Bowing to your Enemies: Courtesy, Budō, and Japan

Courtesy seems to be an essential part of budō, the Japanese martial ways. Yet there is no prima facie relationship between fighting and courtesy. Indeed, we might think that violence and aggression are antithetical to etiquette and care. By situating budō within the three great Japanese traditions of Shintō, Confucianism, and Zen Buddhism, this article reveals the intimate relationship between courtesy and the martial arts. It suggests that courtesy cultivates, and is cultivated by, purity of work and deed, mutually beneficial cooperation, and loving brutality. These individual and social virtues are not only complementary but also essential to budō.