What is Dai Nippon Butoku Kai? 大日本武徳会とは？
Some of the readers may have heard the name of Dai Nippon Butoku Kai. I have decided to investigate what this organization is as it is almost an unknown organization among the Shotokan practitioners. I found that once it was a reputable and very popular martial arts organization. I also discovered that there are, in fact, two different organizations under the same name and some people get mixed up with them. In this article, I will provide a short introduction of what DNBK is. I will also explain what those two different organizations are. I hope the information I provided here will give the readers the general but correct understanding of what Dai Nippon Butoku Kai is or was.
The original Dai Nippon Butoku Kai (DNBK 大日本武徳会) was established on April 17th 1895 in Kyoto. The DNBK’s objectives were the restoration of classical martial cultures and promotion of international peace and harmony through the education and training in the traditional martial arts disciplines. The organization was dismantled on October 31st of 1946 by the GHQ. The GHQ (General Headquarters) was the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers that occupied Japan following the war.
DNBK was established under the authority of the Ministry of Education (教育省) before WWII and sanction of the Meiji Emperor (明治天皇). One of the main purposes of this organization was to organize a tournament and a demonstration of the martial arts at the sites where Meiji Emperor would make a visit. During the early part of his reign the emperor visited different sites such as Ise Temple (伊勢神宮) and other sites. Meiji Emperor became sickly so his trips outside the castle were canceled. Thus, they changed their objective to standardize martial disciplines and systems throughout Japan. It became a nation-wide organization and began to influence various martial arts organizations in all of Japan. The official training hall, Butokuden (武徳殿 photo above) was built in every prefecture and in many cities. This was the first official martial arts organization sanctioned by the government of Japan and was regarded as the most reputable organization by all Japanese martial arts such as kendo, judo, kyudo, etc. It promoted the virtues of bushido and high historical proficiency in martial disciplines.
DNBK became an organization affiliated tightly with the government in 1942. It initially operated through the police department but it expanded into the Japanese military organizations such as the Japanese Imperial Army. They appointed Hideki Tojo (東条英機), then Prime Minister, as its Chairman. The other offices were taken by government and military officials. The Prefecture representatives were held by the governor of those prefectures and the major city representatives held the city representative positions. The headquarters office was moved from Kyoto to one of the government offices in Tokyo. This was, of course, to promote the bushido (or fighting) spirit among the soldiers and even the general public. At its most active period it became a huge organization that boasted a huge membership of 2 and a quarter million.
After the end of WWII in 1945, the organization changed its qualification from a government association to a private organization. The membership shrunk significantly (from millions down to hundreds and currently a few thousands) and it also lost its authority to govern all the martial arts organizations in Japan. Due to its relationship with the Japanese military organizations during the war time, the GHQ dissolved DNBK in 1946. In fact, many of the leaders and officials of DNBK (more than 1,300) were ostracized and lost their jobs in 1947.
In 1953, the new organization, DNBK was established with a new charter and a new philosophical vision. The new purposes of DNBK stresses preservation of classical martial arts tradition and emphasizes restoring the heritage, and virtues of a martial culture and the promotion of education and community service through martial arts training. In the following year, it made an application to become a government recognized organization. However, All Japan Kendo Federation, All Japan Judo Federation and Japan Kyudo Federation opposed the idea as they inherited the duties and the operations from the original DNBK. Thus, the government rejected its application and the new group had to wait until the end of 2012 before it became a government recognized organization.
The new DNBK is a totally different organization from its predecessor. Its membership is now only a few thousands and it does not have the official training hall, Butokuden in every prefecture as it used to do. It is a government recognize organization but it does not have any direct tie to the government office such as ministry of education or sports. For these reasons, it does not hold the same reputation or respectability and authority, at least, in Japan as the original one used to have. However, it is trying to function as close as possible to the original one by granting dan ranks and also achievement awards to martial artists. They also hold a martial arts festival each year since 1962. The current organization has memberships from Iaido, Karate, Jujitsu, Kenjutsu, Jojutsu, other kobujutsu as well as a small number of kendo and kyudo.
According to DNBK, there are 13 organization members in karate category. Here is the list of the members.
DNBK website in Japanese where I found the information: http://www.butokukai-honbu.org/
古武道研究会：泰正館 Kobudo Kenkyukai Taiseikan
武徳和魂会（拳龍会）Butoku Wakonkai (Kenryukai)
日本講武道楠誠会館 Nihon kobudo Kenseikaikan
日本古式武道協会拳刀会 Nihon koshiki budokyokai Kentokai
日本武道空手協会 Nihon budo karate kyokai
日本空手古武術龍真会 Nihon karate kobujutsu Ryushinkai
首里派空手道協会 Shuri-ha karatedo kyokai
金硬流沖縄県支部 Konkoryu Okinawa branch dojo
日本古式武道協会 拳正会 Nihon koshiki budo kyokai Kenseikai
神伝円心流 Sinden enshinryu
群馬武備舎 大道館 Gunma bubisha Daidokan
全日本兼清流連盟 Zen hinon kenseiryu renmei
If you wish to learn more about DNBK, you can read its history and other details at their website: http://www.dnbk.org/history.cfm