The Budo Code

Everyone involved in martial arts has at one time or anyother, heard of or read a version of “the Budo Code.” It is the ominous, powerful sounding cipher passed down from the Masters of yesterday. The authors are unknown at times, but the wording sounds like it came from realms beyond. It is as mysterious as it is well known.

Or is it.

During feudal Japan as well as other countries, many of the followers of the martial way recognized a code of conduct commonly called “Bushidō”.  Bushido translates to the “Way of the Warrior” and outlines the way a samurai (martial artist) should conduct their life. They are based on principles of morality, loyalty, martial arts mastery, honor and respect until death.As one can easily see, the martial arts went well beyond the notion of kicking and punching.

There are certainly more details and other aspects to the Budo Code but the aforementioned is a basic summary of what it meant. 

I have read versions of the Code, from a simple one-page summary to various books on the subject and am reminded of a comment from one of my (acupuncture) teachers — “If you cannot explain it in simple terms, you really don’t understand it. . . .” I think this principle is very applicable to the Budo Code.

As such, here is my interpretation of the Budo Code for the Modern Martial Artist — Treat people with respect.

Not very flashy, but then again, truth rarely is. 

It is not very long. . . nor does it need to be. Respect is a word that encompasses volumes and masterfully sums them up in 7 letters.

It is not very detailed, ala prior Codes. Today we live in the information overload era. Simplicity is the sword that pierces the cluttered veil, getting right to the heart of the matter.

I have had the great fortune of meeting some modern day martial arts masters — Vladimir Vasiliev from Systema; Peter Carbone sensei from karate; Guru Eddie Quinn from Silat. Each is absolutely brilliant in terms of movement, power and grace. Each is also one of the most respectful individuals I have ever encountered. They live by the Budo Code of respect and this as much as anything, make them Modern Masters.

I have also come across others who are Masters of the Budo Code and yet may not be able to spell the word “Systema.” They think karate is “that Bruce Lee stuff. . . “ yet treat each person they encounter with respect, kindness and dignity. In other words, the live the Budo Code.

Perhaps the Budo Code is not such a secret, mysterious language, only to be applied by those practicing the martial arts. Maybe it is simply a gentle guideline for us all. 

Emerson is quoted as saying, “Men are respectable only as they respect.” Even great writers are aware of the Code.