Wednesday, August 11, 2010

jutsu vs. do?

I see a lot of writing that suggests that arts whose names end in "jutsu" are in some fundamental way different from arts whose names end in "do." I have a hard time finding this significant difference. I want to look at the whole concept of "michi" (do) or "way" in English, and see if there really is a fundamental difference between jutsu and do, or if that is a false dichotomy.


Anonymous said...

Peter, was there perhaps within the broader Japanese culture a reason why in a specific historical moment or era it would become desirable to reframe the name of some arts?

Budo Bum said...

During the Meiji era, many of the martial art developed a less than exemplary reputation. There were competitions staged for paying audiences of both armed and unarmed combat. Kano Shihan, in "Mind Over Muscle" mentions various terms used to describe unarmed martial arts in Japan, and he says:
The main reason was that 'do' (way) is the major focus of what the Kodokan teaches, whereas 'jutsu' (skill) is incidental. I also wanted to make it clear that judo was a means of embarking on the do. When those who taught jujutsu in the past had insight and ability, they probably explained not only the jutsu but also do.

I think Kano was being brilliantly political in trying to separate judo from classical systems because he wanted to make it part of the education system, and he succeeded in making it part of the education system. I'm not so sure he was any more successful in making judo a means of spiritual development than any other bugei teacher. Judo today has almost forgotten where it comes from or that it can serve any higher purpose than winning competitions.

The thing is, that the concept of 道 (pronounced michi when it stands alone) is such a fundamental concept of Japanese culture that anything can be a michi. We have 柔道 (judo) and 剣道 (kendo) and 茶道 (sado) and 花道 (kado) and I've even seen a book in Japan on 掃除道 (soujido "the way of cleaning"). Most people have heard of doing things "the Toyota way" and this is true for anything in Japan. There is a proper way to do things, and if the external ways are properly followed, the idea is that the internal mind will naturally follow. It seems to me that the argument about 道 "do" versus 術 "jutsu" obscures this basic fact. There is a "way" for everything. This is evident even in light-hearted movies like "The Ramen Girl". Especially because this fact is so deeply woven into the culture that even non-Japanese can spot it in a movie, I think we are missing the forest while arguing over what kind of trees we're standing next.