This question seems to be of special interest for many budoka, without regard, to which budo organization they belong and/or which discipline they practice. The discussion about it sometimes even reaches the level of an “ideological controversy”, while it is interesting to observe that this discussion is made practically only in the countries outside of Japan, however not in Japan.

Here I want to offer my contribution to this question. I’d like to add a few facts and thoughts to this discussion which perhaps enable the reader to find his own answer to this matter.

In the dictionary you can find about „jutsu”:
術 (jap) = art, means, way, possibility, solution; technique;
術 (chin) = art, skill, specialized knowledge, ability; method, tactic (system to reach a goal); tactics (troop guidance).

About “do” you can learn the following:
道 (jap) = way, possibility, solution; method;
道 (chin. “tao”) = way, path, possibility, solution; method; doctrine, teachings; principle.

At first sight it seems, as if the meanings of these kanji were congruent, yet there are different interpretations existing, based on the historical development in Japan, which of course always influenced the practice of the martial arts. I’m referring here to the gradual decline of the warrior class after the end “of the age of the wars” (Sengoku Jidai) and/or with beginning of the Edo period (1603), in which the “fine arts” (like painting, music and literature) were blooming. This decline of the warrior class caused a decrease of the number of best trained samurai on the one hand, and on the other hand the martial arts practice slowly changed from the martial exercise into an exercise, the purpose of which was particularly the training of body and mind and the personality as well.

This development that was lasting almost three centuries, reached its provisional peak through the founding of the Kodokan by Kano Jigoro (1882), who consciously emphasized the educational aspects of the “new” judo. He replaced “jutsu” in the designation of the originally practised art, the “jujutsu”, by “do”, which is a term from the Taoism and describes the “way” (do) as a philosophical principle, as the path of life. Thus the sharp turn from the originally pure martial training (bujutsu), which in Japan in the meantime has come into disrepute, was carried out to combat exercises with the goal of your own physical and mental development.

In former times, when the combat arts were still developed and taught as real martial arts, the different disciplines were named as “-jutsu” (e.g. kenjutsu, naginatajutsu, jojutsu, aikijutsu etc). After Kano, such discipline names more and more were changed into designations that used “-do” instead of “-jutsu” (like kendo, naginatado, jodo, aikido etc) in order to demonstrate a spiritual attitude in connection with the budo practice that was similar to Kano’s educational ideas.

The today’s budo organizations are of course not military or quasi-military training institutions. Mostly they all share more or less the same objectives, of which the most substantial one is probably the positive mental and physical development of the exercising members. As far as they are based on the Japanese tradition, they certainly represent “do-forms” of martial arts, no matter how they actually designate their discipline(s), because, unlike from ancient Japan, the objective is not to educate well trained warriors but to promote the personal development of the members.

This new adjustment as a result of the historical development in Japan on the one hand, and on the other hand, the general development of the societies in the western world, where today the Japanese martial arts enjoy a great popularity, led naturally to a change of the technical contents of the various bujutsu and/or budo ryu, and likewise also the training practice was changed according to the change of objectives, but this is a topic, which I would not want to deepen here.

In the ISTB, the designations with “-do” (aikido, iaido, jodo) are preferentially in use, because also we practice the budo as a physical and mental training as well as for developing the personality and, last but not least, because we developed from a tradition, where these designations were already implemented. Sometimes however, our branches also use designations like aikijutsu, iaijutsu or jojustu in order to avoid certain conflicts or confusions with other organizations and their budo disciplines, although there is no exclusive right to a certain designation.

As an aikido organization, we are sometimes confronted with a wide-spread mistake, that many in the budo scene believe, aikido would have been invented by Ueshiba Morihei. That is probably due to the high degree of spreading of the Ueshiba Aikido. Therefore it is automatically presumed, that every aikido carrying this designation is representing the Ueshiba Ryu Aikido. This is wrong, Ueshiba only created one of the existing styles of aikido, but we do have a certain understanding for that mistake and look at it with tolerance. Certainly this matter requires simply somewhat more information in the future.


Siegfried Kobilza