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The History of Budo (Lectures)


We are announcing a new film release in two parts grandly titled, The History of Budo. This two part release is based on the extended interviews or lectures of Professor Takashi Uozumi.


Until recently Professor Takashi Uozumi was a researcher and teacher at the International Budo University and the Director of the Budo and Sports Research Institute. His field of research is existential thought and the physical culture of Japan. He has published numerous books and hundreds of articles relating to Budo and Japanese Martial Arts history. He is Japan’s leading expert on the swordmaster Miyamoto Musashi and has also written and published books and papers on Awa Kenso-Herrigel Kyudo (archery) history.

This new release is in two parts, each episode is 75 minutes long for a total of 2:30 hours….  One complete unnabridged interview filmed at Professor Takashi Uozumi’s office in Chiba, Japan. The interview which is in the form of a one-person lecture covers the period from the latter half of the 16th century up to the post-Second World War era and ending in 1987 with the forming of the Budo Charter. This two part documentary is aimed at the serious Martial Arts enthusiast and historian and practitioner and is a must have for all instructors.

Below is a small part of unedited lecture which we join at about five minutes…

“Nonetheless, Japan was overall unified under this shogunate. The shogunate monitored the smaller feudal lords. Around the year 1600 the Tokugawa Shogunate system was very much in its complete form. At this time, the other daimyo were categorized as lower rank retainers, and their military implements like artillery and firearms, these kinds of weapons were heavily restricted. 

The other military matters such as troop training were also restricted/limited by the shogunate. At the same time, the bushi of old thought of the the vitality for battling as a thing to be developed. Thus, the old bujutsu continued to be developed and taught among the bushi. The Edo period continued for 250 years and during this time the bushi were at the highest level of the social structure known as “Shi-nou-kou-shou” (士農工商 lit. samurai-farmer-craftsman-merchant). The bushi lived all gathered together in a sector called “jouka-machi” (城下町 lit. town under the castle, lets use the term castle town), which means that they gathered around the castle and established their residences.

At these castle towns… the bushi who gathered there worked on official positions regarding the organization of the military affairs. At the same time they concentrated on their own training of bujutsu, as their private activity. This held true for both the shogunate as for the older days, and there were different ryu-ha, which were also different depending of the social status. The ryu-ha which were learned were different according to the social status. The bushi had various ryu-ha with their own way of teaching, and each of the ryu-ha had their own characteristic development, they were developed in particular ways. 

Within this, the… should I say “ougi” (lit. inner teachings, often translated as secret teachings)? The core teachings of bujutsu were abundantly written in what is called “densho” (lit. transmit texts, let’s use transmission scrolls). Among these, the one which is most certainly confirmed is from around the year 1650. In other words, the first half of the 17th century. In this age victory was determined by engaging in battle, by going to war. However, a period of peace followed and the bujutsu of old was converted into a bujutsu for times of peace. 

Someone who symbolizes this very clearly is an art of war (heihou) instructor for the shogun, who was also the kenjutsu instructor for the shogun, called Yagyu Munenori. The two art of war instructors for the shogun were Yagyu Munenori of the Shinkage-ryu, and the other one being Ono Tadaaki of the Itto-ryu. From this two, it was Yagyu Munenori who wrote the “Heihoka-densho” (lit. transmission book of the military tactician, often translated as “Hereditary book on the art of war”, and of course, well known as The Life Giving-Sword translated by W.S.Wilson). What is clearly stated in it is that in the age of warring states, in the age were engage in battles took place, the katana existed as a life-taking sword. However, as things were pacified by the shogunate the katana had to become a life-giving sword.

This person called Yagyu Munenori is one who introduced some Zen ideology in Kenjutsu. Yagyu Munenori’s Zen instructor was the Zen priest Takuan Soho. He was also the Zen instructor of the Shogun Iemitsu. Yagyu Munenori was often by the side of the Shogun Iemitsu, and he introduced Zen teachings into Kenjustu. Of course, Kenjutsu involves putting one’s life on the line as it is a very dangerous activity, and there is fear involved, as well as the will to win over an opponent, also there is the urge to show off what one has acquired through training.

When these things are transcended, it is called mushin. It is overcoming desire. As a matter of fact, mushin was an essential point in kenjutsu. This is often expressed as “ken-zen-it-chi” (剣禅一致, lit. Sword and blade as one), which implies that the ultimate point of the sword and the ultimate point of zen are one and the same, which is mushin. These are the kinds of things and thinking that existed during this age. Yagyu Munenori included this has this ideal and theory into the “Hereditary book on the art of war” written in the year 1632…….”

Book of Five Rings

Above, Professor Uozumi opens his copy of Musashi’s Scrolls of the ‘Book of Five Rings’

Professor Uozumi

Above, Professor Uozumi in his office. Behind him is his extensive library of more than 20,000 books related to Japanese Budo.