Bunbu Ryodo Using your Karate Strategy & Skills in life and Work for success

bunbu ryodo pen and sword

Using your Karate Strategy & Skills in life and Work for success  - “Bunbu Ryodo” - an educated & sophisticated warrior

One so often reads and hears from past and modern day living karate masters that, “karate’s first and foremost objective is character development”. The “proof is always in the pudding” with regards to how something can really benefit one’s life. Success means many different things to different people. For example, success may be any one of the following: 

  • career advancement
  • tranquillity in life
  • finances
  • family

A noted sensei who is Western and has lived most of his life in Japan while also achieving high standards in martial arts, academics and corporate activity is Dr. Greg Story (who achieved his 5th dan in Japan in 1985). Given his success in budo and life applications of its practice, he has contributed the below article. Before we present one of his many reflections on the principle of Bunbu Ryodo a brief biography is presented.

Instructor profile of sensei Greg Story (PhD): 

Country of Residence: Japan 

Nationality: Australian 

Occupation highlights: 

                        - General Manager, Shinsei Bank in Tokyo 

                        - Australian Embassy – Austrade Japan Representative (the trade promotion arm of the Australian government)

Karate rank: 5th Dan Shito-ryu achieved inside Japan in 1985 

Education: Ph.D. in “International Relations & Political science” 

Tournament career: competed annually in Australian and Japanese    

                    tournaments over a 17 year period in the 1970s and 1980s. 

Additionally, I (Jason Armstrong) see it fitting to put a perspective forward regarding Sensei Greg Strory’s  influence on certain deshi & his way when teaching in the dojo, The perspective recollects some thoughts from training under Sensei Story in the 1980s:

25 to 30 years ago I was training in a karate dojo that was lead by an Australian born sensei who was on sabbatical in Japan to both further his karate and to gain his Ph.D.. As he had been away from the dojo for a number of years I had only heard stories about this man’s thorough approach to the martial arts. I soon learned what this meant as he returned to Australia and became my sensei for the next 5 years (until he again returned to live in Japan permanently, which was about the same time I moved to the USA to live). Of the many sensei I have been exposed to (Japanese and Western) Sensei Greg Story was the one who stressed most the application of Zen, the Art of War, and Budo to achieve “victory“ in the dojo and one’s life. 

Sensei Greg Story’s success on the corporate front, in the karate dojo and tournament scene exemplifies the application of discipline regarding effort and planning, while maintaining open minded or big picture thinking (a key aspect of “Zen” lessons). Obviously Sensei Greg is a talented individual in his own right, but regardless of anyone’s innate skills, all areas of one’s life can be fine-tuned by the many philosophical and physical lessons the martial arts supply. Most martial arts instructors teach classes with a 90% physical lesson due to a lack of insight into the classic works of Sun Tzu (Art of War), and “Zen” related philosophies which are the backbone of Japanese Karate. Sensei Greg Story is one of those “true” sensei in his ability to pass on the “pen & sword” in a structured and insightful way. 

I was reunited with Sensei Greg Story when we both lived in Japan at the same time between 1997 and 2002 so catching up again became a regular occurrence. Over the last few years we still meet on my visits to Tokyo and always reflect on Budo and how it can be applied to an individual’s goal attainment and career success. Not only has Sensei Story reviewed and contributed to DownloadKarate.com’s “Using Martial Arts Zen & Strategy in Life & Career” video series, he was in fact the spark for the course’s creation.

Above commentary provided by Jason Armstrong, Ph.D., 7th Dan. 

Main Article:  “Life and Budo – a bidirectional approach” 
 by Sensei Greg Story, 5th Dan

greg story karate

“Bunbu Ryodo” is the Japanese version of the ancient Chinese ideal, of an educated, sophisticated warrior. “Bun” relates to learning or letters and “Bu” relates to martial. A physically strong but ignorant fighter was not the ideal. A “smart” but physically weak scholar was not the ideal. In English we might adapt our own Pen and Sword idiom to say “Wield well both Pen and Sword”. When I discovered this Japanese saying “Bunbu Ryodo” while studying in Japan, it certainly resonated with me. I enjoyed the hard, physical elements of combat but I also cherished the pursuit of intellectual knowledge. It seemed to capture an ideal I could aspire toward. 

One of the great disappointments however, I found in Japan and elsewhere, was the lack of this combination amongst the various martial arts teachers. There seemed to be very few exponents who were interested in the history, philosophy, traditions, ethics etc., of the martial arts they practiced. They may have possessed a ruthless roundhouse kick, but taking the art to the level of “life art” never seemed to enter their minds. 

Antonio Oliver from Spain visited Australia in the late 1980s as a Karate coach, and I still remember his concept of not “budo” but “workdo”. I had always seen budo as a pure form of direction – walking the path of the martial arts, but he had shown me that, for most people, the path of working for a living was the central plank, rather than esoteric yearnings of the warrior’s way. 

Very, very few martial artists can support themselves from their art. For almost all of us, we live in the world of work, career, family, mortgages etc.“Bunbu Ryodo” in daily life is similar to studying for a degree at night (while working to pay the bills) as opposed to going to varsity full time (the full time martial arts professional). 

We work and we study our art. But our art can transform our work. The application of the same principles that make you a force to be reckoned with on the Dojo floor, can be the same elements that project your career forward. 

The focus and concentration while in the “zone” can be the same powerful forces needed in business to deal with a problem or challenge. The ability to take punishment from an opponent and still find the “heart” to persevere, are the same qualities needed when things are not going according to plan. Strategy is a universal need and so the development of this field is not limited to combat. Millions of dollars are being invested each year by companies to learn what can be deduced from applying the strategies of sports coaches to the world of commerce. Forget about having to attend the famous football coach’s seminar, how many martial artists apply what they have learnt from strategy in the dojo to their own career? 

My own martial art of Karate I found, as I matured, was also immature as a teaching art. The number of instructors who could produce the equivalent of a course curriculum were very few. Even at secondary school they give you the term schedule before you commence, so you know what is coming up. At university you receive the entire semester work loan, assignments, and detailed information of each week’s teaching – all before you start. 

Well at 99.9% of Karate Dojo(s) you are likely to discover the evenings training delights as you receive them out on the floor. That is how I spent the vast majority of my time in Karate both as a student and as a teacher. Well I don’t know that many of us would run the rest of our lives with such gay abandon. Eventually I “got it” and started planning classes in detail three months in advance. For example, as a fee paying student you could know when a particular karate kata would be taught, so you could plan your timetable accordingly. This customer service concept is still a rarity in Karate instruction. 

The lessons from both the art and work should flow freely across the divide of time spent in the separate pursuits. We should be applying our work life skills to how we receive the art and we should be injecting elements of the art into our work day. 

This is what those ancient Chinese sought when they aimed for “Bunbu Ryodo”. 

Should we settle for anything less? 

by 5th Dan Sensei Greg Story, Ph.D.

strategy in kumite fighting zen karate

Karate technique selection

karate book