Jutsu or Do
by Reverend Kensho Furuya

Editor’s Note: Often times, Furuya Sensei would answer people’s inquires that came via the internet. I think some of Sensei’s “answers” can be of benefit to students of today who might be wrestling with similar topics. From time to time, I may publish them here. Enjoy!

 Hello Sensei, I recently heard the description in one of my training classes that “do” or the way is more artistic whereas “jutsu” is more combative or practical. As I heard this I became a bit confused as to really what this meant. Does this mean that “do” has no use in an art but to merely be pretty? I think not. And on the same note, does this mean that “jutsu” is merely a purely physical form of martial art? I think not as well. But as you can tell from this email I am slightly confused as to the true nature of each. My one instinct is to say that they are both one and the same, and to separate the two would be like separating a limb from the body. Perhaps you can shed some light on this subject for me Sensei. Many thanks for your help. :) Take care, Will, NY  

 Sensei’s Reply:

 What you heard is the most typical and popular explanation of “do” and “jutsu” which is accepted by most people. Although not incorrect, I often wondered how this explanation may really help one in their training rather than hinder it. It is a common idea to continually separate mind and body, physical and non-physical, real and abstract all of the time among us today. This conversation comes up regularly all of the time.

 Of course, there are the historical considerations in Japanese martial arts as Jigoro Kano first coined the name “Judo” from “Jujutsu.” In later, modern times, we have seen Kenjutsu to Kendo and most recently, Karate to Karatedo.

 It might be easier to understand if I explain it in terms of calligraphy. With a pen or pencil on a scratch piece of paper or even a stick in the dirt, one can write a word or sentence and whether it is sloppy or done very quickly, most people can read it and understand what has been written.

However, in formal Japanese calligraphy, one follows a certain school or master and one pays attention to the technique one uses to form the strokes and characters. In some cases, there is great attention paid to the quality and kind of brush on uses, or an antique ink stone or special paper. When calligraphy follows a particular school and tries to embody a particular aesthetic or idea by conforming to various and particular rules, this is known as “do.”

 In martial arts, you can throw someone to the ground just to defeat them. We may even have to bite them or kick them or stab them with a knife in order to bring them down. This is known perhaps as a “jutsu” where we rely purely on the method.

It is not art, just communication. In fact, we may have even misspelled the word or wrote it very faintly and we still might make out what has been written. We do not have to worry about how pretty or clearly we have written. In some ways, this is “jutsu.”

 As with “do,” we set certain rules and standards for ourselves with the purpose that by following these rules and standards they will not only accomplish the act of throwing but also express the proper idea or spirit or we study a particular master or school.

 As one might say that they are one in the same. In “do,” we are trying to act and think on a different level to express not only what we are doing but that act must also express a tradition, or point of view, or an adherence to a particular teacher or school.

 In Aikido, of course, it is useless if the technique does not work at all or is ineffective – one can hardly called this anything or even a philosophy. This is silly. When I throw, more than simply throwing the opponent down, I am also thinking of the teachings of Aikido in trying to express or feel or materialize harmony and balance in the technique. Watching one’s posture and being calm and centered, being aware of one’s mental focus, trying to achieve a sense of non-conflict or peace and on and on. These are not really necessary in just a regular throw – but we choose to emphasize these particular rules because they bring us closer to the spirit and thoughts of O’Sensei and what he proposed as “the true art of Aikido.” Perhaps other people follow another teacher or school. Some people may think that as long the opponent goes down, they don’t need anything else. In calligraphy, I can write a character that anyone can read but if I am following or trying to achieve an ideal or a very high standard set and determined by a great master whom I admire and desire to learn from – this is “do.”

 Why “do” is more important in this world today, is that in such a small world that we have created for ourselves, our acts effect one and another more than ever before. What happens on the other side of the world can affect us today.

 Is Aikido, to simply throw the person down – why not use a bomb or poison gas? Much easier and faster! No, Aikido has the effectiveness to throw the opponent but, we have decided that in order for it to be real Aikido, it must express a goodness, respect and nobility for life that does not allow us to use excessive violence or an “any means necessary” attitude.

 Being very aware of what we do, we become aware are the consequences and seek to achieve a higher level of existence in this world and within our lives and good human begins, we are practicing “do.” It is not simply a philosophy or an art as we commonly think of like painting pictures or fashioning clay to make a pot.

 This is very brief but I hope you can get a little sense of the difference between jutsu and do.

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