To Stop War...
During a weekend-long seminar that my Sensei taught for our dojo, he spoke about the Japanese character (kanji) 武 "Bu." 武 Bu is usually translated as war, or martial. He said this is a more modern definition for the word. An older use of the kanji 武 Bu means, "to stop war."
武 Bu is the first kanji in the name of our martial art, 武神館 Bujinkan. The kanji 神 Jin (or Kami) means divine or enlightened, it can even mean God. The kanji 館 Kan means a castle or hall. Typically, the Bujinkan is translated to mean the Hall of the Enlightened Warrior, or Hall of the Divine Warrior. With the understanding of this older meaning of the word 武 Bu, we can translate Bujinkan as: the dojo of stopping war with God.
Now, we can do a bit of word play simply using a comma. If we write the name of the Bujinkan using a comma so it reads: the dojo of stopping war, with God, then it means that with the aid of God we work to stop war. If we write it without the comma, we can interpret it to mean that we are learning to stop warring against God.
There is a high level of martial philosophy called Shin Gi Tai. Often these are referred to as their plain translation of Mind/Heart, Spirit, and Body. However, these can also be referred to as the divine techniques, techniques learned from heaven. If one is to ever reach this level in their training, they must stop fighting against the will of heaven, trust that heaven has better plans than we do, and follow the path of enlightenment. Then the Shin Gi Tai can be made usable in us.
So, no matter how you translate Bujinkan, our studies take us beyond the physical training of martial arts, or war arts. Our Soke of the Bujinkan has said, "I'm not teaching you how to fight. I am teaching you how to control evil." It is possible that the evil we control is not just from others, but also through improving ourselves. This is the essence of our training in the dojo.
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Shane Sensei is a licensed Shidoshi in the Bujinkan and member of the Shidoshi-Kai. He has trained in the Bujinkan since 1998 and regularly travels to Japan for training.