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Stages of Development Through Budo


Regardless to the particular ryuha, modern or classical I believe there to be four stages of practice/development through Martial methods, they are gyo (training' stage), shugyo (austere training' stage), jutsu ('art' stage) and the do or michi, this stage signifies the state of 'artless art', this is manifest in satori (self-realisation).

Below I have expanded on these four areas, purely for your interest, just to find out a little bit more about you so to speak.


This acts as an introduction to the dojo (place for studying the way), the essence of dojo can be found in sabi and wabi (naturalness and simplicity). In experiencing gyo, the trainee learns that the budo techniques must be practiced. He can, at this point, be considered ignorant. The trainee must be humble and must exhibit nyunan-shi ('soft heartedness') and a spiritual flexibility in their readiness to accept what their sensei says. This aids in the removal of pride and ego.

Training at the gyo level either makes or breaks the trainee. It is mentally difficult, physically demanding and spiritually overwhelming. If this is accepted by the trainee then they pass into the shugyo level.


This is a time of 'technical shipwreck'. The budoka is overloaded with technical problems, dilemmas and enlightened moments. It is at this stage that the budoka learns that nobody is going to throw in a life jacket until they begin to swim to save themselves. Then, when their educator gives them advice they learn to practice without question, after all they aspire to gain the technique of their master. This unquestioning attitude towards training is absolutely essential to find michi.

All too often the trainee finds himself making excuses for technical dilemmas. He is far too conscious of 'I' in what he does; this is negative towards their development. He is indulging in self deception (and here's me thinking that kyojutsu tenkan ho was supposed to work with you against your enemy not against ones self!) It must be learned that mistakes are nothing to be ashamed of; it is here at this stage that it is not just learned but understood. Etiquette is also practiced and understood as part of the mental preparation for training, allowing the shugyoshi to develop privately.

Technically the budoka travels on the path by broadening their skills and acquiring new ones. They now realise that technical difficulties can only be overcome by continuous training.

By this point the budoka has been spiritually awakened, and their motivation is such that they will train, forever on the path to enlightenment, it is now impossible for the trainee to quit.

At this point the budoka has reached the jutsu stage of their development.


At the beginning of the jutsu level the budoka feels weakness, flaws and an unfinnishedness to their technique and they are overly aware of the need to practice to close the gap between his present skill and that of their educator. An awareness and dependence on mechanical movement highlights this deficiency and slowly becomes less obvious as they develop through this stage. Technical skills are becoming natural, although the budoka feels powerless to improve. He has begun to experience truth in action and is on the path to becoming a master of their own physical actions. Although not yet a master of themselves.

The trainee at this stage is concerned with the possible combative significance of techniques rather than the idea that they are to be used for non combative purposes with an artistic form. They try to anticipate in thought what only experience can teach. Yet they continue to train, pursuing michi.

Even in mastery of self through the jutsu stage when there appears no more to be learned, in a technical sense, the budoka needs to develop an inner calm to further their maturity through budo.

Through the jutsu stage the budoka possesses skill, no longer needing thought. The practitioner can now be seen as a technical master. Technical mastery is possessed; he does not yet fully control himself. Do, or michi is still absent.

Not until the 'artless art' has been found can the technical master gain mastery of his art and themselves. This is the do, the Japanese equivalent to Zen enlightenment, stage.


The attainment of do represents a self perfection in which old mechanics are exposed of and restrictive thought (like 'I', 'I am doing', 'I suck') is lost. It is a stage which can be characterised by mental poise, alertness and spiritual and emotional control. At this stage physical technique has been mastered, transcended and forgotten. The mind has been trained to focus sharply and is now 'pure' through the removal and control of ego.

This is known as makoto (stainless mind) which will remain undisturbed. The do is also forgotten and the budoka is now a master of themselves, they now represent 'truth in action'.

These qualities which were so prominent to the practice of both budo and bujutsu appear to have been lost, I personally do not know where the blame lies, but what I do know is that without these stages of development, both being understood and accepted at the core, the Martial Art will not development.