Jutsu & do

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Meiji Restoration

After the Meiji Restoration, Japanese
martial arts were changed in order to align themselves with post-Samurai Japan.
Traditional systems of combat were altered to include a wider range of concerns.
Instead of focussing principally upon techniques and methods, martial arts now emphasised character development, a spiritual component and living.


Jutsu is any combat method focussing upon functional techniques and practical


Most Japanese martial arts end in 'do' - karate-do, aikido, judo, iaido, kyudo. Some people believe that 'do' means art. This is incorrect. Do means 'way' - as in Tao or Dao.


A Japanese martial art that ends in 'do' is still concerned with jutsu. It has to be. Otherwise it wouldn't be a martial art at all.
However, 'do' methods are also interested in Taoism and Zen (but not always overtly so).


The degree to which Tao/Zen features in a Japanese martial arts class will differ from school to school. It might also be relative to ability level/grade.
If you read Zen in the Art of Archery, Zen is a major factor, whereas Angry White Pyjamas doesn't mention anything of the kind. Every school is different.

What has this to do with tai chi?

Everything. If we consider tai chi in terms of the Japanese model, the art is 'do'. Yes, jutsu is mandatory but tai chi training also requires an in-depth grasp of Taoism and Zen

Does your tai chi contain jutsu?

Most judo students can fight but can most tai chi people? No. Very few modern tai chi practitioners possess any viable combat skills at all.
What they are learning might be more properly considered 'tai chi for health'...

Does your tai chi contain 'do' (Tao)?

Unlikely. In order to understand Taoism and Zen, it is necessary to commit a great deal of time to the study of the Taoist Classics. Not many modern people are willing to do this


In lieu of jutsu or do, tai chi students often opt to talk about qi instead. Qi is a convenient, exotic sounding catch-all.
Jutsu and 'do' (practical Taoist insights) can be easily demonstrated and proven whereas qi is ethereal/vague/mystical. No proof at all is required.

Tai qi?

Tai chi refers to the yin/yang principle. The 'chi' is not qi. Tai chi literally means martial art that uses the yin/yang principle in combat.
Tai chi is supreme ultimate (yin/yang). Chuan is fist (combat/martial art). The name is commonly translated as 'supreme ultimate fist' and correctly
pronounced 'tie jee chwan'.


Tai chi is based on Taoist insights. Tai chi uses yin/yang continuously.
In order to fully understand and employ the  art skilfully in combat in it imperative that the student study Taoism and its off-shoot Zen. This is the 'do' part.


Tai chi uses striking, chin na and shuai jiao. All three skills must be studied, practiced and utilised.
Without the 'jutsu', these two systems cannot conceivably be regarded as martial arts.

Tai chi jutsu?

For tai chi to be a credible martial art it must contain both jutsu and 'do' elements.
Jutsu alone would render the tai chi external - relying upon conventional martial arts methodology - rather than Taoist-influenced precepts.
There must be a balance found between combat skill and Taoist insight; with the art expressed in an 'internal' manner rather than relying upon force.


And so he sets off on a path to mysterious destinations. He does so in spite of observations by others that such a way is na´ve, outmoded or idealistic. He goes because he knows others have gone before, because the unchanging direction of the Way attracts and calls to him.

He goes because he is compelled. He sets out on a journey of a lifetime because he senses that this way is the one to lead him to a place very much worth the going.

(Dave Lowry)

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Page created 21 May 1995
Last updated 20 June 2023