Trawling the www for martial arts organisations reveals an underlying need for authenticity. Many Budo practitioners need to connect with Japan, because they realise that no matter how slight, an eastern link denotes credibility. There are still individuals who make up their own rules and styles and yet emphasise a Japanese influence. But this obsequious strain has only a partial impact on the genuine theme of Budo. People are more informed. They can look beyond the belts and badges to see the quality of Budo. Predominant styles such as Karate-do, Judo, Iaido, Aikido, Kendo, Jujutsu, and Kobudo are lost when diluted or taken out of context – drying streams that leave a fading mark on the reliable path of history.
National organisations have produced some fine martial artists. Commendable individuals have earned their place in the hearts and minds of many adherents. Kokusai Budoin, while acknowledging the awards of fellow organisations guards the integrity of its awards. The teaching emphasis is peace with the spotlight on personal development.
In this quest, awards are marks of personal achievement rather than ranks of authority. The history of the belt system is uncertain. One reference is the novice monks who wore a different coloured belt as a symbol of their initiation into the priesthood. The belts used in the martial arts have a similar connotation, denoting the many levels of personal progress while learning the way or Dō.
What really matters to the serious martial artist is something which is in the heart. If it is out there in the world, for everyone to see, it has no lasting value. Everything in this world is transient, but what is important to you as an individual, will remain with you your entire life. What people see and admire is not the show, but the calibre of the person.
The human heart and soul is enduring, regardless of fleeting achievements. If you win a prize, that is good, but it is your prize, a glory that lasts but for a moment. It has only passing interest to others, and when that moment has gone, it is simply a memory.
For those who love the arts there is a personal award that cannot be won, and no one can give. It is the result of dedication and commitment to excellence.
It is easy to be dazzled by the concept of the Samurai, and erase the thought that countless numbers of them went to war and never returned; whose heads were displayed on sticks by the victors. They were still Samurai! Victory is as fleeting as the prizes we win, and won more by chance than skill.
Approaching the arts with such sobering thoughts brings us closer to the reality of their fatal purpose. Like them our lives are fatal; marry the two, and the assignment takes on greater meaning. We realise the futility of heads on sticks. Our rationale is one of peace, and our study and use of the arts should also result in peace.