This is what modern Bushido is all about – how to live the life of the superior man. While this may sound like an elitist statement, it isn’t. Living the life of the superior man is simply a way of saying living a life based on character, honor and integrity. It is living the warrior lifestyle the way it should be lived, according to universal standards and principles which make someone a superior human being. When I say the words “superior human beings,” I am not referring to someone being better or more important than someone else.
The phrase “superior man” was used frequently by Confucius to indicate someone who lives according to high moral standards as opposed to someone who gives little regard to such things. The superior man is not superior because he is richer, more educated, comes from a better family, or anything along those lines. He is superior because he lives his life in a superior way.
He lives by higher standards than the average person.
This has always been the ideal behind the philosophy of Bushido. Literature from the 13th through the 16th centuries in Japan had many references to the ideals of Bushido. The actual word “Bushido” was first used in the 17th century, but the ideals of Bushido have been around as long as there has been a warrior class, not just in Japan, but throughout the world.
Bushido did not necessarily start out as a specific set of rules that must be followed, but rather moral principles which were meant to guide the life of the warrior. More frequently than not, the principles of Bushido were simply taught to children of the warrior class from an early age as a way of life that was expected from them.
The philosophy of Bushido evolved over the centuries, but it never lost it primary focus which was living life according to the high standards expected from those of the warrior class. It is a philosophy of how to live your life as a true, complete warrior. The word “Bushido” literally means the way of the warrior. This philosophy did not limit itself to merely martial subjects. On the contrary, the philosophy of Bushido covered subjects such as how to raise children, how one should dress, how to treat your family and other people, financial issues, as well as how to conduct yourself as an honorable warrior.
Today the Bushido Code is commonly simplified to 8 virtues (more discussed in the coming pages) But these virtues do not cover everything which Bushido entails; there is much more to Bushido than these virtues. The teachings of Bushido were meant to cover all areas of the warrior’s life, not just a handful (however these prove to be the foundation and start) In the grand scheme of things, limiting Bushido to only these seven virtues is doing a disservice to this noble philosophy.
Learning character traits, which will guide your actions throughout your life, is an important part of the martial arts, but unfortunately this is also a part that has been neglected over the years, especially in today’s society where it is needed more than ever. Self-defense is merely one part of the warrior lifestyle.
The warrior lifestyle is multifaceted and entails much more than martial arts techniques. It is a complete way of life, not simply a term which encompasses anyone who practices some type of martial art. There is much more to being a true warrior than knowing how to fight. You can teach a dog to fight, but that doesn’t make it a warrior.
The Warrior Life And Warrior Re-defined
On the contrary, the warrior lifestyle is a complete way of life. It is a way of living a life of character, honor, and integrity in every area of your life. It includes martial arts, but it is not defined by martial arts. One of the definitions of the term “warrior” is a person engaged in some struggle or conflict. The word “warrior” is not limited to someone who participates in an actual, physical battle between two armies. Many people disagree with this statement, but it is true nonetheless.
To take this definition even further, the word “war” doesn’t always refer to a conflict between two countries or two groups of people. The term “war” can be defined as a struggle or competition between opposing forces or for a particular end. True warriors are not limited to those who have been in the military. Being a true warrior is dependent on how you live your life, not on what you do for a living. The true warrior is the man or woman who endeavors to live the warrior lifestyle and who lives his or her life by the code of the warrior.
And have no doubts about it, they are at war. Their struggle may not be against some opposing army, but rather it is a struggle between the opposing forces of living according to their principles of honor or living without honor. The true warrior, whether in the military or driving a garbage truck, must decide to live a life of honor and integrity according to the principles of warriorship. What you do for a living is simply what you do for a living; it is not who you are. Everyone decides for themselves whether they will live life as a true warrior or whether they will live their life in some other way.
Being a true warrior is a lifestyle, not a profession. It is not a fraternity where you have to be in the military to be considered a member. A person is a true warrior because of what is in his or her heart, mind and spirit; all the rest simply consists of the tools which the person uses to develop the warrior spirit in order to live the warrior lifestyle. The concept of Bushido, the way of the warrior, is not some outdated, romantic notion. It is a way of living life to the fullest, with honor and integrity. It is the cornerstone of the warrior lifestyle, and it is just as important today as it ever was.
Do nothing to make you lose respect for yourself,or to cheapen yourself in your own eyes; let your own integrity be the standard of rectitude, and let your own dictates be stricter than the precepts of any law. Baltasar Gracian