Budo: "Substance through form"

By Andrew Young

Nature has no true form but possesses real substance. Martial artists learn to recognize this phenomenon through consistent and extensive training in the SANSHIN NO KATA. In other words training in the forms of earth, water, fire, wind and air (or space and void). This training ultimately shows us the existence of substance. Although at times we may not physically see it, we learn to feel it and to trust this feeling through experience.

Substance is like the "kotsu" of a technique. One of the training themes in the Bujinkan Dojo this year is KOTSU. This is translated as the "knack" or "gist" but also can be interpreted as the "backbone" of the technique. I favour the term "Substance"; formless and devastating through flow. Pour water into a container and the water forms the shape of that container. It ceases to flow and stagnates. Our bodies too are containers of water. We therefore need to train our bodies through correct movement in order to open up ourselves to flow. (Incorrect movement is akin to trying not to spill the container of water!)

The body also limits budo through the intervention of ego: a preconceived thought or emotion producing a fixed container or form of movement. It goes to say that if we want to aspire to true budo we should see the importance in moving correctly. By turning on the faucet to open up the floodgates we can "tap" into the energy of budo. This will then lead to a universal release of stagnating thoughts and emotions. Physical training makes our bodies pliable and increases the flexibility of the mind and heart too. The substance of budo is egoless in thought, word and deed. This is the key to understanding the energy of the total being.

The body knows the substance of truth. Everybody (every body) knows this but the rigors of training and perseverance are necessary to forge the mind and spirit. In this same way a sword starts as a block of metal with formless potential. The master sword smith then physically "trains" the sword honing it's potential by beating out the impurities, changing it's substance and forging it's edge. A master of budo taijutsu is no different from the swordsmith; not just because he can wield the sword with tremendous skill, but because he acts upon his students like a smithy. Continually striking them to forge the pupil's edge and quality. In doing so the pupil's form (ego) is eliminated and their substance begins to flow.

This is the unified knowledge of the swordsman and sword smith. Form to substance to knowledge!

This is the kotsu of budo training.