A Hungarian researcher based in the department of Japanese studies at Loránd Eötvös University in Budapest has recently translated a training text for the old bushi (samurai) class that has been dated back to 1844. Balázs Szabó, an academic from Hungary, has analyzed and translated the old text to English, revealing that the text is called the Bugei no jo, which means “Introduction to Martial Arts”, and was written for samurai students to prepare them for the challenges they will face. Szabó’s analysis and translation has been published in the most recent edition of the journal Acta Orientalia Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae.
Intended for students of the martial art system called Takenouchi-ryū, the old writings include quotes written by ancient Chinese military masters and is written in formal kanbun style, a writing and communication system that is a mixture of Japanese and Chinese writing elements. “These techniques of the sword, born in the age of the gods, had been handed down through divine transmission. They form a tradition revered by the world, but its magnificence manifests itself only when one’s knowledge is ripe,” part of the text reads in translation. The text also speaks about a level of skill that results in calmness of the mind. “When knowledge is mature, the mind forgets about the hand, the hand forgets about the sword,” the text reveals.
Szabó said that in 1844, martial arts training was mainly confined to members of the samurai class. The Hungarian researcher explained that this class was strictly hereditary and there was very little opportunity for non-samurai to join. This means that texts like the one he had recently translated would have been kept secret, and its existence would not have been known to the world outside of the bushi class. Samurai students, in most cases, would have attended multiple martial arts schools and, in addition, would have been taught “Chinese writing, Confucian classics and poetry in domain schools or private academies,” Szabó further explained.
The students who were just starting their Takenouchi-ryū training in 1844 would not have foreseen the impending end of the samurai class, as Japan was about to undergo cataclysmic changes in its societal structure. For two centuries, Westerners were banned from entering Japan, but that would be shattered in 1853 when the U.S. commodore Matthew Perry sailed into Tokyo Bay with his fleet and fleshed out a treaty between Japan and the United States. After this event, a series of civil wars erupted that would see the downfall of the Japanese Shōgun, the rise of a new industrialized Japan and, ultimately, the end of for the sword-carrying samurai.
[via Live Science]
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