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Bonsai and Budo

budo and bonsai

If you are a lover of the Japanese culture, then you’ve just landed on the right page! I think you’ll love to learn more about Budo and how it correlates with Bonsai.

In this post, I’ll be giving you a brief history of these two Japanese ideals, with clear and concise reflections of how they can help you learn discipline and attain self-discovery. Let’s get to it straight away.

What is Budo?

The word Budo has its origin from the ancient Japanese philosophy and martial art. Bu translated means ‘martial’ and Do means ‘Way’ both together meaning either ‘Martial Way or Way of war.’

Budo is a modern term that is used to describe the Japanese martial arts. Budo in the Japanese culture is merely a way of life — a custom that is built upon the ideas of formulating propositions, having a philosophical study of these propositions, subjecting your research to real critique, and following a path to the actualization of these propositions. In brief, Budo is just a way of life that is practiced to create in
its disciples a sense of norm to prove the validity of the discipline acquired through a given form of art.

In ancient times, the Japanese masters and warlords employed the Budo practice as a war tool that was used to prepare soldiers internally to suppress self-ego and accept absolute discipline, and externally to defend their territory and conquer enemies. The modern Budo today has no external enemies, the practice is aimed to harmonize one’s body, soul, and spirit to expel self-ego and accept absolute humility.

Bonsai as a reflection of Budo, the way of the warrior

bonsai and budo patch

The term “Bon-sai” is a Japanese word, although the practice has its origin from the old Chinese Empire. Bonsia formerly known as Punsia is the art of growing dwarf trees in containers using special techniques; the practice became popular in China by 700 AD and later adopted by the Japanese.
Punsia was practiced originally by only elites in the society with locally-collected specimens, and the trees were regarded as a luxurious gift throughout the Chinese empire.

Although the Bonsai art is a tradition, the Japanese adopted as a result of the influence of Zen Buddhism and the fact that Japan is only four percent of China’s mainland size, the practice aside being a culture of just growing dwarf trees in containers; it also reflects the Budo way of life. Bonsai today is used as a tool for self-discovery and personal growth. All the elements required for the healthy growth of the Bonsai plant represents various things and can be used to study and improve the life of the plant grower.
Bonsai as a reflection of Budo dedication for self-discovery and personal growth.

Reflection one

Every bonsai plant is unique, but they all have some aspects in common. Professional Bonsai growers can often distinguish between which master has groomed a tree, even when it looks entirely different from the others.

A Bonsai plant is a good reflection of the life of its groomer or master; the plants reflect the personality of its master just like an athlete is influenced and performs a sport like his/her coach.

Reflection Two

Bonsai trees grow in pots or trays, there are several types of containers that can serve this purpose, but the ideal container is the pot or tray that harmonizes with the tree. The tree performs best in the perfect container so that both complement each other. The bonsai container signifies our home; we are happy and prosperous when we are at peace and harmony with people around us.

Reflection Three

A Bonsai tree has its root hidden deep down below the tray or pot’s soil. For the plant to survive and thieve in all seasons, its roots must grow deep and strong. The root provides nutrients and minerals for other parts of the tree. A weak root will cause the plant to wither and die in harsh seasons, but a firm root sustains and repairs its self even in the worst seasons. Humans have their ways of thinking, values, and believe. These cultures and customs are the roots. When a human’s roots are strong and sustaining, personal growth and self- actualization follows.

Bonsai as a reflection of shaping your Budo skills

The bonsai’s trunk is groomed to become healthy and sturdy, with a little touch of flexibility. If the trunk lacks flexibility, it could get broken when the wind comes. The tree branches gain support from the truck and receive nutrients and other essentials from the trunk which connects directly to the root the primary source of energy and minerals.

The Bonsai truck is what everyone sees at a glance; it reveals the artistry of the craft, and it is where the art begins. The trunk in the bonsai plant represents the Budo skills; it shows the level of one’s fitness and humility. Just like the Bonsai truck, the Budo practice grooms your character and attitude towards life; it unites your body, soul, and spirit.

Bonsai as a reflection of Budo spirit

The beauty of every Bonsai Plant lies in its branches and leaves, the leaves and branches display the talent and creativity of the person that groomed the plant. These leaves and branches could either be long or short, wide or sparse, and straight or windy.

The true potentials people around you see lies in one’s spirit, your talents and creativities are the gifts of your mind, and the Budo practices helps you unravel these hidden spirit potentials. Just like the harmony of the tray, the root, and the truck brings about the real nature of the Bonsai, in the same way, does our spirit direct and harmonizes us.


The Budo practice and the bonsai culture are two different traditions with similar objectives. The philosophies of both practices are built by discipline and self-discovery. For a person to attain self actualization and be refined, they must overcome ego and submit to humility. If you love practicing the powerful arts of Bonsai or Budo, get started with your own Bonsai tree!!