25 Jun Koryu Bujutsu: The origin of Budos, from survival to the school of life
Koryu Bujutsu: The origin of Budos, from survival to the school of life – by Alexandre Grzegorczyk
War has always been an influence upon nations. Throughout the centuries, wars and conflicts have been an integrative part of humanity, leading to millions of casualties…
Thanks to the evolution of our customs, it is increasingly difficult to fathom the violence of our ancestors’ world. This threat, which was constant for many, led to the creation of warriors’ arts. These arts have evolved over time, becoming more codified. They soon became a way to prepare for war but also to have fun or to spend some energy. Nowadays, only a sportive version of these arts of combat often remains. It makes it difficult to imagine what these disciplines, used to survive on the battlefield, looked like.
Barbarism and cruelty have often been used in movies to give us the feeling of being in the middle of the action. However, this trivialisation of violence too often leads to distraction and excitement, rather than compassion and terror when facing the harshness of war.
On three occasions, I had the impression to live a fraction of the world of Koryus Bujutsu. The first one was via the school of Kuroda Tetsuzan, the Shinbukan. My first interaction with this universe occurred four years ago, I was 21 years old. I was bewildered following this first seminar. Partly due to the level of Sensei, but also due to the energy that arises from him and the uncomfortable sensation to be cut by each of his movements.
How many times have I been startled when he starts moving? He is here, facing you; an instant later he has already finished moving, leaving us with this tingling sensation spreading inside our body. All this without having the slightest idea of what happened…
I also felt a similar sensation when I was attending the instructor seminar by Akuzawa Sensei.
Through their teachings, what struck me the most was the notion of life or death underlying their practice. Despite focusing on different principles, both schools allow the development of exceptional abilities in order to survive in a world where having to fight to stay alive is likely. A world where the idiom “to win or to die” becomes meaningful.
The third occasion, for different reasons, is the Araki Ryu school. I will develop more about it in an upcoming post.
Research and understanding of the origins
Contrary to common beliefs, the Budos appeared during the 19th and 20th century. Budos are the inheritance of Koryus Bujutsu practised by the samurais. However, it is important to understand that Budos are by no means a martial practice. They are tools to educate and uplift humanity, based on the knowledge of elders who understood the value of modifying their ancestral ways to adapt to the socio-political evolution. However, what exactly is this inheritance?
Budos advocate the development of self, of sharing and compassion; concepts aimed at uplifting and improving people. Contrary to popular misconceptions, these principles have not been invented for the practice of Budos. Despite not being the centre of a warrior’s Bujutsu training, practising Budo is a way to uplift humanity.
In his book “Martial traditions”, Ellis Amdur explains how the idea that “one must do his best, no matter the circumstances” can be found in the testament of Araki Munisai, the founder of Araki Ryu.
Munisai wrote “if you wish to become a member of this Ryu, you must promise to never let your ego and your ambition corrupt it. You will have to work relentlessly. Shape practice as your morning friend and discipline as your pillow for the night. With fervour, seek to always find the best way to react in every situation; then, you will master Jiyugei”.
By looking at this citation, and at other texts such as the Gorin No Sho or Yagyu Munenori’s, we can say that Budos focus on values that ancestral schools intuitively developed through training. Budos have made the decision to focus on the humanistic values already existing within the Koryus Bujutsu.
Budos, between technical training and personal development…
Even if a Budo does not have the vocation to train a warrior, its practice will be based on combat techniques originating from the Bujutsus. Its practice aims for compassion, while offering the possibility to develop technical abilities similar to the ones developed within the Koryus.
Learning to defend oneself or survive is not the main focus, contrarily to what one could think. However, the study of the principles and the transmission of the key values cannot be done without the technical practice and its research for efficiency.
It is essential to be aware of one’s limitations during practice, to know when it becomes dangerous and to be able to maintain its efficiency while preserving the integrity of aite. The delimitation between Budos and Bujutsus then becomes thinner and thinner.
The study of an art is enhanced by the research and understanding of its origins. Knowing history, researching and understanding the choices of the past enriches one’s learning and preserves the inheritance carried within the art.
Original article by Alexandre Grzegorczyk “Koryu Bujutsu : Origine des Budos, de la survie à l’école de la vie”, published on 04/03/2014. Link:
Open translation by Nathan Augeard, with permission.
 Koryu: traditional martial school.
 Bujutsu: martial techniques.
 Budo: traditional martial way.
 Ryu: traditional school of martial techniques.
 Jiyugei: the art of spontaneity and of adaptation to every situation.
 Gorin No Sho: one of the texts written by Miyamoto Musashi.
 Aite: can mean both partner and opponent.