This past week I have spent time studying with our youngest son on the history of Japan. What I believe was extremely cool was that the study sheets sent home went beyond facts like the country being made up of over 3000 islands and 73% of the country being mountainous, and required the students to dig a little deeper. They had to first understand the history and tradition but had to think beyond general info and put themselves in the position of a Japanese citizen of a particular class and explain how they would feel and how they would view the changes that were happening in their country in the 1500’s – 1867. Then on the flip side, they had to try to understand how someone from the western world viewed this unknown country whose society seemed so dedicated in protecting their people and traditions.
Part of this unit of study included the watching of the movie ‘The Last Samurai.’ I have watched this movie more than once but found myself watching it again this week with a completely different perspective and appreciation for this culture and the Samurai class. This movie portrays a side of this ‘Warriors’ life that is tranquil and peaceful, one that is intriguing and attractive. It is a life with known purpose and complete dedication to that purpose. I found myself going a little further than the text book and did a little more research. Many people would guess the translation of Samurai to be ‘Warrior’, associating them with war and violence. In actuality the translation is “Those who serve” or “To serve and attend.” The Samurai did follow an unwritten code known as Bushido meaning “Way of the Warrior”, however, this code held a list of values/virtues that one would not necessarily relate to a warrior.
The values of a Samurai include:
Although their role was to protect their leaders and the people of their domain, and their status in society was very high, they lived a rather simplistic life. A life of dedication and loyalty while striving for inner peace and that in the world around them. Living by this ‘code’ and upholding these values was their way of life. They truly believed in and committed themselves to their role.
I believe in our world of entitlement and privilege we fail to understand the same depth of commitment and dedication as these Samurai of old. However, we are fighting battles of a different makeup, those of intolerance, lack of compassion, selfishness, weakness, dishonestly, unaccountability and the list goes on. It is definitely a world that could use more of each of these virtues. I think as martial artists, and more specifically Silent River students, we need to consistently and deliberately uphold this list in our day to day lives. We need to understand that our training involves much more than the physical aspects and that we need to give the required attention and focus to those qualities that are more related to the building of strong and positive character. Can you imagine what this world would be like if everyone dedicated themselves to constantly strive for and uphold this list of the Samurai?
“The Way of a Warrior is based on humanity, love and sincerity; the heart of martial valor is true bravery, wisdom, love and friendship. Emphasis on the physical aspects of warriorship is futile, for the power of the body is always limited.” - Ueshiba Morihei, The Art of Peace