November 27, 2014

You are here: Home Features Alternate Takes

What is Budo?

Budo is an art of war the aim of which is maintaining peace. It is the way of a warrior who believes that the best offense is a good defense. Nations, too, arm themselves and maintain a state of military readiness, so as to discourage hostile countries from even thinking about becoming aggressive towards them. This is the strategy. The training techniques are the tactics.

Budo's attitude is found in the Japanese term, GOJU. I'll give you a non-martial arts' illustration of the principle conveyed.

When I was thirteen years old I came late to my first World Geography class. My teacher shouted at me and threatened disciplinary action if I was ever late again. At that moment, I hated him and feared him; but I was never late again. Nobody in the class thought that it was possible to learn anything from the man or even to find anything likeable in him; but as the days went by, we all grew to respect him as a teacher and to admire him as a man. And, of course, we learned a lot of geography.

Years later, while I was teaching a course at the local community college, I met him on campus and we reminisced about those early days. I remarked about the gruff way he behaved towards the class during the first sessions. Then he grinned, "You can always become nice if you begin tough, but it is almost impossible to become tough if you begin nice."

The Japanese word, GOJU, means (among other things) "hard-soft." It is the philosophical progression of hard to soft. The fundamental GO (hard) precedes the more advanced JU (soft). In the martial arts, hard denotes straight or linear movements (suri) and soft denotes the lateral or oblique movements (okuri). We only have to see the two demonstrated to understand that the knowledge of GO is necessary to properly interpret JU. Unfortunately, some people skip GO entirely and attempt to proceed straight to JU. Worse yet are the majority of people who never progress past GO to learn the beauty of JU.

When confronted by adversity or challenged in any way, the unschooled person limits his response to GO. He reacts aggressively and in kind. If insulted, he returns the insult. If pushed, he pushes back. If hit, he strikes back. The more astute thinker will consider the nature of the attack, analyze cause and effect, and plan his counter moves so that they are the most efficient and economical possible. His training in JU enables him to do all this instantaneously.

While it is important to have an understanding of GO before applying JU, it is not always necessary to experience GO. However, those who have experienced GO will generally have a greater appreciation of JU. Are you totally confused yet? Let me give some examples to help explain the concept. These are all different manifestations of the principle of GOJU.

When a child does something wrong, he is punished (GO). If he attempts to do the same thing again, he is reminded or warned of the punishment and he desists (JU). If that doesn't work, then it's back to GO. I realize that this is an over-simplification and in many cases will not be practical. The point is that the basic was taught so that the child would understand what is meant by the advanced. If necessary, we keep going back to the basic GO until it is understood well enough so that the advanced JU is enough. Obviously, the JU is more desirable to perform than the GO.

A man attacks you with a punch to your nose. Do you charge into the punch with a block? Or, do you step out of the way and avoid the punch? Can you see the difference? One is basic. One is advanced. One is GO. One is JU.

Justice and redress are GO. Patience and forgiveness are JU.
On a blistering summer day, hot is GO. Cool is JU.
On a harsh winter day, cold is GO. Warm is JU.
War and combat are GO. Negotiation and compromise are JU.

GO is basic primal instinct. JU is advanced understanding, a seeing beyond the immediate moment to the consequences of action and reaction.

This is the meaning of GOJU.