The Japanese martial ways, Budō, have their origins in the age-old martial spirit of Japan. Through centuries of historical and social change, these forms of traditional culture evolved from combat techniques (jutsu) into ways of self-development. Seeking the perfect unity of mind and technique, has been refined and cultivated into ways of physical training and spiritual development. The pursuit of Budō encourages courteous behaviour, advances technical proficiency, strengthens the body, and the mind. Modern Japanese have inherited traditional values through Budō which continue to play a significant role in the formation of the Japanese personality, serving as sources of boundless energy and rejuvenation. As such, Budō has attracted strong interest internationally, and is studied around the world.
However, a recent trend towards infatuation just with technical ability compounded by an excessive concern with winning and personal politics is moving away from the essence of Budō. To prevent any possible misrepresentation, practitioners of Budō must continually engage in self-examination and endeavour to perfect and preserve this traditional culture.
Objectives of Budō
Through physical and mental training in the Japanese martial ways,Budo exponents seek to build their character, enhance their sense of judgement, and become disciplined individuals capable of making contributions to society at large. Budō must be a combination of the techniques and purpose of seeing the techniques to their logical conclusion, i.e. cutting your oppoenent down, and self improvement. Technique without reigi cannot be budō as this is just jutsu or sports, but at the same time pure self improvement or meditation cannot be budō because there is no base art to serve as the vehicle of self-improvement.
When you do kendō or iaidō for example, the objective must include becoming proficient with the sword, giving your opponent a clean, honorouble and efficient death, as much as it is about you becoming a better person. The balance of these purposes is the most importnt thing.
Budō, Martial arts or Sports?
We should be thinking about the difference of these types of activities. The question, "why do you do it?" can be a good starting point, but it is not always possible to answer fully. The reason for doing sports might be for fun or for fitness, the reason for doing martial arts is likely to be for self-defense or learning how to fight. However, most people are not readily able to answer why they do Budo, and this has to do with the complex nature of Budō compared to sports and martial arts. Budo is not really for self defense, although there are aspects of Budo that can be used for self-sefense. Similarly about fitness and fun, but these are generally not the only reasons why people do Budo. Budo has an undefinable quality that transcends sports and martial arts, it is fundamentally about improving yourself in some way.
My sensei told me
" the purpose of doing Iaidō isn't to be a strong kenshi, isn't to do Zen, isn't to reach enlightenment. The purpose of Iaido is....."
This is the essence of Budo. You need to think about this yourself and the understanding of this is linked to the understanding of what Budo is all about.
The effectiveness of a kata or technique is not a measure of worth in Budo
Some beginners complain that certain kata are not realistic or ask, "what if your enemy did this instead of that, what would you do then eh?" Firstly, if you are a student of Budo, asking such rude questions is totally inappropriate, and is not the way of someone pursuing Budo, and secondly it entirely misses the point. While it can be good to think about such things in the privacy of your own mind as it is useful in refining your understanding of the art, it only shows your ignorance if you are questioning Iaido based on the usefulness of a kata.
Remember that the purpose of doing Budo transcends the goal of being a good kenshi (swordsman) so the things that we do in training are not always for the simple goal of applying what we practice, directly and unchanged into a real swordfight. The kata are a way for us to train in Budo which has deeper nuances than just fighting. As in Kendo, the idea of aiki is important as it clearly shows the difference of Budo and Bujutsu. If the goal of training was purely just to win the fight, then training would be quite different.
This is why Budo dojos put in so much time and effort into aspects of training apart from handling the sword. The reasons behind why we clean the floor so carefully every time, or arrange our shoes or gear neatly in certain ways, why we bow or put our swords down in certain ways are all related to the training of Budo as opposed to Bujutsu (or sports). It is probably true that if you are only training how to kill a person with a sword then it doesn't really matter if your shoes are arranged neatly outside of the dojo or not. This is the difference between Iaido / Budo and something pretending to be Budo, or just a sport.