First a disclaimer: Do not mistake me for an expert on the Bubishi, I am but an amature who perhaps has seen to much. And for that I am probably no more correct than anyone who howls at the moon. But my latest foray into the Bubishi, and perhaps also reading a bit about the reality of the pain of extended sitting while in true Zen meditation, I feel like howling at that moon.
There are many books on the Bubishi, in Japan, in America, in France and many other places. You know a book, it is tactile, has substance, makes you feel you have gained something. Of course the original Bubishi was none of those things.
What feel right to me is that it was a bunch of personal notes from a adept in a Chinese martial practice. It originally was just a loose leaf bunch of notes, ordered whatever was last of interest to look at. I am going to ramble around on this theme, no particular order but whatever follows.
However it really ended on Okinawa probably will remain a mystery. But as time passed it was passed along, between instructors and also passed to trusted senior students. It was not a published work, rather hand copied each passage, And that act likely changed some thing in the age old process of other hands retelling everything. At times personal copies, at times likely professional copyists. Likely no attempt to reconcile differences between different copies.
So you ended up with copies of something you did not exactly know who wrote the orginal and had no idea how faithful the copy you possess matched the original source.
Yet when it moved into printed books there was a new implied structure. Perhaps different for each work, each with an authors ideas overlaying the copy of a copy of a copy of the original notes. So just perhaps, we can undersand the confusions around it if we change the work Bubishi to whatever karate system you follow and try to explain changes that have occurred.
What we can agree on was the adept of the Bubishi art, was as much into the medical side of their art as they were into the physical side. About one half the work is on the medical side of training. Where to attack the body, how to heal the body after it has been attacked. How to heal various infirmities you or your friends must endure. Less frequently translated simply because less is known of that era’s practices perhaps.
Not that it always makes sense. On one hand it shows instant death follows if you strike XYZ, then in another section it describes how to treat someone who has been struck in that same place. Incongruous at best. Reminds me of the saying “the Lord give-ith, the Lord take-ith away.”
Of course I have no interest in trying to learn how to treat something from notes that are copies of copies of original notes, especially when I do not know if the translator was qualified to prepare those notes in the first place.
I can understand why they were included. It clearly suggests an art that cared about treating their members as well as understanding how to attack an attacker.
Partially because my physician, a surgeon, was a member of my adult program for many years. His own knowledge many times led to understanding what was happening when we were doing 123. Of course we grew when that occurred. I can readily imagine the Bubishi author undergoing similar experiences.
Then again, in this modern age, understanding the process is seen as a benefit. Even when the understanding cannot be shown as part of the original.
Let me explain. In the original Bubishi notes there were no Meridian Charts. But in most of the modern Bubishi versions, Japanese, English, French and other versions, the meridian charts and accompanying notes are present. They are not in the original.
I understand why they have been added. There is a logical gap or jump being made that shows the Bubishi within a wider Chinese medical tradition. On the idea the meridians can be employed to heal, or that they can be places to attack in extremis. Sounds most logical.
But perhaps just wishful thinking. China is a big place, and has thousands of martial traditions, as well as many other practices. One of those traditions, a very old one, which uses vital point grasping and striking, does not include meridian theory in their practice. Actually more like the Bubishi than you might think. They only use one simple chart showing vital points, all the rest came from extensive training.
While it may seem logical, it is not necessarily the original tradition. And I prefer to see that tradition in the raw not through other filters, no matter how well meaning.
So just a loose leaf collection of notes. A plausible explanation why there are different Bubishi published structures to the chapters. Each translation coming from collected notes in different orders. None right, none wrong.
The more you think you grasp of the Bubishi, the more you find you have but grasped a reflection of the moon in the water.
As we are martial artists (an assumption on my part) the sections about martial practices is more interesting. How it might be used by us, how some of the movements shown may be reflected within our kata.
Of course that might also just be wish fulfillment.