Bugō (武号, Japanese: [bɯgoː]) are nicknames used in the Japanese martial arts. The word is composed of the symbols (bu, meaning "martial") and (gō, meaning "name"). In English, the term is sometimes translated as "martial name" or "warrior name"[1][2] with similar equivalents in other languages.[3]

Cultural origin

As James George Frazer demonstrated in The Golden Bough, using pseudonyms (a.k.a. aliases or monikers) instead of one's real name is a taboo common to many countries throughout history.[4] In Japan too, the word for true name (, imina) is derived from 忌み+ (also imina), meaning "name to be avoided due to death or other taboos" - after death, people are given posthumous names (, okurina) to avoid "calling" them via their true name.[5]

In China's Southern Song period, Neo-Confucianism combined concepts of reclusion, self-denial and self-effacing humility from Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism, and these thoughts found fertile ground in Japan.[6] 実名敬避俗 (jitsumei keihizoku, the avoidance of real names) became fashionable and even de rigueur amongst the educated classes - literati (ja:文人) poets, artists and monks, as well as courtiers.[7] In Japan even now it is common practice to call people by their titles instead of names (even within the family),[8][9] and online, Japanese people tend to use handles rather than personal names (see also Japanese names).[10]

During the Edo period, Japanese people - even commoners - used multiple names.[11] Samurai names changed throughout their lives, depending on stage of life (e.g. coming of age), titles associated with official positions, allegiance, and Buddhist necronyms after death (q.v. Kaimyō).[12] However, these are not normally referred to as Bugō unless used within a martial arts training setting (dōjō or ryūha).

Miyamoto Musashi's various names included 藤原 Fujiwara (lineage), 宮本 Miyamoto (village origin), 新免 Shinmen (name of father's lord), 辨助 Bennosuke (childhood name), 武蔵 Musashi (title; also possibly read "Takezō" as a personal name), 玄信 ("imina", read as Harunobu, Motonobu and/or Genshin), 二天 Niten (mainly in his suiboku paintings), 二天道楽 Niten Dōraku, etc. People still debate which of these names were really used, in what ways, and how they were read.[13]

As with patronymic personal names and Yagō, it is common for students to include a character from the teacher's Bugō as a mark of respect and to ensure continuity of the lineage.[14] In many cases the name would not be chosen by the practitioner/student, but chosen for them by the teacher - see many examples below.

Similar customs can be found outside Japan: for example Richard "the Lionheart", Don Quixote, Carlos the Jackal, or the ring names used by modern sports martial artists. In addition, warrior names are found amongst the indigenous Kwakwakaʼwakw[15] and forest dwellers of French Guiana.[16]


The Bugei Ryūha Daijiten directory of historical martial arts schools lists Bugō for many within the various lineages.[citation needed]

The grandmasters of Shin-no-shin Ishikawa-ryū always included the character in their Bugō to indicate their founder's descent from the Minamoto clan.

Ittō-ryū's founder Itō Kagehisa used the name "Ittō-sai" (一刀斎).

Tenshin Shōden Katori Shintō-ryū founder Iizasa Ienao used the name "Chōi-sai" (長威斎).

Yagyū Munetoshi of the Shinkage-ryū used the name "Sekishū-sai" (石舟斎).

The character (-sai), meaning "study room", seen at the end of the three examples above is common to many martial artists of the Edo period, principally because of "bunbu-ryōdō" ("the pen and the sword in accord"), i.e. the link between martial arts and visual arts. Such 斎号 ("-sai names") are even now commonly used as posthumous Buddhist Dharma names for artists or doctors.[17] Whether a given individual intended them to be used as pen names or Bugō is not always clear.

Daitō-ryū Aiki-jūjutsu's founder Takeda Sōkaku used the Bugō "Minamoto Masayoshi" (源正義).[18]

His student Yamamoto Tomekichi, founder of Mugen Shintō-ryū, was granted one character from Sōkaku's birth name 惣角, and one from his Bugō 源正義, combining them to make Kakuyoshi (角義). He also had a "-sai name", Ittō-sai (一刀斎) - coincidentally the same as that of Itō Kagehisa as seen above.

Furuoka Masaru, founder of Musō-ryū Iaigiri-dō, used the Bugō "Nitō-sai" (二刀斎) - another "-sai name", this time preceded with "two swords" instead of the Ittō-sai "one sword" meaning.

Bujinkan grandmaster Masaaki Hatsumi has used different Bugō at different stages in his life (e.g. Byakuryū, Toratsugu, Tetsuzan, Hisamune),[19] as did his teacher, Toshitsugu Takamatsu (e.g. Kikaku, Chōsui, Mōko no Tora).[20][21] Those training in this art are frequently awarded Bugō when they reach 5th dan (instructor) level. Many of the names include either the character 龍 (ryū, dragon) or 虎 (ko, tiger), both derived from past names of Hatsumi and Takamatsu (e.g. Unryū 雲龍 = Cloud Dragon,[22] Kiryū 輝龍 = Shining Dragon,[23] Hiryū 飛龍 = Flying Dragon,[24] Nanko = Southern Tiger).[25] The combination of the two, 龍虎 (Ryūko) was awarded to Major Joe Vaughan.[26] Most variants include animals (e.g. Shirokuma = Polar Bear,[27] Taka Seigi = Hawk Justice,[28] Isamu Koma 勇駒 = brave horse,[29] Byakko 白狐 = White Fox,[30] Ōzaru = Great Ape).[31]

Former students of Hatsumi similarly use martial names, e.g. Fumio "Unsui" Manaka,[32] Tsunehisa 'Shōtō' Tanemura.[33] Satō Kinbei, a rather controversial figure who claimed also to have studied under Takamatsu, used the Bugō (and "-sai name") "Jūshinsai" (柔心斎) and passed this to his daughter Chizuko, who became the "2nd generation Jūshinsai".[34] Kimura Masaji, another claiming to have studied under Takamatsu, used the Bugō "Masakatsu" (正勝).[35][36] Students of Stephen K. Hayes's To-Shin Do are awarded warrior names on promotion to 3rd Dan, e.g. Kevin "Keitoshi" Casey.[37]

The Tenshin ryū website lists five instructors with Bugō, each granted to them by previous masters.

Shiina Kazue, grandmaster of Hokushin Ittō-ryū, uses the Bugō "Naritane" (成胤). The character (-tane) is common to several generations of grandmaster in this school.

Hidemine Jibiki, president of the All Japan Soft-Style Martial Arts Federation uses the Bugō "Buhō" (武峰).[38]

Nakajima Shōhitsu, grandmaster of Shinkage-ryū, used the Bugō "Shōun" (勝雲). Seven of the past eight in the lineage have used the character (meaning "to win") in their names.[39]

In the Kidōkan Iaidō Dōjō in Osaka, new Dan grades are awarded Bugō such as 不聆庵 [40]

See also


  1. ^ Falcaro, David C. (2012). Sogobujutsu: Psychology, Philosophy, Tradition. p. 348. ISBN 9781475936353. Retrieved 25 July 2018.
  2. ^ "Nicknames". Martial Arts Planet. Retrieved 25 July 2018.
  3. ^ "GLOSSARIO" (PDF). Bujinkan Torino Rakuyū Dōjō. Retrieved 7 June 2019.
  4. ^ Frazer, James George (1922). The golden bough; a study in magic and religion. New York: The Macmillan Company. pp. 244-262. Retrieved 7 June 2019.
  5. ^ Felecan, Oliviu (2019). Onomastics between Sacred and Profane. Vernon Press. p. 100. ISBN 9781622735570. Retrieved 7 June 2019.
  6. ^ Richter, Frank-Jürgen (2002). Redesigning Asian Business: In the Aftermath of Crisis. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 16. ISBN 9781567205251. Retrieved 7 June 2019.
  7. ^ Collazo, Anja M. (2017). "Japanese personal names as social markers of rank and individuality in premodern and contemporary times". Beiträge zur Namenforschung. Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag WINTER GmbH. 52 (3): 251.
  8. ^ Yamada, Haru; Kelm, Orlando R.; Victor, David A. (2017). The 7 Keys to Communicating in Japan: An Intercultural Approach. Georgetown University Press. p. 11. ISBN 9781626164772. Retrieved 7 June 2019.
  9. ^ Hays, Jeffrey (August 2012). "Japanese Names, Titles, First Names, Family Names and Hankos". factsanddetails.com.
  10. ^ Krotoski, Aleks (19 April 2012). "Online identity: is authenticity or anonymity more important?". The Guardian. Retrieved 7 June 2019.
  11. ^ Groemer, Gerald (28 May 2019). Portraits of Edo and Early Modern Japan. Springer. p. xiii. ISBN 9789811373763. Retrieved 7 June 2019.
  12. ^ Vaporis, Constantine Nomikos (2019). Samurai: An Encyclopedia of Japan's Cultured Warriors. ABC-CLIO. p. 197. ISBN 9781440842719. Retrieved 7 June 2019.
  13. ^ "小倉碑文". www.geocities.jp (in Japanese). Archived from the original on 23 March 2019. Retrieved 26 July 2018.
  14. ^ "主君から「字」をもらう風習|名前の話04". 59'S 日々是口実 (in Japanese). Retrieved 7 June 2019.
  15. ^ Boas, Franz; Hunt, George (1921). Ethnology of the Kwakiutl, based on data collected by George Hunt. Washington, Government Printing Office. pp. 828–829, 1365–1366. Retrieved 20 January 2020.
  16. ^ Price, Richard (2010). Travels with Tooy: History, Memory, and the African American Imagination. University of Chicago Press. p. 63. ISBN 9780226680576. Retrieved 7 June 2019.
  17. ^ "戒名". 「いい仏壇」 (in Japanese). Retrieved 25 July 2018.
  18. ^ "合気揚げの秘密と時代背景". www.daitouryu.net (in Japanese). Archived from the original on 15 May 2016. Retrieved 25 July 2018.
  19. ^ "Los "Bugo" de Hatsumi Sôke". Bushi Dojo Blog - Artes Marciales y más (in Spanish). 22 June 2012. Retrieved 25 July 2018.
  20. ^ Hatsumi, Masaaki (1988). Essence of Ninjutsu. McGraw-Hill Education. pp. 9, 54. ISBN 9780809247240. Retrieved 7 June 2019.
  21. ^ "Grandmasters". Genbukan Chiryaku Dojo. Retrieved 25 July 2018.
  22. ^ González, Pedro Fleitas. "Bujinkan Unryū Dōjō". www.bujinkanpedrofleitas.com. Retrieved 25 July 2018.
  23. ^ Esteve, Alex. "SOBRE EL NOMBRE DEL DOJO". cife.group. Retrieved 7 June 2019.
  24. ^ Santantonio, Giuseppe (13 January 2015). "ISHIZUKA TETSUJI". Bujinkantarantodojo's Blog (in Italian). Retrieved 7 June 2019.
  25. ^ "Instructor 師範". Bujinkan Tasmania Dojo. Retrieved 25 July 2018.
  26. ^ "About Bujinkan Ryuko Dojo". Bujinkan Ryuko Dojo. Retrieved 25 July 2018.
  27. ^ Cousergue, Arnaud. "Shiro Kuma".
  28. ^ "Phil Legare — Taka Seigi". Taka Seigi Dōjō. Archived from the original on 30 September 2018. Retrieved 25 July 2018.
  29. ^ "Shihan Luca Lanaro". bujin.altervista.org. Retrieved 7 June 2019.
  30. ^ Hvid, René (5 March 2011). "The Budo of My Life". Byakko Shinden. Retrieved 7 June 2019.
  31. ^ "Ben Jones: Ōzaru". www.ozaru.net. Retrieved 25 July 2018.
  32. ^ "Jinenkan Honbu Dojo". www.jinenkan.com. Archived from the original on 11 July 2018. Retrieved 25 July 2018.
  33. ^ "Grandmaster Shoto Tanemura". Genbukan Umineko Dōjō. Retrieved 25 July 2018.
  34. ^ Satō, Chizuko. "jujutsu.com". www.jujutsu.com (in Japanese). Retrieved 10 October 2018.
  35. ^ "恩師紹介". www.genbukan.com. Retrieved 7 June 2019.
  36. ^ "Kimura Masaji 木村正治 (student of Takamatsu Sensei)". YouTube. 26 March 2017. Retrieved 7 June 2019.
  37. ^ "New Titles and Backlist Highlights Fall 2013" (PDF). Tuttle. 2013. p. 68. Retrieved 7 June 2019.
  38. ^ "中国柔挙演武大会" (PDF) (in Japanese). Retrieved 25 July 2018.
  39. ^ "神影流武道場 - 道場紹介". www.shinkageryu-budoujyo.com (in Japanese). Retrieved 25 July 2018.
  40. ^ "稽古日月抄-:[不聆庵」という武号". 夢の浮雲 (in Japanese). 真剣道・基道館. Retrieved 7 June 2019.

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