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Budo (武道) is the martial way of Japan that emerged after the Meiji Restoration (1868) as a way to preserve and adapt traditional combat skills to modern society.  Budo is a code of moral principles studied through martial training and applied in all aspects of life.  Through Budo, a student develops a strong and healthy body, greater self-discipline, and a character that interacts with the world in a constructive manner.

The first character, Bu (武), translates to martial, or having to do with war.  This single character is comprised of two radicals: stop (止) and spear (戈) which implies the use of combat skills to stop violence, preserving peace.  The second character, Do (道), translates to road, path, or way, implying a way of life.  This is different from Bujutsu (武術) which implies strictly martial skills.

It is also important to note that there is a difference between Budo and Bushido (武士道).  In The Zen Way to the Martial Arts, Deshimaru Taisen clearly distinguishes between the two in his definition:

Budo:  the martial arts.  The way of the samurai, more precisely, is Bushido; Budo is (the way of) combat.  But the ideogram for bu also means to stop the combat; there is an implication of containment of military power and prohibition of abuse.

The Japanese Budo Association (Nippon Budo Kyogikai) states in The Philosophy of Budo:

Practitioners study the skills while striving to unify mind, technique and body; develop his or her character; enhance their sense of morality; and to cultivate a respectful and courteous demeanor.  Practiced steadfastly, these admirable traits become intrinsic to the character of the practitioner.  The budo arts serve as a path to self-perfection.  This elevation of the human spirit will contribute to social prosperity and harmony, and ultimately, benefit the people of the world.

The Japanese Budo Association further states in The Budo Charter, Article 1: Objective of Budo:

Through physical and mental training in the Japanese martial ways, budo exponents seek to build their character, enhance their sense of judgment, and become disciplined individuals capable of making contributions to society at large.

Understanding the virtues of Budo is important to realizing the objectives of Budo.  Depending on the source, the list of virtues may vary but they all lead to the same objective.

In The Principles of Aikido by Saotome Mitsugi Sensei, Ueshiba Morihei O-Sensei is quoted saying the seven virtues of Budo are:

1. Jin (仁): Benevolence, Kindness
2. Gi (義): Morality, Justice, Rectitude
3. Rei (礼): Gratitude, Etiquette
4. Chi (智): Wisdom, Knowledge
5. Shin (信): Faithfulness, Trust (to be a trustworthy person)
6. Chu (忠) : Loyalty, Devotion
7. Kou (孝): Filial Piety


Other sources list only five virtues of Budo:

1. Jin (仁): Benevolence, Kindness
2. Gi (義): Morality, Justice, Rectitude
3. Rei (礼): Gratitude, Etiquette
4. Chi (智): Wisdom, Knowledge
5. Shin (信): Faithfulness, Trust (to be a trustworthy person)


Bushido, being the forerunner to Budo, lists slightly different virtues, which also define a moral code.  In The Zen Way to the Martial Arts, Deshimaru Taisen writes:

Bushido, the way of the samurai… can be summarized in seven essential principles:

1. Gi () : the right decision, taken with equanimity, the right attitude, the truth.  When we must die, we must die.  Rectitude.
2. Yu () : bravery tinged with heroism.
3. Jin () : universal love, benevolence toward mankind; compassion.
4. Rei (礼) : right action – a most essential quality, courtesy.
5. Makoto () : utter sincerity; truthfulness.
6. Meiyo (名誉) : honor and glory.
7. Chugi (忠義) : devotion, loyalty.

These virtues can be traced to Confucian teachings dating back thousands of years, introduced to Japan in the sixth century AD, and are not strictly tied to Budo.  The inclusion of these virtues with combat training is important to prevent the misuse of combat skills, and so, it is important that the mind and body are trained together until thoughts and actions are unified.

In The Canon of Judo, Mifune Kyuzo Sensei wrote, specifically about Judo but also applicable to Budo in general:

The basis of judo is to express correctness through reason.  It is vital that reason accompanies action; the two are inherently dependent on one another.  The absence of unity between the mind and body can corrupt human action and cause harm to those nearby.  By unifying mind and body, there can be a natural manifestation of reason in action. 

In Budo, Ueshiba Morihei O-Sensei wrote:

The appearance of an “enemy” should be thought of as an opportunity to test the sincerity of one’s mental and physical training, to see if one is actually responding according to the divine will.

The shift from Bujutsu to Budo developed over centuries of social change and the wisdom of generations of instructors.  Many sacrifices have been made and many lives lost in the pursuit of Budo.  This long and difficult process to develop Budo should always be remembered and the highest levels of respect paid in the study of Budo.  It is the responsibility of all practitioners to study Budo diligently in order to pass the teaching on to future generations.


David Yoshinaga, (2015) Aikido 4th Dan




The Japanese Budo Association (2004) The Budo Charter, Retrieved from

The Japanese Budo Association (2009) The Philosophy of Budo, Retrieved from

Mitsugi Saotome (1989) The Principles of Aikido, p. 211

Taisen Deshimaru (1982) The Zen Way to the Martial Arts, p. 13, 114

Kyuzo Mifune (2004) The Canon of Judo, p. 26

Morihei Ueshiba (1991) Budo, p. 31