Funakoshi’s Crisis Intervention – Bun Bu Ryo Do, Part 1

Funakoshi Gichin’s book the Karate-Do Kyohan (空手道教範) is a concise and comprehensive technical manual. It is meticulous and accessible and, without confusing beginners, opens the door to deep understanding for practitioners with the experience to grasp what is there.  

In it, Funakoshi Gichin bookends his technical material with personal comments. At the beginning he explains his motive for writing the book: the urgent need to arrest the decline of karate culture, and to preserve it intact for future generations. 

At the end of the book, in a brief, two-page note, he lays out the moral and philosophical context for his karate. He draws on the great streams of intellectual and practical knowledge which informed his life and the world into which he was born. 

In these two pages he quotes the Mencius – (The Works of Mencius, Book 6, Part 2, Section 15, paragraph 2) one of the “Four Books,” the essential educational curriculum for leaders and officials in China for 700 years. 

He references the Confucian ideal of the Junzi, with its emphasis on benevolence as the essential human value.

He cites Sun Tzu’s famous formula on the critical role of intelligence in marital victory, from the Art of War.

He references the Kenpo Hakku – the Eight Verses on Karate – from the BuBishi, a key source of karate techniques and ideas in the dojo culture of his youth.

He references the subtle skill needed to discern the seeds of coming events – citing the appearance of animals and of sages – again from the Four Books.

He closes with a reminder of the dynamic polarity in which we fight and live, directing his readers’ attention to an issue of prime concern in budo, the issue of suki – the gap in defense.

Why does he give this philosophical advice in a book devoted to technique? 

These were the texts and ideas which guided him. He learned from them. He used their principles. He wants to share them with his readers and students. He wants to put the technical instruction in the book into context – both of action and of meaning. He wants to form an ethical basis for the practice of martial arts, integrated into tactical principles which apply to training and to the proper use of force. 

The traditional mode of writing a persuasive essay, which he used, is to select and organize quotations from authoritative sources and build your argument from there – so there is no question that the author is “making things up,” but rather that he is relying on proven and accepted wisdom to make his case. 

Still, it is his experience, wisdom and conviction which inform every word of his brief essay. 

He feels the responsibility to include this philosophical conclusion because – as any teacher, fighter or leader can tell you – we all need guidelines to direct our skill and use our passion wisely.  

In his era, as in ours, when passions were high, it was necessary to remind the ardent young men who studied with him, that while the judicious use of force is sometimes necessary, it needs to be matched with a humane respect for individual agency and dignity, in order to have a good effect, and not devolve into darkness and oppression. 

His presentation followed a long tradition of leaders, warrior scholars, and cultivated people who balanced the principles of Bun 文and Bu 武 in their lives and work.

***

This post is an excerpt from the article “Bun Bu Ryo Do: Cultivation and Power” by Jeff Brooks

Post and Photo Copyright © 2020 by Jeffrey M. Brooks, author of The Good Fight – The Virtues and Value of the Martial Arts

Jeff Brooks is a 40-year practitioner of karate; for 20 years was a writer for high profile public figures in business, government, media and the arts; after that he turned to crime, working as a police detective, federal investigator, and law enforcement instructor in multiple disciplines. He is the author of several books and hundreds of published articles on martial arts. 

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