The following is a section I wrote for a now defunct project that was to be a student handbook. It does not break down the core principles of the art, but does cover a brief introduction of where it's from and what it is about. Keep in mind it was an internal document and written as such.
I share it here for a couple of reasons. First, some of those still involved with the day to day teaching of Bujin might, in some way, find it useful. Second, it lays a slight foundation for my background for those who have only done jiu jitsu with me.
Without further ado, my belated entry into the Bujin Student Handbook:
Bujin Bugei Jutsu: A System of Fighting
What is Bujin Bugei Jutsu? A valid question, it is many things and each of those is different to for every person who practices it. Perhaps, then, it is an easier task to define what it is not.
Bujin is not an art that claims supremacy over other martial art forms, and by extension, this handbook will not make that claim either. Bujin is not a technique-based art, although technical drills are used in the development of skills. Nor is it an art that relies on kata as a substantive teaching tool, even though prearranged forms are used at lower belt ranks to teach movement. Bujin is not a format for sport martial arts, although many from its ranks have competed in both sport and full contact arenas with success. And lastly, it is not a philosophical discipline that serves as a metaphor for life.
It is, at its core, a combative martial art. One that is designed to function around tested, real-world principle and theory rather than a limited set of techniques. It is an open-ended paradigm for self-defense that seeks to prepare the student for combative encounters that he hopes will never happen. It is an art, perhaps, that is out of its time.
Bujin seeks to maximize combative effectiveness for the resolution of serious conflicts. By working with an individual’s inherent skill, each fighter develops his own gifts around the principles that are at the core of the system. Because of this, most Bujin practitioners look somewhat different on the floor from one another. Some work longer ranges better, maximizing their reach to wound combatants and keep the fight at a distance; others seek to close to an in-fight, and control their opponent from there; still other will end up in a grappling range, either on their feet seeking joint position or on the ground.
This then, is the essence of Bujin, a combative, and comprehensive art, which is constantly evolving and reinventing itself with each new practitioner.
So how is it taught and what does it consist of? How is a system designed so that it allows for individual traits yet is still regimented enough to pass on knowledge of movements, positions, and weapons?
Bujin is broken down into six belt ranks before a fighter reaches black belt. At each of these levels particulars of the system are taught and practiced with progression bringing more open-ended and spontaneous drills. This handbook will, by belt rank, explain them, demonstrate them, and describe how they fit into the overall scheme of the art.
Before we begin, however, it is helpful to look at where Bujin came from and what makes it what it is.
The History Bujin: A Warrior’s Lineage
Bujin is an art that, as a whole, cannot claim ancient origins. However, that is not to say that there is no warrior tradition that connects its practitioners with their ancient kin. In fact, several of the movements incorporated and studied in Bujin have been passed down for centuries, as well as the spirit and trappings of these noble warriors.
Bujin Bugei Jutsu was originally assembled and defined in the early 1990’s as a modern combative form with emphasis on effectiveness in the twentieth century’s violent world. It was the brainchild of Sensei Tim Jones, an experienced martial artist and competitive fighter, with ranks in both Tae Kwon Do and Goju Kempo. Searching for more effective fighting methods, he would eventually study Hondo Seishin-Ryu, an Okinawan art, under the direction of Master D.M. Hurst and earn the title of Shihan. It was the variety of this experience, and Sensei Jones’ desire to formulate an effective way to teach that which he had learned, that led him to the formulation of Bujin.
Even after its creation, Bujin continued to evolve as Mr. Jones continued to refine his skills and acquire new ones as well, most notably was his study in Gokei-Ryu and later submission wrestling. He, and his students continually testing each tactic against the crucible of practicality, and then integrating those that passed into the overall educational process of Bujin.
Bujin Bugei Jutsu practitioners tend to be a particular lot. On one had they are fiercely proud of their modern emphasis, taking pride in the handgun training the often acquire before attaining black belt rank. At the same time, they will point out the ancient origins of specific movements and the reasons behind their development. Still, students of Bujin, regardless of their own personal focus, seek ability in combat with a fervor that is in the spirit of the samurai of old.
What’s In a Name: Behind the Language Barrier
The literal translation of Bujin Bugei Jutsu varies somewhat from the looser and symbolic translation favored by its practitioners. Therefore it is useful to look at the roots and development of the terms involved before discussing the precise translations.
The arts of warfare that were systematized during the feudal period of Japan’s history can be collectively referred to a bujutsu; where the character bu represents “military” or “martial” and jutsu indicates “art” or “method”. Thus, the term bujin indicates one who practices these arts, a warrior.
The second word to consider is bugei, which simply translated indicates a martial art. More precisely it is a “method”, which is denoted by the character gei. So it is a method of the warrior, or the way in which he practices his station as a warrior.
The final term in the naming of Bujin is the character jutsu. The term jutsu, as mentioned before, indicates a “method” or an “art”. Perhaps it is easier today to describe what is meant by the translation by thinking of it as a “system”, or a system of techniques.
It is interesting, and telling of the system of Bujin, that the suffix do that is commonly seen in the martial arts (example, Karate-do and Akido) is not present in its naming. The character of do is used in place of jutsu when describing a pursuit that is more spiritual in nature than practical, with do translating as “way” or “path”. It is a subtle difference, but one worth preserving and taking note of.
So, in its entirety, the literal translation of Bujin Bugei Jutsu would be as follows:
Bugei- martial art
Or, to the western mind, a warrior’s system of training to fight.
However, there is a more philosophical translation that is used by its instructors and students, one that more aptly portrays the desired intent of studying Bujin. And that is:
Bujin- people of the samurai spirit
Bugei- ancient combative
Or, an art, ancient in origin, used by people possessing the spirit of the samurai.
As one can see, there is a difference between the two translations and these differences deserve discussion because they shed light on the heart of Bujin as it stands today.
Jutsu stands the same in both translations, a designation of a system of technique, an art. This is important because in both cases it preserves the practical nature of Bujin over the more “path” or “way” related bu.
The term Bujin would, on the surface, seems to be problematic but a closer reading simply narrows its focus. The translation of warrior can, and did, mean many things. In feudal Japan, it could mean a paid soldier, a wandering fighter, or one of the Samurai class. By applying bujin to those exhibiting the samurai spirit today, we appeal to the greatest and noblest of history’s warriors. By the study of Bujin Bugei Jutsu one attempts to cultivate the traits and fighting spirit of these elite men and women.
Of the terms that make up the system’s name, Bugei is the most difficult to reconcile with its literal translation. If we take bujin to comprise “people of the samurai spirit” and jutsu to indicate “art”, then bugei must denote “ancient combative” or “ancient combative martial art”. This would be impossible if not for the connotations of the characters of bugei when used to describe feudal martial arts.
Having discussed bu as “military” and gei as” method, we come up with a “military method”; very similar to the “martial art” conferred by bujutsu. However, there is a subtle difference, bujutsu most often refers to strategic concerns of Japan’s feudal arts, while bugei is concerned with the specialized technique that separated school from school. In other words, bugei is used to denote the specialized schools of combat under the broader umbrella of bujutsu (Ratti and Westbrook).
Therefore, the practitioner of Bujin Bugei Jutsu looks at the bugei in the system’s name as a particular function under the broader classification of martial arts, that of an ancient combative art.
As has been explained, Bujin is not, in whole, an ancient art. Instead the word ancient in the system’s title should be view as paying homage to the ancient roots of some of the system’s movements and theories.
The final word encompassed in our bugei definition-combative- would have served little purpose in feudal years, for all of the arts of the time were designed around the effective prosecution of warfare. In today’s era of martial arts, this is certainly not the case as many schools study for sport, health, or aesthetic reasons. Therefore, it is important to define, in its name, what Bujin should stand for, and be focused on. It is this combative focus that Bujin has been so proud to maintain and is the yardstick by which all evolution of the system must be judged.
The Warrior's Path: First Steps
So, we have determined what Bujin's name means to its practitioners and who founded its principles, now where do we go? From here on, we'll explore the doctrinal strategy and tactical responses that the modern warrior uses to enforce his will. Because of this, a few words should be said before we begin.
Bujin was not established to give bullies an easier time of their pursuits, and despite the non-traditional training methods employed in its study, the tenets of honor and self-discipline should be instilled and fostered in each student. Indeed, Bujin practitioners should strive to live up to the name of their system and the connotations that it incurs.
While other, more rigid and stylistic, systems enforce discipline on their students by foreign traditions, Bujin endeavors to instill in each of it's students a sense of driving self-discipline. A trait that is bred into the student each time he or she picks himself up from the mat, and each time they enter the training hall with nagging soreness from the previous workouts. It is manifest when these same students go on to achieve rank in other systems for the sake of learning and expanding their own personal art, or are called to train independently of the times when their instructors are watching them.
This kind of discipline extends far beyond the walls of any dojo and permeates the life of the warrior who learns it.
And that is what each of us who studies Bujin for any length of time strives to be: a warrior; set apart from others by the study and practice of movements designed to hurt and kill, being ready for conflict, and hoping, because we understand the costs that it incurs, that it never happens.
Warriors are students of violence. Because of this, restraint and moral fiber must be endowed into each student who walks through he door of a training hall. He must be ready to fight, and die, for only half of learning warriorship is learning to live, as if it were second nature. To develop this, the student must train as if he means it, ever keeping Bujin from becoming a game or past-time. It is a way of life. It is the way of Bujin.