Thursday, November 15, 2012

Do vs Jutsu. Again.

It seems like this issue comes up a lot.  I'm involved in a discussion about it on a LinkedIn discussion board right now, so I thought I would share some of what is going on over there.

The whole Do vs. Jutsu discussion only gets a lot of play outside Japan. It's something that Donn Draeger came up with. It was an interesting idea, but, frankly, he was wrong. There is no opposition between the two concepts. To have a way (Do 道) you must have skill (Jutsu 術) to build it from. In order for skills to be coherent, they must be organized in a way. 道 is founded on 術、while 道makes sense of 術。  

It not either or. It is both and. Either or is something Westerners insist on. It used to make my teachers in Japan smile at my ignorance when I pressed the conversation on them.

Both together. One without the other just doesn't make sense.

When we start, we tend to focus on the skills, because we need them as a foundation to understanding what the way is.  Beginners can talk about the big picture and the fundamental principles, but these have to be explored and experienced through the practice of discrete skills and techniques.  These provide the map to understanding the way and the principles of the way.

The "Do" idea is a really old one in Japan.  Sado 茶道 or tea ceremony has been called Sado since at least the time of Sen No Rikyu (16th century), and there are martial arts being called "Do" 道 that I have seen going back to at least the 17th century.  Even the Kano Jigoro shihan recognized that the term Judo had been used by some groups long before he started using it.

Most arts though were known simply by their name (Hayashizaki Ryu, Kashima Shinryu, Shinto Muso Ryu) without adding an adjective such as jutsu or  do prior to and during the Tokugawa era.  Names and descriptions changed often, but the organizing principles did not.  Separating a technique from the principles that make it work is, to my mind, impossible.  Having a principle without any applications or techniques that express the principle is difficult to imagine.

Ideally, the principles give rise to the techniques, and the techniques point the way to the principles.  Some great master had a deep insight into the principles of their art and developed techniques that express this principle.  It’s a great circle with the master having an insight into principle  and developing techniques based on that principle, that Way 道。  Students then study the techniques as way of learning to understand the principle behind them.  The techniques serve as road markers pointing the way to the principle Way that underlies the art.  The students master the techniques and come to embody the principles and express them spontaneously.  They then being teaching these techniques to a new generation of students.  The circle continues.

In Japanese there are a lot of terms that express the concept of Way: michi 道、houhou 方法、
kata 方 (different from the “kata” meaning form 型、形).  The goal of any art, whether it is described as jutsu or do, skill or way, 術 or 道、is that the practitioner can spontaneously express the principles of the art/school/style/system spontaneously in accordance with the situation.  If you only learn a collection of techniques, but don’t understand the principles that underly the techniques, you will only be able to use them in the exact situations in which you learned them.  If you use the techniques as tools for learning the underlying principles, the Way, then once you begin to understand the principles, you will be able to apply them to all sorts of situations, not just the specific one covered in the technique you learned.

In a fully developed martial art/martial science, the principles and the techniques cannot be separated from each other.  The techniques work because of the underlying principles, and the principles are expressed through the techniques.


Andy Watson said...

Very nicely put. I experienced a similar thing in Japan studying iai, most of my teachers just called it iai and not iaido or iaijutsu.

Sean Fogarty said...

This seemed rather clearer and to the point than I've seen previously. While I agree the word elements are basically interchangeable, I'm also not completely sure we're overcritical of Draeger. There may be some difference of nuance in a historical perspective, though it got overstated. The idea of 'doh' came from Taoism ("the teaching of doh") in China. By the time it got integrated it had to do with what passed as schools in Japan. Jyutsu is a little older and Japanese, Doh more Chinese, jyutsu outdoorsy, doh more indoorsy, jyutsu a little wild, doh a little tamer, jyutsu a bit more practical, doh a bit more philosophical, jyutsu something that can be mastered, doh something that defies mastery. The association of jyutsu with waza (i.e. techniques), and doh with ri (i.e. principles) is sound . . .

Unknown said...

Actually Mr. Draeger said this:
Bujutsu: Combat, discipline, morals.
Budo: Morals, discipline, aesthetics.

And then he went on to say that the way that it was broken up in the 20th century, something that came about because of changes in culture over time (since the import of the word from China) that things became the way they were. What he was doing there, IMHO, was looking at the way things were then in his era, and attempting to define them in the moment. :)