Social Distancing Is Budō


ninja t-shirt
Make a mask with a t-shirt

We live in troubled times. Social distancing is now mandatory in many countries. To know the correct distance is essential. 

Hatsumi Sensei’s DVDs are all subtitled “martial art of distance.” The Bujinkan martial arts teach proper distancing. Thus, the forced social distancing we apply these days is practical Budō. In the dōjō, we learn to survive any attacks coming from the enemy. In these days of the pandemic, our enemy is not visible (Omote), but invisible (Ura). Our only option to survive the virus is to keep a proper distance with others. 

As it is often the case in Japanese, “distance” can use different Kanji. It is Michi no ri (1), Kyori (2), or Aida (3). Let’s understand the concept hidden in the strokes.
The first one “Michi no Ri” uses “Michi,” or “Dō.” (4) This is the Kanji that we find in Budō. (5) Budō, the “way of the martial arts”, becomes the “martial arts of distance “as in Sensei’s DVDs. At Honbu, Hatsumi Sensei explains that “Bu” is “to maintain peace and protection.” So, the correct distance in Budō is a means of protection.

The second one, “Kyori”, is even more interesting. If it is “distance or range,” transformed as Kyoryūmin (6), it means “resident.” And because of confinement, we are all becoming full-time residents! 

The last one is “Aida.” It also reads as “Ken.” This is not the one meaning sword, but the one used in the Kanejaku. (7) That is the measurement system used in Japan before the switch to the metric system. (8) For your information, a Ken is 181.82 cm, and this is the size of a Tatami. (9)

In conclusion, Budō, the art of distancing is the best way to keep us protected. As a full-time home resident, when you go shopping, use the distance of a Ken to limit the risks of infection.

A few days after the Tsunami hit Fukushima, I called Hatsumi Sensei on the phone. When I asked him, if he planned to leave Noda, he answered “Banpen Fugyō”, “10 000 attacks, no surprise.” (10) This is the attitude you should have. Don’t complain about confinement at home as you cannot change it. Use this time to do or finish all the things you have been postponing for months, or for years. The pandemic time at home can be profitable, turn it into an opportunity. And make “Kyori” (11) out of “Kyori” (2), a “huge profit” for yourself.

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1 道のり, Michi no ri / Dō no ri: distance; journey; itinerary​, path (e.g. to one’s goal); way; process; route; road
2 距離, Kyori: distance, range
3 間, Aida, Ken: space (between); gap; interval; distance​, time (between); pause; break​. Span (temporal or spatial); stretch; period (while)​. Relationship (between, among)​, members (within, among)
4 道, Dō: Road; path; street; route​; way; set of practices; rules for conducting oneself​
5 武, Bu: martial arts
6 居留民, Kyoryūmin: A resident
7 曲尺, Kanejaku: carpenter’s square (for checking angles)​, common shaku (unit of distance; approx. 30.3 cm)
8 https://taikosource.com/glossary/kanejaku/
9https://www.traditionaloven.com/tutorials/distance/convert-japan-ken-unit-to-centimeter-cm.html
10 万変不驚, Banpen Fugyō. Read the excellent post by Luke Crocker https://medium.com/classical-martial-arts/banpen-fugyo-9bbbc64a9487
11 巨利, Kyori: Huge profit