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Old 10-22-2013, 01:35 PM   #26
TokyoZeplin
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Re: Can you truly understand budo without training in Japan?

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In Japan there is a kata for doing just about everything. The idea is that there is a best way to do things, and they codify this into a form. The most obvious examples are arts like tea ceremony, flower arranging and calligraphy, but there are kata for pretty much everything.
Don't spout nonsense. I've lived in Japan, and by no means are there "kata for pretty much everything".

Unless you start simply defining kata as "choreographed/ritualized/drilled movement/ways of behaving/learning" - but in that case, there's "kata in pretty much everything" all over the world.
What you have mentioned so far, isn't by any means normally used within the young population - except, of course, that many train a sport when in high school. But those sorts of choreographed drills are used in sports all over the world.

Point being: No, kata is not an "everyday thing" in Japan.

Last edited by TokyoZeplin : 10-22-2013 at 01:40 PM.
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Old 10-22-2013, 01:52 PM   #27
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Re: Can you truly understand budo without training in Japan?

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Well, from what I have read it is a foot raised...so it is not clear if the foot is going up, or going down, advancing or retreating...it is in a position to do any of these. Then there is the staff, spear, or halberd...also not specific, but from what I have read / learned it is "stop spear."

Added note....so the spear is not advancing or retreating, it stops.
Those pieces may be used to write it now, but I think that how the word is actually used is much more important than what elements were chosen to create the character 3000 years ago. Both usage and written form have evolved since then.

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Old 10-22-2013, 01:56 PM   #28
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Re: Can you truly understand budo without training in Japan?

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Unless you start simply defining kata as "choreographed/ritualized/drilled movement/ways of behaving/learning" -
.
That's exactly what kata is.

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Old 10-22-2013, 01:57 PM   #29
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Re: Can you truly understand budo without training in Japan?

There are kata in baseball and you can get kyu ranks in baseball, the japanese cup and ball toy and even surfing. I've got no clue how seriously people take those ranks or kata though.
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Old 10-22-2013, 02:06 PM   #30
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Re: Can you truly understand budo without training in Japan?

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Oisin Bourke wrote: View Post
Adding to the other posts, children learn pretty much everything in a formal setting by Kata. When I was teaching English, a lot of kids would mimic not just my pronunciation, but also my gestures and body language in order to get it. Also, when my daughter was in kindergarten in Japan, the teachers there would teach the kids basic skills, like doing up shirt buttons and folding clothes by showing them in a step by step manner the "set" way to do it. The kids would then repeat the "set" way until they could do it "properly" (i.e. the "set way). When I was training with adults and kids in budo, everyone would constantly (some would say obsessively) mimic the instructor, even while the instructor was verbally explaining something. Basically, they watch, copy and learn, and in general, can pick up a lot of detail. It's a great skill to have, and I suppose most aikido and budo practicioners do this to some extent, but the level generally done in Japan is quite hard to recreate in "the West" We just have a different approach to learning. BTW, this has positives and negatives, but it is definitely a Japanese cultural hallmark.
Thanks, Oisin, that's really interesting. I knew (from studies of quality and business processes) that Japanese business culture emphasizes doing a thing as correctly as possible, and I know that it's a mindset that pervades traditional Japanese arts, but I didn't know it was quite that pervasive.

You probably know the "ritual cat" Zen story, which goes something like this: a spiritual teacher used to hold meditation sessions, which were disturbed by the monastery's cat, which made noise (and, if it was like my roommate's cat, did a lot of other "cat vs. meditation" things). So the spiritual teacher tied up the cat in another room, which solved the problem. Time went on, new disciples came to study, eventually the teacher died and another teacher took over, and all this time the cat was tied up during meditation. Finally, one day the cat died...and what did they do? They went out and bought a new cat so that they could tie it up, because tying a cat up was necessary to create the right environment for meditation.

Here in the West, we tend to get againsty when we're asked to play "monkey see, monkey do". We want to understand why we're doing what we're doing, even before we do it for the first time. The problem, of course, is that unless the thing you're doing is completely straightforward, or you can relate prior knowledge from another domain, you're unlikely to understand the explanation. So, you get stuck, and you never get beyond the first step. I think we all understand the dangers of "monkey see, monkey do" -- that's how you end up buying a new cat so you'll have one to tie up during meditation -- but I think you need a body of knowledge to hang any explanations on, and I don't think there's any way to get that body of knowledge without a good chunk of "shut up and train". Lots of practice, a little theory, lots more practice, a little more theory. Not always in that order, but the understanding comes with practice, not in advance of it. At least I think so.

ExBoss told an interesting story. He said that if you had a manufacturing facility in Japan and another in the US, making the same part to the same specs out of the same material, you'd find that in the US, they would aim at the tolerances, while in Japan, they'd aim right at the mark. In other words, if the spec said 100mm plus/minus 2 mm, the US plant/workers/process would focus on hitting anywhere between 98mm and 102mm (and would consider them all pretty much equally good...isn't that what the spec says?), whereas in Japan they would focus on hitting 100. As a result, products made with the same part manufactured in two different plants would have a different MTBF, because the US plant would turn out more 98mm and 102mm parts, which would go out of tolerance and cause problems sooner.
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Old 10-22-2013, 03:19 PM   #31
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Re: Can you truly understand budo without training in Japan?

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Those pieces may be used to write it now, but I think that how the word is actually used is much more important than what elements were chosen to create the character 3000 years ago. Both usage and written form have evolved since then.
Lol....but the concepts of budo have not.
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Old 10-22-2013, 03:30 PM   #32
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Re: Can you truly understand budo without training in Japan?

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That's exactly what kata is.
If that's how we're defining Kata, then the fact that "there is kata in pretty much everything in Japan", has nothing to do with Japan. Then you might as well say "there is kata in all systematic learning in the world" - it has nothing to do with Japan, or Martial Arts at all. Essentially, you've defined kata as a system of learning. Not a specific system, just any systematic learning. And that exists everywhere in the world.

Ritualized social interaction is also extremely common in every part of the world.

My point being, if that's how we are defining kata, then there's no point in discussing this anymore at all. It's like saying "people are learning things everywhere in the world" - yep, true, so what?
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Old 10-22-2013, 03:39 PM   #33
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Re: Can you truly understand budo without training in Japan?

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Lol....but the concepts of budo have not.
Actually, the concept of "budo" is only about 500 years old. When it first emerged and how it is evolved in that time is something I would love to study academically.

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Old 10-22-2013, 03:42 PM   #34
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Re: Can you truly understand budo without training in Japan?

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If that's how we're defining Kata, then the fact that "there is kata in pretty much everything in Japan", has nothing to do with Japan. Then you might as well say "there is kata in all systematic learning in the world" - it has nothing to do with Japan, or Martial Arts at all. Essentially, you've defined kata as a system of learning. Not a specific system, just any systematic learning. And that exists everywhere in the world.

Ritualized social interaction is also extremely common in every part of the world.

My point being, if that's how we are defining kata, then there's no point in discussing this anymore at all. It's like saying "people are learning things everywhere in the world" - yep, true, so what?
It's not the kata, it's the social, cultural and philosophical ideas about their practice, meaning and goals that are interesting. The world outside Japan doesn't have the this huge philosophical construct built on Taoist, Confucian and Buddhist foundations. And that's the interesting part.

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Old 10-22-2013, 03:53 PM   #35
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Re: Can you truly understand budo without training in Japan?

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It's not the kata, it's the social, cultural and philosophical ideas about their practice, meaning and goals that are interesting. The world outside Japan doesn't have the this huge philosophical construct built on Taoist, Confucian and Buddhist foundations. And that's the interesting part.
If that's all, then I'm fine with that. Of course it's interesting. I don't see it having anything to do with Kata anymore though (other than in the sense of systematic drilling, of course).

Though I should add, if that's what we're talking about, that Japan is notoriously bad at teaching a vast amount of different subjects, and international students will often complain about this. I have a friend who took his Masters Degree at Todai (Japan's, without question, best University), he's currently taking his PhD in the UK, and have nothing but bad things to say about the training methodology.

The vast majority of my Japanese friends, have also agreed that the training methodology in Japan (which is basically just endless drilling of everything, mostly textbooks) is largely outdated, and just not very good. I remember interviewing for an English teaching job years ago, when I was on my Working Holiday visa at the time and needed money - at the interview, I was told the teaching methodology: tell your students to read this Disney book 1000 times, and then they will know English. Never had I heard such rubbish before.
There's a reason that Japan, even with an average of 7 years of English language learning, has one of the lowest levels of English as a second language, in the world.
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Old 10-22-2013, 04:07 PM   #36
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Re: Can you truly understand budo without training in Japan?

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Lol....but the concepts of budo have not.
Rather than merely echo Peter's reply, I thought I might point anyone who is interested to a fine piece of scholarship that addresses that notion in a fairly rigorous and sometimes surprising manner:

http://www.amazon.com/The-Taming-Sam.../dp/0674868099

To that, I would only add that while the concept of "michi" or "do" has a long provenance, the opening of those arts to broader social circles, while not entirely unknown, particularly during the very late Tokugawa era, didn't really become a mass phenomenon until the Meiji era, and both functional and conceptual change are associated with that opening.

Hope this helps.

FL

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Old 10-22-2013, 04:39 PM   #37
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Re: Can you truly understand budo without training in Japan?

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These things are available, whether someone is interested in them or not. However, if your goal is to understand as much of the system as possible, then you need to go after everything, not just what seems worthwhile at the moment. If you are satisfied with a shallow understanding of the surface of the art, that's ok too. Many people never get further than that.
What "things" are you talking about?

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Old 10-22-2013, 05:13 PM   #38
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Re: Can you truly understand budo without training in Japan?

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They don't call it OCD. They call it normal.
Agreed.

In fact, I feel that OCD is too often seen/felt as a bad thing as opposed to a healthy practice of ritual. (of course it can be unhealthy, depending on the behavior in question.)

Typical day in ones life, alarm goes off, wake up, get ready for your day (set of tasks usually done the same way) go to work (usually done the same way each time, same path to get there) Do work, same thing over and over... come home, make dinner...eat dinner, clean up after and so on.. some variations may appear but we all follow patterns. We often feel off balance when we fall out of those patterns:

Alarm does not go off, skip breakfast, get stuck in traffic, realize your car is almost out of fuel, have a close call changing lanes or crossing the street to catch public transit.. and so on and so forth...

You know what amuses me most is people that still feel the need to maintain some type of schedule each day even while on 'vacation'... to the point of being more rushed and stressed trying to get all the stuff done during their attempt to relax and unwind... now that is crazy.
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Old 10-22-2013, 05:16 PM   #39
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Re: Can you truly understand budo without training in Japan?

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are there kata for drinking, carousing, partying, being a public nuisance? just wondering.
Generally taught in late high school through college and university as the Ura practice. Typically hidden in plain sight.

To be honest Phi... I am surprised you need to even ask.. or perhaps you were were/are just naturally talented in this and surpassed the Kata phase and immediately grasped the true essence of the technique.
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Old 10-22-2013, 05:27 PM   #40
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Re: Can you truly understand budo without training in Japan?

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Agreed.

In fact, I feel that OCD is too often seen/felt as a bad thing as opposed to a healthy practice of ritual. (of course it can be unhealthy, depending on the behavior in question.)
Just wanted to chime in here, and say that while I agree that it's incredibly common in Japan, I don't agree that it's healthy in any way. I have never, in all my travels, ever found a country with more mentally unstable (in various forms and degrees) people than in Japan. Stress, loneliness, and depression are incredibly widespread.

Heck, this almost neurotic tendency, especially in work, is often cited as one of the key reasons for the countries continually declining birthrate (Japan is currently one of the most "sexless" countries in the world, and is estimated to lose 1/3rd of it's population by 2060).

The reason why many people don't realize this, even if living in Japan for a while, is that it often doesn't show on the surface, due to the Japanese tradition/custom/culture of keeping up appearances at all costs. (If you're interested in that, have a look at Honne and Tatamae in Japanese culture (vaguely translated as public and private face)).
Going on sick leave for depression, people have been told "You have betrayed me" by their boss, for instance. I once read an article where the Japanese company owner, insisted that the rising depression rates in Japan were due to western influence in the job market, and had nothing to do with it now being more socially acceptable to actually say you have depression.

When discussing these things, it's incredibly important to remember, that just because something is a normal cultural practice, doesn't mean it's actually good for you (or anyone).

(quick disclaimer: I absolutely adore Japan, in many different ways, have many incredibly good friends in the country, and wish to return if a job opportunity ever presents itself - but that doesn't mean the country is perfect, it's customs perfect, or that you shouldn't discuss the negative consequences it's culture can also have).
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Old 10-22-2013, 06:04 PM   #41
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Re: Can you truly understand budo without training in Japan?

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Just wanted to chime in here, and say that while I agree that it's incredibly common in Japan, I don't agree that it's healthy in any way. I have never, in all my travels, ever found a country with more mentally unstable (in various forms and degrees) people than in Japan. Stress, loneliness, and depression are incredibly widespread.

Heck, this almost neurotic tendency, especially in work, is often cited as one of the key reasons for the countries continually declining birthrate (Japan is currently one of the most "sexless" countries in the world, and is estimated to lose 1/3rd of it's population by 2060).

The reason why many people don't realize this, even if living in Japan for a while, is that it often doesn't show on the surface, due to the Japanese tradition/custom/culture of keeping up appearances at all costs. (If you're interested in that, have a look at Honne and Tatamae in Japanese culture (vaguely translated as public and private face)).
Going on sick leave for depression, people have been told "You have betrayed me" by their boss, for instance. I once read an article where the Japanese company owner, insisted that the rising depression rates in Japan were due to western influence in the job market, and had nothing to do with it now being more socially acceptable to actually say you have depression.

When discussing these things, it's incredibly important to remember, that just because something is a normal cultural practice, doesn't mean it's actually good for you (or anyone).

(quick disclaimer: I absolutely adore Japan, in many different ways, have many incredibly good friends in the country, and wish to return if a job opportunity ever presents itself - but that doesn't mean the country is perfect, it's customs perfect, or that you shouldn't discuss the negative consequences it's culture can also have).
Hi Phillip,

While this could be a thread of it's own, I will take a moment to respond in this one.

OCD behavior of certain kinds can be alright in my opinion. They can be beneficial and not hurtful just because one practices 'something' with what could be viewed in an OCD manner. I agree that if said practice becomes socially debilitating then yes, you have a situation that needs to be addressed and this goes into a rather large can of worms about watching out for that development cycle and so on... so another thread on a different forum altogether if you ask me.

I saw a news bit about Japan's declining population rate and projections earlier this week myself and the brief sound bites about why the people there felt the way they do.. and to me it has more to do with 'being alone even in a sea of people' due to cultural 'issues' than any particularly perceived OCD patterns Japanese people may have.

All of this is unrelated to the original post so if you would like to discuss it further just PM me.

I should point out myself that I did not address the original post so to CMA (cover my @ss, not Chinese Martial Arts) I will state for the record that: No, I do not believe one needs to train or live in Japan to understand budo... truly.

One can find access to a teacher who may or may not be Japanese that has 'been there, done that' and learn from them.

People at or near the source can often loose their way over time. Many threads on this forum about that alone... (transmission, inheritance, emulation, did it get passed on? Did the students figure it out?)

Even more simply put, the source is only the source... the individual as willing and able to study and learn from it is one part, the connection (teacher) they find to that source makes all the difference. Once an individual comes to 'truly understand budo'... they become the source for others.

They can find as many paths (teachers/styles) as they can to that source, some paths will be better than others, yield more results, different flavors but then again, even the best path can only be followed if the commitment and ability is there to do so.

As we know often the most difficult part of someone with the commitment, desire and ability is finding the right teacher(s).. who actually knows the path and can show it to them. Thankfully, the internet can help (once one wades through the endless amounts of not so helpful stuff out there) someone find a starting point.

It has done so for me.
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Old 10-22-2013, 06:18 PM   #42
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Re: Can you truly understand budo without training in Japan?

I wonder if one can really understand basketball without having played in Springfield, Ma?"

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Old 10-22-2013, 06:26 PM   #43
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Re: Can you truly understand budo without training in Japan?

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Though I should add, if that's what we're talking about, that Japan is notoriously bad at teaching a vast amount of different subjects, and international students will often complain about this. I have a friend who took his Masters Degree at Todai (Japan's, without question, best University), he's currently taking his PhD in the UK, and have nothing but bad things to say about the training methodology.
.
Having spent some years teaching in Japanese public schools, you will get only agreement from me on this. The kata based method of teaching is great for physical skills. It doesn't work worth a damn for cognitive fields such as language and sciences and Western philosophy.

The thing here is, we're talking about physical skills and how they can be a means for understanding and putting into action some extremely sophisticated philosophical concepts. For this sort of learning, the kata based system is excellent.

P.S.
I would not say that Todai is the best university in Japan, merely that it is the most prestigious in Japan.

Last edited by akiy : 10-23-2013 at 01:03 PM. Reason: Fixed quote tag

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Old 10-22-2013, 06:43 PM   #44
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Re: Can you truly understand budo without training in Japan?

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What "things" are you talking about?
Concepts like Tao/Mich 道, Wuwei 無為, Te 徳, and these are only the large ones from the Taoist side of things. There are also Convfucian ideas that I'm still digging out, and Japanese ones such as mushin. The Japanese Ways are all methods for realizing these concepts and incorporating them into ourselves.

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Old 10-22-2013, 06:55 PM   #45
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Re: Can you truly understand budo without training in Japan?

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Having spent some years teaching in Japanese public schools, you will get only agreement from me on this. The kata based method of teaching is great for physical skills. It doesn't work worth a damn for cognitive fields such as language and sciences and Western philosophy.

The thing here is, we're talking about physical skills and how they can be a means for understanding and putting into action some extremely sophisticated philosophical concepts. For this sort of learning, the kata based system is excellent.

P.S.
I would not say that Todai is the best university in Japan, merely that it is the most prestigious in Japan.
I agree on all levels here!
My reply originally was solely meant in the context of "kata is everywhere", and the indirect implication of the replies to the thread, that it worked well.

I agree that drilling is an essential part of any physical learning activity, be it martial arts, soccer, or whathaveyou.

For the P.S., fair point.
I should perhaps have phrased it "most highly sought" or something along those lines.
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Old 10-22-2013, 07:18 PM   #46
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Re: Can you truly understand budo without training in Japan?

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Actually, the concept of "budo" is only about 500 years old. When it first emerged and how it is evolved in that time is something I would love to study academically.
What you have to take into account is the concept of budo before recorded existed longer than the 500 years you mention, and long before on the mainland. The characters used are quite specific. Interesting how one half of your premise one chatacter changes, but the character for tao, or do, does not...

And even if that one character does change from its originsl, does that now mean a person must travel to Japan? Does that support your theory in any way?

Last edited by aikidark : 10-22-2013 at 07:21 PM.
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Old 10-22-2013, 07:30 PM   #47
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Re: Can you truly understand budo without training in Japan?

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What you have to take into account is the concept of budo before recorded existed longer than the 500 years you mention, and long before on the mainland. The characters used are quite specific. Interesting how one half of your premise one chatacter changes, but the character for tao, or do, does not...

And even if that one character does change from its originsl, does that now mean a person must travel to Japan? Does that support your theory in any way?
道 has changed significantly. Old forms of it at are at
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:%E9%81%93-bronze.svg
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:%E9%81%93-bigseal.svg
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:%E9%81%93-seal.svg

And unless I completely misunderstand the blog post I wrote, I don't say that a person must travel to Japan.

Last edited by Peter Boylan : 10-22-2013 at 07:43 PM. Reason: Answer was incomplete.

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Old 10-22-2013, 08:10 PM   #48
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Re: Can you truly understand budo without training in Japan?

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Concepts like Tao/Mich 道, Wuwei 無為, Te 徳, and these are only the large ones from the Taoist side of things. There are also Convfucian ideas that I'm still digging out, and Japanese ones such as mushin. The Japanese Ways are all methods for realizing these concepts and incorporating them into ourselves.
That is how some people use them, but I think it's going a little overboard to suggest that people who don't use them that way don't "truly understand budo".

The more I train and the more I read, the more it bothers me when people talk about a martial art as if it had opinions, goals, and a philosophy. Those are characteristics of people, not activities; martial arts have none of them. And that means that when people start talking about what a martial art is about, what a martial art is for, or who really understands a martial art, they're usually confusing their own subjective ideas with objective truths.

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Old 10-22-2013, 08:19 PM   #49
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Re: Can you truly understand budo without training in Japan?

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Matthew Story wrote: View Post
That is how some people use them, but I think it's going a little overboard to suggest that people who don't use them that way don't "truly understand budo".

The more I train and the more I read, the more it bothers me when people talk about a martial art as if it had opinions, goals, and a philosophy. Those are characteristics of people, not activities; martial arts have none of them. And that means that when people start talking about what a martial art is about, what a martial art is for, or who really understands a martial art, they're usually confusing their own subjective ideas with objective truths.
I guess I could be more precise and say that the objectives of the people who created the art, and the philosophy the art is intended to teach, and what the art is designed for, but that gets a little long I think. The language is flexible enough to handle the discussion.

Peter Boylan
Mugendo Budogu LLC
Budo Books, Videos, Equipment from Japan
http://www.budogu.com
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Old 10-22-2013, 08:46 PM   #50
aikidark
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Re: Can you truly understand budo without training in Japan?

Quote:
Peter Boylan wrote: View Post
道 has changed significantly. Old forms of it at are at
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:%E9%81%93-bronze.svg
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:%E9%81%93-bigseal.svg
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:%E9%81%93-seal.svg

And unless I completely misunderstand the blog post I wrote, I don't say that a person must travel to Japan.
So with the introduction of taoism tao has changed? And with each change budo, or wushu, or mudo does not mean what it once meant? And then if you are not suggesting one travel to Japan to learn budo, I guess you have answered your own question? What answer were you looking for?
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