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Bushido: The Way of the Samurai 

 

We at SOTE understand people have various reasons for purchasing a Japanese sword—for battle in the dojo, tamashigiri (test-cutting), or collecting/decoration purposes.  Whatever the case, your passion for obtaining a blade is mirrored by the ancient “way of the warrior” (or Bushido) practiced by the Samurai class infrom the 11th to the 20th centuries. Although modern ways have eliminated the need for warring tribes/clansmen serving their feudal lords, a sword still represents powerful values in the hands of any owner, similar to the seven virtues associated with bushido: 

 

G i - Rectitude

Yu - Courage

Jin - Benevolence

Rei - Respect

Makato    or Shin - Honesty

Meiyo - Honor, Glory

Chugi - Loyalty

 

Tradition holds that the spirit of the Samurai was lodged in his sword. Therefore, the weapon's importance transcended its beauty or physical construction—the sword was the soul of the warrior.

The "e;way of the warrior"e; for the Samurai held much in common with the European idea of chivalry.for the warrior was a sacred ritual of equals testing their strength and training versus simply just exchanging blows. "e;Bushido"e; is a philosophy to be lived versus just a series of rules to be followed. Initially passed down through oral tradition, the tenets of Bushido became formalized into Japanese Feudal Law under the Tokugawa Shogunate.Inazo Nitobe (1862 - 1933), author ofBushido: The Soul of Japandescribes Bushido as:

 

"e;... the code of moral principles which the samurai were required or instructed to observe. It is not a written code; at best it consists of a few maxims handed down from mouth to mouth or coming from the pen of some well-known warrior or savant. More frequently it is a code unuttered and unwritten, possessing all the more the powerful sanction of veritable deed, and of a law written on the fleshly tablets of the heart. It was founded not on the creation of one brain, however able, or on the life of a single personage, however renowned. It was an organic growth of decades and centuries of military career."e;

 

SOTE believes that Bushido should still play a central role in the mind and heart of a modern warrior. Whether our swords will be used for display purposes, tamashigiri, or dojo battle, respect for your weapon demonstrates a similar respect for warriors in general. In the same way that you wouldn't drive a car while intoxicated, one shouldn't wield a sword without proper reverence. Beyond the fact that blades are sharp and can wound or even kill, swords represent a craftsmanship that mirrors the dedication of the Samurai to the art of war.

 

Meeting an opponent on the battlefield (or the dojo) should also not provide an opportunity to spout vile curses or threats. In Samurai tradition, meeting an enemy provides an opportunity to prove your honor (or that of your master) by demonstrating your prowess in fighting. As multiple schools of thought surrounding what was the "e;best"e; way for a warrior to fight, an altercation would prove which technique/school offered the greatest results in actual battle.

 

Conduct in battle might be viewed as similar to that of a sporting event, where certain rituals are followed (singing the National Anthem before a basketball game, for instance) and proper etiquette is always observed. The ultimate act in this regard was the committing of Seppuku, where a warrior would take his own life. As Dr. Stephen Turnbull states in his book,Theof Death, Samurai: The World of the Warrior(ch.4), Dr. Stephen Turnbull states:

 

"e;Seppuku was commonly performed using a tanto. It could take place with preparation and ritual in the privacy of one's home, or speedily in a quiet corner of a battlefield while one's comrades kept the enemy at bay.

In the world of the warrior, seppuku was a deed of bravery that was admirable in a samurai who knew he was defeated, disgraced, or mortally wounded. It meant that he could end his days with his transgressions wiped away and with his reputation not merely intact but actually enhanced. The cutting of the abdomen released the samurai's spirit in the most dramatic fashion, but it was an extremely painful and unpleasant way to die, and sometimes the samurai who was performing the act asked a loyal comrade to cut off his head at the moment of agony."e;

 

So one can see how even in defeat a warrior valued honor above all other attributes.

 

We at SOTE encourage you to observe a similar respect and honor to your newfound status of sword ownership. Although we understand that living in the modern world disavows many of the specific aspects of Bushido (especially Seppuku!), dedication to craftsmanship and participating in qualified training/fighting organizations can provide discipline to help steer a straight course through our shifting times.

 

We wish you great success with your training/cutting, and sword ownership!