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FAQ: About the Martial Art

  • Is Fudebakudo any good in a fight?
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  • There's a guy down the gym who says he's 4th dan Fudebakudo. Is he?
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  • If it's so good, how come Fudebakudo has never been used in the UFC?
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  • I can't spell "Fudebakudo." Can you help me?
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  • Why is everything black, white and red?
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  • Is it true that Bruce Lee was studying Fudebakudo when he died?
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  • Actually fude doesn't mean "pen." So why fudebakudo?
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  • Is there also an art of fudebaku-jutsu?
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  • What's the official governing body for issuing Fudebakudo grade certificates?
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  • What are the Four Treasures?
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Is Fudebakudo any good in a fight?

Fudebakudo rightly has a reputation as one of the most devastating of martial arts. Both tactically and strategically, the Fudebakudo practitioner will always seek to engage his or her opponent with, whenever possible, a massively unfair advantage.

There's a guy down the gym who says he's 4th dan Fudebakudo. Is he?

Almost certainly not. Fudebakudo is usually taught — and learned — secretively. For a number of reasons, both traditional and practical, Fudebakudo masters rarely reveal their true status. Because Fudebakudo is a sophisticated and dangerous kind of knowledge, it's usually only imparted to students who have already achieved a certain level of proficiency in one or more of the classical martial arts.

Fudebakudo masters usually pass amongst us unnoticed, disguised like the Taoist peasant-sages of ancient China. The Fudebakudo that is revealed is not the true Fudebakudo. Except when it is.

If it's so good, how come Fudebakudo has never been used in the UFC?

Actually Fudebakudo has been used to devastating effect in several fights in the Ultimate Fighting Contest (UFC). However, because of the secrecy of the art, in each case the fighter concerned wrote the name of another martial art on the entry form, so Fudebakudo's involvement was not credited.

However, ever since a controversial incident late in the summer of 2000, Fudebakudo has not appeared on the UFC. The fight between undeclared Fudebakudo stylist Gary "The Squid" Gyre and a Cuban kickboxer was interrupted several times by the organisers of the UFC, following complaints from the technical crew who were recording the event. They claimed that certain shading techniques Gyre was using were causing pixelation artefacts (also known as "the jaggies") on their pictures, which were consequently unfit for broadcast. After a number of stoppages and ensuing protests, the fight was allowed to continue to a conclusion, but Gyre, his confidence gone and his rhythm clearly broken, was convincingly defeated.

I can't spell "Fudebakudo." Can you help me?

Yes. Try www.explodingpen.com, which also works.

Why is everything black, white and red?

The three traditional colours of Fudebakudo are black, white and red. These represent ink, paper, and red ink, respectively.

Is it true that Bruce Lee was studying Fudebakudo when he died?

Mystery surrounds Bruce Lee's premature death, and of course many people have speculated that Fudebakudo was involved. These rumours probably originate from the press interest in Jock "Iron Grip" Brillig, standby dolly-grip on the set of Lee's unfinished film "Game of Death" (1978). Brillig tried unsuccessfully to sell a story about Lee's proposed next project, "Crosshatch the Dragon," in which certain secret techniques of a Fudebakudo-ryu that were being taught in Hong Kong at the time would be revealed. Brillig failed to keep an appointment he had made with Vanity Fair journalists on a quay in the Hong Kong docks, and so the dossier allegedly containing the provisional screenplay was never seen. Brillig's name does not appear in any movie credits after that time.

How much of this, if any, Lee was directly involved in will probably never be known. However, independent witnesses remember seeing him on many different occasions in the weeks preceding his death reading documents written in the trademark black ink of Fudebakudo.

Actually fude doesn't mean "pen." So why fudebakudo?
kanji

Fude (the first of the three characters shown to the left) is usually read as "brush," as in a calligraphy or writing brush. The kanji for fude is in fact made of the elements "bamboo" and "words" — meaning "words coming out of bamboo." There's little doubt that when it first arrived in Japan, Fudebakudo was most commonly practiced using brushes rather than pens, but the distinction between the two tools seems to have been lost during the last century. Today most Fudebakudo is based on penmanship rather than brushmanship, and more often than not the pens are made from synthetic polycarbonate materials rather than bamboo. Nonetheless, perhaps in deference to tradition, Fudebakudo masters still clean their teeth with a brush, but never a pen.

Is there also an art of fudebaku-jutsu?

Yes, but it is now considered vulgar.

What's the official governing body for issuing Fudebakudo grade certificates?

For most of Fudebakudo's history, the simple tradition of a master issuing a teaching certificate to an accomplished and trustworthy student was the only transmission of grade. True Fudebakudo is concerned with mastery of technique and correct form rather than personal advancement.

However, more recently attempts to standardise Fudebakudo gradings and syllabus have been made. The All-Japan Fudebakudo Council (AJFC) was set up in Tokyo during the 1950s, following the release of American restrictions on the practice of martial arts. Within two years the AJFC had split into two factions: the All-Japan Real Fudebakudo Council (AJRFC) and the International Fudebakudo Association (IFA). The AJRFC, differing on some details of syllabus, broke into three groups, the International Fudebakudo Council (IFC), the World Fudebakudo Federation (WFF) and the International Council of Fudebakudo (ICF). Due to a seating disagreement at the WFF conference in 1966, the ICF merged with the AJRFC to form the International Fudebakudo Council (IFC) which within a year had dissolved into three organisations, namely the World Fudebakudo Association (WFA), the International Fudebakukai (IF), and the Association of Traditional Fudebakudo (ATF). A number of members of the WFA and the AJRFC left to form their own organisation, following an accounting irregularity at the ICF congress of 1970, which became known as the International World Fudebakudo Organisation (IWFO). A difference of opinion led to the formation of the breakaway American Fudebakudo Association (AFA) in 1981. The AFA West Coast (AFAWC) became an organisation in its own right in 1986, leaving the East Coast members to form two new organisations, the AFA East Coast (AFAEC) and the slightly smaller United States Fudebakudo Fellowship (USFF). At this point, a number of practitioners, tired of politics, formed a splinter group called the International Fudebakudo Fellowship (IFF). The IFF no longer exists, having divided into two groups, the Worldwide Authentic Fudebakudo Fellowship (WAFF) and the International Amateur Fudebakudo Association (IAFA). At the 1990 IFC Congress, an umbrella organisation called the Association of International Fudebakudo Associations (AIFA) was inaugurated which briefly brought together members of the AFF and the AFAWC until the World Council of Fudebakudo Associations (WCFA), the International Federation of Fudebakudo Councils (IFFC) and the World Fudebakudo Federation Council (WFFC) were created to replace them.

The AFAEC recognises certificates issued by the AJRFC, provided they have a stamp from the AIFA. The IFFC does not.

What are the Four Treasures?

Hmm, odd question. The Four Treasures of Fudebakudo were originally the same as the Four Treasures of the Chinese scholar — the brush, the inkstick, the inkstone, and the paper. However the pen, which contained its own reservoir of ink, was gradually adopted, replacing the brush as the first treasure and handily freeing up the next two, namely the inkstick and inkstone. These were replaced with the sword and the credit card and beer. These are now regarded as the five definitive Four Treasures of Fudebakudo, although there may be others.

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