During the Edo period in Japanese history, the Shogunate (government) sealed off the country and Japan, though isolated from the most of the world, prospered. As a result, there was no civil war, and the people were at peace. With no one around with whom to fight, Japanese warriors, known as bushi, became bureaucrats, or peace keepers (police), but most just continued to work as samurai (enforcers). Those who worked for the Shogun travelled the country, wiping out any small resistance groups (but most just sat around with nothing to do).
With time on their hands, these well-disciplined warriors began to explore other pursuits. Samurai continued their training, but with a different focus. Not only were they expected to be proficient with the sword, they were also expected to develop themselves. They went from being bushi (warriors) to students of bushido (way of the warrior), and their training became more of a path or a life journey – training no longer emphasized the actual fight, but rather the skill of fighting. Soon, being good at fighting was no longer enough to be in the Samurai Class; Samurai were now expected to be well-rounded and proficient in other disciplines, such as calligraphy, floral arrangement, sculpting, poetry, theatre, and dance, to name a few. This gave birth to the concept of bunbu ryodo: the philosophical twin paths of the brush and the sword – the balance of literary and military arts.
They went from being bushi (warriors) to students of bushido (way of the warrior)
The idea of bunbu ryodo is alive and well in North America. As members of a civilized society we strive for academic and professional excellence, and dedicate a lot of our time and effort to developing our minds and cognitive abilities. As community members, we enhance our experience by joining clubs or sports teams; we attend lectures, movies, and other events. By making time for fitness, socialization, acquisition of skills, and other experiences that reach beyond our daily grind, we can follow in the tradition of the well-rounded Samurai, and get more out of life in general.
To learn how karate can enhance your life experience and to learn more about bunbu ryodo, visit the Charles Fink Karate Dojo.