu (city) tradition of Takeuchi style jujutsu'.
    I would say 伝 means "transmission". The kanji suggest "communicating, passing on information". Of course, like I said, it's nitpicking.
    Josh Reyer

    Swa sceal man don, žonne he ęt guše gengan ženceš longsumne lof, na ymb his lif cearaš. - The Beowulf Poet

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lance Gatling View Post
    Or any other of the eight modern martial ways, which are kendo, iaido, naginatado, kyudo (archery), Shorinjikempo, aikido, karatedo, and sumo
    Just a small correction.
    You missed one of the gendai budo that is part of the Nippon Budo Kyogikai 日本武道協議会, there are nine different gendai budo, you missed to write jukendo.
    They are all listed here: http://www.nipponbudokan.or.jp/shink...dantai_01.html
    (at the bottom of the page)

    The different schools that belong to the Nippon Kobudo Kyokai 日本古武道協会 can be found here: http://www.nipponbudokan.or.jp/shink...dantai_03.html

    /Anders
    Anders Pettersson
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lance Gatling View Post
    So, you can have a 'gendai bujutsu' or 'gendai budo', and a 'koryu bujutsu', but not a 'koryu budo' because budo itself is a documented, modern social fabrication, dating after 1868. (There are historic examples of citations of budo prior to 1868, but no large movements such as developed later.)
    I'd have to agree with Josh here in that I think you are maybe splitting hairs a bit too much with the "no koryu budo" bit there. Since you quoted Ellis Amdur at one point... Ellis quoting his sensei in "Koryu Bujutsu: Classical Warrior Traditions of Japan" page 161 at the bottom "We practice koryu budo". My own sensei uses the term as well and I'd say the bulk of Japanese sensei I interact with use the term "budo" to what you refer to as "koryu bujutsu". In fact probably the single most common word used in Japan to refer to what you can "koryu bujutsu" is "kobudo"

    Perhaps your arguement is that the guys back in the day didn't use the word "budo" (although the word budo itself appears in some of the densho of my own ryu. but I digress), which is fine and dandy, but language changes and in modern usage in Japan, It seems to me that kobudo is much more common than koryu bujutsu.

    For what it's worth,
    Rennis Buchner
    Rennis Buchner

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    Default The nine gendai budo

    Quote Originally Posted by Anders Pettersson View Post
    Just a small correction. You missed one of the gendai budo that is part of the Nippon Budo Kyogikai 日本武道協議会, there are nine different gendai budo, you missed to write jukendo.
    They are all listed here: http://www.nipponbudokan.or.jp/shink...dantai_01.html
    (at the bottom of the page)....
    You're right, my typo and miss.

    The 9 gendai budo listed are:
    judo
    kendo
    naginatado
    kyudo (archery)
    Shorinji Kempo
    aikido
    karatedo
    sumo
    jukendo

    AFAIK these are the ones recognized by the Japanese govt, too.

    There's no edit on this forum, so my sloppy typing does me in...
    Lance Gatling ガトリング
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    Default Koryu budo?

    Quote Originally Posted by Rennis View Post
    I'd have to agree with Josh here in that I think you are maybe splitting hairs a bit too much with the "no koryu budo" bit there. Since you quoted Ellis Amdur at one point... Ellis quoting his sensei in "Koryu Bujutsu: Classical Warrior Traditions of Japan" page 161 at the bottom "We practice koryu budo". My own sensei uses the term as well and I'd say the bulk of Japanese sensei I interact with use the term "budo" to what you refer to as "koryu bujutsu". In fact probably the single most common word used in Japan to refer to what you can "koryu bujutsu" is "kobudo"

    Perhaps your arguement is that the guys back in the day didn't use the word "budo" (although the word budo itself appears in some of the densho of my own ryu. but I digress), which is fine and dandy, but language changes and in modern usage in Japan, It seems to me that kobudo is much more common than koryu bujutsu.

    For what it's worth,
    Rennis Buchner
    It's worth a notice

    No, I don't use this distinction in a hair splitting way, I mean it in a broad distinction. I may be wrong, but I mean it. I'm willing to discuss, though.

    And I'm fully aware of the common usage, but I just think it's simply wrong in most instances. I have a simpler explanation, the Japanese are simply mad for contractions, so kobudo is better than koryu bujutsu.

    The original notion of a budo meant something that comes complete with philosophies taught from the earliest days, and was meant to be a guide to character development, lifestyles. Most koryu simply doesn't come with such, it's been lost to history or never existed. Having a simple overlay of polite, modern Japanese culture doesn't not mean that some ancient style has been upgraded with all the moral structure.

    In fact, I have to wonder which of the gendai budo would still qualify as budo, if there was a real examination based on the original thought; I don't see it in kendo (but don't practice it), Kano shihan wrote mountains in support of his budo notions, Shorinji Kempo presumably does, but most of the others simply don't have the structure still.

    A large part of what was available and used was stripped out post War World II, even from judo. Probably in reaction to the infiltration of prewar and wartime ultranationalist thought that influenced the Butokukai and the arts, down to their instruction manuals.

    I have a judo instructor that teaches judo as budo, a former Kodokan instructor. He says that almost any of the senior Kodokan instructions will 'think you're crazy' if you say that judo is a budo. They've pretty much given it up, and have mountains of writings to draw upon.

    So, how do you distinguish a budo from a bujutsu? How do you understand that much of what you do in a koryu is antiquated Japanese polite, social ceremony versus the ephemera of a life development budo? Much of the socializing that goes along with it is simply modern Japan.

    Don't get me wrong, I practice and love koryu, but I just think the term budo is often misused. And I use it as kobudo, too, but was trying to draw a distinction as to the real meanings behind the words, not their common misuses.

    But, may I ask what koryu you study that includes 'budo' in its densho? Dating from when?

    A good point regarding kobudo, I'll ask the Kobudo Shinkokai sometime, I'll bet it is not something they think about - and it has simply become a convention without meaning.

    Cheer,
    Lance Gatling ガトリング
    Tokyo 東京

    Long as we're making up titles, call me 'The Duke of Earl'

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lance Gatling View Post
    The original notion of a budo meant something that comes complete with philosophies taught from the earliest days, and was meant to be a guide to character development, lifestyles. Most koryu simply doesn't come with such, it's been lost to history or never existed. Having a simple overlay of polite, modern Japanese culture doesn't not mean that some ancient style has been upgraded with all the moral structure.
    Perhaps I'm among a minority among practitioners (Western definately and probably even among Japanese), but broadly speaking I don't buy into the whole argument that koryu were simply combative traditions and the whole character development thing came much later. For the purpose of quickly developing combative skills among a large number of people, ryuha bugei is a rather ineffective method and given the period of history that ryuha bugei developed and what was going on in other "cultural arts" at the time it is entirely natural that one of the fundamental aspects of the ryuha structure is character development. It's a rather involved debate that I don't feel like going into great depth on at the moment, but Karl Friday's essay "Off The Warpath: Military Science & Budo in the Evolution of Ryuha Bugei" in the book Budo Perspectives Volume One (published by Kendo World) is probably the best (if not only) summary of this topic in English.

    The degree of character development/"budo" type stuff obviously will vary from ryu to ryu, but it's not hard to find, if not in exact wording, then in spirit. To give but one example the densho of Katayama ryu (from Katayama Hoki ryu, which I practice) are filled with pages and pages of stuff that if today you replaced kenjutsu with aikido, most people would be screaming "aiki-bunny" and fleeing in the other direction. It's filled with ideas of how the point of training is for "abandonment of violence" and the improvement of a warrior's character and what not. In a good example of how words mean different things to different people at different times, there is a long discussion on how and why Katayama ryu uses the term kenjutsu, which according to the ryu, has much deeper and spiritually correct meaning and the word tojutsu should never be used for the ryu's techniques as tojutsu is merely techniques for killing someone, etc.

    Friday makes a good point in his essay that ryuha bugei only became in the primary means of combat training for warriors in the Edo period when the previous Sengoku period training methods had been largely lost or abandoned and from then the views of just what today's "koryu" are became skewed and people began to assume that this was always how warriors trained. As he says towards the end of the essay "I have suggested that ryuha bugei represented a distinct phenomenon from workaday military training - that it was, from its very inception, something closely akin to what we now call budo." This point of view more or less matches the views of my own sensei and several others I have talked to over the years. Of course there are those who disagree but... (shrugs)

    Best,
    Rennis Buchner
    Rennis Buchner

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    Rennis,

    Will be leaving Japan next week. Sorry we didn't get to meet this time around. Maybe later on in the year if possible eh?

    Lance,

    Quote Originally Posted by Lance Gatling
    'do' or 'jutsu' can be generically appended to the major weapon or style, so you can have generic styles, e.g.:
    Kendo 剣道 Way of the Sword
    Kenjutsu 剣術 Art (or Technique) of the Sword
    etc. 'Budo' is the top level, so it's unnecessary and redundant to add 'budo' to any '-do' style. (Although you could fabricate a correct Japanese sentence along the lines of 'Yes, I practice a gendai budo, I study judo...') Or any other of the eight modern martial ways, which are kendo, iaido, naginatado, kyudo (archery), Shorinjikempo, aikido, karatedo, and sumo (yes. Sumo is a modern martial way, and jodo is not. As a jodoka I am confused that the Japanese government does not include jodo, but there you are....)
    In a way, that's kind of an over extrapolation of the terminologies, that most koryu practitioners take for granted and use in a rather interchangable way. One of my koryu teachers will use the terms, budo, bujutsu, bugei & heiho in a very interchangable manner, since it all boils down to the same thing: Martial skills.

    Everyone has their own interpretations of the terminology and it really does depend upon the individual you are studying under and also upon the doctrine of the ryuha you are studying.

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    Default So, I'm wrong, so sue me....

    Quote Originally Posted by Lance Gatling View Post
    No, I don't use this distinction in a hair splitting way, I mean it in a broad distinction. I may be wrong, but I mean it. I'm willing to discuss, though.
    。。。。。。。。
    OK, I floated this to provoke a discussion, but without success (not many readers on this thread).

    I did discuss it at some length last night with a senior kobudo instructor who is also a very educated, thoughtful Buddhist and well read martial arts historian.

    He gave a quick lecture on the range of ryuha in Japan, particularly in the Edo era, ranging from ancient, complete systems with extensive attached schools of thought, to what have appeared to have been opportunists who took a tiny bit of training and falsely tried to present themselves as the inheritors of complete school traditions (gee, does that sound familiar? I guess people don't change much over the ages).

    So, my artificial distinction fails in the test, and as usual things are more complex than can be simply delineated. (Essentially, he said in good humor 'you're being pedantic, give it up....' I hope it doesn't come across too strongly in print)

    But my challenge still stands - today, can someone define a way to differentiate between budo and bujutsu, given that the subject arts come from Japan? The Japanese culture permeates all, and perhaps the distinctions are no longer discernible.

    There are plenty of records from Meiji that indicate the intent of certain people was to use budo to instill a fabricated Emperor worship / nationalistic bushido in the people; Nishikubo is easy to track on this, which is why he promoted the idea and then did it. But one quote I have is from a rural schoolmaster to a foreigner saying that Japan wanted even its farmers to be strong and productive, good citizens, so martial arts training was important for farmboys, too.
    Lance Gatling ガトリング
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rennis View Post
    Karl Friday's essay "Off The Warpath: Military Science & Budo in the Evolution of Ryuha Bugei" in the book Budo Perspectives Volume One (published by Kendo World) is probably the best (if not only) summary of this topic in English.
    I had the possibility to discuss this article with prof. Friday some while ago. There's a thread about the article here at E-Budo, and after reading that I had some questions I wanted to ask prof. Friday. For my limited experience and knowledge his hypothesis seems well plausible, but if I understood correctly prof. Friday is still in process of looking for historical evidence (documents) to support it. Interesting article all the same.

    Quote Originally Posted by Rennis View Post
    It's filled with ideas of how the point of training is for "abandonment of violence" and the improvement of a warrior's character and what not. In a good example of how words mean different things to different people at different times, there is a long discussion on how and why Katayama ryu uses the term kenjutsu, which according to the ryu, has much deeper and spiritually correct meaning and the word tojutsu should never be used for the ryu's techniques as tojutsu is merely techniques for killing someone, etc.
    I get the general feeling that Katayama ryu is not alone with this (not that Mr. Buchner is saying so). At least I get the impression from the students of Katori Shinto ryu that Iisaza Choisai already emphasized the importance of the spiritual part of his Shinto ryu. I can see the same theme in Shinkage ryu scrolls also. While none of these necessarily use the word "budo" to describe this, I feel that this is exactly the substance Mr. Gatling is looking for, or?

    On regards to the discussion here on E-Budo about prof. Friday's article, I must say, that I feel that this does not imply that koryu were "all soft and mushy", but that ryuha bugei had something else besides the physical martial skills. If I've understood correctly "proficiency in violence" was not seen as antithetical to "spiritual enlightenment" (for lack of any better word), but the idea taken from Confucian and Zen-Buddhist pedagogy was that "all paths lead to common goal". I believe, prof. Friday also states in his book "Legacies of the Sword" that from Shinto (?) perspective all human activity, including bugei training, can be seen as religious ritual.

    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Delaney View Post
    In a way, that's kind of an over extrapolation of the terminologies, that most koryu practitioners take for granted and use in a rather interchangable way. One of my koryu teachers will use the terms, budo, bujutsu, bugei & heiho in a very interchangable manner, since it all boils down to the same thing: Martial skills.

    Everyone has their own interpretations of the terminology and it really does depend upon the individual you are studying under and also upon the doctrine of the ryuha you are studying.
    I've got the general impression that terminology in Japanese (especially in budo) is much more ambiguous than we westerners are used to. Not only the use differs between different ryuha, but within any ryuha the terms are not defined strictly and their connotation can chance depending on situation and the level of a person using them (or trying to understand them).

    This being said, in the Introduction chapter of prof. Friday's book "Legacies of the Sword" he has a short review on how the terms budo, bugei, bujutsu and heiho have been used in the course of history.

    IIRC, "budo" can be found from texts ranging back to the 12th century (or the 1200s) and the use was rather ambiguous until Tokugawa period, during which it was quite often (but not exclusively?) used to describe the moral and proper behaviour of a bushi (i.e. something akin to what is nowadays generally called "bushido").
    -Mikko Vilenius

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