What real BUSHI-DO means?

A. strained interpretation described in HAGAKURE or BUSHI-DO written by Mr. Inazo NITOMI  7 years ago in Amsterdam, I had a chat about BUSHI-DO with one middle aged single man whom I knew through BUDO activity. He started talking that BUDO is superior to European KISHIDO (Knight Spirits) because of the fact that BUSHIDO does not allow revenge except the case only superior person to him is harmed. According to him, SAMURAI can and should execute revenge only if his master or parents are harmed. In case his wife or kids are harmed, he should bear the pain.I felt only such a man who has no his own family and does not know nor understand how they are important for him, could say such silly things, so I expressed my doubt on his definition on BUSHI-DO. Then he took one book from his book shelf and showed me one page in it. It has the title BUSHI-DO written by Mr. Inazo NITOMI about a century ago and that exact definition is described in that page he showed me. I stopped further discussion with him, because I found him a quite silly person because he took the definition as true which was done by a famous person without any doubting.Years later I noticed that the same story was talked by a famous person, who fought famous 203 High Land battle during Japan-Russia war as a General, named General NOGI. When he was young he stayed in France as despatched officer. At a party he had a chance to discuss about European Knight Spirits and Japanese BUSHI-DO with a French officer. He insisted the exact same story and that French officer could not continue discussion. That book said because French officer admitted Mr. NOGI’s insists. But I can not agree that conclusion. I guess that French officer felt same way as I had and abandoned further non-sense discussion with Officer NOGI.

It is often said and most of the case it is true that the society is highly cultivated where people are educated to behave different ways than animal low. In such society, for instance, weak people like poor or physically handicapped are treated fairly. So, a society where rich people or physically strong people are allowed to behave as they like to do is very primitive society. I wonder how our Japanese society is, where women are discriminated and handicapped people can not go out from their own houses because of too many physical barriers and mental discrimination.

There is one quite interesting episode about one experiment.  There are many men who are married and have child were gathered from many different nationalities in one place and requested to answer one question as below.

“If you and your family encountered a disaster and you could save only one person in front of you, whom you save? Your child, wife or mother? “Most of the answer was “save child” with small exceptions as “save wife” But among all the participants, only Chinese man answered “save mother”.What a big surprise, it is quite normal for Chinese men to value their own mother as first priority. In Chinese society men are raised by the same teaching by mother from their child food that they can get new wife and make child again, but there is no substitute for their own mother.” For a mother side she takes it quite normal that she is saved in stead of her own ground child. This caused a big shock to all the other people. I have one Chinese friend and I asked the same question to her. Her answer was the same as expected. So I asked her another question. “You are married with Dutch man. So, if he saved his mother in stead of you or your child, what is your reaction? “ Her question was, “I never ever allow him to do so.” Then I asked her again. “So when you get a boy, how you raise him up? In European way or Chinese way?” Her answer was again as expected, “Of course in Chinese way so that he shall always thinks me as most important.” It is basic instinct as “animal” to save child first, and Chinese had changed it by long historical education to behave differently. But do we still acknowledge that this Chinese way is superior to the other human standard ways? I say “NO”.

There is another example. Several years ago I watched a movie titled “Kill Order” produced by MIFUNE production. The movie described a SAMURAI’s story who resisted his master’s non-sense order and was killed.  He was forced to marry with one of his master’s mistresses as a present from his master. His master was bored with that lady and wanted to get rid of her from his harem, so he gave her as his ‘present”. All his family include him were not happy at all with that “present” but they had no other option except just accept with a expressing big pleasure and honor. After several years passed, this couple had started love each others because the lady was a gentle and mild hearted woman to pay a deep respect to husband. But so suddenly the husband received an order to give her back from his master. He loved his wife so much and he consulted with his father and brothers what he should do, because he worried if he does not obey the order not only he but complete family members might be killed. His family all agreed to take human honor first and to fight against the brutal order. As a result his master sent a troop to kill this family all. Every family member from young boy to old man fought and died. In this movie, it is described that the real BUSHI-DO is the way that Samurai and his family showed by refusing their master’s unreasonable order and kept his and his family’s honor. This is fully different than the BUSHI-DO described in the books as HAGAKRE which was written in TOKUGAWA époque by Mr. Yamamoto of SAMURAI of NABESHIMA-HAN in Kyushu. In HAGAKURE it is written and taught how SAMURAI should dedicate his and his whole family’s life to his master in all means. After TOKUGAWA époque Mr. NITOMI described BUSHIDO in English based on the concept described in this HAGAKURE.

上意討ち-拝領妻始末- [DVD]     葉隠入門 (新潮文庫)

DVD of the film “kill Order(JYOI UCHI)”              Introduction of HAGAKURE written by Yukio MISHIMA


B. Original Meaning of BUSHI-DO

Originally BUSHI-DO means completely differently until TOKUGAWA époque had started. Before TOKUGAWA SHOGUN family started ruling Japan, there were long lasting wars all over Japan, to win and survive or to loose and ruin. BUSHIs had to fight against their enemies for putting his and his family’s life. Every day they had to struggle to survive. For them the first most important priority was not their master but to keep family’s living. If their master was stupid and hopeless, the neighbour countries invade and they loose their land and way of life. In such situation they did not hesitate to change their masters if it was really necessary. If such case happened, their stupid master was blamed but not them. Of course they had strong honor ships. Many times they fought even they knew they could win but just for honors to support their respectable masters. Honor could become higher priority that keeps living.  In such period they were called as BUSHI, means fighting worrier. But after TOKUGAWA époque had started, all wars were totally stopped. BUSHIs were no need to fight for their life any more. To keep their family life, they should only protect their master from being blamed by TOKUGAWA SHOGUN because of miss done etc. That was the only case their country was closed by the order of SHOGUN. Otherwise their living was promised to be kept “eternally”. So, to keep their family life, BUSHI should only to protect their master. Even that BUSHI sacrifice his life for the master, his family could keep life. In this way their profession was changed from a fighter (BUSHI) to SAMURAI (means servant). To strengthen this concept by providing moral back ground, the ruler started to make strained interpretation onto BUSHI-DO.  In this intentionally distorted BUSHI-DO, SAMURAI were forced to sacrifice their lives only for their masters. Before this intentional change occurred, there was no difference between Japanese BUSHI-DO and European Knight Ships.

As a conclusion till here, I dare say that the “BUSHI-DO” introduced to European society by the books English translated “HAGAKURE” and “BUSHDO” originally written in English is not the real BUSHIDO. It was distorted concept by ruler’s special intention to benefit themselves. We have original BUSHI-DO which is quite similar to European Knight ships and we a re very proud of ourselves to have it.

 C. Books to be recommended to understand what BUSHI-DO is

There are unfortunately only few books about BUSHIDO which are translated in English, like the wrong examples as HAGAKURE or BUSHIDO. Among those limited numbers of the BUSHI-DO books, I do recommend one book titled “MIYAMOTO MUSASHI” written by Mr. Eiji YOSHIKWA. Based on the really existed BUSHI called the same name, Mr. YOSHIKWA described the BUSHI’s way of life. MUSASHI lived from War époque till beginning of TOKUGAWA époque. He started his carrier as a worrier fought against TOKUGAWA family and fortunately could survive the combat. Without serving master, because he was the lost side, he started a new carrier to become the strongest KENSHI (BUSHI who can operate KENJUTSU well) in Japan. He continued more than 60 times death matches and won every time. At the end he was called saint of KENSHI and respected by all BUSHIs in Japan. Also MUSASHI himself wrote a book “GORIN NO SHO” by which he described the tactics.  I recommend to read “GORIN NO SHO” after reading “MUYAMOTO MUSASHI” but not in the other order. By his story book, Mr. YOSHIKAWA tried to express what he believes as BUSHI-DO by describing MUSASHI’s stormy life. So, what Mr. YOSHIKAWA believes as BUSHI-DO? It should be:

1) Keep strong objectives

For MUASHI it was to become the strongest KENSHI in the world (Japan)

2) Keeps strong honour ship

to live and fight fresh and vivid, never hesitate

3) Keep strong self discipline

to load himself severe and hard self training to strengthen self discipline mind

4) Cultivate strong “KI (awareness)” to survive every combat

5) Independent mind

Respect God but never rely upon him

In the books those essences are described in several stories and they are surely quite impressive. Mr. Masutatsu OYAMA, the founder of KYOKUSHIN KARATE, was one of earnest reader of this MIYAMOTO MUSASHI. When he was young, he stayed in U.S.A. where he was spending time to fight against boxers and wrestlers. He carried this book close to him and always read when he was in the difficult situation. He tried to think over what MUSASHI should do if he was in the same situation and he could overcome every fight. Not only this Mr. OYAMA, to all the person who aims to achieve BUDO spirits, the book MIYAMOTO MUSASHI shows clearly how to fight, when to escape and what to protect.


MIYAMOTO MUSASHI by Mr. Yoahikawa Eiji  translated into ENGLISH                     DVD of file MUSASHI  purformed by NAKAMURA KINNOSUKE



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