HOME >  Feature Articles >  【Series of Budo Essay vol.5】Bushido What real BUSHI-DO means?

A. strained interpretation described in HAGAKURE or BUSHIDO written by Inazo  NITOBE

12 years ago in Amsterdam, I had a chat about Bushido with one middle aged single Japanese man whom I knew through Budo activity. He started talking that Bushido 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 Bushido. Then he took one book from his book shelf and showed me one page in it. It has the title BUSHIDO written by Mr. Inazo NITOBE 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.

Count Nogi Maresuke

Years later I noticed that the same story was talked by a famous person, who fought Japan-Russia war as a general, named General NOGI. When he was young he stayed in France as despatched officer. In one party he had a chance to discuss about European Knight Spirits and Japanese Bushido. He told the exact same story and the other French officer could not continue discussion. That book said because French officer admitted Mr. NOGI’s insists. But I cannot agree that conclusion. I guess that French officer felt same way as I had and abandoned further non-sense discussion.

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 cannot 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 instead 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 instead 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 to one of his men 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 honour.

After several years passed, this couple had started love each other because the lady was a gentle and mild hearted woman to pay a deep respect to her 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 honour first and to fight against the brutal order. As a result his master sent a troop to kill this family all. Every family members from young boy to old man fought and died.

In this movie, it is described that the real Bushido is the way that Samurai and his family showed by refusing their master’s order and kept honour.  This is fully different than the Bushido described in the books as HAGAKRE or BUSHIDO which was written later than TOKUGAWA époque.

B. Original Meaning of Bushido

Originally Bushido means completely differently till starting TOKUGAWA époque.

Before TOKUGAWA Shogun family started ruling Japan, there were long lasting wars all over Japan, to win and survive or to lose and ruin. Bushi 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 their family’s living. If their master was stupid and hopeless, the neighbour countries invade and they lose 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 honour ships. Many times they fought even they knew they could not win but just for honours to support their respectable masters. Honour 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.   Bushi 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 Bushi(means worrier) to Samurai (means servant). To strengthen this concept by providing moral back ground, the ruler started to make strained interpretation onto Bushido. In this intentionally distorted Bushido, Samurai were forced to sacrifice their lives only for their masters. Before this intentional change occurred, there was no difference between Japanese Bushido and European Knight Ships.

As a conclusion till here, I dare say that the “Bushido” introduced to European society by books HAGAKURE and BUSHDO written by Mr. NITOBE is not the real Bushido.  It was distorted concept by ruler’s special intention to benefit themselves. We have original Bushido which is quite similar to European Knight ship and we are very proud of ourselves to have it.

Mr. Inazo NITOBE

Mr. NITOBE with his Wife

C. Books to be recommended to understand what Bushido is


There are unfortunately only few books about Bushido which are translated in English, like the wrong examples as HAGAKURE or BUSHIDO by Mr. NITOBE. Among those limited numbers of the Bushido 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 Shogun 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 Katana 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 Bushi in Japan.

Mr. YOSHIKAWA tried to express what he believes as Bushido by describing Musashi’s stormy life. So, what Mr. YOSHIKAWA believes as Bushido?

It should be:
1)  Keep strong objectives
For Musashi it was to become the strongest Kenshi in the world (Japan)
2)  Keep 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 from every combat
5)  Independent mind
to respect God but never rely upon him

In the books those essences are described in several stories and they are surely quite impressive.

Master Masutatsu OYAMA

Master Masutatsu OYAMA, founder of KYOKUSHIN Karate, was one of earnest readers of this book 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 Master OYAMA, to all the persons who aim to achieve Budo spirits, the book MIYAMOTO MUSASHI shows clearly how to fight, when to escape and what to protect.

At the end of this article, I would like to express my thanks to Mr. Sean Leather, my Jujutsu student comes from U.S.A., for his big effort to have corrected my Japanese English to formal English.

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th_DSC_0246Text by Kurabe Makoto Shiseido
Born in 1950. When he was in his 30s, he began learning Gyakute-do Jujutsu, which was derived from Hakkoryu Jujutsu in the 1970s. Just before reaching the age of 40, he moved from Japan to The Netherlands and continued to master and develop Gyakute-do. In October of 2013, after adding the system of Aiki-Jutsu that he developed himself, he transformed Gyakute-do into Aiki-Jujutsu Gyakute-do, and became 2nd Soushi, grand master, of Gyakute-do. After retirement, he left The Netherlands and began promoting Aiki-Jujutsu Gyakute-do both in Japan and in Poland  as his main pursuit. He is also teaching his Gyakute-do to Budo fan in the world via corresponding course.





You can read Original Japanese text here!


A. 捻じ曲げられた武士道精神


人間が生まれつき持っている動物的な本能や習性を、道徳の力で矯正して本能や修正とは違う行動を取るようになった状態は一般的に高等なレベルにあるといえます。恐らく日本武士道のほうが優れていると評した乃木将軍の真意はそこら当りに在ったと推察します。 例えて言えば、権力者や力の勝る男性が威張り散らしているのは動物としての生まれ持った習性から何の進歩も見られない遅れた社会、力の弱い女性や身体障害者などの社会的な弱者がいたわられる社会は前者に比べると道徳的、文化的に遥かに進んだ高等な社会といえるでしょう。この観点からすれば日本は欧州から比べて文化的に遥かに遅れた社会といえます。男性が女性に対して威張っている社会は文化的に高いレベルにあるとは言えません。


B. 武士道を理解するための本



1.強い目的意識を持つ -> 武蔵の場合は日本一の剣豪になるという意思。
2.強い美意識をもつ -> 鮮烈かつ潔さを旨とする生き方に徹する。
3.目的を達成するためには厳しく自分を律する -> 厳しい修行を自らに課す。修行に耐えるのではなく、自らに課すという点が重要です。
4.生死を掛けた勝負に勝ち残るために「気」を養い、活用する -> 毎回の戦いから鋭い気を養うことを習得し、次の更なる戦いに備えた。
5.他人を頼まず、自分の力で生き抜く -> 「神は敬う、されど頼まず」で言い表される、自分を信じ他人を頼らない強い生き方。



At the starting of AIKI Web Course

Cooperating with BAB Japan Co., Ltd., hereby I start AIKI Web Course in order to realize my long-standing desire to let as many as martial arts fans all over the world have the correct knowledge of AIKI and learn how to practice AIKI.

This course consists of
Part 1 as introductory articles, I explain a wide range of knowledge about what AIKI is, which contains 6 lessons.
Part 2 as main articles, for beginners/intermediate level, I explain how to practice AIKI to master. It contains 24 lessons.

The each lessons will be uploaded on BudoJapan website one by one every week.
I hope as many people as possible will be interested in AIKI and become able to practice it by following this course.

AIKI Web Course 25 Lessons