Sunday, February 8, 2009
The samurai warriors believed that they had to obey their master. This allegiance between the samurai warriors and their masters came before anything else including friendship and family ties. This concept of honor or bushido code is sometimes difficult to understand in the western and modern civilizations since in the western teachings and in modern societies, family comes first.
This unwritten Samurai code of conduct, is known as Bushido. The true Bushido code holds that the true warrior must possess loyalty, courage, veracity, compassion, and honor as important, above all else.
An appreciation and respect of life was also imperative, as it added balance to the warrior character of the true Bushido warrior. He was often very stoic with a deep and strong philosophical passion. He could be deadly in combat and yet so gentle and compassionate with children and the weak.
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Monday, June 9, 2008
Robert Baden-Powell. It may even have shaped Baden-Powell's philoshophies on which the Boy Scouts were founded.
Saturday, May 10, 2008
Hagakure: The way of the Samurai is the essential book of the Samurai. Written by Yamamoto Tsunetomo, who was a Samurai in the early 1700s, it is a book that combines the teachings of both Zen and Confucianism. Tsunetomo's views on bushido, the warrior code of the samurai. Hagakure is sometimes said to assert that bushido is really the "Way of Dying" or living as though one was already dead, and that a samurai retainer must be willing to die at any moment in order to be true to his lord.
Hagakure was not widely known during the decades following Tsunetomo's death. However, it received wider circulation at the start of the 20th century, and by the 1930s had become one of the most famous representations of bushido thought in Japan. Hagakure remains popular among many non-Japanese who are interested in samurai culture. It is also frequently referred to as The Book of the Samurai and was featured prominently in the 1999 Jim Jarmusch film Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai.
You can purchase the book through Amazon, or download the pdf here.
These philosophies are centered on loyalty, devotion, purity and selflessness, and Yamamoto places a strong emphasis on the notion of living in the present moment with a strong and clear mind. The word Hagakure literally translates as hidden beneath the leaves and also fallen leaves. Perhaps it was named this because at the time that it was written, the way of the samurai was becoming obsolete.
The Hagakure has been rewritten in modern terms by one of Japan’s famous writers, Yukio Mishima. His own views were very similar to those of Yamamoto, particularly the philosophy of cultivating the self. His characters all had self sufficiency in common, and did not rely upon anyone else for completion.
Although the Hagakure was written centuries ago for a breed of warriors that no longer exist, the philosophies and wisdom within are still practical, even in our modern times.
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
The title of "Bushi" was assigned to warriors born to established military clans of Japan. These were families of considerable wealth and a respected fighting tradition. These families would support the warriors and provide them with weapons and training.
The Bushi were ranked accordint to a scale which took into account
- The family's standing
- The fighter's ability
- The warrior's military accomplishments
Rank also pertained to the Bushi's relation to the Shogun, the top Bushi. Samurai were simply Bushi of a high class and rank.
Sunday, February 10, 2008
"The expert uses the sword but does not kill others. He uses his sword and gives others life. When it is necessary to kill, he kills. When it is necessary to give life, he gives life. When he kills, he kills with absolute concentration. When he gives life, he gives life with absolute concentration."
Katana simply means "long sword", as opposed to the Bushi dagger known as the "Tanto".
During the early history of the Bushido, the sword was one of their most prized possessions. These swords were of exceptional quality and craftmanship. Each handmade Katana was crafted with extreme care, and carried the reputation of its swordssmith. These katanas were known "Koto" swords.
As the techniques of the ancient smiths had been lost during the previous period of war, these swords were called shinto, literally "new swords". Generally they are considered inferior to most koto, and coincide with a decline in manufacturing skills. As the Edo period progressed, blade quality declined, though ornamentation was refined. Originally, simple and tasteful engravings known as horimono were added for religious reasons. Later, in the more complex work found on many shinto, form no longer strictly follows function.
Under the isolationist Tokugawa shogunate, swordmaking and the use of firearms declined. The master swordsmith Suishinshi Masahide (c.1750–1825); published opinions that the arts and techniques of the shinto swords were inferior to the koto blades, and that research should be made by all swordsmiths to rediscover the lost techniques. Masahide traveled the land teaching what he knew to all who would listen, and swordsmiths rallied to his cause and ushered in a second renaissance in Japanese sword smithing. With the discarding of the shinto style, and the re-introduction of old and rediscovered techniques, swords made in the koto style between 1761 and 1876 are shinshinto , "new revival swords" or literally "new-new swords." These are considered superior to most shinto, but inferior to true koto.
In time, it was rediscovered that soldiers needed to be armed with swords, and over the decades at the beginning of the 20th century swordsmiths again found work. These swords, derisively called gunto, were often oil-tempered, or simply stamped out of steel and given a serial number rather than a chiseled signature. The mass-produced ones often look like Western cavalry sabers rather than nihonto, with blades slightly shorter than blades of the shinto and shinshinto periods.
Military swords hand made in the traditional way are often termed as gendaito. The craft of making swords was kept alive through the efforts of a few individuals, notably Gassan Sadakazu and Gassan Sadakatsu, who were employed as Imperial artisans. These smiths produced fine works that stand with the best of the older blades for the Emperor and other high ranking officials. The students of Sadakatsu went on to be designated Intangible Cultural Assets, "Living National Treasures," as they embodied knowledge that was considered to be fundamentally important to the Japanese identity. In 1934 the Japanese government issued a military specification for the new army sword, the first version of which was the Type 94 Katana, and many machine- and hand-crafted swords used in World War II conformed to this and later shin gunto specifications.
Today, most Katanas are mass produced. Quality varies greatly. Quality can be measured as either the Katanas value as an ornament or as a weapon. Regardless you can still find Katanas of exceptional quality. Before you go out and buy any cheap sword inform yourself and only buy a high quality Samurai sword set from a trusted vendor.
Friday, February 8, 2008
The importance of the bushido code for Japanese samurai warriors
The Japanese samurai warriors were well known for adhering to the bushido code. The samurai valued their honor above all things, in the same way as medieval knights of Europe valued their honor.
Born and raised under the true bushido code, a samurai warrior was always alert, on guard, and ready to do battle on his master 's behalf. A samurai was prepared to give his life in his master 's service. Samurai rush into the fiercest fighting, eager for glory. A true samurai never retreats unless ordered to do so, and would never allow himself to be taken prisoner. A true samurai warrior would rather die than be ashamed as in the case of taken prisoner.
The way of the samurai warriors demanded perfection in matters of honor, both on the battlefield and in daily life. A samurai was also expected to be able to write, understand poetry and perform traditional dances.
The word bushido in Japanese means "the way of the warrior."
True Bushido code
The importance of Bushido for Japanese Samurai Warriors
Through Zen - a school of Buddhism one can reach the ultimate "Absolute". Zen meditation teaches one to focus and reach a level of thought words cannot describe. Zen teaches one to "know thyself" and do not to limit yourself. Samurai used this as a tool to drive out fear, unsteadiness and ultimately mistakes. These things could get him killed.
Shintoism - another Japanese doctrine, gives Bushido its loyalty and patriotism. Shintoism includes ancestor-worship which makes the Imperial family the fountain-head of the whole nation. It awards the emperor a god-like reverence. He is the embodiment of Heaven on earth. With such loyalty, the samurai pledge themselves to the emperor and their daimyo or feudal landlords, higher ranking samurai. Shintoism also provides the backbone for patriotism to their country, Japan. They believe the land is not merely there for their needs, "it is the sacred abode to the gods, the spirits of their forefathers . . ." (Nitobe, 14). The land is cared for, protected and nurtured through an intense patriotism.
Confucianism gives Bushido its beliefs in relationships with the human world, their environment and family. Confucianism's stress on the five moral relations between master and servant, father and son, husband and wife, older and younger brother, and friend and friend, are what the samurai follow. However, the samurai disagreed strongly with many of the writings of Confucius. They believed that man should not sit and read books all day, nor shall he write poems all day, for an intellectual specialist was considered to be a machine. Instead, Bushido believes man and the universe were made to be alike in both the spirit and ethics.
These factors which make up Bushido were few and simple. Though simple, Bushido created a way of life that was to nourish a nation through its most troubling times, through civil wars, despair and uncertainty.
1. Justice - Correct judgment at a time where judgment is called for, to strike when it is right to strike. To do the right thing at the right time. Crooked ways and unjust actions are thought to be lowly and inhumane.
2. Courage - Courage is a virtue only in the cause of righteousness. Sacrificing your safety for an unworthy cause is stupidity. To admit ones mistake, to sacrifice ones self in order to save someone from despair, to stand on ones right decision, are some signs of courage.
3. Benevolence - Love, affection for others, sympathy and an excellence of mind and character towards other people are the highest attributes of the soul. Love and benevolence were supreme virtues and princely acts.
4. Politeness - Politeness, courtesy and excellent manners should be a part of
your life. Politeness is a poor virtue if it is only actuated by a fear of offending. It should stem from a sympathetic regard for the feelings of others.
5. Veracity - Lying is a cowardly act, dishonorable. Your word should be able to be taken as a guarantee of truthfulness.
6. Honor - The honorable person is the humble person. Without honor you have no respect and without respect no honor. Honor is like a scar on a tree, in which time only helps to enlarge. To be honorable is to follow the Bushido Code.
7. Loyalty - You must be loyal to your family, your teachers, your fellow students the art and to those who teach you outside the dojo. You should never forget the teacher who labored for you. The teachers will not forget the labor you put in for them.
At its heart the true Bushido Code is a strict code of ethics maintained by the Samurai, of feudal Japan.
There are seven virtues that make up the Bushido Code. Although slightly different words are found in different texts... the meanings of the seven virtues are the same:
Today, many martial artists, military, security and law enforcement personnel & business people study and practice Bushido. While it's true the "suicide by hara-kiri" is a thing of the past... the seven virtues have stood the test of time.
How can you tell if you've really absorbed Bushido and live the virtues? It's simple. Step outside yourself and observe how you communicate & behave when you're at your worst.
Do you keep your composure while in a highly emotional state? When someone is verbally disrespectful - can you de-escalate the situation or do you get defensive and argue?
If you're in law enforcement - do you truly use the minimum amount of force needed to stop the threat or do you resort to unnecessary violence or abuse?
If you're in business - do you negotiate win-win scenarios or do you crush & kick the other side when they are in an inferior or weakened position?
If you're a supervisor or leader in your organization - do you lead & support your staff or do you 'boss them around' and use your title to cause fear?
Bushido is a Japanese term, literally meaning the “Way of the Warrior”, a code of chivalry for the Samurai, originating from Buddhism, Confucianism, Shinto, and Zen. It was an ethical code of conduct, developed between the 11th to 14th centuries and was formalized during the opening years of the Tokugawa Shogunate for the members of the Samurai class.
read the classic text Hagakure , which outlines the way of the Samurai and true bushido code for yourself.
According to the Japanese Dictionary Shogakkan Kokugo Daijiten: "Bushido is defined as a unique philosophy (ronri) that spread through the warrior class from the Muromachi (chusei) period."
Only through the exercise of these virtues can a Samurai maintain his honor, and one who has forfeited honor is compelled to commit suicide by hara-kiri.