Bujutsu is a generic term that is used in traditional Japanese martial arts. It is consisted of two kanji: Bu 武 – war and Jutsu 術 – art, skill or craft.
Although the loose translation of bujutsu means „art of war“, this term has a much deeper meaning. If we interpret the ideogram Bu more deeply, that means „to stop the spear“, we can note that bujutsu is „an art to stop the war“, that indicates to the defensive character of the martial arts.
Today, the term bujutsu is used frequently to indicate the period of civil wars in Japan (sengoku jidai), when the practical use of the martial art and strategy were of key meaning to survive the battle.
On the contrary, the term budo (Bu – martial and Do – way, path) is used to indicate the philosophical aspect of the art. Hence the term gendai budo (modern martial arts) that move away from the arts (koryu bujutsu) created before the Meiji period (1868), when in Japan every form of combat that was used by the warrior class was forbidden. The suppression was instated because of the danger that the samurai could have caused and retaken the control of the land, thanks to their combat capabilities.
Another term that is most used in the traditional Japanese martial arts is sogo bujutsu. „Sogo“ signifies composite, or complete martial arts. Unlike the modern (karate, judo, aikido, kendo, kyudo) that are concentrated only on one way of combat or on one weapon, in sogo bujutsu different arts were taught, with or without a weapon, that had the purpose to secure the survival on the battlefield. Even though the new martial arts descend from the classical, all the deadly and dangerous techniques that were used for a quick victory in the bloody battles were „cleansed“, and their appearance was more of a product of the militarization of Japan (the end of 19th and the beginning of the 20th century) and the memory of the famous samurai ancestors.