23 January, 2012

Martial Art, Fighting Art, etc.

I have been reading and thinking a lot recently about the phrase or term "martial art" and karate's purpose.  From different sources I have heard the same things over and over: karate is not a martial art.  To understand that statement, we need to understand the distinction that many people make between a martial art and a fighting art.  In the Japanese traditions it would be the difference between bugei and budo.  The difference being made is the intent behind the system.  Bugei were traditional battlefield arts intended to be used by professional soldiers and warriors, whereas budo are the more modern civilian derivations of those arts with an emphasis on spiritual and personal development.  Both are fighting methods but they have different emphasis.

Here is a little something from someone more in tune with modern law enforcement needs and the combative training available from a modern and traditional point of view.


This has made me wonder - what do I want from my own martial abilities?  Do I want an art intended for self defense and self perfection?  Do I want to be a warrior with a variety of skills and weapons under my belt?  Do I want an art that is intended to protect others?

I know I want a complete set of skills, and I know that my own skills are far from complete.  But will mixing my own karate with something from a bugei bring me completeness?  Or will it be divisive to my training and the end result left with more holes than bridges?

--Post-Publish Edit--

Here is one of the articles I have been reading.


I have been reading a few books at once, and I can't find which one discusses something similar.


  1. For me, it's the cultivation of a calm, clear mind. I have found that a calm mind will be useful much more often than fighting ability.

    Having said that, if you are studying a martial art and can't apply it, then you're not doing it right.

    1. Rick you have made a very good point about the importance of mental space - I wholeheartedly agree.

      I think I feel somewhat confident in the ability to apply my martial art, but I have a (maybe overly) healthy seed of doubt. Plus there is the fact that grappling is seen as less aggressive/offensive than striking which makes me consider it a greater asset for civilian self defense once legal ramifications come into play.

      I guess this all comes with more experience. The only cure is more training. Thanks for your comment.

  2. I've struggled with this over the years as well. I've written about it a few times, the most in-depth here - http://japanesejiujitsu.blogspot.com/2010/12/something-to-think-about.html

    It's interesting chasing two goals that seems to conflict with each other at times. It is, of course, part of the journey, but I commend you for exploring these issues.

    Good to see you posting.

    1. Thank you Journeyman for your comment and encouragement.

      I recall your post now - a good one. These issues are tough and as you said in your post need to be regularly evaluated. For a long time I was interested in the art as a whole, while imagining I was doing self defense. But now I don't know what I think and where I am going. As always, the journey is interesting.

  3. An old friend of mine grew up with a bunch of guys who played hockey together since they were very young and all played together on their high school team.

    Their attitude towards their opponents was: if you want to play hockey, we'll beat you at hockey; if you want to fight, we'll beat you fighting. It's all the same to us.

    1. I guess as long as you are a good fighter and a good hockey player you have the option. :)

      A dojo mate recently made a joke while we were running. I am paraphrasing. He said "I am not good at running, that is why I learned to fight. If I knew I would have to run, I wouldn't have learned to fight."