Bukijutsu vs Kobudo

|
Recently one of my students asked me about Kobudo and why I call my weaponry as bukijutsu instead of Okinawan kobudo.  So this is my response to this question, and hopefully it can shed some light on my way of thinking about this particular topic.

First off, Kobudo is a very deceptive word.  The kanji for kobudo reads 古武道, meaning “Old War Way”.  This implies that of all the Okinawan material; Kobudo would be the oldest thing on the island.  That would mean that it completely pre-dates karate in every way possible.  So if that is the case, then why were most of the kata (型/forms) created after karate styles were already established?  Even when you go back and look at some of the older forms they were being established at the same time as karate (or te).  So how could something be “older” when it was created at the same time or after?

When you are looking at what is old and what is new the Dai Nippon Butokukai had established categories for systems.  These are Koryu (古流) and Gendai (現代).  Koryu styles were martial art styles that were established (as a complete system) and being practiced before 1868.  Anything after 1868 is called Gendai, meaning a modern martial art.  When karate was first being registered with the Dai Nippon Butokukai every style was considered gendai and was in the category of shinbudo (新武道), which means “new budo”.  Even weaponry that was established fell into this same category.  There are some elements of karate that may have been practiced before 1868, but the honest truth of it is that the styles were not organized until much later.  So in my opinion karate is gendai with some koryu elements.

The second problem with using the word kobudo is that it’s a very regional term.  Depending where you are in Japan you will get different responses if you say the word “kobudo”.  Within the karate community it is accepted to mean weaponry.  However in other parts of Japan you could get anything from swords and spears (katana and yari), to bows and arrows (yumiya/弓矢), to someone else who might show up ready to wrestle.  And let’s not even talk about Ninjas. ;)

So some of the schools in Okinawa that teach weaponry use the term “bukijutsu”, I have also adopted this word because it is a lot more honest about the material.  Buki (武器) means weapon or weaponry, and jutsu (術) means art.  I personally like this term because it is a heck of a lot less ambiguous than kobudo, and it means exactly what it is intended to mean.

So for the weaponry I teach, not all of it is from Okinawa.  When I was in Yong Chun village I had picked up a very cool kocho soto (butterfly swords/蝴蝶雙刀) kata, in Hong Kong I got a nice sansetsukon (three section staff/三節棍) form, and others I have picked up over the years of traveling and training.  The base of my weaponry is from Ryueiryu, which is still the core, but the other kata are very nice additions that complement the original weaponry.  So it’s not really accurate if I say “Okinawan kobudo” since some of the material I teach is from China or even mainland Japan.  This is why I use the term bukijutsu (weapon art), this is a heck of a lot more honest about what it actually is.  It’s just a shame so many people only use kobudo, without even knowing what the word means or how it is technically historically inaccurate.

Food for thought.

Gambatte Kudasai,
Scot