Budo As The Art of War – Oct 21, 2014, Kim Taylor, Renshi, CI Sei Do Kai Guelph ON, Nanadan

Late 1500s Japan:

Trench warfare.

Volley firing in 3 ranks of 1000 guns each rank .

A battlefield with more guns on it than existed in all of Europe at the time…

Whatever would make anyone think that the koryu were to train people for war? You don’t need, nor have you ever needed the kind of skills you learn in a koryu for a battlefield.

Even Musashi had to stretch it a bit more than it should ever be stretched when he suggested that an individual fight was somehow analogous to a battlefield. To see the big in the little is not a bad thing in itself, but don’t confuse the little with the big. You can certainly draw lessons from individual training in a sword school and apply them to large fights, but nobody ever had to supply their sword with food and water for months at a time during fighting season. The actual battle might include feints and timing and all sorts of things you can look at in a sword school but as Musashi himself might have said, there’s the timing of the accountant for getting your taxes in on time, the timing of the mechanic to change your oil before the big vacation trip. That was his point I suppose, the principles behind the kata of the sword school are a lot more important than the actual movements because the principles can be applied elsewhere. But having your sword at 45 degrees rather than 30 degrees when it’s in hasso is a somewhat trivial matter if you are thinking about marching the third army onto the enemy’s left flank.

The schools of sword in Europe that rose at about the same time were pretty much analogous to the ryuha I would suggest, and the fact that Japan took a couple centuries off from war had much more to do with the survival of the koryu than their inherent value as warfare training. The loss of the European schools would also be a function of those schools’ usefulness on the battlefields of the west. Europe had 300 years of almost constant warfare during the Tokugawa era. Wars against each other and all the military might of the rest of the world. I’d suggest they found more efficient ways of training soldiers by 1900 than they had in 1600.

When I said no wars in Japan you might suggest I neglected to mention the many police actions against peasant revolts which were dealt with quite well by sword and spear. Organized forces with superior training facing peasants aren’t going to require guns and cannon, blades will usually be enough so why break out the guns, especially if you don’t want the peasants to have guns. If the peasants have guns the police are going to need cannon because superior weaponry makes up for inferior numbers. Do we learn that from the budo? No we learn that the fight is assumed to be sword on sword or close to it, and we rely on years-long skills to win, not a bigger sword or a repeating-sword-launcher. The budo are not efficient methods of coersion and killing.

Don’t think war, think dueling with a weapon that you carry on your hip. As long as swords were fashionable in the west, sword schools lived. Take off the sword and the schools had better convert to sport or self-improvement classes, their use as practical tools has gone. The modern equivalent of the western dueling schools? You fill it in.

Budo creates the right mindset for the battlefield? I’m pretty sure my budo aren’t anything like the training kids get at boot camp. My students seem to get more mule headed and independant with each passing year. (Years? What use is that when we need cannon fodder yesterday?) If I ordered Sei Do Kai to go charge that hill I’m pretty sure they’d flip me the bird and walk around it.

No, it’s a different method of training and a different timescale altogether. Now all the good things about people that the budo are supposed to create, a sense of honour and loyalty, a sense of higher purpose than self-gratification, an ability to empathize with others, those are things that are desirable in recruits and officers because they can be bent toward the will of the politician who uses them, but they have to be modified and directed through boot camp before they can be put to military use. The Christmas truce in the trenches of 1914 was a nice story of sweetness and light and the officers on both sides made damned sure it wasn’t repeated. Nobody wants to be killing large numbers of jolly good chaps, you’ve got to see the other guys as inhuman monsters.

The budo are not about seeing other people as inhuman monsters.

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