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Do you have a martial arts question you would like to have answered? We can't promise we have all the answers, but's staff and contributors will try to help. Just fill in the form at the bottom of this page.

Topic: "Definition of budo"

What is the exact definition to budo? I mean, what martial arts are considered as budo? Some people say that all Japanese arts are budo- some that only ju-jutsu, judo and karate belong to "true" budo. I hope you can sort this out!

S. P.


Some people use the term Budo to mean any discipline that has for the practitioner become a way of life. This is too broad a definition since it is a Japanese word and thus technically relates to Japanese disciplines. Likewise Chinese fighting arts also have similar generic terms such as Wushu, Kung Fu and others, that refer collectively to fighting arts from that region.

The word "budo" is the translation of characters used in the Japanese language (originally adopted from Chinese). "Bu" means military, or related to the military, or martial. "Do" means path, way or method. Budo thus refers to post-1600 generations of Japanese fighting systems based on former arts, but which emphasize "do" -- personal, ethical and spiritual development as the ultimate goal of training.

Various Budo Disciplines:
aikido (harmonious meeting and control of energy)
iaido (sword drawaing and cutting))
jodo (short staff)
judo (throwing/grappling)
jujutsu (joint-locks, arm manipulations, chokes & throws)
jukendo (bayonet)
karate-do/Kempo (kicking/punching/throwing)
kendo (sword)
kyudo (bow and arrow)
naginata-do (long "pole axe," or naginata)

First to evolve was what is known as Classical Budo (or Kobudo) which in turn provided both the technical basis and spiritual/ethical foundation for Modern Budo, which includes kendo (sword), judo (throwing/grappling) and karate-do (strikes/kicks). Modern budo is often characterized by the inclusion of competitive aspects, but not always, as in the case of aikido (blending and jujitsu-like techniques). Included too are many jujutsu systems (which use the term "jutsu" but were developed or modified in the post-1600 era for civilian needs).

Budo should, however, be understood as distinct from Bujutsu which were and are (if still practiced) feudal period (pre-1600) fighting disciplines practiced primarily by professional warriors for battle, such as kenjutsu (sword arts), kyujutsu (archery arts), and various spear arts (sojusu, yarijutsu, naginatajutsu).

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