Bushidō & Budō

Bushidō (武士道?, “the way of the warrior”) is a Japanese term for the samurai way of life, loosely analogous to the concept of chivalry in Europe. Just like the knights of Europe, the samurai had a code to live by that was also based in a moral way of life.

The “way” itself originates from the samurai moral values, most commonly stressing some combination of frugality, loyalty, martial arts mastery, and honor until death.

Bushidō developed between the 16th and 20th centuries, debated by pundits who believed they were building on a legacy dating back to the 10th century, although some scholars have noted that the term bushidō itself is “rarely attested in premodern literature”.[1] It came into common usage in Japan and the West after the 1899 publication of Nitobe Inazō‘s Bushido: The Soul of Japan.[2]

Eight virtues of Bushidō (as envisioned by Nitobe Inazo)

[3] The Bushidō code is typified by eight virtues:

Associated virtues

Budō (武道?) is a Japanese term describing modern Japanese martial arts.[4][5][6] Literally translated it means the “Martial Way”, and may be thought of as the “Way of War”. Budō is a compound of the root bu (:ぶ), meaning “war” or “martial”; and (:どう; tao in Chinese), meaning “path” or “way”[7]

A practitioner of the Japanese martial arts can be considered a samurai only in the figurative sense; the purpose of Budō is different from Bushidō (But the spirit of Bushidō is certainly prevalent in Budō) Generally speaking, Bushidō was the combined whole of the samurai lifestyle, a code of conduct geared toward developing military administrators, professional armies, and elite soldiers. Budō, on the other hand, is the application of samurai knowledge as a way to improve one’s life, and the life of others. If Bushidō is the “Way” of the samurai, then Budō is the “Way” of the modern Japanese martial artist.

The relation of Bushidō to Budō is analogous to the development of acupuncture: during centuries of warfare, the Chinese collected massive amounts of data on the effects of puncture wounds on various parts of the body. Some of these turned out to beneficial. This information was put to use alleviate pain and promote health and healing. The same knowledge, however, can be used in lethal striking techniques. Similarly, Bushidō, and the military sciences developed by the samurai, can be used for propaganda and violence, but it can also be put to positive use in Budō Benefits of Budō not only include psychological well-being, physical health, and self-improvement, but also the intellectual growth and spiritual enrichment of the Budō practitioner.


  1. “The Zen of Japanese Nationalism”, by Robert H. Shart, in Curators of the Buddha, edited by Donald Lopez, p. 111
  2. Friday, Karl F. “Bushidō or Bull? A Medieval Historian’s Perspective on the Imperial Army and the Japanese Warrior Tradition” The History Teacher, Vol. 27, No. 3 (May, 1994), pp. 340
  3. Bushido: The Soul of Japan
  4. Armstrong, Hunter B. (1995). “The Koryu Bujutsu Experience in Kory Bujutsu – Classical Warrior Traditions of Japan.” New Jersey: Koryu Books. pp. 19–20.
  5. Dreager, Donn F. (1974). “Modern Bujutsu & Budo – The Martial Arts and Ways of Japan.” New York/Tokyo: Weatherhill. p. 11.
  6. Friday, Karl F. (1997). “Legacies of the Sword.” Hawai: University of Hawai’i Press. p. 63.
  7. Sanchez, Cayetano (2013). “Budo for Budoka.” Cuervo. p. 52-53.