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Old 05-10-2004, 10:20 AM   #21
George S. Ledyard
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Dojo: Aikido Eastside
Location: Bellevue, WA
Join Date: Jun 2000
Posts: 2,670
Re: Aikido and Samurai: a few questions

Perhaps, if you are a military or law enforcement professional, the code Bushido might be relevant. When you talk about Bushido you talk about how an hereditary class of professional warriors thought about he ideals that would define their lives. These are people who were born to this life, had little or no choice about much of what went on in it. They lived their lives according to the expectations and demands of their seniors.

Saying the code isn't relevant because the majority of samurai didn't really live according to its ideals is like saying that Christianity isn't relevant for the same reasons. These are the ideals that people strive for, that form their notions of what is good, whether or not they reach them in their own lives.

But it is a code for professionals. For nice middle class, civilian Americans to think that they can aspire to follow the code of Bushido is silly. Unless you want to enlist and even then you would have a term of enlistment, a choice about whether you stayed in. The Bushi were born in to this life and died as members of their class. Duty informed every aspect of what they were expected to do. We get our notions of this life from the writings of higher status, wealthier samurai. The average samurai didn't have even that much room for self expression.

For a civilian, saying one aspires to live according to the code of Bushido in modern America would be just as much of an anachronism as saying to want to live by the "Code of the West." People would just look at you as some sort of deranged cowboy wannna be.

Now, Budo is another issue. If you train in the martial arts seriously there are certain values that inform that world. When those values begin to form the basis for your values system, when training is at the heart of how you structure your life, then you could be said to be following the path of Budo. I think Budo assumes that you have decided to live your life as a warrior even though you might not be a professional military person.

In traditional Asian social hierarchy, the warriors are recognized as being up on the social scale. Not the highest, but up there. What all systems uniformly agree on is that the merchants are at the bottom. We are the first society in history to consciously place our merchants, those who do business for a living, at the top of the social scale. We can see this in every aspect of society. Everything has become a commodity. Value is strictly a monetary issue.

I think that there is a certain group of people in our society who instinctively react against this notion of the way to live. They cast about for alternatives which seem to have something deeper and not surprisingly usually come up with something more traditional which contains more of the wisdom of the past. For a number of these people serious pursuit of the martial arts fills this need to find something beyond generating income and acquiring possessions as the highest aspirations one could have in ones life.

In a society which glorifies ease and comfort, which strives in every way possible to dull the pain of people's existence both emotional and physical, which virtually exists by striving for unconsciousness, there are some who purposely choose a path which is difficult, which is often frustrating and certainly painful, in which there are no shortcuts, no "one minute" solutions. Martial arts as a way of life, not just some hobby you do for a couple years twice a week, is our attempt at getting to something deeper in a world which seems to be striving to be shallow. If this is what one is doing in his pursuit of Aikido or some other martial art then I would say that you are following the path of Budo. Bushido is a code for professional military people but Budo is a way of life available to anyone who wishes to make the effort to reshape his or her life by choosing to seriously train in the martial arts.

Last edited by George S. Ledyard : 05-10-2004 at 10:25 AM.

George S. Ledyard
Aikido Eastside
Bellevue, WA
Aikido Eastside
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