Martial arts -- HISTORY AND TRADITION

jtweymo

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Modern Martail Arts


Whether understood as Japanese budo or as the Chinese and Korean counterparts, do these disciplines espouse or support the old caste-based systems and ideologies? Does budo (or rather, martial arts in general) espouse emulation of the Japanese samuraii, or other types of feudal warrior?


I started this thread to discus this subject.


Modern budo does not espouse these things, that in fact, the historical edifice of budo was one of the things that helped remove these institutions and was an enemy to these older modes of thinking and social conduct. What do you think about this?


The fact is that, had these older social conventions survived, commoners like you and I probably would not LEGALLY have been able to study or practice budo (except unless in (para-)military service to the upper classes of nobility and royalty.) We could not legally have practiced or owned swords and other weapons. This would imply that budo was not really the product of these classes or time periods, but resulted after the collapse of these social systems (circa the 1880's). What do you think?


Do we approach modern martial arts with a sufficient recognition of these importants facts?


If you aren't an American, I recognize that you might understand these things better than we Americans do... that Americans sometimes can be oblivious to these types of historical and social contexts.


WHAT DO YOU GUYS THINK??
 

Xue Sheng

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Whether understood as Japanese budo or as the Chinese and Korean counterparts, do these disciplines espouse or support the old caste-based systems and ideologies? Does budo (or rather, martial arts in general) espouse emulation of the Japanese samuraii, or other types of feudal warrior?

Actually the system you are talking about in Japan did not and does not exist in China. Historically a caste-based system as it is applied to Martial Arts did not and does not exist there. There were times that Martial Arts were banned but it was generally banned by the winners of a conflict that lead to a dynastic change. The general warrior in China was no where near the same level in society as a Samurai nor did he have the slightest idea of anything called Bushido or Budo.

Just about every level of society in China has been able to train CMA. There are systems of martial arts in China that are considered military, Xingyiquan, Bajiquan and more recently Sanda but still there were and are many outside the military that could legally train it. There were also styles that were taught at Shaolin and Wudang for example to those that were Shaolin or Taoist priests and there was a multitude of family systems. Te fact is there are a whole lot of styles of CMA which made it pretty much available to a whole lot of people and it was not dependant on class.

The times such things became illegal were again right after a dynastic change or more recently the Cultural Revolution.

As to Japan and Korea I cannot answer that and I will leave it to those that know better tham I.
 
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jtweymo

jtweymo

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Okay, Xue.

Good example of a different cultural and social context?

China didn't have a comparable caste system? No correlation?
BTW, the caste systems in question (as I'm sure you know)
were not only applicable "martial arts"/paramilitary studies,
but to almost all vectors of society.

See, in Europe (where my ancestors came from) they definetly
had such caste systems. Restrictions and limitations imposed
by social context. Japan had them too.

None in China? Fascinating (I didn't really know for sure.)
 

SFC JeffJ

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It's an interesting question.

In our open society we often forget the martial ways some of us study weren't always open to the general populace in the not so distant past. Even Funakoshi and O Sensei were from Samurai Caste families. Of course there is the founder of Judo who was a commoner.

I don't think many of us think about that when we train in a traditional Japanese Art.

To expand on the question, I've often wondered what modern Budo would look like if Japan hadn't been "militarized" in the 20's and 30's.
 
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jtweymo

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It's a good direction to expand the question in,
and the facts of birth and station relevance on
the part of certain founders of modern martial arts systems
is an even better point.

Makes one wonder indeed?
 

Xue Sheng

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Okay, Xue.

Good example of a different cultural and social context?

China didn't have a comparable caste system? No correlation?
BTW, the caste systems in question (as I'm sure you know)
were not only applicable "martial arts"/paramilitary studies,
but to almost all vectors of society.

See, in Europe (where my ancestors came from) they definetly
had such caste systems. Restrictions and limitations imposed
by social context. Japan had them too.

None in China? Fascinating (I didn't really know for sure.)

Oh China did have rich and poor and royalty and countryside and city and multiple other divisions within its culture (and it stil does) but your original post cited samurai and there was no such class in China and martial arts was generally not the property of anyone group.
 
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jtweymo

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Oh, okay Xue.

So did China have caste restriction comparable to
the limitations of Europe and Japan?

Would wushu have been fully legal (as it is today)
for anybody to practice?
 

pgsmith

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It's an interesting question to cause thought in those that haven't much knowledge of Japanese history. However, your basic premise is much too narrow for reality. When you talk about samurai, you encompass almost 1000 years of history. Even if you restrict it to the history involving extant schools, you are still talking about 400 years of history. Throughout most of the history of the samurai, it was fairly common for people to go up or down in caste.

The truth of Japanese martial arts history is that after the Sengoku Jidai (warring states era mid 1400's to beginning of 1600's) when all of the clans were finally united under the Togukawa shogunate, there was a dearth of employment for many samurai. Since the wars which everyone had grown up with were no longer being fought, many of the warriors that fought them were left unemployed. Quite a number of them gravitated to the large cities and opened dojo teaching the various arts that they had learned. A great many of their students were merchants since they were usually better able to afford to pay for lessons. Except for a few of the more famous or family only schools, the vast majority of Japanese arts were being taught to commoners throughout the Edo period (1600 - late 1800's). After the Meiji restoration in the late 1800's, martial artts continued to be taught to anyone since there no longer was a samurai caste.

Another point that most people get wrong is that only samurai could carry swords. The truth is that only samurai could carry two swords. The daisho (long and short sword) was the samurai's badge of office, and only the samurai class was allowed to wear them.

I've had contact with many practitioners of various koryu arts. None of them have had any sort of mention in the curriculum or teachings regarding the old caste system, other than when the history of the ryu says that it was practiced in such and such castle.
 
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jtweymo

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Hi Paul, and all else!

Yes, Paul, those are good points.

But the relevance of the samurai to modern budo (and this thread)
is sort of what's in question. Did or does budo espouse the old caste
systems and etc. Or was it part of what dismissed those older elements
of social order.

This isn't a formal address of the subject, it's just a discussion thread.
But certainly it's appropriate to point out that one could easily dismiss
relevant facts by narrowing the subject down too much.
 

pgsmith

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Did or does budo espouse the old caste systems and etc. Or was it part of what dismissed those older elements of social order.
But that's the point I was making in my statement. You are making an either/or statement, but I believe the answer is neither. It has been my experience that budo is outside the old caste system, and just completely ignores any reference to it other than what comes out in its history. Since I love analogies, you're question is akin to asking whether our thirst would be better quenched with liquid bleach or Drano. You could conceivably make a case for either one, but the real answer would be neither. :)
 

Xue Sheng

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Oh, okay Xue.

So did China have caste restriction comparable to
the limitations of Europe and Japan?

Would wushu have been fully legal (as it is today)
for anybody to practice?

China was not a cast system at all by the definition of cast system and anybody could train CMA. However if you were not of the royal family a Eunuch or certain members of the military you would be killed if you were in the Forbidden City or certain other areas of the Emperor. But if you look at just the vast number of CMA styles you will see that martial arts were pretty available to anyone peasant, merchant, wealthy and royalty alike. There are styles that have military origin but they are by far fewer than the styles that are not.

You could be born a peasant and end up a General you could be born a peasant and end up an official if you past the tests you could be born a peasant and end up a priest you could be born a peasant and end up wealthy. You could be a priest that was a martial artists and or end up a soldier you could be a solider and end up a peasant or a priest. However all lived and died by the whim of the Emperor.

It was once put to me that one major difference between China and Japan was that in Japan the average military person was a samurai and was at the top of society but in China there was no such thing a soldier was only a soldier unless of course you were a general then that was different. But it was still not a cast system because it was possible for the average soldier to become a general.

And a fish merchant or a carpenter or a prince or a soldier or a priest or a government official could be an expert and Martial arts empty hand and/or weapons and it was not illegal.

The only time knowing or practicing CMA was illegal was after a dynastic change those new to power did not want to give the old guard the chance to revolt so they would not allow the old guard (nationality) to train MA but generally they outlawed weapons training not empty hand training. For example when Ming fell to Qing no Han person was allowed to train or carry weapons but any Manchu, not matter who could. But by the End of the Qing Dynasty no such law was heavily enforced, again many were training.
 
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jtweymo

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Paul said: But that's the point I was making in my statement. You are making an either/or statement, but I believe the answer is neither. It has been my experience that budo is outside the old caste system, and just completely ignores any reference to it other than what comes out in its history. Since I love analogies, you're question is akin to asking whether our thirst would be better quenched with liquid bleach or Drano. You could conceivably make a case for either one, but the real answer would be neither. :)

Oh okay Paul. So "neither" is your answer.

That's cool. I don't know if I agree that Budo
ignores the information today. But "neither"
is certainly one possible position!

Xue,

I found that description of China's past very interesting. Doesn't sound
like China had quite the same problem with a strict social order. Given
Chinese sentiments about tolerance, that makes sense (makes me wonder
if maybe there was some truth in the old idea about "savagery".)

The Chinese experience is then different.
 

Xue Sheng

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Xue,

I found that description of China's past very interesting. Doesn't sound
like China had quite the same problem with a strict social order. Given
Chinese sentiments about tolerance, that makes sense (makes me wonder
if maybe there was some truth in the old idea about "savagery".)

The Chinese experience is then different.

I would say it was very different form what I know of Japan but there are times in Chinese history martial artists did not fare so well. Most recently the Cultural Revolution. They were killed but then just about any traditional artisan or artist could be a victim then

Hence the saying the nail the sticks up gets pounded down
 

pgsmith

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That's cool. I don't know if I agree that Budo
ignores the information today. But "neither"
is certainly one possible position!
Perhaps you would get more responses if you detailed why you don't agree with my position. I put down quite a bit of information in support of my statements, yet all you did was say "I don't agree." So is your position based upon your experience in the Japanese arts? Is it how things are approached at your dojo? Is it from things that you've read or seen? Is it simply your "gut feeling"?

Discussion is difficult if only one side is talking. :)
 
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jtweymo

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Paul,

Hello! Sorry it took so long to reply.

Somehow our wires are crossed.
I don't disagree with your posted position by any means.
It is every way valid, one of several potential 'valid' positions.

I don't disagree, I AGREE with you (it being one 'valid' point
of historical development.)

TERRIBLY sorry to have confused you, sir.
You must certainly have thought me rude?
 

Hyper_Shadow

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the real answer would be neither. :)

Hey guys, hope you don't mind me sticking my eaku in here :)

I'm gonna agree with this comment above. It has to be noted that although the martial arts were being stamped out in Japan by the warrior caste; the spirit, budo, was not exclusive to that caste. Japan, you must know is a very small island, who expanded territories to a group of islands governed under varying armed nobles (daimyo and their retainers). Where these elite warrior units certainly did carry their own specific bushido (whilst supressing the martial arts of others) so did the masses they attempted to control.
It's a common fact that most Japanese (if not all, nothing can ever be fully proven) has chinese roots. Both Japan, Okinawa (though I'll include okinawan arts under Japanese for ease of explanation) and China were great sea faring cultures. They relied on the seas and sea trade was common among both cultures at the time.
During these times martial arts would have been passed from sailor to sailor, fisherman to fisherman. Even farmers and the like obtained and traded knowledge and information with their counterparts from across the seas. This trading of information would inevitably have been a trading for culture also. It is not uncommon that during a trade of information (be it martial. historical or otherwise) that small bits of culture and etiquette get transferred as well. The main reason for this being that this information was quite tightly engrained within the culture to begin with. The symbiosis would have carried over.
I know I haven't put down that many base facts, I apologise for this. Fact is I didn't just want to regurgitate the information that's already been posted.
Think about this: If you've been training for a long time look at how much your art has influenced your life. Not in terms of how you risk assess when your out and about or how good it's made your reactions and perceptions. But look at how it's moulded certain parts of your character. Look at how you talk to people and react to the way others act. Look at how you measure peoples strength when you just walk up the street (we all do it, it's not a crime!:)). Look at how you'll develop your own personal set of rules to govern yourself by based on your dojo kun. Look at how guilty you'll feel if you ever break even the slightest rule.
The practice carries on to this day. Though we are not under the same conditions of be killed if you know, we are still trading knowledge and culture all the time. I think it's just another permanent aspect of human social nature. Knowledge enough to kill a man is very dangerous and quite dangerous to a species that spends most of its time trying to kill itself. So it uses it's social nature to develop a safety net to prevent people from using it in the wrong ways (or from using it altogether).

I hope that helps give a different insight. Just quite random thoughts spilling out of my head.
 

Xue Sheng

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Hey guys, hope you don't mind me sticking my eaku in here :)

I'm gonna agree with this comment above. It has to be noted that although the martial arts were being stamped out in Japan by the warrior caste; the spirit, budo, was not exclusive to that caste. Japan, you must know is a very small island, who expanded territories to a group of islands governed under varying armed nobles (daimyo and their retainers). Where these elite warrior units certainly did carry their own specific bushido (whilst supressing the martial arts of others) so did the masses they attempted to control.
It's a common fact that most Japanese (if not all, nothing can ever be fully proven) has chinese roots. Both Japan, Okinawa (though I'll include okinawan arts under Japanese for ease of explanation) and China were great sea faring cultures. They relied on the seas and sea trade was common among both cultures at the time.
During these times martial arts would have been passed from sailor to sailor, fisherman to fisherman. Even farmers and the like obtained and traded knowledge and information with their counterparts from across the seas. This trading of information would inevitably have been a trading for culture also. It is not uncommon that during a trade of information (be it martial. historical or otherwise) that small bits of culture and etiquette get transferred as well. The main reason for this being that this information was quite tightly engrained within the culture to begin with. The symbiosis would have carried over.
I know I haven't put down that many base facts, I apologise for this. Fact is I didn't just want to regurgitate the information that's already been posted.
Think about this: If you've been training for a long time look at how much your art has influenced your life. Not in terms of how you risk assess when your out and about or how good it's made your reactions and perceptions. But look at how it's moulded certain parts of your character. Look at how you talk to people and react to the way others act. Look at how you measure peoples strength when you just walk up the street (we all do it, it's not a crime!:)). Look at how you'll develop your own personal set of rules to govern yourself by based on your dojo kun. Look at how guilty you'll feel if you ever break even the slightest rule.
The practice carries on to this day. Though we are not under the same conditions of be killed if you know, we are still trading knowledge and culture all the time. I think it's just another permanent aspect of human social nature. Knowledge enough to kill a man is very dangerous and quite dangerous to a species that spends most of its time trying to kill itself. So it uses it's social nature to develop a safety net to prevent people from using it in the wrong ways (or from using it altogether).

I hope that helps give a different insight. Just quite random thoughts spilling out of my head.

I do not doubt that things got passed on by sailors but China was not a big sea faring nation. It had a navy that attempted to invade Japan during the Yuan dynasty (1271-1368) and it did for a very brief period try the sea trade route with the great fleet in the early Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) in the early 1400s actually. But beyond that the majority of their life at sea was for fishing and the majority of trade that China did was by land until the Europeans showed up and forced trade upon them.

The only period in Chinese history where you could really refer to them as a great seafaring nation is the early Ming dynasty for a short period of time (1405 and 1433) and that was abruptly ended by the new Emperor. As to a seafaring culture that is mostly the south and mainly for fishing not so much trade although I do not doubt some occured.

Something interesting about this, or at least to me, the Admiral of the great fleet Zheng He was a Muslim born in what is now Yunnan Province

There is however some historical speculation that one of the high advisors of the Qin dynasty (221BC-206BC) took a whole lot of soldiers, women and money to Northern Japan to avoid being killed by Qin Shi Wang Di for failure to find the floating islands were the secret of immortality was. Apparently he went out looking and came back stating that he found it but the secret would cost them and the Qin Emperor gave him all he needed to go pay for it or fight for it if necessary and he sailed off never to be seen again. There has been speculation that he went directly to Northern Japan and set up his own little kingdom, hey it was better then being killed for failure and telling the truth.
 
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jtweymo

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Another opinion of "neither", then.



Now gentlemen, between the two of you, or either whom will answer...

tell us in some small detail neither what, exactly? So that the specific point(s) are spelled out. Nothing fancy mind you.
 

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Well replied Xue, some things I hadn't even looked at myself. I have to admit, my knowledge of things outside of Japanese history are very baseline.

Did or does budo espouse the old caste systems and etc. Or was it part of what dismissed those older elements of social order.

For me to say neither I would say it cannot espouse the old systems simply because the old systems relied on it for a guidance on conformity. There are many other factors that would have to be taken into account for these systems. Factors such as different families and their traditions. The person in charge of state at the time (which emperor). The standing of the family. The individuals and their personal relationships throughout. Main factors being constant change in times meant that old traditions were constantly adapted. The Budo we know today may not even be the same as what was actively integrated all those years ago.

Did it dismiss social order? Yes and no. Yes in terms of if you were poor generally, you stayed poor. You had pretty much no chance of progressing in life because of how it looked and reflected on high ranking members of societ. If you were rich you stayed Rich (unless you were really stupid and lost family fortunes and stuff in which case you were cast out and stricken from record). No because The hierarchical structure was in place long before the advent of the Saburai and their later counterparts the Samurai.
The code only really came in as a way to turn Saburai to Samurai by curbing certain barbaric tendancies in the emperors guard (wouldn't be fitting for the emperor to have a bunch of brutes serving him now would it?).

That's about as basic as I can put it. I've really tried to make it black and white there. Hope that helps.
 
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