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Old 05-11-2004, 04:15 PM   #46
Dojo: Messores Sensei (Largo, Fl.)
Location: Florida
Join Date: Mar 2001
Posts: 1,267
Re: Aikido and Samurai: a few questions

Excellent reference list.

David Valadez wrote:
by Allan Grapard: "The Protocol of the Gods" (this book lets you understand how the aristocrats saw Japan -- politics, religion, and culture, etc.)

by Allan Grapard: (I think its in the History of Religions Journal -- or maybe -- Japanese Journal of Religious Studies) "Japan's Ignored Cultural Revolution: The Separation of Shinto and Buddhist Divinities (trans. "shinbutsu bunri") in Meiji"
If your library subscribes to the service, the former is available online at: Do a search on the title.

The latter is quite a good read too, as well as
the Hardacre piece: "Shinto and the State: 1868-1988". They cover the same territory, Hardacre, having more space, in more detail. She provides interesting perspective on what it means to call Omotokyo "Shinto".

Regarding Mr. Valadez' earlier post:

David Valadez wrote:
DMV: The 1000 years sited by Mr. Peling does have to be qualified a bit but so too does some of the information Mr. Modesto is offering. Of importance is: a. The scholarship containing the position referenced here has been in academic circles for over 20 years now -- it's not "the current thing" that has just now shed light on a darkness long held;
Technically, I suppose, but twenty years is a short time for academic truths to reach popular consciousness. Just see how painfully scholars lament at the common separation of Shinto from Buddhism (Grapard above) in supposedly technical literature or the common association of Zen and the martial arts (

b. The idea of a unified Japan is plaguing the conclusions offered. Each segment of Japanese culture, and even segments of competing cultures, had pockets of power all over the area we today know as "Japan". Thus, while it is not wholly accurate to suggest that the warrior class (i.e. samurai) ruled Japan up to 1000 years before the Meiji Restoration, it is also not accurate to say that courtiers and clerics ruled Japan in their stead and/or held more power.
This is put well but I'm not sure it contradicts what I said. I was discussing common conceptions.

[DJM]: Until Edo (1600-1877) when the BUSHI became administrators and bureaucrats infamously inept with their weaponry (as demonstrated in the story of the 47 Ronin , e.g.)

DMV: Again, I think we have to be cautious about using general terms like the term "samurai" -- using them as if we could ever capture the multiplicity of human action and/or behavior by nomenclature alone. Plain and simple -- we can't. Some members of the samurai class became bureaucrats, some didn't. Some were always and/or became inept with weaponry during the Edo period and some didn't ever -- some stayed highly skilled and/or became more skilled. When warriors became politicians, they were not the only class to work in politics for the Bakufu, nor did another class fulfill all of the ranks of their military.
Yes. My post was long enough without splitting hairs, but I did overgeneralize, perhaps. I agree with your points here.

3. [Big Dave] That they also functioned as local "law and order."

DJM: And as pirates and brigands.
[and from another post:
f. That bushido was about piracy and brigandage.]
It's a small point, but I think it was this sort of leap that Ron spoke of. It interpolated enough to qualify as a straw man argument. Examining the original point, as Mr. Valadez put it--"we have to be cautious about using general terms like the term 'samurai' -- using them as if we could ever capture the multiplicity of human action"--samurai have the vaunted reputation of being some sort of do-gooders. As many commentators (Friday, Bolitho, etc) note, this is unfair to their memory. Kyushu samurai, especially, were suspected of being WAKO, pirates, and plundering coastal Korea, putting a thorn in the side of the diplomacy of the time.

DMV: ....we can look beyond the ailments of Feudalism -- look to the skill and the philosophy of the samurai, etc. If members of the samurai class, in the face of the ailments of Feudalism, turned antithetical to certain philosophical positions that came to be associated with bushido, this does not mean that the underlying philosophy does not exists. In fact, it proves that philosophy existed more than it did not -- by way of the antithesis. In other words, while some samurai did become brigands, pirates, smugglers, mercenaries, rapists, and terrorists, etc., robbing, pillaging, piracy, smuggling, raping, and terrorizing were never held up as a social ideal for the samurai class. There ideals were other -- and it is that other that Mr. Peling is wishing to talk about here.
Point taken.

[DJM]: No. Bushido was a 20th century phenomenon. This is rather like a yoeman in Merry Olde England claiming the right to free speech: He could put the words together, but there was no legal concept supporting him. Similarly, Bushido was actually codified until the militarists of the 20's and 30's exploited it to unify the nation. See Karl Friday's The Historical Foundations of Bushido. Also, read his Bushidó or Bull? A Medieval Historian's Perspective on the Imperial Army and the Japanese Warrior Tradition.

DMV: In Mr. Peling's post, the words "they" and "governed" are problematic. So too is the word "code". It is very easy to answer "yes" and "no" to questions using such words, but that would be no answer at all -- which means this is no question at all. Dates, regions, contexts, etc., all are needed here to determine anything relative to whether or not we should ourselves idealize the ideals of bushido. It is most difficult to refer to the samurai as a unified group, singular in action and thought. They were not. Also, "governed" and "code" is by far too concrete a term to use for how the ideals of bushido affected members of the samurai class.

This is very well said and very clear. Mr. Valadez is very careful, at times, with his language and this is an example put to good use.

For Mr. Modesto's post, I have to say, Bushido is NOT a 20th century phenomenon. Nor does Friday suggest this in the works cited. Most obviously: Friday himself is citing Nitobe's book as being instrumental in the modern development of the term and concept of Bushido and that book is from the 19th century. Also Friday, knowing he would be hard-pressed to prove otherwise, does not suggest that Nitobe, and/or others like him, was not referencing things older and/or much older than themselves. Friday's works in question have to do with the gap that exists between medieval samurai practices and political ideals held by the Imperial military of Japan at the beginning of the Modern era. While that gap undoubtedly has to do with the revisionist practices of that (or any) fascist government, they also have to do with the gap that exists between any concrete action and it's accompanying ideal. Since we are dealing here with various samurai ideals, it is hard to say how relative these articles (Friday's) truly are, but I would propose, not very. It is also not accurate to say that bushido was codified in the 20's and 30's. Bushido has never been codified.
Ironically, here I was being careful with MY language: Bushido before Uchimura and Nitobe was just one term among many: samuraido, budo, etc. I referred to that term: "Bushido". In quotation marks. The nebulous concepts antedating it certainly bear some influence, but both Uchimura and Nitobe were Christian apologists, not practicing Bushi. They first settled on the term and Nitobe in particular, writing in English, created the consciousness of this...code, as they called it. (Being careful again, I called it a phenomenon, not a codification.) It wasn't until the book was translated into Jpn that the Jpn began using the term in its current meaning. The book was first published in 1900; I will grant that that's the 19th century, but the effect dates from 1909 when it appeared in Jpn for the first time.

DMV: Again, I think the context is way too general here to do anyone any good. But if Mr. Peling is suggesting that the various ideals of bushido had to do with a particular technology of self that would have warrior "learn" more than simply how to fight and/or kill -- the answer is undeniable "yes".
We'll have to agree to disagree. Some were cannon fodder, pure and simple. The marriage of BUN/BU was for leaders, not foot soldiers.

7. [Big Dave] 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.

[DJM]: Many would take issue with the lethality part, starting with the founder.

DMV: Yes, personally I would take issue with the words "less lethal", same thing with "modified" and "create", but maybe that is another thread.
Pertinent points. I missed them.

8. [Big Dave] 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.

[DJM]: As well as their transgressions. Remember Fuerbach's contention that we invest our higher values (God) with precisely the virtues we...lack.

DMV: Well, Mr. Modesto, how about some of that "as well" now? Seems like your whole post is dedicated to just the transgressions. ;-) True, they are important, but they are not the whole picture, and maybe not all the relevant to what Mr. Peling is suggesting.
Busted! And I may have done Mr. Peling injustice, if so, apologies to him. But I think the litanies of samurai nobility, blah, blah, blah are far more prevalent than the realities of their existence and behavior which usually receive scant attention.

DMV: ....I think Mr. Peling's post is strongest here, and perhaps it is here that we could discuss the issue at hand. I suggest this because references to history, if we desire for those references to be accurate, are just going to make this thread way too complicated. Japanese history will not offer us here the "proof" we need here to reject or accept the ideals of bushido. Here is what I think is best in Mr. Peling's post -- what I think readers should make room for but are apparently not:

[Big Dave]

"Would I like to have embrace Bushido as a life style? Honor, discipline, Integrity, loyalty, why wouldn't I? It's an ideal after all - 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 […] these ideals -- [they] are important.
Abused? According to whom? When Lt. Calley slaughtered innocents in My Lai, would that be an abuse of those values? He did as he was ordered. Absolute obedience was part of what we call bushido, after all. The values we like, we have no need to call bushido. And if we leave out those we don't, it's no longer bushido, is it. With caveats, Mr. Valadez' constant wariness of anachronism, e.g., taking only those values of which we do approve from this artificial construct of bushido, changes the thing and the result need not/cannot even be called bushido. Lots of other times, folk, and circumstances have valued, discipline, loyalty, etc.

Thanks for the stimulating discussion.

Don J. Modesto
St. Petersburg, Florida
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