The term ‘budo’ (武道) is impossible to ignore in the world of martial
arts, even if you’re not learning a Japanese art; it’s just part and
parcel of the philosophy involved and we generally just think of it as
‘the way of the warrior’. In fact, if you read the wikipedia entry,
you’ll see it’s more about the struggle within rather than without, that
is, the life-long journey of defeating one’s own ego.
So what are the kanji, the Chinese characters? Well, the second
character has already been discussed on this post -the ‘dao’ in Chinese,
the ‘way’ or ‘path’ whether it’s a spiritual path or the avenue your
ice-cream truck drives along.
So let’s focus on the first character ‘武’ -this character is prevalant
in Japanese, Chinese and Korean often with very similar meanings that
can all be reduced the the base concept of ‘military’. The Japanese
seens to have several connotations such as ‘military arts’ and ‘military
force’ while both Japanese and Chinese also express the idea of
As far as the pronunciation is concerned: Mandarin is ‘wu’, Korean is
‘moo’ and Japanese is, of course, ‘bu’. What do you know, they all
rhyme! (Cantonese is the stick-in-the-mud with ‘mou’) I’ll use the
Japanese ‘bu’ for convenience sake.
‘Bu’ seems quite common in all three languages in combinations with
other words. For example, they all use it in the word ‘weapon’ (Wuqi in
Mandarin) and ‘Knight’ (Wushi in Mandarin). In fact, the these same
characters for ‘knight’ in Japanese can be pronounced as ‘bushi’ (like
‘bushee’) or, you guessed it, ‘samurai’.
So there you have it -武.