Hi! I am Minako who is Japanese person but attends a college in America as an international student. In this blog, I would like to introduce Do or DOU, which is unique concept lives in Japanese tradition.
- What is DO?
If you are familiar with Japanese culture, you may have heard the word of DO and/or DOU before, but what does it mean and how it would work? Even though I came from Japan, explaining the concept of Do is difficult in fact. Generally, DOU would refer to the practice for pursing one’s own field and it usually takes long time. Sometimes this is misunderstood that everyone who practices Do just need to gain skills and acquire techniques (waza 技) like getting academic degree as a proof of the completion; however, this way of thinking is incorrect. In fact, he people who train DOU ask to respect the way of life and its spirit.
*For the spelling in English, it may be able to use both Do and DOU for the concept of 道
- Different Types of DOU
- Artistic DO
It is generally called as geido (芸道) or Shizuka-naru Do (静なる道) in Japanese, and the word is usually used for Japanese traditional performing/fine arts. Practitioners do not simply train themselves for acquiring the form (kata 型), actions, artistic skills, and the manners, but also practice for pursing the perfect beauty as long as they can. In other words, this is the endless spiritual discipline.
- SADO/CHADO (茶道・茶の湯) [English: The Tea Ceremony]
Cha (茶) or tea in English was brought from China to Japan originally as a medicine about a thousand year ago. Tea cultivation spread across Japan, and tea-drinking became to be common in the ruling classes of warriors (samurai 侍) in the Muromachi (室町) period [13th century]. Since having a good communication between host and guest(s) became significant, manners (saho 作法) were formulated as a result. Eventually, tea master named chajin/茶人 in Japanese which includes famous person known as Sen no Rikyu (Japanese: 千利休) created the Tea Ceremony (Sadou/Chadou 茶道) based on the ideas of Harmony, Respect, Purity and Tranquility (wa-kei-sei-zyaku 和敬静寂). However, it is also true that various schools of the rea ceremonies have been founded before, during and after the time of Sen no Rikyu in fact. Another famous and important part of Japanese tea ceremony is the spirit of elegant rusticity (wabi わび) and anyone regardless of their social status should keep in mind on humbleness (koudou 講道).
- KADO/IKEBANA (華道・いけばな)
[English: The Art of Japanese Flower Arrangement]
It was originated in the 6th century when Buddhist Monk offered flowers to the Buddha, but this type of flower arrangement has become to be popular in Japan since the 16th century. Practitioners believe Ikebana gives life and meaning to flowers arranged in the vase. It is important to formulate a triangular by positioning Heaven (Ten 天), Earth (Chi 地) and Human being (Jin 人) to show and express the harmony between humans and nature. Same as the Tea Ceremony, there are so many different schools in Japanese Flower Arrangement today.
- SHODO (書道) [English: The Art of Japanese Calligraphy]
Japanese calligraphy (Shodo 書道) is the art of words by using a dipped writing brush (fude 筆) with black ink (sumi 墨) that is made from an inkstone (suzuri 硯). Japanese calligraphy was originally come from China, and a lot of Japanese people are familiar with this type of calligraphy in nowadays. However, people need to practice hard for being an expert and/or a calligrapher (shoka 書家) who gain classical calligraphy techniques that different from modern Japanese writing style and enable to write/perform that reflects to the form of artistic writing named sho (書).
- KOH-DO (香道) [English: The Art of Appreciating Incense]
Unlike the tea ceremony, Japanese flower arrangement and calligraphy, Koh-Do (香道) is not known in general for not just the only for foreigners, but also among Japanese people (I honestly have not known this one until recent time). As implied by the art of appreciating incense, this is Japanese traditional art culture which enjoys the incense by burning the fragrant wood (Koh-Boku 香木). It was formulated in the Muromachi (室町) era [13th century] when the tea ceremony and Japanese flower arrangement became to be popular among people. There are categorized in two separate sectors called Mon-Koh (蘭香) which enjoys the aroma of incense for spiritual elevation and incense- identifying game (Kumi-Koh 組香). Since guests are sometimes asked to present the theme based on either Japanese classical poems or literature works, knowledge of literature would be a key element for enjoying the tradition as well.
- BUDO (武道) Japanese Traditional Sports
According to the Japanese Budo Association, they defined the term of Budo (武道) [Japanese Traditional Sports] as “a form of Japanese physical culture that has its origins in the ancient tradition of bushido (武士道) – literally, ‘the way of the warrior’” in 2014. The association also describes Budo includes Judo (柔道), Kendo (剣道), Kyudo (弓道), Sumou (相撲), Karatedo (空手道), Aikido (合気道), Shorinji-Kempo (少林寺拳法), Naginata (なぎなた), and Jukendo (銃剣道). I would specifically like to focus on Judo (柔道), Kendo (剣道), Kyudo (弓道), Karatedo (空手道), Aikido (合気道), Naginata (なぎなた) as well as Iai (居合) in the blog.
- Kyudo (弓道)
Like Archery, target is shot by using a pair of the bow (yumi 弓) and arrow (ya 矢) in Kyudo (弓道). Both bows and arrows have been used in Japan since the Paleolithic time, and utilized in Japanese traditional religious culture called Shinto (神道) as well as developed as a weapon by warriors or the samurai (侍). The same as the other types of DO/DOU (道), the practitioners (Kyudoka 弓道家) train their skills and techniques not just the only for striking the target (mato 的), but also to pursue the beauty and try to maintain the bow-drawing posture.
- Kendo (剣道)
Kendo (剣道) is one of popular Budo (武道) in Japan. It had developed from Japanese fencing game that uses bamboo swords (shinai竹刀), and unified rules were formulated by the end of the Edo (江戸) era [19th century]. Kendo (剣道) practitioner wears a face guard (men 面), gauntlets (kote 小手), breastplate (doh 胴) and flap/throat protector (tare 垂れ) for protecting their face and body. According to the one person who is the expert of Kendo (剣道), winning a game is not only significant portion, instead, respect an opponent is more important than a victory. Crouching which is called sonkyo in Japanese practices the above sprit and philosophy because the players need to do this before and after the competition. Furthermore, shouting with a clear voice (hassei 発声) is necessary at the moment of a strike (datotsu 打突) as well as showing awareness (zanshin 残心) is required right after the strike for getting a valid point (yuko 有効) during the game.
- Judo (柔道)
Judo (柔道) would be the world most famous Budo (武道) in these days because it is appeared in the Olympics game and many people enjoy this across the globe. Judo (柔道) was formally created by Kano Jigoro (Japanese: 嘉納 治五郎) in 1882 based on Jujutsu (柔術) which enables to defend a body only by using bare hands. In the competition, a practitioner (judo-ka 柔道家) should respect their opponent anytime during the game. It is known as the philosophy of the sport that “Judo (柔道) begins and ends with courtesy.” Kosei Inoue (Japanese: 井上 康生) who is an expert of Judo (柔道) and an Olympic gold medalist says, “I could not only nurture physical strength – needless to say – but also learn the importance of respecting people and cooperation.”
- Karatedo (空手道)
Karatedo (空手道), which has been recently approved as the competing sport for the Olympic game, was rooted in Okinawa (沖縄) with influenced by kenpo material art from China. Since the numbers of Okinawan practitioners (karate-ka 空手家) began to introduce this sport across Japan from the late 1910s, Karatedo (空手道) becomes to be known as one of Japanese traditional sports today. As some of the other DOU, there are various schools in Japan. Karatedo (空手道) asks trainers to use every part of the body to protect themselves by using the basic techniques (kihon 基本) which include punching (tsuki 突き), kicking (keri 蹴り) and maintain the form (kata 型). The comparative match with an opponent is called kumite (組み手) in Japanese which is applied to use the combination of the above techniques. Although Karatedo (空手道) is somehow seems to be Judo (柔道), there is a demonstration of a series of techniques (Enbu 演武) unlike Judo (柔道) that is often shown before the competition. As implied by this, repeating practices would be a key component of Karatedo (空手道) as well.
- Aikido (合気道)
Aikido (合気道) was created by Morihei Ueshiba (Japanese: 植芝 盛平) as a modern material art. It is crucial to know that Aikido (合気道) focuses much more on practice itself instead of competing one another. Because of this, many people regardless of their ages, genders, national origins and among others enjoy the sport together. Aikido (合気道) had been introduced to the world since 1950s, and it expanded to more than 100 countries across the globe by 2018.
- Naginata (なぎなた)
In Naginata (なぎなた), there are two major ways of the competitions: practical match and showing the demonstration. Like Kendo (剣道), two individuals or a group of people competing with the opponent in the practical match. For the demonstration, it is conducted by two players like the practical match, and referees judge it based on the correctness of the forms and actions.
- Iai (居合) [Pronounce: E-I]
In the middle of 16th century, Jinsuke Hayashizaki (Japanese: 林崎 甚助) worked hard to restore nearly lost material art. After this, many schools were born, and numbers of forms (kata 型) were developed in the next century (Edo Era 江戸時代). Because of the origin as shown above, Iai (居合) is Japanese traditional material art based on the sudden/accidental confrontation between the people with having their own sword in the past eras. It had often turned into the fight immediately after swordsmen stay or seat nearby. To avoid potential conflicts, forms (kata 型) were formulated, and these have been incorporated into swordsmanship (kenjutsu 剣術) as well as a combat skill called taijutsu (体術) for protecting the body.
Thank you for reading by the end of the blog! I appreciate your time for reading the entire article while this blog would be a little longer than some other ones. Even if you cannot read the whole blog, I hope some parts of the blog would be helpful or enable to motivate you to learn more for Japan and its culture. In case you are interested in Japanese culture and/or would like to get more information for DO/DOU (道), I highly recommend to view this website since there are a lot of videos that introduce Japanese culture and it is so informative as well as user friendly. Lastly, I would like to thank Study Japanese in Arlington [SJA] for allowing me to be a guest blogger. Although it is the first time for me to write the blog, I could enjoy every part of the writing process and gain more knowledge of DO/DOU (道) throughout blogging. Hopefully, I will be able to interact with the organization again in the future!
DOU｜Is Japan Cool? All Nippon Airways [ANA], https://www.ana-cooljapan.com/contents/dou/. Accessed 11 May 2021.
“The Definition of Budo.” ©2014 The Japanese Budo Association, The Definition of Budō｜ENGLISH GUIDE｜日本武道館 (nipponbudokan.or.jp). Accessed 11 May 2021.
“合気道について” International Aikido Federation (IAF), 合気道について | 公益財団法人合気会 (aikikai.or.jp). Accessed 11 May 2021.
植田一三, 上田敏子. A Complete Guide to Japanese Culture and Scenic Spots in English. Japan, 2009. GOKEN, https://www.goken-net.co.jp/goken_sample/189.pdf.
“なぎなたの見方” (公財) 全日本なぎなた連盟, Web Translator (translatetheweb.com). Accessed 11 May 2021.
*All images in the blog are came from いらすとや (irasuto-ya) which provides variety of pictures without costs created by Japanese illustrator called Mifune, Takashi-san (みふね たかし さん).