Living the Path of Budo
専修大学理事長 日高義博先生 記念講演
Talk by the Mr. Yoshihiro Hidaka
Professor in Criminology,
President of Senshu University in Tokyo,
President of the Students All Japan Iaido Federation,
High Rank Laido Practitioner
Translated by Jacques Payet
with the authorization of the author, selected section
Preface by Payet Shihan: There is fortunately a lot of material available today on Budo and Japanese/Chinese martial arts history, philosophy, and concepts in English, but I feel most of them are filtered through Western ideology and understanding. When I came across this talk by a Japanese lecturer with an Eastern point of view, even though it was related to Japanese Criminal Law within a laido background, I thought it would be valuable to translate his talk, in part to share with my students and friends in Aikido and other Budo. I hope it will be of interest for all of you.
While studying Japanese Criminal Law and practicing Iaido, I was faced with a dilemma: should I follow Western or Eastern Philosophy? I decided to design a theory for Criminal Law that was persuasive to the Japanese people, and my conviction was that we should incorporate Eastern Philosophy. For me – academics and Iaido, or any other Budo, should continue throughout life. What these two have in common is that a man to man (one to one or heart to heart) teaching relationship is essential. Like in Budo, where we train both the mind and the body, it is good to establish a deeply trusted relationship.
I realized that all theory can only come after experience and therefore when I asked myself whether I should pursue the Penal Code in an Eastern way, which is less wordy, more intuitive and empirical, or a Western way, which is more verbose, intellectual and theoretical, I thought the answer should be both. These two approaches might seem contradictory, however I thought it would be useful to merge and unite the two ways of thinking.
Literary Arts and Martial Arts are the same. ‘Bun’- Literary arts, and ‘Bu’ – martial arts, have the same root at the essence level, such that, if you do not have a deep sense for the natural movement of life, you will never be able to fully grasp true meaning on any path.
In Takuan Zenji’s book – The Unfettered Mind: Writings from a Zen Master to a Master Swordsman (沢庵禅師の書「不動智神妙録」), there is a chapter called Ri no Shugyo, Koto no Shugyo – Mastery of the thought, logic, and theory of things & Mastery of the practice, techniques, and reality of things. We must be able to do both. This is also in line with Criminal Law. It is good to think about the theory intellectually but it is also necessary to try and understand the person who committed the crime by understanding the reality of the world he lives in. We should be able to think from the perspective of the criminal until he can return to society after paying off his crime. Criminal Codes must be useful. Theories alone are not enough, as we know that no good theory can exist without experience.
In my Iaido training, I found that experiential ‘inspirations of the day’ could lead to theories. For example, the highest principle of Iai, the dream sword concept conceived by Hayashizaki Keisuke Shigenobu probably came from such an inspiration. The theory came after – as a result of experience.
In the book Zen in the Art of Archery written by the German philosopher Eugen Herrigel (1884 – 1955), there is an anecdote about AWA Kenzo (1880 – 1939) who was praised as a master of Kyudo (archery). AWA’s teaching was “reach the target without aiming”. There is a tale about an evening when Kenzo invited Herrigel, who could not understand this concept, to his home dojo. Kenzo set fire to the incense stick and stood in front of sanzumato (the 9 cm target). The only thing visible in the darkness was the tip of the lit incense. In that situation, the first arrow shot by the master hit the center of the mato (archery target), and the second arrow hit the first arrow and took the nock off the first arrow. We might conclude that the first arrow hit the target because the master knew the position of the archery target through his daily training, but there was no way to explain how the second arrow could have hit the first arrow. Feeling impressed, Herrigel did not remove the arrows separately, but took them together along with the mato and later devoted himself to the training of the bow and acquired 5th dan rank.
I’ve noticed in the West and in the East there seems to be a separation in epistemologies (philosophical study of knowledge). I think westerners should try to appreciate the common martial arts intuitive practice of “letting the body remember” and “allowing the body to perform unconsciously”.
When I think more about it, I wonder if my body really moves as I think it does. In terms of Iaido, whether it’s Sayabiki or Te no Uchi (Iai techniques for taking the sword off or putting it back), I think everyone has experienced those moments when we want to do a move but for some reason we find it difficult to do so and just cannot move as we wish. In terms of teaching or transmitting knowledge, what will be considered “mastery” will be different in the West and in the East. In the West to explain the word “moon” we may want to point at the moon to refer to it directly, but in the East, we would rather try to refer to it without directly pointing at it. I think the values are different.
What Takuan Zenji calls, “Ri no Shugyo – waza no Shugyo” means that the mastery of theory alone is not enough but we also have to master the techniques that will make us move freely. But “Riai” should be understood not only as a concept and a theory but also as a means to convey what cannot be taught by words. In order to add senses, feelings, and to transmit heart contents we should not teach everything through words but instead also lead the student to the path of Enlightenment through silent intuition, a pure heart, and unfettered actions. This is the Oriental or the Japanese way.
During Tameshigiri (the common practice of swordsmen cutting through rolls of mat straw with a sword), I cut the kesa both horizontally and vertically. But I had trouble with the horizontal cut. The pieces of straw continued to fall separately. Anzai Sensei looked at my cut troubled but did not say a word. One day, I had the realization that I could cut more easily and cleanly when I used my hip from my hara. I think Penal Science is also the same in the sense that before convicting a convict with structured arguments and verbose theories, we should lead him towards Enlightenment. I said earlier that the West relies on verbose theories, but in fact, German researchers have also conducted an original teaching method, a kind of “do” (a natural path) of their own.
Inazo Nitobe wrote his book Bushido: The Soul of Japan in English, but why did he write the book this way? What was called Bushido changed over time. When the sword (or common weapon) changed, the way to fight in battle changed, and consequently Bushido also changed. The Bushido Inazo Nitobe wrote about concerned the era from the Edo period (1603-1868) to the Meiji period (1868-1912). Inazo Nitobe was a Christian educator like Kanzo Uchimura, in the period of the Meiji era when society changed drastically as the modernization and Westernization of Japan took place, Inazo Nitobe noted, “in the Western world, Christianity is the basis of social norms and the formation of such a society, but there is no such Christian base in Japan. What about religious education in Japan? Why do the Japanese people behave in a disciplined way and respect each other in a world where values are drastically changing and when respect doesn’t seem to exist anywhere else?” Inobe pondered this at the time. In order to find the answers he was looking for, he analyzed the way of life of the people during that time, and he found pointers in the teachings of Terakoya. He then realized that Bushido indeed was the base of Japan’s society similar to how Christianity is the base of Western culture. He noticed the Five Virtues of Confucianism (Jin 仁、Gi 義、Rei 禮、Ji 智、Shin 信) – Jin as Benevolence, Gi as Righteous Action, Rei as Gracious Respect, Ji as Wisdom, Shin as Faith – are also the basic morals of a samurai. This is also shown as the five pleats in front of a Hakama. Seeing the connections in the Japanese Culture, Inazo Nitobe was able to write Bushido. In his book, Inazo Nitobe also added Katsu 克 , as in Victory over Oneself, and Yuki 勇気, as in Courage, to make Bushido based on seven virtues.
Nowadays, I am afraid that even in Japan those virtues are fading away. I am reminded that in Norinaga Motoori’s song we find, “There is a mountain on Shikishima island that smells of cherry blossoms, in the morning light people feel their Japanese spirit”. I think it expresses very well the idea that the Japanese Heart is like a Yamazakura (blooming cherry blossom) shining in the morning sun. Let light, clarity, and purity guide your soul.
I think the true value of “Iaido” or “dojo” cannot be taught by words. It is through physical experience and visceral understanding that we receive learning. It is only when consumed, digested, and united with oneself internally that the learning has any value. It would be troublesome if we become a society relying only on superficial logic and wordy explanations to gain understanding.
There is an educational criminal scenario in Japanese Criminal Law where parents do not feed their children and the children starve to death. Such an illustration points out that there are cases where it is difficult to determine what the actual crime is. Recently, in many cases, families starve children by not teaching or modeling morals, which results in the failure of ethical education. We used to think it was common sense for parents to feed their children sustenance for the body, mind and spirit. But this seems to no longer be the case.
Traditionally the acquisition of moral values in Japan was not achieved through lengthy lectures or wordy comments, instead, children learned by watching and copying the behaviors and actions of their elders. Children learned by example. For instance, rei (bowing) is the greeting performed at the beginning of a lesson to express one’s heart’s true feelings, as in a determination and humbleness to learn. With this rei, one aspect is to learn until it becomes a part of who I am, and another aspect is to teach all that I’ve consumed with humility. In budo that was the true meaning of such a practice.
In terms of interpersonal relationships within a society, from my experience of living in Germany as a researcher, I noticed that during a telephone conversation Germans tend to go directly to the point before describing the reasons for arriving there. They will not begin with preliminary small talk regarding the weather, or other seemingly inconsequential topics to socialize first, breaking the ice before going to the heart of the topic of conversation. When interpersonal relationships deepen, they become relationships based on mutual trust via moral principles (such as Giri-Ninjou in Japan). There is always an underlying respectful courtesy. The Germans and the Japanese seem to have similar temperaments. In Germany, many books and publications on Japanese Martial Arts and Zen have been translated and are readily available. We can find principals such as do not rely on force; move according to how the Ki (energy) is used; take the appropriate distance, etc. Those Martial Arts and Zen teachings are also important when regarding human relations, just as they are in Iaido.
What I want to say to the young people today is – I want you to continue practicing Iaido for the rest of your life and pass it on to the next generation. Even though the world of the samurai ended with the Southwest War, the katana, the soul of the sword still survives in this day and age. The samurai spirit has also survived and will continue to do so. As we know, it is best to not handle a sword by a person with untempered emotions. Whenever I look at a katana I am overwhelmed by its beauty – this beauty quiets my heart. The sword communicates simplicity, balance, and sincerity during troubled times. There’s a quality of an unshakable nature. That is why the sword speaks to me. It is a straight line from the ridge to the tip of the blade, a line that extends without distraction or disturbance towards its destination.
In retrospect, there were many things that had to be decided as the President of the University, such as the support of the Ishinomaki campus at the time of the East Japan Earthquake and other things. At that time, I used what I learned in Iaido to help me make major decisions. After all, we should continue to embody what we have learned in Iaido no matter where we are. What I would like to convey to the students of today is that – during your student life here on campus, enjoy your Iaido training as much as possible, because once you enter into society, life will offer its challenges. Please cherish your four years in the Iaido Club of the University, and practice with all your soul. As a Penal Criminal Scholar, I think that I have to establish a Penal Science rooted in Japan. In order to do so, I must have a firm sense of the true values of Japan. Let us cultivate what we value through Iaido and Budo, establish it in our hearts through learning, and eventually make use of it in our work and everyday life.