Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The difference between a 'jutsu' and a 'do'

The difference between a 'jutsu' and a 'do'

      In Japanese martial arts there is a division between '-jutsu' and '-do' arts; as in jujutsu and judo.  To those not familiar with the arts the difference would be superficial.  They would generally look the same, they would share many techniques, and the practitioners themselves would most likely be dressed the same.  However, there is a difference.  The difference is why they were given different names in the first place.

kenjutsu as practiced in armor
      To illustrate the difference, let's look at the contrasting examples of kenjutsu and kendo.  With ken being the word for sword in Japanese, their names translate as "sword techniques," and "way of the sword" respectively.  Kenjutsu was the formalized training in Japanese swords in traditional system (koryū).  Depending on the age of the system, it may or may not be intended to be used against an armored individual.  Regardless, the goal of a kenjustu system is to dispatch with an opponent, or multiple opponents as quickly and lethally as possible.  The same could could be said for most '-jutsu' martial arts.  They were designed for warriors in specific life or death circumstances.  There was no margin of error.  Either the techniques worked and you survived, or they didn't and you died.  As they warring period of Japanese history continued, the samurai found that they didn't need the life or death situations as much, and began to focus on the other benefits of martial training.  These were the rise of the '-do' arts.  The '-jutsu' arts still survive, and are still just as lethal, but are more like a historical artifact, in that they are not supposed to grow and change.

kendoka in bogū and using shinai
      Kendo is probably more familiar to most western martial artists.  Kendo is a Japanese martial art where the practitioners don armor, called bogū,  and attempt to hit each other with strips of bamboo connected together to resemble the look and feel of the Japanese sword (shinai).  The use of bogū and shinai was started in the early 1700's, but it was meant to be a safer way to train in kenjutsu. Modern kendo is a competition with points awarded for not only strikes, but proper strikes. The samurai realized that the training had other benefits besides being able to defeat an opponent.  They learned that in a time of peace, the physical fitness benefits and the spiritual benefits were more useful to themselves and to society.  It order to open the art to a wider clientele, they removed many, if not all, of the lethal or debilitating techniques.  The same thing was done by Professor Kano in making judo out of jujutsu.  O-Sensei, was trying to do the same by making aikido out of aikijutsu.  Even Funikoshi sensei called his art karate-do.  Their goal was to make better people, not better warriors.

      In the end can you call one aspect better than the other?  No.  I don't plan to get into many mass battles with two armies of sword wielders, but I do plan on having to deal with stress and a lack of physical fitness that modern life has thrust upon us.  It is good to be an aware, spiritual person, until a mugger comes at me with a knife.  Like anything else, I have to blend my own combination of the two.  I hope your training in your art(s) allows you to do this as well.  Now, I have to go train some more...

By J. A. Wilson

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