Budo and Symbolism by Paolo Corallini


“To sit properly in seiza, first bring the left knee down to the mat to symbolize your intention to sacrifice the qualities related to the material world and resign yourself from all negative influences.”

Paolo Corallini Sensei

Paolo Corallini Sensei

In the Far East everything has a deep connection with symbolism. Ancient traditions and customs still co-exist with the most advanced technological progress and modernity. Even in these contemporary days, when man seems to be more and more projected towards esotericism, an unaffected world survives where the most noble and knightly virtues can still inspire us: it is Budo.

Budo means “the way of peace through the practice of Martial Arts.”This word comes from BUSHI (referring to the nobleman, the knight, protector and guardian of the established order, guarantor of justice, and the holder of the highest ethics and morals: he is the keeper of the Temple) and DO (which denotes the Way, the search for spirituality). Budo, then, is the way followed by the knight, as the man that embodies the noblest virtues and applies these virtues to the service of society.

This subject is extensive and would require a long essay to be analysed carefully, so I will only describe the symbolic language of three important aspects of the initiation to Budo: the dojo (the place where the Way is practised), the dogi (the uniform for the Way), and the reigi (the Ceremony or Ritual).

The dojo is symbolically oriented in a way that Earth, Man and Universe can be harmoniously integrated. In its inner space, there are some particular areas symbolically connected with special energies, entities and numbers.

In the middle of the northern wall there is the Shinza, that literally means “place where resides the Heart-Spirit”, or “residence of Gods.”In this area, there is an altar (Tokonoma), above which a holy calligraphy is posted and where the swords (katana) and other holy objects used in the rituals are placed. The Shinza has to be deeply respected by the initiated, because it spiritually represents the existence of the Original Spirit: it is the Sancta Sanctorum (“Holy of Holies”) of the dojo. The Shinza is the place where the subtle energies deriving from the Original Heart-Spirit communicate with those of the Individual Heart-Spirit of each practitioner.

The Shinza is the anti-chaos, because it represents the Cosmic Order emanating from the Creator. To the right of the Shinza is the Kamiza, literally “the place where the spirits of fire and water reside”. The Kamiza symbolizes the elements of nature: in the eastern tradition, the element Fire-Creativity is placed southwards and it is related to summer; the Metal-Intuition is sited westwards and is associated to autumn; the element Water-Wisdom is located northwards and is linked to winter; the element Wood-Imagination is placed eastwards and is connected to spring; the Earth-Will is positioned in the center. The Kamiza, in addition to the mythical union of fire, water and the other elements, represents the blending of the male and female, of love and spirit.

To the left of the Shinza is the Shimoza, the place where the spirits of the ancestors are preserved. It symbolizes the power of the past, the basic experience of the evolution of all human beings, animals and vegetables. The union of Shinza-Kamiza-Shimoza is a trinity that should be compared to that of the universal esoteric discipline.

To the south, there is the Hikae Seki that literally means “place where notes are taken”: it is the place reserved for the students, the apprentices, and novices, those who wish to be initiated. It is the place connected with the female, to the receptive and, in fact, it is reserved for those students that need the teaching of the Master (Sensei), who instead stays north, in front of the Shinza, the area linked to the male and the emission.

A central line symbolically cuts the dojo into two parts, right and left, east and west. It is called Seitchu Sen. It represents the axis of the visible world, the horizontal, the plane of the manifestation of humanity on earth. It is the symbol of the interaction between heaven and earth. To the right of this line sit the most skilled practitioners, to the left those who are inexperienced. Traditionally, the dojo is not heated in order to perceive the climatic variations and scents of the seasons.

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