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Thread: Is Budo An Anachronism In The 21st Century?

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    Default Is Budo An Anachronism In The 21st Century?

    All budo, but especially koryu budo, is a relic from the past. Is it really relevant to the 21st century. What place do the martial skills of pre-modern Japan have the world of the internet? I wrestled with that question in this blog

    http://budobum.blogspot.com/2015/09/...t-century.html

    What do you think? Is budo an anachronism or does it have a real place in the 21st century?
    Peter Boylan
    Mugendo Budogu LLC
    Fine Budo Books, Videos, Clothes and Equipment Direct from Japan
    http://www.budogu.com

    Find my Budo Blog at http://budobum.blogspot.com/

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    Quote Originally Posted by pboylan View Post
    ...What do you think? Is budo an anachronism or does it have a real place in the 21st century?
    Yes.




    Yes, it's an anachronism, and yes, it has a place in the 21st century. The two are not mutually exclusive.
    Yours in Budo,
    ---Brian---

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    Hello,

    Actually your question is not new. In karate history, beginning with the first written documents from the end of the 19th century, there were always adepts who tried to legitimize the practice of karate in their given period. They tried to find and give reasons why karate practise still has a value at the time of their writing – and the reasons changed as time passed and even in relation to the receivers of their messages. Sometimes the content of their teaching also changed with their verbal reasoning, like in the case of the well-known changes made for karate as physical education, as a tournament sport or for the “bunkai” hype (who has the most “realistic” applications for kata which were in use 100 or even 200 years earlier?).

    For me my karate practise really is an anachronism, still I love it just as it is. So I can fully understand people who don’t like it because of its obvious anachronistic features (I am relating to my practise). For me it has a similar value today as classic music, ballet etc., which all could be replaced with more modern (modernized) arts. However, these arts are still in existence because there are people who simply like them …

    Regards,

    Henning Wittwer

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    It is at the same time anachronistic and timeless.

    I tend to go on about applications - you address .mil and LE in your piece and speak in terms of organizing structure, distance, timing, weapons handling, etc. even how we think about these things. Rick Polland wrote an article in Journal of Asian Martial Arts years ago that addressed similar stuff vis-a-vis LE; the lessons had little to do with weapon type or technique, (though to be sure in many cases there really isn't that much difference when it comes to contact weapons and hand to hand). Ostensibly he was writing from a baseline of SMR jo: which may be one of the most directly applied/applicable koryu in terms of police work since WWII.

    Training methodologies and organization probably are an anachronism in terms of teaching modern professional military and LE applications....But in terms of a discipline for self development, I don't think that really applies. It is what it is and it clearly provides positive outcomes, directly related to 21st century living, for many people.

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    I see quite a few misconceptions/assumptions in the above referred to blog. But the main problem, in my opinion, is that the writer assumes that "Budo", i.e. martial arts with a spiritual bent, were once upon a time not anachronistic. The evidence do not support such view.

    Best

    Dudi

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dudi Nisan View Post
    I see quite a few misconceptions/assumptions in the above referred to blog. But the main problem, in my opinion, is that the writer assumes that "Budo", i.e. martial arts with a spiritual bent, were once upon a time not anachronistic. The evidence do not support such view.
    I am quite interested in being able to review this evidence. Please share it.

    Best regards,
    Peter Boylan
    Mugendo Budogu LLC
    Fine Budo Books, Videos, Clothes and Equipment Direct from Japan
    http://www.budogu.com

    Find my Budo Blog at http://budobum.blogspot.com/

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dudi Nisan View Post
    I see quite a few misconceptions/assumptions in the above referred to blog. But the main problem, in my opinion, is that the writer assumes that "Budo", i.e. martial arts with a spiritual bent, were once upon a time not anachronistic. The evidence do not support such view.

    Best

    Dudi
    That's an interesting outlook.
    By evidence, do you mean your own conjecture based upon your interpretation of what you've read, or can you cite actual historical writings and verifiable incidents?

    Should make for interesting discussion.
    Paul Smith
    "Always keep the sharp side and the pointy end between you and your opponent"

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    Hi Peter

    Yes, martial arts were always anachronisms. But I was wrong. I thought Peter’s question was anachronistic. But the more I thought about it I realized how relevant it was. I think it would be very beneficial to expand on this subject together. Thanks Peter.

    For the Japanese context especially, see Karl Friday’s "Off the Warpath". See how Friday explains that the martial ryu were anachronisms even in the 16th century (the period in which they were created). It’s a wonderful article and I totally agree with him.
    In addition, samurai had duties—heavy duties—but none of them included studying a ryu. That is why, for example, Choisai Ienao could attend to the creation of (what become) TSKSR only after the age of sixty! Before that he had to attend to his duties. How many didn’t survive to reach this age? (Here we can also discuss the enlightening case of the 47 ronin).

    More generally, spiritual pursuits, or more precisely, spiritual seekers, were always frowned upon in East Asia (and in fact, throughout the world). People today imagine that once upon a time it was easy to retire to some mountain and dedicate oneself to spiritual pursuits (“Budo”). Nothing could be further from the truth. It was at least as hard for the ancients as it is for us, and probably more so. They had to pay a heavy price for doing something society considered “unproductive” (no one, as far as I can tell, wrote specifically about this subject, but the sources which allude to it are many. It’s such a big subject, maybe it would be better to break it down, and ask specific, “small” questions).

    Therefore, the first question real question is—do you, are we, willing to pay such price?

    The second question, if martial arts were always anachronisms then what are the implications?
    Here I say that Peter was right and Han Solo was wrong. The Jedi was not some “old religion” and the bluster was not better than a light saber. Han Solo just didn’t understand these things. Or, in other words, he didn’t know how to learn from them.
    I feel, therefore, that when we look at martial arts as being anachronistic from the very start we realize that it’s not that martial arts can teach us, but that we can learn.
    What do you think?

    Best

    Dudi

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    Hello Dudi,

    In this connection, if you have time please read my latest installment of the essays I am writing over at AikiWeb (it is Transmission, Inheritance, Emulation, No. 27). Of course, I have looked at Karl Friday's article, along with everything else he has written. The essay is part of a larger group dealing with how creativity was structured by the Japanese, especially at the time when the so-called Zen arts developed flourished. The intellectual structure of the martial arts shared a commonality with other arts, especially renga, chanoyu and Noh. Eiko Ikegami's book on aesthetic networks in late medieval Japan. The essay needs to be read as part of a sequence from Nos. 26 to 28. I am still working on 28, which deals with SHU-HA-RI.

    Best wishes,

    PAG
    Peter Goldsbury,
    Forum Administrator,
    Hiroshima, Japan

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    "Off the Warpath" makes a very clear case that budo ryuha were not the primary engines of samurai combat training. What it does not make the case for is that they were "anachronistic," i.e., not in their correct historical or chronological time.
    Josh Reyer

    Swa sceal man don, ţonne he ćt guđe gengan ţenceđ longsumne lof, na ymb his lif cearađ. - The Beowulf Poet

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    To Josh

    You actually got the discussion back to the beginning! You argue that there wasn`t/isn't any question.

    So maybe we should ask how were the ryu relevant to the (different) periods they were created in?

    Dudi

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dudi Nisan View Post
    To Josh
    You actually got the discussion back to the beginning! You argue that there wasn`t/isn't any question.
    Actually, I have made no argument to that particular question. I'm merely pointing out that "Off the Warpath" addresses the applicability of ryuha training to battlefields of that time, and thus makes no argument regarding putative anachronism.

    If I were to address that argument I would say that there is no question that bugei ryuha were not anachronistic in the 16th and 17th centuries, and equally that there is no question that bugei ryuha are anachronistic now in the 21st.

    (The question of anachronism in the 18th and 19th centuries is a little more complicated, because Japanese society as a whole was anachronistic compared to the rest of the world. Within their native context, bugei ryuha were not anachronistic, but in the wider global context they were.)

    The thing is, anachronism has nothing to do with relevance. Any long-surviving tradition is perforce anachronistic, but they last so long because they maintain relevance. In many cases, they are relevant because of that anachronism.

    So maybe we should ask how were the ryu relevant to the (different) periods they were created in?
    That's certainly a question one could ask. If I were answer for the particular ryuha I study, I would say it's as relevant today as it was on the day Kamiizumi Ise-no-kami Hidetsuna gave inka to Yagyu Tajima-no-kami Munetoshi, and in the exact same way.
    Josh Reyer

    Swa sceal man don, ţonne he ćt guđe gengan ţenceđ longsumne lof, na ymb his lif cearađ. - The Beowulf Poet

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    I certainly agree with Josh here. As I discuss in Old School, Expanded Edition, what we now call koryu were a) in a process of continual development and innovation b) were not primarily an activity of the warrior class. Among the purposes were a) a kind of 'continuing education credit which enabled bush to increase their stipend b) a means of accumulating 'social capital' among non-bushi to improve status (like a parvenue, newly rich, joining a country club and playing golf). One could offer almost endless examples of how bugei - and later modern martial arts - continued to both innovate technically, but also in social purpose. The only possible sense that it is anachronistic is if one focuses on a martial arts utility for modern warfare.

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    I drifted away from koryu over the years not only due to the deep anachronistic nature but also due to the fact that it isn't even my culture. Maybe if the tools of practice were the Claymore great sword, basket hilt Claymore, the sabre, quarterstaff, etc... I would have stuck with it but my culture didn't seem to codify and preserve old methods. What I do see being practiced appears to be modern back engineered creations.

    The biggest reason was as I got older time was more scarce and instead of doing 5 martial arts mediocre I focused more on the one where I most experience.
    Ed Boyd

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    Quote Originally Posted by CEB View Post
    What I do see being practiced appears to be modern back engineered creations.
    At the risk of ruffling some hakama I think this is often true- even of the legitimate traditions. In my view it may take away from the modern technical practice - or envigorate it- but that does not mean that other teachings within the tradition are not just as valid as when the ryu wasn't "ko."

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