post-zimbabwe reflections on budo
Sensei Gonzalo Villarrubia, 6th Dan Shitoryu Karate & 3rd Dan Kobudo, travelled to Zimbabwe with FairFight in October 2018. Today, he reflects on his journey in the light of Budo.
First of all, I would like to indicate that this reflection is thought to be of interest for any given reader and not only to practitioners of martial arts. Perhaps it will find more in-depth resonance within the martial arts community, but I hope it also brings valuable information and stimulates reflexion to the (FairFight) people not so closely (or at all) related to martial art activities.
Budō, the martial way of Japan, have its foundation in the traditions of Bushidō–the way of the warrior. Budō aims to unify mind, technique and body while develop character and enhance morality. Budō martial arts would therefore be vehicles or instruments not only for self-defence but for self-perfection.
Karate is one of the disciplines considered Budō. More specifically Gendai Budō (現代武道), which literally means "modern Budo", referring to Japanese martial arts established after the Meiji Restoration (1866–1869). Hence, we say Karatedō when we want to imply the practice of Karate in order and with the goal to develop the character of its practitioners. However, I do strongly believe that Karate’s (civil) self-defence corpus –“jutsu”術- is not only very interesting but also an essential part of the discipline that should be trained and understood properly; ignoring the “jutsu” 術facet of Karate would deprive the practitioner of an all-rounded understanding of the discipline. This is because Karate a holistic discipline with two sources of inspiration “jutsu”術and “do”道.
Nowadays Karate attracts practitioners for reasons others than the cultivation of “do”道 or the practice of “jutsu”術 : fitness, health or sport competition (or a combination thereof), to mention some. Years of experience practicing and teaching Karate have taught me that all those are valid reasons because it is good that Karate can serve different purposes, depending of the goal and circumstances of the practitioner. Why should I exclude from Karate someone that practice it as a recreational / health / fitness activity but does not like the fighting part or find to brutal the self-defence concepts inherent to Karate Kata? I may think that this person does not enjoy the full experience of practicing Karate or that his knowledge is limited. However, perhaps this person would acquire “do”道 by other means. Perhaps this person has already acquired it before starting its practice of Karate. This may not be a martial “do” 道 but that label does not really matter. Furthermore, any discipline (martial or not) with the suffix “do”道 implies dealing not just with the technical skills of that particular discipline, but with how do we approach our actions throughout the day. On the other hand, I could not tell how many (high rank) martial artists I know in whom you can not find any trace of “do”道 ; similarly a copious number of (sport) Karate champions represent a staggering example of gross manners and ignorance. At the same time, people in (for e.g.) the medical, education, naturalist, scientist or craftsman professions have often shown to me vital attitudes and aptitudes that correspond literally with the paramount concept of “do”道.
I have gone two weeks recently to Zimbabwe with FairFight to teach Karate. Most of the people I met there –kids, youngs and adults- suffer a myriad of daily obstacles just be able to show up at the Dojo; there is a plethora of real, tangible issues they have to overcome to continue with their lives, let alone to practice Karate. Please do not make mistake: I do not tend to romanticize. This is not about artificial problems generated by sophisticated ways of life; neither metaphysical questions to be dealt with through pills or beers; nor philosophical controversies in search of a professor to be settled. Nothing it is easy, nothing is at hand. There are cultural, social and religious prejudices, as well as acute economic constrains, lack of equipment and of venues. Nothing, in summary, can be taken for granted. Karate it is no exception.
Still I met passion, commitment, patience, appreciation, crave for learning, respect, deference, dignity and camaraderie. I met Budō.
I am not sure how this project will evolve. How many of the girls will find a reasonable chance to continue training, how many of them will, in fact, have a reasonable chance at all. How many will not. I am neither sure how many of the fellow Karateka whom I have trained with will find the way to combine their lives with their passion. How many will abandon too tired or desperate. But what I know, because I saw it, is that they are trying.
After these two weeks in Zimbabwe giving Karate instruction I want to repeat the words of Joseph Joubert: "To teach is to learn twice".
 jūdō, kendō, kyūdō, sumō, karatedō, aikidō, shōrinji kempō, naginata and jūkendō