Lovret’s Budo

I’ve been thinking about the article My Budô by Fredrick Lovret (alternate link)

I do not directly know much about Lovret. My understanding is that he is licensed in Daito-Ryu as well two other arts with occluded history. I used to train with a former student of his style who spoke extremely highly of him. However, since then I’ve mainly heard his name as it gets dragged through the mud by purists who doubt his martial lineage.

I really enjoy this article’s breakdown of the three reasons people study the classical Japanese martial arts: for culture, for combat and for self. There is really a lot to think about in that as far as what and why we practice. And how we are all “slightly insane.”

The real reason I’ve felt like posting this article is that his breakdown is helping me to think about the schism that seems to exist between most of the classical bujutsu I’ve seen (especially “iai” arts) and the few traditional arts I’ve seen that feel like what we do (mostly “aiki” arts). I think that he is on to something as far as what the fundamental difference is in his description of “bujutsu as culture” versus “bujutsu as budo” practicioners.

However, I do not think that “bujutsu as budo” quite captures what “our side” is about, since the budo aspect is very strong for a lot of the “bujutsu as history” folks as well. Lovret is defining budo in such a way as to exclude them, while I’ve seen “culturalists” define budo in such away as to exclude folks like him. Nonetheless, whatever you feel about his choice of words, there is indeed a palpable duality: those who love the style and its lineage versus those that love the art and its techniques; those who preserve versus those who grow; those who want to be part of something versus those who want something to be part of them.

It’s not clear to me why this duality is so clear–and there are teachers who straddle both camps and blur the lines–but the “as culture” crowd often seem to push hard to exclude us apostates while the “as budo” camp turn up their noses in return (as Lovret is doing here).

Beyond all that, I have to mention how amusing I find his insistence on a proper haircut and polished shoes. I see his point, that classical bujutsu is a military discipline for the elite. But it is very far from the attitude of our dojo. Of course, our art is descended from about as low-ranking of samurai as you could get. They had their hands dirty with keeping the peace rather than drilling for war. Our attitude would be closer to “do what you’ve got to do to get by.”

This article makes me want to meet Lovret Sensei and see what makes him tick.

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