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Old 05-09-2004, 06:01 AM   #1
Big Dave
Dojo: Shobu Aikido Connecticut
Location: Hartford, Connecticut
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 38
Aikido and Samurai: a few questions

I have read several posts recently, including the one on Bushido as well as one from two years ago asking about the connection between Samurai and Aikido. I am a historian by training and profession, but my area of specilaization is not Japan. As I read these posts, I was struck by several thoughts. First, many things that I have read in my growing interest about Japanese history are described here as "myths." Second, that people discounted or dismissed the connection between Aikido and the Samurai.
In general, I have come to understand the following ideas as factual, meaning in history terms that there is a preponderance of evidence to suggest that they are true.
1. That for nearly a thousand years Japan was ruled by warlords - Daimyo and Shoguns who were supported by a warrior class called Samurai. The Samuari protected the interests of the lords in a feudal society.
2. That these warriors were extremely skilled in swordfighting and hand to hand combat.
3. That they also functioned as local "law and order."
4. They were governed by a code of conduct called "Bushido."
This code called for absolute loyalty to their lord and that they were expected to be courageous in combat. Honor and disciple were also emphasized.
5. Ideally, Samurai were expected to be more than warriors.
6. Those who failed or otherwise disgraced themselves were expected to commit suicide.
7. That while O'Sensei was not of course a Samurai, he studied sword fighting and aiki-ju-jitsu and then modified them to create aikido, a less lethal form of the former arts.

To be sure, the image here in the West has romanticized the Samurai, much like the knights of the Middle Ages. King Aurthur? Would I like to have embrace Bushido as a life style? Honor, discipline, Integrity, loyalty, why wouldn't I? It's an ideal afterall - something we try to live up to, just as the Samurai did. Certainly many Samurai abused their power and authority, just as those who have great authority today often do. But I think it's important to keep our eye on their ideals, as these ideals are important.

Is Aikido related to the arts of the Samurai? It seems to me that there is no question about it.

It also seems that the mentality of the samurai is very much alive in Modern Japan. From the refusal of Japanese to surrender during WWII to contemorary Baseball in Japan, there is still much emphasis placed on the values on Bushido. Which of course begs another question....Is Bushido simply an expression of broader Japanese culture or does it in turn help to create those expectations? I would love to here ffrom some who currently live in Japan about this.

Maybe I have not been reading the right things, and if so, could you please point me in the direction of good historical sources that could clarify which of the above are myths?

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