Shimbu - Divine Martial Arts

by William Durbin, Soke of Kiyojute Ryu

Many people of the Western world have never fully understood the Asian martial arts because they are so wrapped up in violence. This includes many of the so-called martial artists of the West.


Those who call themselves mixed martial artists are not martial artists at all because the only reason they train is to fight. A person who loves to fight, a person who competes, is not a true martial artist.


Bu – to stop violence


The reason the Bujutsu (Wu Shu) were created was so that people who didn’t like violence could defend themselves against those who were actually violent.


A real martial arts student is taught to abhor violence. This begins with the idea of bringing peace to our hearts. We must learn to not want to fight, but to live in peace. When we have peace within, then we can begin to think of ourselves as real martial artists.


When we stop the violence by not being competitive, then we are on the way to real spiritual development. As long as we want to defeat another, then we have not yet achieved peace.


It is only when we realize that conflict just leads to more conflict and greater violence that we can begin to gain peace within and become a truly peaceful person.


 Judo & Karate Point Tournament – Full Contact – Kickboxing – Mixed Martial Arts


The growth of violence in competitive martial arts in America, and in truth around the world, followed a predictable pattern. It all started with Judo point Shiai and Karate point tournaments, where people fought to win points by throwing someone, making them submit, or landing a fake punch or kick. During these types of competitions, people were hurt by accident, either receiving broken bones or joint dislocation in Judo tournaments or knockouts and other injuries in Karate competitions.


As is always typical of the testosterone crowd, after losing a fight, someone would say, ‘If that had been a real fight, I’d have beat him.’ This led to some people coming up with the idea of fighting full contact. Many people were against this idea, but there was money to be made and full contact Karate came about. But once again there were arguments over, which rules made it the most ‘real fight’. If a person fought PKA and lost, they’d say if they fought WKA they’d have won. If someone fought a WKA fight and lost, they’d say they would have won if they’d fought PKA.


The problem was that the violence just escalated and still no one would admit to which was the better fighter, but the fights kept getting more brutal until finally Kickboxing was brought into the mix and then people were hitting with elbows and knees, causing even more damage to the competitors. I’ve seen a report on the damage that is being done to people, especially in Thailand where even children fight in full contact bouts, and serious injury is happening to not only the children but also adults.


Unfortunately, even that amount of violence and human suffering didn’t satiate those who enjoy watching people fight and get injured. Then we had a situation where a ‘new’ sport was created. It really wasn’t a new sport, there were violent, anything goes fights for years, but civilized countries had all but eradicated them as being illegal because of the harm they did to the competitors.


However, from another country, a less civilized country, came men who developed the full contact, so-called, no holds barred form of fighting. This led to what people are calling mixed martial arts, where the violence is horrendous. As young as this sport is, there have already been two deaths that have been reported. Some of the men have been mentally harmed as is evident in listening to them talk. A couple of them have been nearly crippled by the damage they have suffered in the ring.


This is why this type of fighting cannot be considered martial arts at all, it is not ‘stopping violence’ it is perpetuating violence. Already there have been reports that young boys and some young men have engaged in fights emulating their MMA idols. These competitions are definitely increasing the violence in our country.


The sad thing is, when the sport first appeared in America, I thought that we Americans were too civilized to support such a disgusting form of fighting competition. I thought people would see it for the violent act that it was and not support it. My hope was that it would die out quickly and it almost did.


Then a network began supporting and popularizing it so that now people are calling it the fastest growing sport in the world. If true, this is a sad commentary on the world. Maybe this is why there is so much war and terrorism, because we really are that aggressive. Or maybe this level of brutality is being created by too many brutal sports, which encourages the aggression in our souls.


Shin – God in all his myriad perceptions


We think of the martial arts developing at the Shaolin temple under the guidance of Bodhidharma and while it is almost a certainty that there were situations where peaceful people developed their fighting skills in a virtuous way and under the inspiration of God, it is at the Shaolin temple that a process was developed for teaching fighting skills in a virtuous manner and with a curriculum that helped practitioners of the martial arts develop martial creativity.


While this process was created and carried on at a Buddhist temple, where the parishioners sought the Truth, the idea spread to those of other religions and faiths.  In China, many Taoists understood the idea of the martial arts being a gift from the Lord of Heaven, so that those who practiced the Way could protect themselves from aggression and persecution.


When the Japanese were influenced by the Chinese martial arts, they saw the same concept that their Chinese compatriots had understood.  Morihei Ueshiba, the famous founder of Aikikai Aikido and a Shinto priest, noted that the Bu (meaning martial arts in general), were gifts of the Divine so that peaceful humans could protect themselves against those who were aggressive and violent.


As a youth I knew religious persecution and had threats on my life for simply not drinking and for carrying my Bible to school.  My Dad had been a World War II veteran and taught me my first lesson in self defense, but I prayed that God would help me know more about protecting myself without having to harm others unnecessarily.  That prayer was answered when Richard Stone came to Bardstown and started teaching the martial arts.


I found in the martial arts a way of life that allowed me to prepare myself not only for self defense, but for life.  The discipline and training helped me grow closer to God, for I saw in the skills a gift that God had created so that peace loving people could protect themselves from vicious and hateful people.


The real martial arts were about love and peace.  They brought to me an inner peace and sense of security so that I didn’t feel the need to fight over words, concepts, or ideology.  Having been involved in law enforcement for around seven years of my life, I also saw in the skills the idea of being a peacemaker, something all law enforcement personnel should cultivate in their lives.  I wasn’t trying to catch people; I was trying to protect people.


Naturally as a Christian, I saw the gift of Bu as a direct gift from God.  Lets face it; God gave to all creatures a way of protecting themselves.  The tiger has claws, the bear great strength, some snakes have venom, and some creatures are blessed with the ability to run swiftly or conceal themselves from sight.  But the concept of survival and self protection is a part of nature, thus man has a gift as well, the gift of Bu.


Those who seek the divine root of the real martial arts achieve the level of Busan, which shows the difference between mere forms of fighting and divinely inspired arts of peace, which is a much better definition of Bujutsu.




I don’t like violence and don’t like to watch fighting sports, because I don’t like to watch people get hurt, but I will on occasion watch one of the fighting shows displaying everything from kickboxing to mixed martial arts. What you see most in nearly all of those fighting shows is a lack of skill. For the most part there are five or six moves that each sport focuses on, because they take little skill and ability. Most of the fighting arts are about brutality.


In example, in most of the mixed martial arts fights there are two main techniques that you will see people struggle to get, the triangle choke and the cross arm hold. These are two very basic Judo techniques, most Judoka learning them as early as at brown belt level.


In kickboxing, and in most of the more stand up to punch and kick sports, there are only a few kicks and the hands techniques number only about four or five. Some people think this shows how few techniques you really need, but what it really shows is how little skill it takes to participate in these sports.


There was a great Jujutsu master, Mataemon Iso, who founded the system known as Tenshin Shinyo Ryu who was famous for having 300 punches (more literally hand strikes) in his arsenal. He was known for his ability to literally kill with one blow. Yet most of the time you see fighters in these violent sports throw ineffective punch after ineffective punch.


Right after World War II a Japanese master of Jujutsu was involved in a fight with a lethal gang that had already killed. In a battle with the gang, he killed eight of his assailants with strikes. This is an example of real Jujutsu, not just rolling around on the mat trying to catch another man’s arm.


What allowed masters of the past to face odds of ten, twelve, fifteen, or more in combat and succeed? The answer is Busan, usually translated martial creativity, but more appropriately, ‘the creativity to stop violence’. This is what the masters of the past believed came from the Divine.


All martial arts began with a handful of movements. Shaolin had eighteen, Tai Chi had thirteen, some of the Japanese martial arts have only eight or so movements, but by achieving the divine level of Busan hundreds of techniques are created. These are then passed down through the generations to help future martial artists develop Busan by coming to understand the principles upon which the martial arts techniques are based.


Some people wonder why techniques are important, why don’t we just teach martial creativity without them, but the truth is that Busan comes from the techniques as the true martial artist begins to understand the principles behind the techniques and the spirit behind the principles. Each art has ‘favored’ techniques, some numbering as few as one hundred, others numbering in the thousands. These techniques represent what has actually worked in real combat for hundreds of years and are guaranteed to teach the main principles necessary for the development of Busan.


But the practice of the techniques must be in the right spirit, Shin. If one practices for the sake of violence, this is in direct contrast to true Bu. The true martial artist must train to stop violence or else the spiritual development will not be genuine and thus cannot result in Busan.


Because these techniques are based on Bu, the skill to stop violence, they can never be developed by someone caught up in competition or the desire to fight. We must remember that any form of fighting has danger. This is acceptable when we are trying to defend ourselves in a genuine life and death situation, but it should be seen as unacceptable in regard to competition.


Seishi – life and death


People have misunderstood the ‘fighting’ that was practiced at the Shaolin temple in the past, as well as, the Musha Shugyo matches that were fought by Samurai as they worked on developing their skills. Both the so-called matches at the Shaolin temple and the ‘contests’ of the Musha Shugyo were friendly exchanges that could be best expressed by the term Embu.


Monks and Samurai would engage in a moving back and forth free form of exercise, which allowed them to experience each other’s techniques in a safe way. There were a few times when ego would get the best of young Samurai and they would stop engaging in Embu and enter a serious challenge. But this would normally be by agreement and then they engaged in what is called a Shiai, death match.


In real martial arts a practitioner either trains or fights, back in the old days and the way it should be today, is that there is no in-between. Either you should be training, which is safe, or you should be fighting, which is life and death.


From the time I began the martial arts I began collecting stories of real self defense through the years and stories of accidental deaths in martial arts competition. I have read about competitors being killed or dieing in Judo matches, point tournaments, full contact fights, and even in ‘safe’ class sparring. These are such unnecessary deaths, since training in the martial arts should be life affirming rather than life threatening.


When I was practicing Judo, we did competitive Randori and it sickened me when one day I was going for a choke and bloodied my best friend. In college the Karate guys introduced me to sparring and again I was compelled to fight and bloody my new best friend there at college.


After several undesirable incidents like that, and upon discovering through research that actual traditional training that created the great warriors of China, Okinawa, and Japan, was based on Kata and Embu, I ceased the senseless and ineffective training of sparring and competitive fighting in favor of the time tested and truly excellent forms of self defense training that are Kata and Embu.


In all of the martial arts training, the emphasis is on real life and death techniques. Every move should be practiced with the idea that if the techniques succeeds, one lives, if it doesn’t then one dies. Yet all techniques should be practiced with a sense of love towards your training partner, meaning that you should do your best not to injure or even cause unnecessary pain to your Uke.


Ai - love


Love should always be a part of training. It should be the way you treat your partner, it should be the reason you train, and it should motivate your desire to develop martial creativity. All of your training should be with the idea of keeping your partner safe regardless of the techniques you practice.


I heard of a person who entered an MMA/Gracie school and on the first day of training one of the instructor’s broke his arm. This is not an expression of love and is improper training regardless of the style or idea. Students should never be hurt unnecessarily, but a lot of violent people are drawn to MMA because of it’s brutality.


We seek to avoid unnecessary pain in training. Some pain in inherent, such as when joint locks, chokes, and certain other moves are practiced, but we should never cause unnecessary pain, or injury. Students should not only be taught to tap out when the injury is imminent, but when the technique has been properly applied and before there is danger of injury.


We should not train to fight with hatred of an enemy or an opponent, but rather train to protect ourselves because of a healthy self love, as well as, a love of our family. Think of how devastated your family would be if you were harmed. Think of the hospital bills your family would suffer if you were seriously injured. Sadly, think of the emotional desolation and cost to your family if you were killed.


Out of love for our families we should train in self defense to keep ourselves safe for our families. You are loved by more people than you know. Each would experience a loss at your death and so learn to protect yourself for their sakes. But also know self defense to be able to protect them should the need ever arise.


Finally train out of a sense of love to develop Busan. Martial creativity gives you the opportunity to protect yourself with very creative skills while seeking to do the least amount of damage possible even to an attacker. Jesus taught us to love our enemies, by developing Busan you can show your love for your enemy even while protecting yourself.


Shimbu – divine arts to stop violence


In 1968 I was taught self defense by my Dad to protect me from violence. In 1970 I began training under Richard Stone to increase my knowledge and understanding. I have trained with Bill Wallace and Rod Sacharnoski seeking to deepen my education in self defense. I’ve been blessed with meeting some fine martial artists over the years, including Shian Toma, Bill Beach, Bruce Juchnik, Nimr Hassan, John Willson, and many of the fine masters connected to Juko Kai.


In 1982 God gave me a Tenshin Sho, divine illumination, which helped me achieve a high level of martial creativity. I’ve made it my ministry to help others learn how to defend themselves from the violent people of the world. I hope I can teach them how to avoid violence, or if it cannot be avoided, how to survive.


But people need to understand that the violent sports connected to the modern ‘martial arts’ scene are aberrations, perversions, and bastardizations of the real martial arts. A true martial arts master would not enter a ring to harm another human being. A true martial arts master is one seeking spiritual growth and the desire to live a peaceful life.


I hope that those who read this article will seek to be real martial artists and live lives of peace. If you ever have the opportunity to train with us in Kiyojute Ryu Kempo Bugei, you are welcomed. But if you must train in other styles, please be sure to train with a true master of peace, who will treat you right and help you learn Busan, the highest level of the martial arts.

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