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WARRIOR CODE OF CONDUCT
by Cheryl Matrasko
the unwritten code of conduct of the Samurai. Literally, Bushido means "warrior -
samurai - ways". Bushi is a term for warrior, but directly infers a more prestigious
or higher class warrior. The "ways" or "way" is a term used by most
"do-martial arts" (such as: Judo, Kendo, Aikido, and Iaido), which means
"the way to . . . ".
Bushido is comprised of a
system or standards of moral principles that became the soul of the Samurai, during the
feudal periods of Japan. It developed over the centuries from the influences of Zen
Buddhism, Confucianism, Shinotism, and the expression of these affectations, had their
medium in the visual and literary arts such as painting, poetry, and living the way of
life (Bushido) they chose to take. Each of these gifts molded and shaped Bushido, as a
moral standard of conduct to follow.
Influencing Bushido, Zen Buddhism lent to the Samurai a very Stoic
disposition. This Stoicism was realized out of a genuine respect for life and also for
death. Death, an inevitable eventuality of our own lives, is as much a part of nature as
is life. It gives us an added level of thought and meaning to our existence. With the
advent of death, there is the introduction of life. There are strong human emotions of
anger, remorse, and detachment, etc., that are associated with death that complicate its
understanding. However we are gifted by these very same feelings, that allow us to
appreciate life and the things we enjoy and love. We most notably appreciate the things we
take for granted once they are gone forever. The Samurai trust and faith in nature was
because of the great admiration and respect for both life and death.
In tune with this level of consciousness, Shintoism also influenced
the Bushido of the Samurai. To seek honor by first looking inside the soul and confront
the intimate fears that we hide from ourselves, and that plague our psyche in everyday
life. This is the purification of ones soul --- " . . . to know thyself ".
In addition, Shintoism brought a sense of filial piety and loyalty to the family and
homeland. When you " . . . know yourself, you know your weaknesses and strengths, and
most of all - you know where you belong." This sense of belonging has been attributed
to the patriotic and nationalistic culture of Japan even to this day.
Another factor in the backbone of the code of Bushido, was
Confucianism. It bonded community and family relationships. These relationships had
several different moral priorities or qualities to them. In feudal Japan, the samurai
served various different lords and their loyalty was given to them. This association was
that of servant and master. The samurai himself, was the head of his family. The safety
and well-being depended upon him. His role was that of head of the house, husband, father,
brother, or son.
The Bushido of the samurai had very deep roots in the
philosophies of Zen Buddhism, Confucianism and Shinotism. With such historical origins, it
is understandable why Bushido was not just a mere belief, but a culture that became the
hallmark of the samurai for centuries. And this lifestyle was not forced on the samurai,
but was chosen of free will. It was a serious choice to be sure, and one that they were
very proud to follow.
© 1999, C. A. Matrasko. All rights reserved
References used and read for this work:
J. Sasamori, G.Warner. This is Kendo, the Art
of the Japanese. 1989
I. Nitobe. Bushido The Warrior's Code. 1979.
T. Deshimaru. The Zen Way to the Martial Arts.
M. Musashi. The Book of Five Rings.
I. Takahashi. Class sessions and private talks
about the Samurai and Bushido. 1965 - 1971
A. Matrasko 3/13/99
Cheryl Matrasko is a Network Analyst for the
department of Networking and Communications at a prominent Chicago hospital. Formerly the
LAN Administrator for Northwestern University Medical School - Department of OB/GYN, and
assistant LAN Administrator to the previous MIS of the School of Law. She started Aikido
in 1965, studying under Isao Takahashi as her first instructor. She enjoyed working out
under many well known Aikido instructors during her tenure with Takahashi Sensei and
therafter following his death in 1971. Cheryl has dedicated time with instructors in
Northern Shaolin Long-Fist, Seven Stars Praying Mantis, and Daito-Ryu Aikijujitsu.
Currently, she is instructing Aikido at Northwestern University's Chicago Campus,
Associate Instructor at NorthShore Aikido in Skokie, and supporting Aikido World Journal.
Michio Hikitsuchi 10th Dan 1978
(C. Matrasko as uke)
© 1978 C. Matrasko
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