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Old 02-28-2003, 07:24 AM   #1
Dennis Hooker
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Code Of Bushido (questions)

I have posted this to another forum as well because I am seeking as much knowledgeable information as I can get.

I have been in budo for over 40 years and these questions have been on my mind for some time. I am not demeaning anyone and I am not setting up an argument I am seeking some information from members of this forum that have the knowledge.

Where the samurai and the code of bushido a dichotomy? I suppose this is a question for the Japanese history buffs on the BB. The samurai as a group, as least in the beginning, would seem to meet most of the current criteria for sociopathic personalities. Life was secondary to death, theirs and others. They were trained from birth to be killers. I know, later they became a social class unto themselves but not at first. So my question is did they invent the "code of bushido" to put rules to their lives and control to their actions? Did being trained as cold blooded killers make them immune to the normal social mores of the society at large. I pose this question. Did they have no moral codes as far as life was concerned did they have to invent a structure to live by? They invented for all intents and purposes an exemplary code of conduct, which even though beyond their feelings controlled their actions to some extent. Otherwise chaos would have been the rule of the day with so many loose canons intermingling

Now please consider for thought and response this. Did that code of conduct and live survive the samurai warrior? Was it then picked up by the populous as an exemplary code of conduce and believed to be livable? Was the code of bushido created to be unattainable in the first place? Was it a set of rules of conduct so strict that it could keep even a sociopath in line? Was it an artificial set of rules to live by created for people that had no rules? Are we Westerners now accepting parts of that code as attainable and are we making it real and part of our mores? Do we now knowing some of this code and living by some of this code now believe it and make it true and not just a control?

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Old 02-28-2003, 08:19 AM   #2
DGLinden
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Hi Dennis,

Interesting thoughts.

I don't think that the nonsense we are fed by the modern Japanese is any more relevant to what actually took place back then than the nonsense we promulgate about our own "out west" history. Our cowboys didn't all wear vests and six guns and big-ass cowboy hats any more than the samurai went around hacking off heads til they couldn't raise their arms. It didn't make economic sensei.

As for Warrior codes being Japanese or belonging to any one culture more than another... well... the knights of the middle ages in Europe had a code as well; so does the U.S. Marine Corp. So do the Boy Scouts - a scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obediant, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverant.

The warriors of the Mongul army had codes of conduct and kept the peace thoughout the kingdom - protecting civilians and prosecuting bad guys. Same as the samurai, marines, knights etc. I just don't see the Japanese culture as being in any way superior to any of these - in terms of warrior conduct or the loftier aspects of 'bushido'.

Let's go fishing.

Daniel G. Linden
Author of ON MASTERING AIKIDO (c) 2004
Founder Shoshin Aikido Dojos
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Old 02-28-2003, 09:46 AM   #3
Dennis Hooker
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Hi Dan, I believe these people had a whole structure of social and moral codes they lived by. Not just a warrior code but a composition of social relationships that we carry into our dojo and public lives today. I believe they raised formalized social interaction to a higher level than any other culture since the hay day of the Greeks and Romans. It must have been a bit unique because many people all over the world live by these values. Unlike knighthood and other customs which have become aneurisms unto themselves the budo or bushidao code of behavior transcends the battle field. I do not believe knights did flower arranging or much poetry reading and writing. If they did I doubt it was considered a proper part of the warrior class status for them.

How about going fishing Sunday.

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Old 02-28-2003, 01:14 PM   #4
Kent Enfield
 
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There was no "Code of Bushido"

There was no "Code of Bushido." Just like now, various people wrote various things about how one should behave.

Since I'm not an expert and he is, you probably want to read the following from e-budo: The Historical Foundations of Bushido, especially the posts br Dr. Friday, a professor of history (specifically medieval Japanese history) at the University of Georgia and a menkyo kaiden in Kashima Shin Ryu.

Kentokuseisei
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Old 02-28-2003, 10:10 PM   #5
jducusin
 
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Inazo Nitobe's "Bushido: The Soul of Japan"

Thanks to Dennis for the great thread, and to Kent for the great link!

[Advance apologies for the long post.]

Unfortunately, due to my limited knowledge of the subject, I cannot really speak to all of Dennis's concerns but am eager to see if this may at least generate some good discussion (and perhaps I'll learn something new in the process). I'm currently in the middle of Inazo Nitobe's "Bushido: The Soul of Japan" and am finding it quite fascinating. I am, however, certainly questioning (particularly in light of having read Kent's link) how much of what we call Bushido is myth and how much is historically accurate.

In response to one of Dennis' later questions, (as much as it's worth) I can say that Nitobe believed that Bushido was an unwritten but generally-accepted code that governed the lives of Japanese nobles ("equivalent," he wrote, "in many ways to the European chivalry") and has had a great influence on the current moral beliefs of Japanese people as a whole.

It is worth noting however,(I suppose as a disclaimer of sorts) my own skepticism of the historical accuracy of this particular work, which stems not only from Dr. Friday's observation that Nitobe himself was not a historian, but also due to the fact that he cites few concrete historical references in "Bushido" and leans heavily upon drawing comparisons to Western ideology. I do believe, though, that this was intentional on his part.

The impression I have received so far from Nitobe's work is that his purpose for writing "Bushido" was to draw a link (and thus alleviate the animosity he saw) between the Japanese and his English-speaking audience by describing how Bushido exemplifys the basis for current Japanese ethics and then explaining it in terms he believed they would understand. In doing so, he has culled a great many descriptive examples and analogies from Western literary history in order to supplement the few actual historical Japanese references he cites in this book. It is because of this that I believe he did not at all intend to write a historically-accurate account of Bushido as the definitive moral system of all Samurai, but instead simply describe a set of moral values from his country's past, show how they relate to some Western moral values and say to his Western audience, "hey look, we're not so much different from you."

At any rate, I'll definitely be checking out the following books Dr. Friday recommended in Kent's link. Here they are, snipped from it for the benefit of anyone else who may also be interested:

"G. Cameron Hurst, III, "Death, Loyalty and the Bushido Ideal," in *Philosophy East and West* 40.4 (1990); and my [Dr. Karl Friday's] article, "Bushido or Bull? A Medieval Historian's Perspective on the Pacific War & the Japanese Military Tradition," in *The History Teacher* 27.3 (1994. The articles by Hurst, Thomas Conlan, and Paul Varley in *The Origins of Japan's Medieval World*, (Stanford, 1997; edited by Jeffrey Mass) are also good places to look for information on early warrior values. And Eiko Ikegami offers an interesting, albeit heavily jargon-laden and often problematic, discussion of the evolution of samurai values in her *The Taming of the Samurai* (Harvard, 1995)."
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Old 03-01-2003, 08:04 AM   #6
Dennis Hooker
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Perhaps I should substitute the words "rules for behavior" for the word code. Would that make the point of my original post more clear? For individuals born and bred to a socially myopic life it seems certain rules of behavior and conduct were introduced as a control measure. Kind of a damper for social interaction between people born and bred for the soul purpose of killing or dieing for their master I don't believe any other culture nurtured that class of people to the degree the Japanese did.

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Old 03-01-2003, 11:47 AM   #7
SeiserL
 
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While I am in no way an expert of all codes of conduct throughout history, IMHO I tend to believe that in retrospect there is a fair amount of idealization and romanticism. History is often written by the winners of wars to make their own side look the best. I believe however that having a code of condcut by which to govern your life is by far better than not having one.

Until again,

Lynn

Lynn Seiser PhD
Yondan Aikido & FMA/JKD
We do not rise to the level of our expectations, but fall to the level of our training. Train well. KWATZ!
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Old 03-02-2003, 01:55 AM   #8
Jeff Tibbetts
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Warning: Long Post

This is such a tough topic to pin down, but I'll give it a shot. I am, of course, no expert on this -yet-. Please feel free to point out the errors in this post, as I'm sure there are many. I am deeply interested in Japanese history, and this code is a great sociological topic to discuss. I think that the way the question is phrased begs the furhter question of "who imposed the code on the samurai?" As far as anything I've read has told me, the code was never written anywhere formally, but was essentially known by all Bushi, and really most of the population was familiar with the concepts. Keep in mind, however, how much of the code reflects Confucian ideas and why the code was imposed. In Asia in general, the labor-intensive cultivation of rice has led to a long history or tightly packed villages with common needs and goals. In Japan, this manifested itself in the beginning as a sort of simple socialism, and the first samurai were an extension of that. They were originally around strictly as a tool to help move the Ainu people further north and gain territory (old west similarites are obvious.) They were also a police system, and like most titles or jobs this was basically hereditary. The code that we think of as Busido was really not there in the beginning at all; but the concepts of loyalty, devotion to a higher purpose, and some of the other basic concepts were already a part of these tight villages. Confucian ideas of a vertically structured society had a major impact on Japan, and the warriors essentially modified the code to place themselves at the top of the social control pyramid. This was no accident, they were very much still needed in those days to fight Ainu, and each other when these clans and villages became provinces. The samurai were always something of role-models, as authority figures usually are, and the code of Bushi reinforces what were already considered important to everyone. THe only real difference is that people expected the Bushi to live by the code more. Of course, power always corrupts and there were, in all likelihood, very few men who came close to living up to those standards. Face is always mentioned at times like this, and the code was more a way for someone to remove a corrupt person from power, by pointing out where they don't fall in line with samurai ethics. The idea that all samurai were cold-blooded killers is, in my opinion, too hard of a statement. Certainly they were trained in the arts of war and like any warrior class there are many stories of bravery and godlike swordsmen, but you must remember that they were also the politicians, the artists, and the religious leaders most of the time. There would be an easier case to make for the modern soldier to be more like the sociopathic killer, I think, but no-one wants to do that because we know them and can justify their reasoning. I don't think that the samurai were sociopathic at all, I think that they had a great deal of consciousness regarding the outcome of their actions. A true sociopath doesn't care what happens if he does something, and I just don't see this in the code or their legends or anything. Most of what we know about samurai indicates that they were quite exceptionally class-conscious and places a great deal of importance on accountability for one's actions. Anyway, let me know what you think about all this if you're still reading... Sorry I jumped topic so much, there were so many questions

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Old 03-03-2003, 10:14 AM   #9
Dennis Hooker
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Re: There was no "Code of Bushido"

"
Quote:
Kent Enfield wrote:
There was no "Code of Bushido." Just like now, various people wrote various things about how one should behave."

Of course that society had codes. All societies do. That is what makes them societies or collectives and not a group of individuals living in anarchy. Codes are systematically arranged and comprehensive collection of laws, a systematic collection of regulations and rules of procedure or conduct. The samurai raised this to a high art form.

Dennis Hooker

www.shindai.com

"Since I'm not an expert and he is, you probably want to read the following from e-budo: The Historical Foundations of Bushido, especially the posts br Dr. Friday, a professor of history (specifically medieval Japanese history) at the University of Georgia and a menkyo kaiden in Kashima Shin Ryu.
"

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