In 1882 Sokon Matsumura sent a makimono to his student that implies a relation between warrior ethics, social science, and Confucian ethics.
Letter to Ryosei Kuwae
It is important to understand that Bushido translates as The Way of (Do) One who Studies Martial Arts (Bushi). So this code was moral ethics of one who practiced the martial arts, known in Japan as bugei.
On May 13, 1882 Sokon Matsumura sent a makimono (hand written scroll) to his student, Ryosei Kuwae. In this letter Matsumura’s writings imply a relation between warrior ethics, social science, and Confucian ethics. On the topic of martial arts, Matsumura states there are three main areas of understanding:
Gukushi No Bugei (Martial Arts of Intelligence)
Meimoko No Bugei (Martial Arts Without Self-Control)
Budo No Bugei (True Martial Way)
The first refers to having the technical knowledge of martial arts but without any real understanding. The second refers to a person who has the physical understanding of martial arts and can defeat other men in a fight. These people are violent and dangerous and have no self-control. The last case refers to the true way of the warrior. In the martial way, at its purest form, a person has the physical understanding, is powerful, and has a strong sense of loyalty prohibiting them from doing anything unnatural or contrary to nature.
From Bugei to Budo
Matsumura speaks of budo (the martial way) in similar fashion as bushido (way of the warrior, commonly called the code of the samurai). However, he seems to distinguish a difference here. Rather than suggesting that warriors (bushi) have correct way of behaving (do), he says that the martial arts have a correct way to be understood and learned. Matsumura explains that there are seven virtues of Bu (Military Mind):
1. Bu prohibits violence
2. Bu keeps discipline in soldiers
3. Bu keeps control among the population
4. Bu spreads virtue
5. Bu gives a peaceful heart
6. Bu helps keep peace between people
7. Bu makes people or a nation prosperous
The letter additionally has Matsumura’s belief that, the warrior who practices Budo No Bugei will wait for the enemy to defeat himself. He says that, “maturity promotes harmony and that a master of the martial arts should stay away from violence, deal well with people, be self-confident, keep peace with people and accrue wealth.”
The Do in Karate-Do
Sokon Matsumura was renowned for his knowledge of “bujutsu”. Bujutsu is “the classical martial arts of Japan, also called the bugei. The bujutsu are distinguished from the budo by their more ancient roots and by their emphasis on actual combat” (Lowery 1985).
By expressing his wish for his students to begin focusing on the ethical code, and not entirely on the combative nature of fighting, Matsumura began the transition from Te or Tode to Karate-Do (The Way of the Open Hand).
For hundreds of years the Okinawian people had studied Te, but there had never been a concept of Te-Do “The Way of the Hand”. People were studying a system of defense without directly attaching moral behavior to it. Matsumura’s emphasis on these morals was extremely responsible for the change that caused people to instead study Karate-Do, which was self-defense with inseparable guidelines.
The next big step was acknowledging that these morals are inseparable from karate. This came when Yatsune Itosu wrote the Ten Precepts of Tode.