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Old 05-11-2004, 09:34 PM   #49
Big Dave
Dojo: Shobu Aikido Connecticut
Location: Hartford, Connecticut
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 38
Re: Aikido and Samurai: a few questions

Hi all,
In my original post I said that conventional wisdom held several ideas or concepts to be "facts." I thought it might be useful to know from where I came to these conclusions about these so-called facts, which many of you have since disputed on the basis of your own reading and knowledge. What a great discussion.....anyway, my primary source is a book called The Making of Modern Japan by Marius B. Jansen. He is a professor emeritus from Princeton University and has authored a number of books on Japanese history. This book is well annotated and uses substantial documents to argue its main points. I really like this book and would recommend it. Maybe there is some merit in looking at some of these questions in a broader context beyond the world of martial arts?

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.
3. That they also functioned as local "law and order."

Here, Jansen writes that the original Samurai emerged during the Heian period of Japanese histroy in the 11th and 12th centuries. He writes that the origin of the world "samurai" comes from the word "Subarau" meaning "to serve." He goes on to say that these Samurai, "...emerged as the keepers of the peace in areas where government lands had never been transferred to the private estates." (Jansen 8)

2. That these warriors were extremely skilled in swordfighting and hand to hand combat.
This was just my own conclusion, having read a few histories of the period.

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 discipline were also emphasized.

According to Premodern Japan: A Historical Survey by Mikso Hane, The ideals of the Bushi first emerged during the Kamakura period and was known as " the way of the bow and arrow." Hane goes onto write," The Ethos of the Samurai demanded that the warrior live by the principles of duty, loyalty, integrity, honor, justice, and courage." (71)
He also writes that the more formalized code of Bushido is articulated later during the Tokugawa period. He goes on to describe how the interests of the family guided the Samurai's system of values and the relationship between a Samuari and his lord was often a familial one.
Jansen, see above, writes that " It was in the Tokugawa years that the articulation of Bushido was perfected" (103). He cites the Hagakure, which is apparently considered to be "the classic exposition of the Samuari value system." (102) The brief citation cited in this text seems to suggest that a Samuari needs to accept his fate of death in order to live, must be completely subordinate to his lord, and be discreet in his dealings. Jansen then goes on to point on how the Hagakure enjoyed a revival during the prewar years and then again in the 1970's following the suicide of a famous author, Mishima Yukio. Finally, Jansen points out that by the end of the Meiji government, a census of the Samurai families puts the number at over 400,000 households, over 1.8 million people total, or about 5 to 6 percent of the population of Japan (105). (This does not directly realte to my point but I thought it was interesting nonetheless.)

At first glance, without having read any of the books that have been suggested, there certainly seems to be some solid evidence, in the form of documented history, hat the Code of the Bushido existed long before 20th century.

5. Ideally, Samurai were expected to be more than warriors.

I need more time on this one....I did read somewhere that Samuari were often expected to embrace things like poetry, calligraphy, gardening, tea ceremony, other words , be more than just a warrior per se, but I may be mistaken.

6. Those who failed or otherwise disgraced themselves were expected to commit suicide.
Most of the accounts of this have been Nobunaga, a famous unifier of Japan who in 1582 commits seppuku after having been defeated in battle...Jansen 16
I could cite many other examples of this from any number of texts. Cleary there was some expectation of this in Japanese culture, even if it was not always done when one might have expected it.

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.

Everybook I have read on Aikido points how O"sensei studied aiki-jujitsu, Judo and the Sword arts extensively...

Ok, enough for now...back to reading and a trip to Barnes and Noble shortly....
Good night all....
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