At the time of feudal Japan martial arts was called Bujutsu, BU meaning martial and Jutsu meaning techniques, similar to Kenjutsu or the art of handling the katana. Over two and a half centuries, during the rule of the Tokugawa shogun and his successors, practice of martial arts took a new dimension.
Bujutsu grew into a Budo. The technique known as Jutsu grew into Do also known as Way of life, thus, leading to Kenjutsu becoming Kendo, Kyujutsu becaming Kyudo, Jiujutsu beoming Judo and Aikijutsu becoming Aikido.
Training in Budo was aimed at achieving higher values than those obtained in Bujutsu. While in Bujutsu technical efficiency was of the highest importance, in Budo, martial techniques were used as a means towards deeper understanding of one’s own self. And with Kenjutsu becoming Kendo, the technique of the sword became “a way of the sword,” evoking the need to overcome physical and technical abilities while achieving the highest mental and spiritual values.
Katana, which is a symbol of the samurai’s spirit, was not meant to cut the opponent but rather to cut down one’s own prejudices, ignorance, arrogance and egotism. Budo martial arts were not considered sports. On the contrary, Budo martial arts were conceived as strict and even harsh disciplines, which were meant to train mind through daily training of the chosen martial discipline.
However, the ideogram BU can be also interpreted as a discontinued warfare, in which the essence of Budo is not only in achieving combat readiness and abilities, but in finding peace and self-mastery. Self-cultivation requires persistence, patience and time, and in following such a way, commitment and determination are much more important than haste.
Karate-Do practice should have a substantial impact on the lives of those practicing it. By attaining the highest technical and physical skills, while not developing moral and ethical values leads to the deviation from the authentic essence of Karate-Do.
The development of martial philosophy inevitably led to the creation of the samurai’s strict Bushido code. The Bushido code was influenced by various teachings and doctrines. Nevertheless, crucial influence came from Zen, the Chinese philosopher Confucius and from the Japanese native Shinto religion. This created a unique life ideology that has for centuries influenced the formation of the entire Japanese nation.
The ideal of the samurai warrior was created. The Samurai is honest and brave, and above all has refined sense of justice. Honor and dignity are the highest values, and he will not hesitate to lay down his life in order to defend them.
Zen is meditation, contemplation. Zen is daily personal experience, ”everyday mind”
Zen is a way which leads to the self understanding as well as to understand the world we live in.
Zen is not religion. Zen is a way of understanding life, while actively searching for the right path.
Zen cannot be accurately described in words nor theoretically explained, because Zen is a personal, inner experience.
Zen can be understood only by practicing, because the practice is its essence and the experience acquired at the time of exercise. In addition to the classical way of practicing Zen in the seated Zazen position (Za-sitting, and Zen-meditating), it can also be practiced in the standing position, Tachizen, including in motion, called Ugokizen.
The authentic approach towards practicing of Karate-Do is a type of Zen in motion.
The actual body posture is not of importance as much as the idea of practice.
The goal is to free the control of the conscious mind and reach the state of the “absent mind,” also known as Mushin and literally translated as No Mind state. Mushin is a mental act where conscious thinking ceases and that is known as the core in Zen.
In Japan, Zen is known as the philosophy of the samurai.
When one slash of the katana determines life or death, time does not exist as there is only a moment for timely reaction. That is possible only when mind is free from thoughts. Reaching the state of mind free thoughts is the pinnacle in Zen training, so it is only logical that Zen was an inseparable part of the samurai’s tradition.