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Old 01-07-2013, 01:31 PM   #1
phitruong
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religious terminology in martial arts and implication

from this thread spun off http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showpo...6&postcount=41

reasons behind using religious terminology in martial arts? philosophy and/or technical implications? or something else? and O Sensei usage of such terminology?

"budo is putting on cold, wet, sweat stained gi with a smile and a snarl" - your truly
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Old 01-07-2013, 02:50 PM   #2
Nicholas Eschenbruch
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Re: religious terminology in martial arts and implication

Quote:
Phi Truong wrote: View Post
from this thread spun off http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showpo...6&postcount=41

reasons behind using religious terminology in martial arts? philosophy and/or technical implications? or something else? and O Sensei usage of such terminology?
Difficult. We would have to ascertain first that a "religious" domain can clearly be separated from other domains, so I guess it depends on the time, culture and individuals in question.
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Old 01-07-2013, 09:56 PM   #3
Ellis Amdur
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Re: religious terminology in martial arts and implication

As promised:
1. In older Toda-ha Buko-ryu densho, among other things, we have kuji: This is an incantation, where each of nine primordial syllables is associated with a deity - actually, two linked deities. These incantations are both frankly religious and simultaneously, "codings" through which one organizes one's mind in specifically predetermined and trained states.
2. The juxtoposition of the two deities is, in itself, fascinating - I'm actually still in the process of determining if these associations are individual to the ryu, derived from Kogen Itto-ryu (with which it was associated) or rather standard.
3. To give an example of the multi-layering, in Araki-ryu, there is a specific incantation to return the spirits of the dead that one had killed on the battlefield, back to the grave. On one level - this is simple folk magic - and it was surely believed. On a second, simultaneous level, it was a method, culturally specific, to modulate post-traumatic stress disorder.
4. The gokui nagamaki kata, in Toda-ha Buko-ryu names are also intriguing. The ryu is associated with the deity of Kashima shrine. One kata, for example, is named - 武御雷位 The technique of Takemikazuchi (Takemikazuchi no kurai). This is the chief deity of Kashima shrine, known as "brave-awful possessing" deity. Without going into much detail, one must imbue the kata with character of this deity. In a sense, one allows the spirit of the deity to possess oneself. I'm not religious in the slightest, and for me, it is not like "voudoun," but I very much do experience this. I can "shape-shift," so to speak. Call it making a shift in one's neurological organization, or what have you - but I learned to become something different when I choose.
5. Another kata, the first, is known as 天璦矛 The heavenly jeweled spear (ame no nuboko) - consider the psychological valence of a kata named for the divine object that created Japan.
6. Many other kata were not "spiritual," but are "poetic" - images carry more than labels. For example, a Kata named 虎龍之浮波 The floating Wave of Tiger and Dragon encases yin/yang (tiger and dragon), motivated on a dynamic, fluid mode of engagement or movement. The names of kata of old ryu often have the key to essential qualities within it.
7. Some modern people deride the poetry - therefore, a kata with a name like kotegaeshi or shihonage seems to have more validity to them than hotoke-daoshi (knocked over buddha). The pedagogical model of the old ryu, however, encoded vital information in the names. This code included hints on movement, stance, attitude, and psychological organization.

In sum, the ryu were not "religious." Remember, in the 19th century, philosophy and psychology were one and the same discipline. The only later divided, into rather "antagonistic" sectors of academia. In the ryu, there was an amalgam of psychological knowledge, frank religious sensibility, attempts to access paranormal powers ("mind reading," among other things), primitive medicine, pure tactics, pure techniques, folk magic, a technology of body training - including, in some ryu, internal training methodologies - all in one.

Phi, this is just a brief sampling of what can be contained within a ryu curriculum. There is so much more than "one thing." Returning to the word "aiki," where, I and Peter Goldsbury assert that all of Ueshiba's definitions and assertions are not, for him mutually contradictory, as incongruent as they may seem. Similarly, and actually much larger,there is one Toda-ha Buko-ryu or one Araki-ryu, each encompassing everything that the ryu is, that the ryu touches. Everything in either ryu is that ryu's substance. (By the way, truly learning two ryu is almost impossible - its an insane undertaking, really - but leave that for another discussion - I'll be happy to talk about that elsewhere).

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Ellis Amdur

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Old 01-08-2013, 06:13 AM   #4
phitruong
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Re: religious terminology in martial arts and implication

Ellis, thank you for open up such wealth of information. a couple of questions.

does the "religious" related practice allows the practitioner access the various subconscious states of mind to enhance one's ability/martial prowess? and would that more closer to shamanistic type of practice? or more closer to western, hypnotize oneself for performance/action enhancement?

does it also provide the mind a moral compass so one can deal with PTSD? sort of "physician heal thyself" kind of thing? since in the older days where psychological fields didn't exist, so warriors tend to turn to religion, i.e. talking to your priest/priestest for mental counseling?

which bring us to the misogi and kotadama practices that O Sensei did, would that sort of relate to the practice you mentioned in koryu?

i don't recall ever heard of similar practice in chinese martial arts. perhaps someone in the know could enlighten me. what about indian martial arts? western martial arts? or is it an asian thing?

now i am really curious. this might be a bad thing, at least for me.

"budo is putting on cold, wet, sweat stained gi with a smile and a snarl" - your truly
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Old 01-08-2013, 06:25 PM   #5
Ellis Amdur
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Re: religious terminology in martial arts and implication

Phi -

Quote:
does the "religious" related practice allows the practitioner access the various subconscious states of mind to enhance one's ability/martial prowess? and would that more closer to shamanistic type of practice? or more closer to western, hypnotize oneself for performance/action enhancement?
It is, in essence, a kind of shamanistic practice, and that is, surely hypnosis of a kind. As with anything, the mindset - ideology - context that one puts oneself in a mental state can profoundly affect the experience.

Quote:
does it also provide the mind a moral compass so one can deal with PTSD? sort of "physician heal thyself" kind of thing? since in the older days where psychological fields didn't exist, so warriors tend to turn to religion, i.e. talking to your priest/priestest for mental counseling?
Let's start by removing "moral compass." Although an individual make experience profound guilt for one's acts, not all trauma is guilt related. On a fundamental level, trauma is a change in how the brain functions. For example, EMDR is a modern therapeutic intervention that seems to show particular benefits for PTSD. It changes the way the brain functions. A particular Shingon ritual, for example, may also change the way the brain functions. This may enable the person, untraumatized, to once again, functionally enact immoral actions. So a whole other area of the ryu's curriculum includes moral teachings (this is often rooted in Confucian ideology). (I'm actually writing an entire chapter on this in my new edition of Old School, so I'm not going to go into too much detail). But the way one dealt with PTSD was primarily rituals to alleviate a sense of being "haunted" and "debriefing" with one's peers. One would almost surely NOT do anything resembling talk therapy or debriefing with a priest.

Quote:
which bring us to the misogi and kotadama practices that O Sensei did, would that sort of relate to the practice you mentioned in koryu?
I'd refer you back to HIPS because I believe I've done a fair amount of writing on this. But chinkon-kishin, specifically, is a related practice. One difference, however, is that the mikkyo version attempted to create such experiences of shapeshifting/possession to see their fundamental unreal nature - and on a larger level, the unreal nature of all concrete reality. The Neo-Shinto version, as far as I understand, gave it reality. In other words, one really did call up a spirit, was possessed. I am aware of one swordsman who would, before a fight with someone from another ryu, would use a ritual to call up the founder of that ryu and find out the gokui. He was thereby, already prepared when the duel occurred. One can scoff, but he never lost.
Osensei was actually far more religious than most classical warriors, who saw spiritual practices as vehicles to strength, to a considerable degree. Ueshiba, I think it is fair to speculate, lived in a world where everything had immediate spiritual import. It is for this reason that Takuma Hisa explicitly stated that Ueshiba had created a new martial art. (The quote I'm referring to will be in a revised version of a previously published essay, which will be published again on Aikiweb in the near future).

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Ellis

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Old 01-08-2013, 06:54 PM   #6
Peter Goldsbury
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Re: religious terminology in martial arts and implication

The wife of my moxa and acupuncture doctor embraced Shingon Buddhism and also some beliefs of Omoto. On one occasion we discussed chinkon kishin and she was very surprised that I even knew the term. She believed it was a very dangerous practice because, if not done properly, one could be possessed by the wrong spirit, with dire consequences.

We are talking about modern Japan here, almost a century after Morihei Ueshiba first encountered Onisaburo Deguchi. Japanese religion is still a very interesting phenomenon. I plan to discuss the topic in my TIE Column 23.

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Old 01-08-2013, 09:51 PM   #7
Janet Rosen
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Re: religious terminology in martial arts and implication

Just a note of appreciation for this thread - fascinating to an interested outsider.

Janet Rosen
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Old 01-09-2013, 04:09 AM   #8
Demetrio Cereijo
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Re: religious terminology in martial arts and implication

Quote:
Phi Truong wrote: View Post
i don't recall ever heard of similar practice in chinese martial arts. perhaps someone in the know could enlighten me. what about indian martial arts? western martial arts? or is it an asian thing?

now i am really curious. this might be a bad thing, at least for me.
You are going to find 'magical thinking' everywhere.

About religious beliefs as moral compass from a PTSD perspective, there is abundance of them all across times and cultures.

One of many examples is the legend of Alī Ibn Abī Tālib who, during the Battle of the Trench had knocked an enemy warrior to the ground and raised his sword to kill him, the enemy suddenly spat on his face; Alī halted and refrained from killing him. "Why have you spared me?, the enemy asked. Ali then said: "O Gracious God, you made property and life sacrosanct", and then replied: "It is only permissible to kill a life while in holy combat, but when you spat on my face, you aroused my personal pride and anger so instead of striking you with a sword, I struck my passion for the sake of Allah".

The legend points to the psychological effect of killing in anger vs killing in just and holy war. The first should be avoided, the second, you can live with it.

Last edited by Demetrio Cereijo : 01-09-2013 at 04:13 AM.

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Old 01-09-2013, 08:40 AM   #9
phitruong
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Re: religious terminology in martial arts and implication

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Demetrio Cereijo wrote: View Post
You are going to find 'magical thinking' everywhere.
i understand it's everywhere, but i am more interested where it integrated with a martial practice. i have not encountered such practices in either vietnamese martial arts or the chinese ones that i knew of.

"budo is putting on cold, wet, sweat stained gi with a smile and a snarl" - your truly
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Old 01-09-2013, 09:25 AM   #10
Demetrio Cereijo
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Re: religious terminology in martial arts and implication

I'm not sure if I'm getting where you are aiming at.

For instance, the armbands Muay Thai fighters wear are talismans full of magical powers (or at least they believed so). Is this kind of superstitious belief what would you consider integration of martial arts and spirituality/religion or are you asking about a different kind of integration?

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Old 01-09-2013, 09:53 AM   #11
phitruong
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Re: religious terminology in martial arts and implication

Quote:
Demetrio Cereijo wrote: View Post
I'm not sure if I'm getting where you are aiming at.

For instance, the armbands Muay Thai fighters wear are talismans full of magical powers (or at least they believed so). Is this kind of superstitious belief what would you consider integration of martial arts and spirituality/religion or are you asking about a different kind of integration?
the Muay Thai armbands is a good example. or the one that Ellis mentioned about Toda-ha Buko-ryu, where it served some technical aspect of the martial practice.

"budo is putting on cold, wet, sweat stained gi with a smile and a snarl" - your truly
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Old 01-09-2013, 11:04 AM   #12
Eric in Denver
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Re: religious terminology in martial arts and implication

Quote:
Phi Truong wrote: View Post
i understand it's everywhere, but i am more interested where it integrated with a martial practice. i have not encountered such practices in either vietnamese martial arts or the chinese ones that i knew of.
Looking up "warrior moks" in wikidpedia provided some possible avenues of research--

Shaolin monastary
Tendai Budhhism and the Sohei
Various religious orders in medieval Europe such as the Teutonic Knights.

I don't much about any of the above, but they might be a good place to poke around.
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Old 01-09-2013, 02:54 PM   #13
Demetrio Cereijo
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Re: religious terminology in martial arts and implication

The problem when mixing martial arts and the supernatural is the weird results, like in this clip:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jZRlAUFuw_A

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Old 01-09-2013, 03:05 PM   #14
Ellis Amdur
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Re: religious terminology in martial arts and implication

Demetrio - I do not <necessarily>disagree. Such things certainly exist - we've seen a fair amount among Japanese - most prominently, in modern times, in aikido and Daito-ryu factions.

However, in regards to Phi's question re koryu, the bushi were pragmatists. The actions in that video require peacetime. During the period when koryu were invented, if something didn't work, it resulted in injury or death. So, my focus in this discussion, for whatever that's worth, is going to be on religious terminology/information as it actually functioned as a practical tool.

If I were to do a fire incantation, it would be because I am afraid of fire. On one level, I hope the magic will keep me invulnerable. On a simultaneous level, that believe that I won't get burned may lead me forward into the flames, which makes me militarily useful.

A modern - but very primitive - version of this are the Mai - Mai in Zaire - who are a combination of outlaw and militia - many of whom believe that magic water keeps them from being invulnerable to bullets. They get shot. But they charge enemy positions and overwhelm them as well, because unlike a reasonable man or woman, they do irimi in the face of death.

Ellis Amdur

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Old 01-09-2013, 04:40 PM   #15
Gerardo Torres
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Re: religious terminology in martial arts and implication

Besides Sohei you could also research Yamabushi (Shugendo practitioners), as some koryu have roots in the ascetic and esoteric practices of these types. And yeah, as Mr. Amdur has noted, keep in mind these guys had to be above all else "practical" - i.e. badass warriors who faced life/death situations, not just weirdos waving their hands in the air and hoping their enemy (most likely another badass warrior) would fall down and start to twitch.
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Old 01-09-2013, 05:00 PM   #16
Peter Goldsbury
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Re: religious terminology in martial arts and implication

Quote:
Ellis Amdur wrote: View Post
A modern - but very primitive - version of this are the Mai - Mai in Zaire - who are a combination of outlaw and militia - many of whom believe that magic water keeps them from being invulnerable to bullets. They get shot. But they charge enemy positions and overwhelm them as well, because unlike a reasonable man or woman, they do irimi in the face of death.

Ellis Amdur
I wonder if there was a similar type of belief among Japanese soldiers during the Russo-Japanese War, when the Japanese were laying siege to Port Arthur. Not a belief in the properties of magic water, but in the invulnerability of Japanese fighting spirit and Yamato damashii (occasionally used by Morihei Ueshiba in his discourses). This had to suffice in any case, because the Japanese could not produce enough ammunition to satisfy the demands of the army.

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Old 01-09-2013, 05:07 PM   #17
Demetrio Cereijo
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Re: religious terminology in martial arts and implication

Ellis,

I do not disagree with you, only pointing how things can go out of hand when mixing beliefs in the supernatural and combatives.

One thing I'd like to point, being warriors pragmatist there was not only what they used for upgrading their combative performance, they also used their enemies beliefs in the supernatural to their advantage. Some kind of primitive psychological warfare. Who is going to attack someone who is believed to have superior magical powers, the divinities on his side, more powerful talismans?

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Old 01-09-2013, 05:33 PM   #18
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Re: religious terminology in martial arts and implication

BTW,

This is a spanish "Stop, bullet!"



This kind of amulets have been used by spanish soldiers since 17th century. Miraculous survival from combat wounds suffered have been attributed to them.

Of course there are not regarded as mere talismans, but real connections to the divine.

Last edited by Demetrio Cereijo : 01-09-2013 at 05:38 PM.

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Old 01-10-2013, 06:19 AM   #19
phitruong
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Re: religious terminology in martial arts and implication

Quote:
Ellis Amdur wrote: View Post
However, in regards to Phi's question re koryu, the bushi were pragmatists. The actions in that video require peacetime. During the period when koryu were invented, if something didn't work, it resulted in injury or death. So, my focus in this discussion, for whatever that's worth, is going to be on religious terminology/information as it actually functioned as a practical tool.
yes, this is exactly what i was referring to. Ellis stated it better. i understand there are various "talisman" type of usage or charlatan. however, as a martial artist and a pragmatist, i tend to focus more on the type of practical information/terminology that is part of the training curriculum, i.e. integration.

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Old 01-10-2013, 08:30 AM   #20
Cliff Judge
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Re: religious terminology in martial arts and implication

I just wanted to throw in that the special magic favors that bushi sought from the divinities were not simply the ability to crush their enemies or be bulletproof. My understanding of Marishiten worship, for example, is that she was invoked to provide stealth - so that trouble would pass over and not visit the devotee. And if trouble should find you, that it could not "bind" you. For me this shows the maturity of actual professional warriors who live in uncertain times and regard their job as maintaining peace as opposed to succeeding in war.
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Old 01-10-2013, 09:21 AM   #21
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Re: religious terminology in martial arts and implication

Quote:
Peter A Goldsbury wrote: View Post
I wonder if there was a similar type of belief among Japanese soldiers during the Russo-Japanese War, when the Japanese were laying siege to Port Arthur. Not a belief in the properties of magic water, but in the invulnerability of Japanese fighting spirit and Yamato damashii (occasionally used by Morihei Ueshiba in his discourses). This had to suffice in any case, because the Japanese could not produce enough ammunition to satisfy the demands of the army.

PAG
The Okasaki Brigade charge as told by Sir Ian Hamilton in his A staff officer's scrapbook during the Russo-Japanese War, Vol II, pp 205-206 would be a good example of what at first sight looked miraculous but, after looking closely, it was something as mundane as skilled troops deployement and manoeuvring in the battlefield.

Figting spirit, if not accompanied with skill, tends to produce heroic defeats, to be remembered but defeats nonetheless.

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Old 01-10-2013, 09:38 AM   #22
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Re: religious terminology in martial arts and implication

Quote:
Cliff Judge wrote: View Post
...My understanding of Marishiten worship, for example, is that she was invoked to provide stealth - so that trouble would pass over and not visit the devotee. And if trouble should find you, that it could not "bind" you. For me this shows the maturity of actual professional warriors who live in uncertain times and regard their job as maintaining peace as opposed to succeeding in war.
David A. Hall, in his dissertation Marishiten: Buddhism and the warrior Goddess argues that the cult of Marishiten provided the warriors more combative traits than 'invisibility'.

Edit: In my previous post "skilled troops deployement..." should read "skillful troops deployement..."

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Old 01-10-2013, 11:03 AM   #23
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Re: religious terminology in martial arts and implication

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Demetrio Cereijo wrote: View Post
David A. Hall, in his dissertation Marishiten: Buddhism and the warrior Goddess argues that the cult of Marishiten provided the warriors more combative traits than 'invisibility'.
Sure. I actually supplied two. So?
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Old 01-10-2013, 02:12 PM   #24
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Re: religious terminology in martial arts and implication

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Sure. I actually supplied two. So?
Well, at those times, when the Marishiten cult was important to warriors, winning at war was the bushi job*. When mantaining peace became their role, Marishiten cult went down.

So I think the traits cultivated via Marishiten cult had not much to do with preserving peace but with prevailing in the battlefield.

*As Asakura Norikage said: "Call the warrior a dog. call him a beast: winning is his business"

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Old 01-10-2013, 03:04 PM   #25
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Re: religious terminology in martial arts and implication

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Demetrio Cereijo wrote: View Post
Well, at those times, when the Marishiten cult was important to warriors, winning at war was the bushi job*. When mantaining peace became their role, Marishiten cult went down.

So I think the traits cultivated via Marishiten cult had not much to do with preserving peace but with prevailing in the battlefield.

*As Asakura Norikage said: "Call the warrior a dog. call him a beast: winning is his business"
Hmmm. I would say that the job of the bushi was both to win wars AND maintain the peace, and it was the environment that changed with the coming of the Edo period, to one of far more structure and solidity. So the challenges that the warrior faced became different and perhaps he had less of a need for his will to be invisible and unbound by the will of his opponents.

I think the question of why Marishiten worship declined after Tokugawa is an interesting one, but I also think it is interesting to look at how prevalent it was at it peak, I don't think her cult was ever universal among the warrior class.
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