Aikido and Budo

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Budo has its historic beginning with fighting. It was first concerned with the practical questions of physical and psychological preparation for conflict, and action in fighting. How does one win a fight or battle? How does a person protect himself, his family, his clan, or his country during times of enemy attack? At the center of these questions was the inescapable problem of death and life. (In Japanese, the phrase is put this way, not "life and death" as in the west.) This problem was the essential, emotional and spiritual, concern of Budo training; the realities of combat guaranteed that it was perceived as an important practical matter. Today many of us say that we study some form of Budo, but is this true if we consider what I have just said? The question must be asked, can we truly study Budo without fighting? Can there be martial arts without life-threatening conflict?

I believe that to answer these questions one must include more than just the war and violence in the historical background of Budo. The role that religion and art played in the development of Budo is extremely important. The fact that Zen training often became a method for warriors to approach the problem of fear of death, indicates that answers to the problem of transcendence could come from places other than the battlefield. This training does not depend on fighting and is not restricted to warriors alone. The Founder of Aikido came to transcendent experience in Manchuria as the result of both his martial arts background and his Shinto religious training. There are many examples of people who though their involvement in spiritual and artistic disciplines experience a transcendence of death and life. War and violence are without a doubt an occasion for transcendent experience, but it must be kept in mind that these are not the only conditions under which a person can become enlightened about death and life.

Today's Budo student must remember that creative as well as destructive activities can lead to development. The important thing is to be clear about what we are doing, to be serious about it, and to be positive at the same time. We need not only to keep our martial art reasonable and effective, but also to try and see a more creative social aspect of our practice. Each student has their own reasons for doing martial arts. Some may want self-defense training. Others are interested in developing their confidence so that they can enjoy a larger experience of life. Training has its social side and the family-like atmosphere of the dojo attracts students. My point is that these are all acceptable reasons for starting Budo training. However, they are not an acceptable goal of training. At some point each student must eventually deal with the question of transcendence. In some way the fact of death and life must be faced. If we do this, we are practicing Budo.

Fumio Toyoda, Aikido Today Vol. x, No. x, page 1.

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