Budo, Bugei, or Bujutsu?

Japanese is an interesting language in that many terms have no direct translation into English. Single sounds can carry worlds of conotation and, when combined with other sounds, produce rich meanings beyond direct translation.

In Japanese, there are 3 almost interchangeable terms which are used to mean “martial arts” – Budo, Bugei, and Bujutsu. Understanding the subtle differences can lend insight into the arts themselves.

First, the character for Bu (武) means war, or military (martial), or having to do with warfare. Bujin, for example, combines the symbols for war and man to mean “warrior”.

Bugei – 武芸, is probably the best literal translation for the term “martial arts.” Budo – 武道 can be translated as the martial way, or path. Bujutsu – 武術 can’t be literally translated, but basically means, “martial science”.

The interesting distinction here is between the characters which are pronounced “do” and “jutsu”. “Do,” meaning path or way, holds the implication of a way of life or path for personal and spiritual perfection. “Jutsu,” in contrast, carries the connotation of a battlefield art.

In Japanese martial arts, there are “do” arts and “jutsu” arts. The do arts place less emphasis on battlefield preparation and more emphasis on personal development. From jujutsu, judo was developed as a way to train the mind and body of young men. From Aikijujutsu, Aikido was developed as a way of pursuing peace through martial arts. From Kenjutsu, Kendo was developed as a method of personal development. These are very simplified distinctions, but they hold truth.

I actually believe it is unfortunate that the Gracies call their art Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, it should probably be called Brazilian Judo. It’s origin is from Kodokan Judo. Nowadays, because of the UFC, every time I tell someone I practice jujutsu, they think I focus on mat wrestling. This is not to denigrate Brazilian Jui-jitsu, it’s  just not what I do.

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