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Understanding the Difference between Do and Jutsu

Ader Sensei - Head Instructor of All Okinawa Karate & Kobudo in Colorado SpringsRecently, in training, the differences between karate do and karate jutsu became apparent to me again and thought it might be time for another discussion. I think it is a significant part of our training to understand the differences and similarities.

In Japanese, the word jutsu usually followed the name, or martial methodology, for which it was intended. Jutsu (sometimes spelled jitsu) loosely translates to mean art. More specifically it connotes a military form of fighting used in bugei (arts of war) as opposed to those martial activities intended merely for sport, aesthetic value or personality and character development. When it is attached to the end of a martial style deriving it’s origin from Japan or Okinawa, jutsu describes warrior arts and methodologies that are intended for the battlefield.

The word do literally translates to mean way or more specifically, way of enlightenment, self-realization and deeper understanding. It was coined and used primarily in the respect after the Warring Periods had subsided and the Tokugawa era was drawing to a close. The word implied that a martial art had been transformed from a practical means of combat to an educational training form, with emphasis on perfection of the human character.

Although do and jutsu, when affixed to the end of a martial art are sometimes used interchangeably, you should realize these distinctions. Again jutsu was the old term that stressed harsh, sometimes brutal, techniques that were intended purely for defeating an adversary in the most efficient manner. Do denotes a more artful method of using the old weapon or empty-hand ways to practice, study and teach the ancient martial arts in a peaceful manner.

The conclusion I have drawn is that the majority of arts taught today, even those that have classical jutsu roots have become predominantly do forms. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as I would surmise that in our modern world we have more need of character development and enlightenment than we do empty hand combat skill.

I believe that Matsumura Seito and Ken shin Kan lean more to the jitsu definition but contain a good dose of the do aspect of modern martial arts.

On a lighter note we also have the modern schools that are camped heavily in the dough arena. These are the studios, schools, karate colleges and universities that are more concerned with the almighty dollar than they are teaching a genuine martial art. These are the “Baskin Robbins” type studios that teach the “flavor of the month”. Beware these flavors usually come with an abundance of “nuts”. ☺

We also have no shortage of the studios that teach the show methodologies. These are the “extreme sport” schools that are more concerned with theatrics and acrobatics than martial content or function. These tend to be the folks that wear the neon green, sleeveless gis; wear more patches than a Nascar driver (thanks Tom); use glow in the dark “numchuks” and do back flips as part of the kata performance.

Whether your art is a do or jutsu methodology you can create that which you want by directing your thinking, intent and practice toward one end of the spectrum or the other.

It is your mind and intent that will enable you to gain benefit whether you train in a jutsu form or a do form or somewhere in between. As you think, so will you become!

And… whatever you do, beware the “Mac Dojo”.

Matsumura Seito Karate & Kobudo OSMKKF - Logo / Patch

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