What follows is my essay answering the question “What is Budo?” that was part of my Shodan test in Aikido (1st degree black belt). The question felt a bit vague to me, but what am I going to do? Press my Sensei and the testing committee on what they’re really looking for? I think not. Anyway I hope you like it.
What is Budo?
Brian Timmer August 18, 2010
“Budo” roughly translates to “martial way”. Where “Bu” means war or martial, and “do” means way or path. Typically “do” is used to indicate a “way of life” or method of living ones life. This is just the classical definition of the word and everyone has their own little spin on it.
So, what does it mean to me? Well, first off what does it mean to be martial in your day to day life? I believe every day we run into conﬂicts and issues, no matter how small, that must be faced and dealt with. If you turn away from them you may never get to where youʼre heading as they may push over you and break your spirit. Sometimes issues can be evaded and “tabled” for the moment, but then other issues may need to be handled directly and decisively. The key is not backing down from them, even “tabled” items will need to be faced eventually.
This “Budo” mindset can be utilized on the mat as well as off it. In some respects it can be seen and felt more purely on the mat, at least to a beginner. For me this is how I feel Budo in my life. Thatʼs not to say I donʼt feel it off the mat, just that itʼs more prevalent and obvious there. During training Iʼm constantly forced to confront the aches and pains of getting older, existing injuries from past life experiences, normal difficulties of training in Aikido, and the stress and strain of being a “senior student”. Each thing on itʼs own may seem simple to overcome, but coupled together they can wield a great opposing force on you and your will. I will not claim that I donʼt suffer from burnout or exhaustion from my schedule (on and off the mat) but that I have to find a way through those things to keep moving forward.
I know that Iʼm my own worst enemy, so these struggles are almost purely within myself. Stress is as much a part of my life as breathing these days. I need to attempt to reduce that stress or at least cope with it. Budo to me is getting up every morning and facing the dayʼs problems, with family, with work, with Aikido, and ultimately, with myself.
Not everything with Budo has to be a struggle though. You can look at it as a life of pushing past your boundaries, physically, mentally, and emotionally. I suppose that could be seen as a “struggle” but I like to think of it as constant pushing to better yourself. To always expect more from yourself, and maybe “more” is a bad word there, maybe itʼs to expect the “best” from yourself. Itʼs a tough life to live, constantly expecting better of oneself. Never satisﬁed with where you are at any given moment. But, nowhere does someone say a “martial way of life” was going to be easy. Do the words “martial” or “war” conjure up images of “easy” in your mind? Itʼs battle, and in this day and age most people only have one thing they can practically “battle” in their lives and thatʼs themselves.